The danger for creators of all-in-one PCs is exactly the same as the designers of all-in-one printers: by trying to cram in as many features as possible into a comparatively small space, you risk comprising on quality and pleasing nobody.
Lenovo sees their B series as multimedia machines offering compact entertainment and the B50-35 is deliberately pitched in the middle of the range between ‘family’ and ‘gamer’. Yet despite its relatively modest ambitions, the B50-35 has many features that compare favourably with full-on gaming computers like the MSI AG240 all-in-one.
Although it’s not as wafer thin as the AG240, the B50-35 has virtually the same size backlit screen (23.8 inches) and yet weighs three pounds lighter (19.8 lb) despite its sturdily robust 22.9 x 8.1 x 18.5 inch dimensions. While both PCs offer Full HD (1920 x 1080), the Lenovo has the additional bonus of In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology so you can enjoy watching movies or playing games from wide viewing angles.
The only downside is that both all-in-ones also suffer from high reflectivity from the glossy surface and finger marks rapidly accumulate from touchscreen action. Nothing that an efficient soft cloth can’t handle but you’d be advised to keep at least some of the curtains pulled to while you’re being entertained.
At the base, a stylishly thin strip of silver separates the display from the matt black grille that hides the sound section and the good news is that the sound quality is impressively meaty thanks to a pair of JBL Dolby stereo surround speakers.
When you circle round the back of the B50-35 you can see that it almost matches the AG240 for ports, boasting no less than three USB 2.0 inputs as well as two super-fast USB 3.0s. The version that Lenovo sent us review also included HDMI-in as well as HDMI-out so you can enjoy two-monitor viewing or gaming plus inputs from Blu-ray or games consoles.
In addition, it sports a 6-in-1 card reader, the usual jack sockets for microphone and headphone, plus Ethernet. Further upgrades can be arranged for TV-in and NFC recognition, although they were not included in our demo model. Not bad for a mid-range all-in-one that is £500 (US$770, AU$990) cheaper than the AG240.
It’s also reassuring from a safety angle that the B50-35’s V-shaped metal base is hefty and rock solid and takes away the worry of that accidental corner brush that could end in disaster. It allows flexibility in viewing angles, too, as the display can be tilted 5 degrees forward and 25 degrees backward.
On the features side, the only disappointment is the absence of a Blu-ray player as standard, with Lenovo having opted for a DVD player instead. The eject button on this unit is also awkward to operate and is positioned round the back of the monitor rather than on the side. It’s a shame not to be able to make the most of those two HDMI ports.
No grumbles about the built-in webcam, on the other hand. It provides 1080p HD and is ideal for web conferencing in the office or just saying, “hi,” to the folks in Australia via Skype. Younger members of the family will undoubtedly enjoy a few fun effects thrown in which include reflective bubbles and falling snowflakes.
Touch screen operation
Like the AG240, the B50-35 comes with Windows 8.1 pre-installed so you can mix and match between touch-responsive tile apps or programmes and operations better suited to keyboard and mouse.
As the tablet seems to reign supreme in the current generation, using the Lenovo 10-point multitouch technology should be a stroll in the park and several tiles display real-time information such as news, sports and emails.
A virtual keyboard is accessible if you want to keep all your functions touch-friendly. The supplied hardware version is a basic model that feels relatively stiff to operate and contains the odd annoyance like the Function key taking the place of the usual left Control key – that won’t be appreciated by gamers.
The mouse likewise is small, lightweight and insubstantial. For long-term use you may do well to replace them both with something more meaty.
Specifications and performance
Considering the price of the B50-35 is around half that of the AG240, the Lenovo has an impressive array of features which include 1TB of HDD storage (optional 2TB), WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, optional Bluetooth and 8GB of RAM (expandable to 16GB) to support the AMD A10 APU which combines processor and graphics card into one efficient chip. Here is the Lenovo B50-35 configuration given to TechRadar:
- CPU: 3.5GHz AMD A10-7800 Radeon R7, 12 Compute Cores 4C+8G
- Graphics: AMD Radeon R7 Graphics
- RAM: 8GB DDR3
- Screen: 23.8-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS
- Storage: 1TB HDD
- Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 3 x USB 2.0, HDMI-out, HDMI-in, 6-in-1 card reader, Microphone jack, Headphone jack, Ethernet
- Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
- Camera: Built-in Lenovo LBG 1080p Webcam
- Weight: 19.8 pounds
- Size: 22.9 x 8.1 x 18.5 inches
Regular multitasking, such as running the Internet whilst playing music and chatting to friends on Facebook, provide no challenge for the B50-35 and swapping in and out of the live tiles and apps was relatively seamless.
DVD movies came up pretty sharp and there was no stuttering in action sequences. Stereo sound quality was especially good with just slight distortion at the top end of the range. However, the noticeable difference with the AG240 was on the comparatively low scores on the games benchmark tests, even though both Bioshock Infinite and Metro Last Light played with no obvious signs of lagging.
Here’s how the Lenovo B50-35 performed on our suite of benchmark tests:
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 5798; Sky Diver: 4654; Fire Strike: 1122
- Cinebench CPU: 291 points; Graphics: 39.02 fps
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 3057 points
- Bioshock Infinite (1080p, Ultra): 30.66 fps; (1080p, Low):
- 47.53 fps
- Metro: Last Light (1080p, Ultra): 8 fps; (1080p. Low): 15.33 fps
On the PCMark 8 test, the B50-35 was almost neck-and-neck with the AG240 (3080 points) but the superior Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M card on the MSI all-in-one showed a significant gap between what is a moderate games PC and a serious one. The 3DMark scores were 3 times faster, Cinebench reached 51.88 fps, Bioshock Infinite manages 41,43 fps on the Ultra setting and Metro: Last Light stretched to 11.67 fps on the most demanding setting.
- Cyberlink PowerDVD – ideal for watching movies on DVD
- FilmOn TV – hundreds of free TV channels to watch in SD covering news, sports and films
- The Weather Channel – Pretty self explanatory, with local and world weather reports
- MSN Health & Fitness – Diet and cardio tracking, workouts, foods and recipes
If you’re looking for a space-saving alternative to a desktop at a reasonable price that won’t just be used as a work station, then the B50-35 lives up to its billing as an entertainment centre despite some shortcomings on peripherals and graphics power.
We definitely liked the sleek design, the responsiveness of the touch screen, the HDMI option for two screens, the sound quality of the Dolby stereo and the range of apps such as FilmOn TV.
We also liked the fact that this is more than just a basic ‘family’ all-in-one providing word processing and some general entertainment. It is a half-decent gaming PC as well.
The less than sparkling keyboard and mouse that don’t live up to the overall quality of the B50-35. It would have been less disappointing to have had a Blu-ray player in place of the DVD to really show off the Full HD picture.
All-in-one PCs are all about saving space and money while packing plenty of features and power into a decent size monitor. There’s no argument against the size and style of the B50-35 and that firm base makes it both sturdy and practical for tucking your keyboard and mouse under when not in use (even though they could do with upgrading).
Although the benchmark tests are significantly lower than the MSI AG240 on the gaming side, it’s still possible to enjoy a good first-person shooter without worrying about lag or ghosting. With so many built-in features and apps, plus a chunky price saving over its rival, the Lenovo should definitely be worth considering as an alternative to a desktop.