Many years ago, Microsoft showed off a touch-enabled tabletop called Surface that could do all sorts of wonderful things, such as play games, recognize objects that were placed on top of it, allow people to collaborate on projects and more. The Surface was targeted at commercial establishments and later got renamed to Pixelsense. Last year, Microsoft and Samsung even put together the Samsung SUR40 the first commercial application of the technology. Unfortunately, it did not quite take off due mostly to high costs and lack of development support.
However, the idea of a touch-enabled tabletop has never died. Last year, Lenovo introduced the IdeaCentre A720, a 27-inch AIO with a stand that let allows the display to be folded flat against the table. This year, Lenovo is following up on the IdeaCentre A720 with the Horizon.
We first saw the new Lenovo Horizon at CES 2013 earlier this year, and we were intrigued by its design and proposition. The Horizon comes with a special stand that allows it to be folded flat, thereby converting it into a table top PC and allows for family and friends to play games together.
To enable this, apart from the special stand, the Horizon also has a large 27-inch touchscreen that is capable of recognizing up to 10 points of touch simultaneously. It also comes with a host of special game accessories and a special Aura UI to take advantage of its touchscreen interface. Can this deliver the winning formula? Let’s find out.
Lenovo has yet to update its Horizon with Intel’s latest fourth generation Core processors, so our test unit comes with a dual-core Intel Core i7-3537U processor (2GHz, 4MB L3 cache, HyperThreading). This is low-voltage dual-core processor with a TDP of just 17W and is significantly less powerful than the quad-core Core i7-3610QM that was used in IdeaCentre A720. Why has Lenovo fitted the Horizon with such a low-power processor?
That’s because unlike the IdeaCentre A720, the Horizon has a built-in battery which Lenovo says can power the system for up to two hours. This, according to Lenovo, is to facilitate group gaming sessions, allowing users to easily gather around the Horizon to play games without fear of getting caught within the confines of a power outlet. Speaking of which, this also means that the Horizon can function as a giant-sized tablet. But at over 8kg and with its massive 27-inch display, it is unlikely the Horizon is going to replace your iPad or Nexus tablet anytime soon.
Elsewhere, the IdeaCentre has 8GB of RAM and basic discrete graphics in the form of NVIDIA’s GeForce GT 620M GPU with 2GB of framebuffer. The GeForce GT 620M has 96 CUDA cores and is based on NVIDIA’s older Fermi architecture. To be specific, it is actually a die-shrunk version of the GeForce GT 540M. Storage is provided for in the form of a 1TB hard disk drive.
The IdeaCentre Horizon’s 27-inch Full HD display is bright and was very responsive and accurate to our touch inputs. Furthermore, thanks to the large display, it is very easy to use our fingers to navigate. However, the Horizon has a glossy type screen and it catches reflections very easily.
The Horizon offers rather basic I/O connectivity - just two USB 3.0 ports, a memory card reader, headphones and microphones jacks and a HDMI input so that it can double up as an external display to other devices (such as game consoles). Considering that the bundled wireless keyboard and mouse combo takes up a single USB port, Lenovo should have done better and provided more USB ports. It also packs an integrated battery, presumably for better portability, since this means you do not have to shut it down every time you want to move for group activities. That said, during our battery test, we found that the Horizon could last roughly 2 hours and 7 minutes, which is actually decent for a device with a 27-inch display.
While the old IdeaCentre A720 has a specially-engineered stand that allowed the display to be folded flat for group activities, the Horizon is much simply designed and only has a simple kickstand. Therefore, when used as an AIO, there’s not much room for adjustment.
However, it makes up for this somewhat with its Multi-mode table cart. Users can attach the Horizon onto the cart for easy transportation and the cart is adjustable for both tilt and height, so users can fold the Horizon completely flat for gaming and other group activities.
The Horizon’s 27-inch Full HD display is bright and we found it to be very responsive and accurate to our touch inputs. Furthermore, thanks to the large display, it is very easy to use our fingers to navigate. However, the Horizon has a glossy screen and it catches reflections very easily, which can be rather distracting.
According to Lenovo’s literature, the Horizon is a "multi-user PC that reinvents together time", and to do so, it is bundled with Lenovo’s Aura interface. Aura is activated when you tilt the Horizon flat and it is specially designed to allow two or more people to simultaneously use the Horizon.
Aura allows user to get quick access to media content such as photos, movies, music, games and apps and it is quite fun to use, though the novelty of it wears off after sometime. For example, opening photos creates little thumbnails that can be resized by pitching or expanding. It can also be 'tossed' across the screen to other users, which is quite cool at first.
There is also the Lenovo App Store which offers more specially designed apps and games for users.
For more information of the Aura interface usage experience and the gaming accessories provided by the Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC, do check out our hands-on article from earlier this year.