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Lenovo A300 ideacentre

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

 

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Lenovo A300 ideacentre

 

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

 

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

 

Introduction

I like Macs. I've played with Macs in Mac shops and I like their simplicity of design, their small footprint, their great aesthetics and super displays.

The problem is that I've always been a PC user. I am familiar with PCs and I don't want to change operating systems. Yes, I know that Macs can run Windows but that doesn't seem the right thing to do. If you use a Mac then it is only right that you use the Mac OS.

I could change but there is another problem. I have several PCs and I don't want to run mixed operating systems on my main and backup PCs. It's a problem.

But then the Lenovo A300 came along.

 

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

 

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

 

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

 

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Brief Description

The A300 is one of the new generation of all-in-one PCs. The main component is a stunning iMac-like high contrast 21.5" 16:9 1920x1080 pixel Full-HD Glossy LED-backlit widescreen display, which is only about 0.75" thick. I enjoy photography and do a fair amount of work with digital images. The A300, with such a great display, is ideal for this type of work.

The All-In-One designation refers to the display unit (white on the back with a black frame at the front bordering the screen), the white base unit, and a chromed bracket joining the two pieces. These components cannot be separated.

The system components are housed in the base unit. There is no internal power supply. Power is supplied via an external laptop-type black box transformer which is a little larger than normal laptop power supplies.

The cable from the external power supply is the only one there is. This is quite a change from PCs from just a few years ago that always had a rat's nest of cables at the back. The mouse and keyboard are wireless (connected using Bluetooth) and there is an integrated Wi-Fi connection, as there is with all computers these days.

It looks great.

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Performance

I read a few reviews that knocked the A300 on performance. The implication was that performance had been sacrificed for looks and a small footprint. There were some accusations that laptop parts have been used to keep the base unit small but this has resulted in poor performance. One review said the machine was the slowest in its class.

My own experience has been different but I don't play computer games and I am not constantly comparing the latest PCs from all manufacturers.

For what I do, the A300 flies. In the past I never used to shut down my computers between sessions because they took too long to boot up again. I just used to put them into sleep mode. I now shut down the A300 because it boots so quickly.

It runs all my applications quickly - including some processor intensive image editing applications. The A300 makes my old IBM ThinkPads seem pedestrian in comparison. Personally, I do not have any issues at all regarding performance doing the things I do.

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Input Devices

The keyboard and mouse are connected using Bluetooth. The initial set up was straightforward and I've not had any connection issues. The input devices use AA batteries to power their wireless connection. Obviously, batteries don't last forever so it is advisable to keep a few spares because they will decide to die just when you are in the middle of a vitally important document.

To save battery power, the mouse and keyboard go to sleep after a few minutes of inactivity. When you go to use them next time they don't wake up immediately. If you are using the mouse to make selections and then decide to use the Alt or Shift key on the keyboard to assist you, but the keyboard is asleep, will not get what you want because the keyboard hasn't woken up.

This can be a bit of an irritation but when you get used to what is happening you make sure to 'wake up' the keyboard or mouse beforehand.

The keyboard is fairly small and one review I read said it was cramped. It's fine for me and when I look at Mac keyboards the A300 keyboard actually looks bigger.

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Optical Device

There isn't one! The iMac has an optical drive incorporated into the display but there is nothing anywhere in the A300. Neither did any of my IBM X-Series ThinkPads have an optical drive. I bought an external CD/DVD drive to load up my ThinkPads and this is what I used to load up the A300.

Is this a problem? In my opinion, no. I normally only use an optical drive to load software and then I don't use it again. If I need an optical drive I just plug my external drive into one of the USB ports.

If you plan on buying an A300 and don't already own an external optical drive, remember to budget for this as well. I use a small LaCie drive which has always worked reliably.

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Inputs And Outputs

The A300 is well configured in this respect. There are four USB 2.0 ports, a multi-format memory card slot (no built-in Compact Flash card reader, unfortunately), microphone and headphone jacks, HDMI in and out, TV input (to the built-in TV tuner), Firewire, Ethernet.

 

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

 

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

 

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

 

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

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Windows 7

At least one Mac user and internet commentator I can think of has made the comment that professionals use Macs because with Windows you spend half your time trying to fix viruses and bugs. Rubbish. This guy can't have used a PC since Windows XP was introduced.

Windows 98 was the last bad Windows operating system and I was forever suffering with 'Blue Screens of Death'. That problem disappeared with Windows XP and I ran XP for many years (I still do on my laptops) with no problems at all.

Windows Vista was an aberration. I don't know what happened. I bought a used ThinkPad X-Series running Vista and it was so buggy that I was forced to take it back and exchange it for an older model running XP.

Windows 7 is great. It is very stable, fast and fairly intuitive. An indication of the stability is that there seem to be very few regular updates. Some of the security stuff is a bit annoying and with big external hard drives it has taken a long time to update the security updates so that my applications can use them. This is a departure from XP and not a very welcome one.

I'm sure the Mac OS is very good but when you hear Mac users talking about the problems with Windows, the problems are never as bad as they make out.

