Best budget all-in-one PCs (20 inches or smaller)

If you’re willing to accept a display of 20 inches or smaller, you can pick up a good all-in-one for a little over $500

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Lenovo C300 All-in-One PC
C300 All-in-One PC Review, by David Murphy, PC World December 10, 2009

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Rating:

CPU: Intel Atom 330; CPU speed: 1.6GHz; Graphics adapter: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530; Hard drive size: 640GB

Pros:
Lots of storage: 640GB!

Cons:
No touchscreen
Only 802.11g Wi-Fi (no N)

Bottom Line: Lenovo's 20-inch C300 delivers a big screen and lots of storage; some critical deficiencies, however, put a dent in its usefulness.

REVIEW:
Lenovo's C300 may have more storage than any similarly priced all-in-one PC we've seen, but the system (which costs $549, as of December 8, 2009) makes a number of sacrifices that almost counterbalance its good general performance and price.

Intel's 1.6GHz Atom 330 processor is the only dual-core processor in the Atom lineup, and it helps the C300 deliver acceptable--but not stellar--performance in our WorldBench 6 test suite. The system's score of 42 in our benchmark is on a par with what's typically delivered by similar all-in-ones; it just edges out the 20-inch Asus Eee Top ET2002, despite both systems sharing the same CPU model and type. Current-generation gaming is out of the question on the C300, as is the case for all models on our budget all-in-one PC chart.

As hinted at the outset, the C300's 640GB hard drive is the most storage we've seen on an all-in-one this side of $1000, and its 4GB of DDR2-667 memory isn't bad, either. The problem is, Lenovo preinstalls a 32-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium, whereas you need a 64-bit OS to fully address all 4GB of memory you're paying for. Whether you opt for Windows 7, Vista, or XP, go 64-bit if you've got 4GB of RAM or more.

The C300 also has no touchscreen, which is tough given that several competing (and less expensive) all-in-ones do. And finally, the C300's networking is pretty weak: It has only 802.11g Wi-Fi (no N), and 10/100 ethernet instead of gigabit speeds. This won't affect your usual Web browsing experience, but it will certainly bog down your network file transfers.

The unit's 20-inch (1600-by-900 resolution) screen provides a good mix of strong contrasts and colorful saturation. The only real flaw is in extremely dark scenes, where a faint bit of backlight glow can be detected at the top and bottom of the display. The C300's integrated sound, however, is another story. The included speakers aren't very pleasant to listen to at all--they're worse than what you'd typically find on a run-of-the-mill laptop, which in itself is a rather low bar.

Six USB ports line the sides and rear of the C300, along with a multiformat card reader and a mini-FireWire 400 port. It's nice to see Lenovo at least attempting to offer a connection above and beyond the standard USB. You also get an integrated DVD writer (you can watch DVD movies with it, too). That's a good thing, as you can't actually go into the C300's guts to replace or modify either component. What you buy is what you get.

The compelling features of Lenovo's C300--good performance, good price, great capacity--show that the company did well in considering the big-picture elements that go into a successful all-in-one system. However, drawbacks like poor networking features, the lack of a touchscreen, and that 32-bit OS issue all limit the unit's appeal.

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