Lenovo C260: This inexpensive all-in-one PC performs more like a tablet

Lenovo C260: This inexpensive all-in-one PC performs more like a tablet

You get what you pay for. Lenovo cut a lot of corners to produce a desktop PC for less than $500.

The best all-in-one PCs bundle solid desktop features in a sleek display--no unsightly tower required. But because they include a display, they often cost a lot more than traditional desktops, a problem Lenovo seeks to address with its C260 all-in-one, a 19.5-incher which goes for $480 (Amazon was selling this model for $450 as of this writing).

The C260 is pleasing enough to look at. It's compact, with a medium-sized black bezel surrounding its 10-point touchscreen (at this price you don't really expect the edge-to-edge glass we see in higher-end models). And at first glance, its feature list--which includes four USB ports, gigabit ethernet, HDMI out, a DVD burner, and an integrated 720p webcam--sounds good.

But you get what you pay for, and the C260 skimps in many ways to achieve its low price. It might be adequate for someone with truly minimal computing needs--email, light web browsing, or simple word-processing tasks--but others will find at least some of the many compromises annoying.

Performance is the obvious starting point. Powered by a Pentium J2900 CPU with integrated Intel HD graphics (the latest branch on Intel's Bay Trail family tree) and 4GB of DDR3/160 memory, the C260 eked out a dismal Desktop WorldBench 9 score of 28, despite having a relatively fast, but low-capacity hard drive. It's only 500GB, but it spins its platter at 7200 rpm (we've seen all too many inexpensive PCs with 5400-rpm drives).

Granted, our 100-point baseline PC consists of an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, discrete graphics and a solid-state drive, but very few of the PCs we've tested have scored below 50. The Pentium chip, which lacks hyperthreading, likely is the major culprit, although the minimal amount of RAM combined with integrated graphics almost certainly contributes as well (the system can be upgraded to 8GB of memory).

This is not a unit you'd want to use for multitasking, which would severely challenge its memory resources. Even YouTube videos with lots of movement showed signs of strain, including pixelation. I also found touchscreen response to be less than snappy.

The YouTube issues, however, may also relate to another significant drawback: The unit's Wi-Fi client adapter is a 1x1 model that supports only 2.4GHz, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. A 1x1 adapter like this can support just one spatial stream for transmission and one for receiving. This adapter is also limited to operating on the very crowded 2.4GHz spectrum, which will be problematic in environments where lots of other wireless networks are operating.

That's why we recommend using the less crowded 5GHz frequency band for media streaming (most PCs we review these days are outfitted with adapters that support both the 2.4- and the 5GHz bands, and new models increasingly support the faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard). Anyone trying to stream media would be well advised to use this computer's hardware gigabit ethernet port.

There are other irritants as well: Only one of the C260's four USB ports supports USB 3.0--the others handle only slower USB 2.2 connections. And unless you pay extra to upgrade to a wireless keyboard and mouse, two of those four ports will be occupied by the wired peripherals that come with the unit.

The C260's audio sounded OK, and its webcam worked fine for Skype calls. But multitaskers, people who depend on Wi-Fi for streaming media, and anyone seeking tools for any computationally intensive work should seek a more powerful system.

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Tags hardware systemsdesktop pcsdesktopsall-in-one PCs


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