Last summer my Acer laptop died after about three years of heavy use. It wasn’t a gaming laptop, but I was able to play some games (particularly ones that I wanted to play; Black Hawk Down, Rise of Nations, and Vindicitus) since it ran Windows (Windows 7 to be exact, which I really enjoyed quite a bit). Strapped for cash and needing a replacement, I went with a cheap Samsung Chromebook that did exactly what I needed it to do: web browsing and a word processor. I’m not going to bash the Chromebook and Chrome OS as I actually really love my Chromebook. It’s a great little machine for simply browsing the web and not having to worry about viruses and corrupted downloads. But I did grow frustrated with the limitations of Chrome OS (not being able to download stuff, no real gaming, etc) and so I needed to get me a Windows based PC once again. And that’s what I did last week when I purchased the Lenovo IdeaCentre C560 23-inch All-in-One.
I have to say that the purchase was a bit of a gamble for me simply because I’m someone who generally likes to research stuff before making a purchase and there really wasn’t any reviews available for the C560. I was able to find stuff about the previous versions and more powerful touch screen versions, but nothing about the majority of the C560 line. I wasn’t familiar with the Lenovo brand (though I had heard and read mostly nothing but good things) and had never had any experience with an all-in-one computer.
I made my purchase from Amazon, as I typically do (yay for free shipping and no sales tax), and after looking around for a little while I quickly eliminated Dell and HP from consideration. So my choice came down to a couple of different Lenovo versions. At first I was considering a 21-inch touch screen that was $529. Then it was a more powerful non-touch screen 23-inch for $569. Ultimately, I settled on a more powerful and faster CPU version for $629. So these are the specs of the Lenovo IdeaCentre C560 that I went with:
- Intel Core i3-4130T , 2.9 GHz Processor
- 6 GB DDR3 RAM
- 1 TB 7200 rpm Hard Drive
- 23-Inch Screen (non-touch, Full HD)
- Windows 8.1
To compare, the $569 version that I was looking at had the exact same specs in terms of RAM, memory, screen, and operating system. The only difference was that version has the Intel Pentium Dual-Core G3220 2.6 GHz Processor. So if you’re considering one of these two machines, spend the extra $60 and get the Intel Core i3 version as it is a better and faster processor. With the Intel Core i3, this is machine uses the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 video card.
Other things this C560 comes with is a wired keyboard and mouse (they’re nice, but obviously extremely basic), built in 802.11bgn Wi-Fi, a DVDRW optical drive, two USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports. I know some people don’t like a wired keyboard or mouse, but I’m actually glad it came with wired ones because I’m personally not a fan of wireless models and having to change batteries. So it’s a plus as far as I’m concerned. There’s also a built in 720p webcam and microphone for you Skyping and vlogging needs.
After initial set-up, the machine is actually quite fast in terms of booting up. From a shut down, powered off state the machine boots up the log-in screen in about eight seconds or so. Once logged in, you are of course greeted with the metro Windows 8 start screen and can get on the Internet in two seconds. I’ve been using the Chrome browser for so long that the first thing I did was open up the default Internet Explorer (ugh) and go download… FireFox! It’s great to be able to use it again. You’re able to have tons of tabs open at once with no issues. For web browsing, you’re going to find this PC to be pretty fast.
Let’s talk about Windows 8.1 for a second. If you’re like me and had never used Windows 8 before, you’ve undoubtedly seen massive hate online towards the operating system to the point where you may even be iffy on getting a PC running Windows 8. I was the same way, and admittedly had bashed Windows 8 when it was first revealed for looking stupid. However, now that I’ve spent a week with it and learning it, I have to say that I am really loving Windows 8. Sure, the metro start screen may be designed for a touch screen, but it works just as well with a mouse and if you prefer the traditional desktop it literally takes not even a second to get to it.
