Small form factor PCs are one of the fastest growing segments of the market and the choice available seems to be growing by the day. Available models vary from compact business machines to ultra-small devices that break PCs away from the box on a desk style we are all familiar with. The Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190 falls into the second category, and makes compact computing available at an incredibly low price.
A low price PC usually means comprimise in the specification department, and the IdeaCentre Q190 is no exception. This SFF (small form factor) uses several notebook parts to achieve its tiny size and these bring their own limitations. With all that said it still manages to pack a lot into a very small package.
Specification of the base model Q190:
- Processor – Intel Pentium 1.90GHz with 2Mb cache
- RAM – 4Gb PC-3 DDR3 SDRAM at 1,333Hz
- Graphics – Intel Integrated HD Graphics
- Storage – 500Gb 5,000rpm HDD
- Network – Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE11b/g/n wireless network adapter
- Ports – 1xVGA, 1x HDMI, 2x USB3, 4x USB2, card reader, headphone and mic
If this lacks the power that you are looking for you can opt for a higher spec model with an Intel Core i3 running at 1.4GHz, a 1Tb hard drive and Intel HD 3000 graphics, which push the performance a good bit higher. This version also comes with a neat add-on BluRay and DVD-RW drive.
With these specifications, you wouldn’t expect spectacular performance from either model, and you’d be right. It’s a lot better than the early models that came with a Celeron 877 chip, but still nowhere near what you need for gaming or serious productivity applications.
On the other hand Windows 8 runs smoothly enough and it’s fine for web browsing. Disk-heavy apps do suffer from the use of 5,000rpm 2.5” hard drives, which is inevitable in a compact system at this price but a disappointment if you’re used to 7,400rpm drives or SSD.
The Q190 does manage to handle video playback capably, even at 1080p (the early Celeron models sometimes struggled with this) which is great, because the IdeaCentre really comes into its own as a media centre. If economy is a major factor for you take into account that the heavy use of mobile components gives the Q190 extremely low power consumption.
A major selling point of systems such as these are their size, and in that respect, the IdeaCentre is definitely a winner.
This really is a tiny PC. In fact, it’s about the size of a large paperback book. The case dimensions are 155mm x 192mm x 22mm, so you can slot it in almost anywhere. The small base that comes in the box lets you stand it vertically in a corner of a desk or beside your TV, and there is also a VESA mount so you can attach it to the back of the TV and out of sight.
The case itself shows signs of being built to budget; it’s glossy plastic rather than alloy, and it flexes under thumb pressure. This isn’t a unit that’s going to resist knocks and any rough handling will quickly leave it with scratches. On the other hand it doesn’t look at all bad and will fit in well enough in your living room. If you want to use it as a desktop PC it’s a real space saver and looks neat and competent.
The casing itself makes maximum use of space. Most of the ports are down the back, with the two USB3 inputs, 6-in-1 card reader and audio sockets hidden behind a flip-out door on the front. On top you find the power button and a row of small vents.
Despite the uninspiring material, it’s amazing how Lenovo have managed to put together a tidy and reasonably attractive little unit at this price. If you opt for the higher spec model, the optical drive comes as a separate unit the same size as the PC itself. The two components fit neatly side by side and a USB bridge at the rear connects them.
The IdeaCentre Q190 comes with 64-bit Windows 8 as standard and Windows 8 Pro as an option. There’s a collection of bundled software to help you get started, including trial versions of MS Office, McAfee and PowerDVD. You also get Lenovo Assistant, which is disappointing – it just consists of links to various Windows features – and Lenovo Cloud Storage, which is a lot more useful. Powered by SugarSync, this lets you store files online and if you’re looking at using the IdeaCentre as a media device it’s a welcome boost to the HDD capacity.
So what does it cost? Lenovo’s RRP for the Pentium version is £299.99 and for the Core i3 a still remarkable £379.99. If you shop around it’s possible to find the i3 for little over £300, and unless you have very basic requirements this version is the one to go for.
There are numerous suppliers across the US. Online retailers include Amazon, or you can purchase directly from Lenovo themselves. UK suppliers include John Lewis and Our IT Dept London for Business customers.
If you’re looking for a compact PC the IdeaCentre Q190 has a lot going for it, and if you can live with one or two little niggles it could be exactly what you’re looking for. In a nutshell this is how it weighs up:
- Extremely compact
- Plenty of ports
- Great pricing
- Low power consumption
- Mediocre performance
- Cheap case
- Lack of business features
If you’re after a capable system for regular work use or a full-on gaming machine the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190 probably isn’t for you. As a media centre for the living room, or a second PC for the internet and some light word processing, it’s a lot more useful. For the price this little box has a lot to offer and if you’re in the market for an entertainment-oriented compact it’s worth a serious look.