Introduction, Design Features
Same sleek chassis is the good news. The same cooling fan inside is the bad news.
The Lenovo Ideacentre AIO 520S brings a 7th Generation “Kaby Lake” Intel processor to the party, but unfortunately the constantly whirring cooling fan from the previous model also tags along. If the system was an all-in-one gaming monster, we could see giving a little leeway to some fan noise. But this system is a mainstream all-in-one (AIO) that places an emphasis on sleekness and style over raw power. It features the speedy but low-voltage Core i7-7500U, a dual-core chip clocked at 2.7GHz with a TDP of only 15 watts. This CPU should not need a fan constantly spinning so noisily to stay cool.
The processor update is the big change that the Lenovo Ideacentre AIO 520S ushers in from last year’s Ideacentre AIO 510S, which featured a 6th Generation Core i5-6200U processor that also had a cooling fan spinning on and on. The integrated Intel graphics also get a boost with the move to a Kaby Lake part, and we did see an uptick in graphics performance.
Lenovo also made a change to the hard drive, but alas not for the better. The previous Ideacentre AIO 510S we tested was outfitted with a hybrid drive that combined 1TB of spinning-platter storage with 8GB of speedy solid-state memory as a cache. The Ideacentre AIO 520S drops the cache and supplies only a plain-vanilla 1TB hard drive. While the Ideacentre AIO 520S outpaced its predecessor in labs testing, we can’t help but think the margins would have been greater if parts of the OS and our apps were loaded on an 8GB solid-state cache.
Pricing remains roughly the same. You can find the older Ideacentre AIO 510S at a steep discount today, but when we reviewed it nearly a year ago, it was a Best Buy exclusive that sold for $899.99. The Ideacentre AIO 520S-23IKU model we are reviewing here lists for $949.99 at Best Buy, but it’s currently on sale for $849.99. For that reasonable sum, the Ideacentre AIO 520S provides strong mainstream performance and a 23-inch 1080p touch display in a sleek chassis. Just make sure you take a listen to a floor model before walking out of the store with it.
The Ideacentre AIO 520S looks sleek from all angles. From the front, the practically nonexistent display bezel lends an air of luxury to the system and makes the 23-inch display appear larger than it is. From the side, the system cuts a trim profile. The top half of the display measures only 0.28 inch thick, while the bottom half houses the system’s internals and bulges out a bit, to 1.25 inches.
While weight isn’t nearly as important with an all-in-one as it is with a laptop you tote around with you regularly, the Ideacentre AIO 520S deserves points for being one of the more easily luggable all-in-ones we’ve encountered. It weighs just 9.7 pounds, but it’s not flimsy. The V-shaped stand is both sturdy and elegant…
The display bezel is so thin on top that it leaves no room for a Webcam. So, it gets moved to the bottom of the display, in a hidden pop-out panel that also supplies a USB 3.0 port on either side when it’s down…
Being able to hide the Webcam when it is not in use allows for a cleaner look, and the added privacy factor is appreciated. However, shooting video of your face from below the screen, rather than above, may not result in the most flattering appearance on your end when video conferencing or chatting. (Ask a photographer about the benefits of “shooting from above.”)
The Ideacentre AIO 520S features the same 23-inch, touch-enabled display with a 1,920×1,080 full-HD (FHD) resolution as its predecessor. We would have liked a bump up in pixels for a finer picture, but a 1080p display looks plenty crisp on a compact, 23-inch display. It also uses the same LCD technology, Advanced In-Cell Touch (AIT), as the Ideacentre AIO 510S. AIT integrates the touch element of the panel into the LCD itself, instead of using a separate touch layer over the top of the display panel. The result is a screen that’s thinner and lighter than previous touch panels and doesn’t require a glass overlay, which means that glare and reflections are much reduced. If you want a touch display but loathe glossy screen coatings, the Ideacentre AIO 520S lets you have your cake and eat it too.
Below the display sits a narrow speaker bar that hides two 3-watt speakers, which emit passable audio. They suffice for watching YouTube at your desk but fail to rattle the windows for music playback with their weak bass response.
The Ideacentre AIO 520S covers the basics with its exterior expansion. You’ll find only four USB 3.0 ports and a single HDMI port. Given the trim design, we were surprised to see no USB-Type C ports. The HDMI port, though, can function both as both HDMI-in and HDMI-out, which lets you use it to plug in, say, a cable box or game console to use the system as a TV/monitor, or plug in a second monitor so you have more room for multitasking.
As we mentioned earlier, two of the USB ports hide in the pop-out camera module under the display. A port sits on either side of it…
On the back, you’ll find the other two USB 3.0 ports, the combo HDMI connector, an Ethernet jack, and the headphone/mic jack, as well as a connector for the power supply. The power button sits conveniently out of the way, hiding behind the system in the lower-right corner. Above the power button is an unmarked button; it’s used to switch video sources.
Internal expansion is nil, though that is no great surprise on such a compact system. To get inside, you need to remove two screws from the bottom edge of the system before prying up the back panel from the lower-right corner on the back of the display. For your labors, you get easy access only to the hard drive, like so…
Getting to the other components, including the memory, requires removing the stand and its arm, plus another cover that’s held in place by three screws.
The system bundles a wireless keyboard and mouse, but they require you to sacrifice one of the system’s four USB ports for the unified receiver. The keyboard features flat, comfortable, and quiet keys, along with a dedicated number pad. The ambidextrous mouse has a stylish curve that provided an ergonomic fit with the palm of our hand. Also included in the box is an external DVD burner; the system’s tight dimensions leave no room for an internal optical drive.