The apps that come with it are fantastic; I’m talking about Calendar, Mail, Weather, Food & Drink, News, Sports, Health & Fitness, and Finance. I actually use most of these daily now. Of course there are plenty of other apps that come already installed and plenty more that can be downloaded from the Windows 8 store (free and paid). One of my favorites has is the free “Readiy” app. I don’t have a screenshot to show it in action due to all the the post being be read, but Readiy is an app that shows your Feedly subscriptions in a gorgeous manner with quick and easy access to open up the post in your web browser. It has made browsing my favorite blogs that I follow so much easier and faster. Instead of visiting their sites to see if a new post has been added, I can simply open up Readiy and see any unread posts from all the sites I subscribe to on Feedly.
While we’re on apps and the Windows store, Windows 8 allows you download some really good free (and paid) games. These are mobile games designed for touch tablets and phones, but all the ones I’ve tried work amazingly with the old KB&M and look good too. Most of the ones that I’ve been playing are free and are considered Xbox games, so you’ll be unlocking achievements and adding to your Gamerscore by playing them. I don’t have an Xbox 360 or an Xbox One, so my only Xbox achievements are coming from these games. My favorites of these so far are: Halo: Spartan Assault (free lite version), Jetpack Joyride (love it on PS3, my Android tablet, and now my PC), Six Guns (a Red Dead Redemption knockoff that I couldn’t get into on my tablet but really enjoy on this machine using KB&M controls), The Gunstringer, and basics like Solitaire and Mahjong.
It’s important to point out that these are basic so-called casual games available on mobile platforms and that this is not a gaming PC by any stretch of the imagination. However, you can play games on this PC and play them well. If you go to the “Can You Run It?” website you’re more than likely going to be told that you can’t run most games. The majority of the time, you’ll pass everything but the video card, specifically the dedicated video RAM. This machine only has 32MB of it, which far below what most games ask for. I get a fail when seeing if I can run Europa Universalis IV, but I can play it absolutely perfectly. So you don’t meet the “minimum” requirements? Big deal, the game runs absolutely fine.
In fact, here’s a list of all the PC games that I have played in the past week:
- The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot – Open Beta
- Combat Arms
- The Elder Scrolls Online Beta
- Age of Empires II HD
- Marvel Heroes
- Star Wars: The Old Republic
- Dota 2
- Europa Universalis IV
- Sid Meier’s Civilization V
All of them have been more than playable on medium to high settings. Now there are PC purists out there who will insist that games need to be running on ultra or whatever the highest setting is, but that’s not the case. I had zero problems (outside of my simply preferring a controller to play games on and not having one for PC yet) playing any of these games. And since The Elder Scrolls Online is the newest game on the list, coming out in April, I have to say that it ran exceptionally well and looked great on medium settings (which is more than enough, after all if you care that much you won’t even be considering a $600 computer for gaming). So don’t believe everything “Can You Run It?” says; this PC has played every game I’ve tried well.
In the week that I’ve spent with this machine I’ve had zero issues whatsoever. Yes, some parts of Windows 8 takes some getting used to (it took me quite a bit of playing around to figure how to close Internet Explorer launched from the start screen as there was no X) but once you do it’s pretty great. Nothing has crashed, nothing has gone wonky, and in short it’s been an extremely pleasant experience. I’m not a tech reviewer, I mostly review video games and movies, so that’s why there’s not any technical talk or benchmarks and stuff added in. This is a review purely from someone who is using this particular model C560 everyday for web browsing, work, writing, photo editing, gaming, and so on.
If you are looking at getting a new PC and don’t want to spend a thousand plus on buying a high powered beast or building your own, then I highly recommend the Lenovo 23-inch C560 with the Intel Core i3-4130T 2.9GHz processor. I paid $629.99 with no shipping and no taxes from Amazon (you may have shipping charges and taxes), which is less than the same model is available for at other places. I could not be happier with the purchase; it really is an excellent PC with a fantastic full HD screen and is pretty fast all around. If you have the money, this $630 is well worth it.
Lenovo IdeaCentre C560 gets a four out of five: GREAT.