One of the more interesting PCs launched at this week's CES 2013 show is the Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC, a 27in all-in-one desktop with around-the-house portability. Like the Sony VAIO Tap 20, the Horizon has its components built behind the screen, but where the Tap 20 is large, the IdeaCentre Horizon is an XXL. It's designed for sharing the computer with the family, and as such Lenovo has worked with software developers to make sure it's not just another big screen desktop that happens to tilt flat.
The IdeaCentre Horizon's sports a 27in 1,920x1,080 (true 1080p HD) resolution screen. While we've seen that size before (notably on the Lenovo IdeaCentre A720), this is the first time we've seen that size of a screen on something that can work completely untethered. Claimed battery life is about two hours. At 8.17kg, we can't call the IdeaCentre Horizon a portable, but you can temporarily unplug it and carry it from room to room in and out of your home.
The lip of the bezel is ringed in a soft rubbery plastic compound, to help with grip and to protect the screen in the unlikely case that the system is left resting on its front side.
The IdeaCentre Horizon has a U-shaped tilting stand in the back, similar to the one on the Sony Tap 20, and like the Tap 20 you can tilt the IdeaCentre Horizon from a vertical position through to a flat horizontal position. Once in that position, you can share the 10-point touch screen with as many people that you can fit around the system.
One neat feature of the IdeaCentre Horizon is the Aura interface that automatically comes up when you drop the screen to a horizontal position. It brings up a touch-optimised interface, with a round central controller that can be rotated by touch to be "right side up" no matter which side of the system you are on. The controller buttons open categorised menus, like music, video, games, and the like. Opened photos, videos, and other items can be tilted, zoomed in or out, or repositioned on the screen. Each item has inertia, so the tiles act as if they are sliding on an air hockey table. It's similar to the visuals in the money-tracking scene in the James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, except that you can turn everything so it's facing the "right way up" for you.
It's interesting that Lenovo has commissioned a new touch interface overlay, recalling what all manufacturers had to do pre-Windows 8. Lenovo did this because the current Windows 8 Start screen doesn't support users sitting on opposite sides of a screen, where there's no true "up" direction. Aura and the other apps that Lenovo has co-developed with companies like Electronic Arts work well on the horizontal screen. When you're done playing Monopoly or roulette and tilt the screen back to vertical, the system automatically asks you if you want to return to the Windows 8 interface. On the system we looked at—equipped with a Core i7 CPU, SSD, and Nvidia GeForce GT620M graphics—the transition was close to instantaneous.
The IdeaCentre Horizon has a set of notable accessories, including a rechargeable six-sided die that can be used for board games. Up to three dice can be read by the system simultaneously. The system also has a joystick and "striker" (think air hockey paddle) controllers that can interact with the screen. Last, but not least, the version of the system we looked at can be bolted to the Horizon Multimode Table, a moving, tilting stand that lets you wheel the system around the house easier. It's similar to moving a tilting table on casters, except this table is a full-blown Windows 8 PC.
The IdeaCentre Horizon is expected to start at $1,699 (£1,056) and be available in early summer.
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