Lenovo IdeaCentre B305 review

13 Sep 2010

A dull all-in-one, but serviceable if all you demand is regular desktop computing

Price when reviewed 
700
3

With Apple’s 21.5in iMacs starting at over £850 exc VAT, Lenovo’s identically sized IdeaCentre B305 looks a bargain. Indeed, despite the much lower price it trumps Apple’s offering in a few departments: you get a larger 640GB hard disk and a multitouch screen, as well as the more debatable benefit of Windows 7 instead of OS X.

You only have to look at it, though, to know that this isn’t an aspirational machine like the Apple. Yes, it’s admirably thin, with a pleasingly narrow bezel around the screen. But the screen itself would never pass Steve Jobs’ critical eye. The Full HD resolution is fine, and optical touchscreen technology means there’s no distracting resistive overlay, but the picture has a cold, grey cast, and although the glossy finish helps contrast, colours are distinctly drab.

The case looks cheap, too, with its shiny plastic finish and a silver bar beneath the screen combining power and brightness buttons with drive and network activity LEDs. The bright orange highlights of the keyboard and mouse don’t help, and in use both peripherals feel light and insubstantial. Irritatingly, the Windows key is set to the right of the spacebar, rather than in its usual position to the left.

Inside, a triple-core Athlon II, coupled with 4GB of DDR3, enabled the B305 to achieve a score of 1.21 in our application benchmarks – no better than we’d expect from a cheap Core i3 laptop. More interestingly, it’s partnered with an ATI Radeon HD 5450, which provides enough graphical grunt to play 3D games at low resolutions (we saw 54fps in our Low quality Crysis test at 1,366 x 768). But it’s nowhere near powerful enough to run games smoothly at native resolution.

Lenovo IdeaCentre B305

If you’re thinking the B305 might at least make a decent media station, there’s more disappointment in store. Although Lenovo’s US store offers the system with a TV tuner and a Media Center remote, the UK version sold by Dixons is equipped with neither. Nor is the optical drive Blu-ray capable; it’s a DVD writer only, so if you want to get the best from the Full HD screen you’ll have to rely on downloads.

You can at least use the touchscreen to control Media Center, and thanks to a handy screen on/off button the B305 can serve as an unobtrusive jukebox. Unsurprisingly, though, the integrated 3W speakers have very poor separation and not much volume, so you’ll want to hook up external speakers to the stereo jack connector.

Beyond that rather narrow use, the touchscreen serves no very obvious purpose. Lenovo bundles an application launcher and a “touch password” manager that lets you identify yourself to Windows by stabbing pictures rather than typing a phrase, but we see very little practical use for that. As usual, the touchscreen feels more of a gimmick for the showroom than a feature worth paying for at home.

Despite its many limitations, however, the B305 is perfectly fine for office and internet tasks. Storage is good at 640GB, and it isn’t badly endowed in terms of connectivity either: you get two USB 2 ports on the left-hand side and a further four at the rear, of which only one is taken up by the keyboard (oddly, the mouse uses a PS/2 connector). There’s also mini-FireWire, a multiformat card reader and both Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11n wireless networking. There’s nothing fancy such as USB 3 or eSATA, though, nor any type of video connector, so you won’t be hooking up your console to it. And, while there’s a Bluetooth indicator on the bottom of the case, it’s worth noting that the UK B305 doesn’t actually have a Bluetooth module installed.

The IdeaCentre B305 is a perfectly usable machine, but it’s neither very beautiful nor a particularly versatile system: all it really has over a traditional desktop or laptop is the combination of a compact frame and a relatively spacious screen. But for students or bedsit-dwellers, that’s a big plus, and you’ll struggle to find an all-in-one that does all this significantly more cheaply.

Details

Price ex VAT £596
Price inc VAT £700
Overall rating 3
Performance 3
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 4

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity 640
Screen size 21.5in

Processor

CPU family AMD Athlon
CPU nominal frequency 2.20GHz

Motherboard

Conventional PCI slots free 0
Conventional PCI slots total 0
PCI-E x16 slots free 0
PCI-E x16 slots total 0
PCI-E x8 slots free 0
PCI-E x8 slots total 0
PCI-E x4 slots free 0
PCI-E x4 slots total 0
PCI-E x1 slots free 0
PCI-E x1 slots total 0

Memory

Memory type DDR3

Graphics card

Graphics card ATI Radeon HD 5450
Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards? no
3D performance setting Low
Graphics chipset ATI Radeon HD 5450
Graphics card RAM 512MB
HDMI outputs 0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Hard disk

Hard disk Western Digital WD6400AAKS
Capacity 640GB
Hard disk usable capacity 596GB
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Cache size 16MB

Drives

Optical drive Slimtype DVD A DS8A4S
Optical disc technology DVD writer

Monitor

Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
DVI inputs 0
HDMI inputs 0
VGA inputs 0
DisplayPort inputs 0

Additional Peripherals

Speaker type 2
Sound card Realtek HD Audio

Case

Case format All-in-one
Dimensions 528 x 66 x 417mm (WDH)

Power supply

Power supply rating 130W

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays 0

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream) 6
FireWire ports 1
PS/2 mouse port yes
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Modem no
3.5mm audio jacks 2

Front ports

Front panel memory card reader no

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboard Lenovo

Operating system and software

OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 70W
Peak power consumption 95W

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score 1.21
Office application benchmark score 0.98
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.40
Encoding application benchmark score 1.09
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.38
3D performance (crysis) low settings 54fps
3D performance setting Low