 

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

 

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Bloatware

Computer manufacturers are paid to install trial versions of third-party software. The software companies hope new users will like their products and then pay for licences. I wish this didn't happen but it does.

My A300 came with McAfee security software installed and one of my first tasks was to remove it via the Windows control panel. After removing it I then couldn't turn on the Windows Firewall. The reason wasn't apparent at first but further investigation revealed it was because Windows thought McAfee was installed even though I'd removed it.

I then had to find and download the exec to clean up the mess McAfee had left on my machine. This is not just annoying but unnecessary.

Apart from that, there wasn't too much pre-installed bloatware on the machine.

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Lenovo Utilities

The A300 comes with the usual Lenovo Rescue and Recovery stored in a hidden partition. I've made use of this in the past several times so quite like it. If you check your HDD usage and the total doesn't add up to what you expect, the missing disk space is probably this.

Incidentally, the hard disk arrives already partitioned into C and D drives. The C drive is shown as being 49.90GB and the D drive as 390GB. You can either reallocate the partitions or, if not, you need to point some applications at the D drive because most applications will automatically use the D partition.

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Lenovo Enhanced Experience

In conjuntion with Microsoft, Lenovo have incorporated system performance improvements (such as faster start up and shut down) on Lenovo machines running Windows 7 that have the Lenovo Enhanced Experience sticker. For more details see: Lenovo Enhanced Experience PCs for Windows´┐Ż 7

 

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

Lenovo A300 ideacentre

 

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Specifications

Here are the basic specs:

  • Processor - Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 @ 2.20GHz
  • OS Preloaded - Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 64
  • System Type - 64-bit Operating System
  • HDD - 500GB SATA (5400 rpm)
  • Memory - 4GB PC3-8500 DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz
  • Display - 21.5" All In One HD 1920x1080
  • Colour - Gothic Black, Pearl White and Frosted Pink
  • Graphics - Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X4500
  • Audio & Speakers - 2x2W Stereo Speakers
  • I/O ports - 8-in-1 card reader slot (SD, Mini SD, MMC, RS-MMC, MS, MS-PRO, MS-DUO, XD-PIC CARD), 4 x USB 2.0 ports, mic-in, headphone (stereo)
  • Communications - Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, 10/100/1000 LAN, Bluetooth (ver. 2.1), Firewire
  • Webcam - Integrated 0.3 Megapixels
  • Weight - 9.5kg
  • Warranty - Depends where you buy your machine, normally one year parts and service

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Problems

The Lenovo A300 I am using is not my first, but actually my third. The first one didn't work. Upon turning it on, the fan ran at its highest speed and the disk wouldn't boot. It went back to the shop.

The second one booted and seemed OK initially but as I was updating Windows (the first task I performed) the screen kept going blank. I tried to persevere and I loaded all the latest drivers, etc, but the problem didn't go away.

The screen went blank as if it had gone into sleep mode but it wouldn't wake up. The only way to get it back was to reboot the machine. This machine also went back.

The third one has been fine. I don't know whether this is a Lenovo QC problem, or if the problems occurred in transit after the machines had left the factory.

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Annoyances

The Bluetooth keyboard and mouse go to sleep after they haven't been used for a certain time in order to save battery power. When you go to use them again they don't wake up immediately. Sometimes it takes a lot of bashing on the keyboard to wake it up.

Quite often I use a combination of the mouse and Alt or Shift keys on the keyboard to make selections. If the keyboard is alseep when I do this it doesn't make the selection. This can be very annoying.

The battery indication gauge for the mouse isn't accurate. When the battery starts to get low it tells you something like 9% at first. This goes down to 1% very quickly, but stays at 1% for a long time before the battery finally expires.

In the end I gave up with the Lenovo Bluetooth mouse and bought a Logitech wireless mouse. It works perfectly and has none of the problems I experienced previously. I also replaced the Lenovo Bluetooth keyboard with a cheap wired keyboard. It works much better.

When I first started using the system I experienced a few system hangs and I even saw the infamous Microsoft 'Blue Screen of Death' a couple of times. I never saw this with Windows XP, although it happened all the time with Windows 95 and 98.

However, after performing lots of Windows updates these problems disappeared. As I write now (November 2016) while updating this page, I haven't seen any of these problems for years.

One other small annoyance is that the speakers are very quiet. I don't know if it's the speakers or the driver, but some on-line videos are very difficult to hear.

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Hard Disk Partition

This is another issue that can go under the category of annoyances. The machine comes with a 500 GB hard drive, which is ample for my needs. If it just had a C partition this would be fine, but the folks at Lenovo don't want to make it easy for their customers.

There is a hidden partition for the Lenovo recovery function and this leaves around 450 GB. The C partition has 50 GB and the D partition has around 400 GB.

The Windows 7 operating system lives on the C partition and after several updates it starts to get quite large. The default for most programs is the C drive and that's where they end up if you forget to change the drive.

Some programs, such as the Google Chrome browser, don't even give you the option. They will only install themselves on the C drive.

After a few years I got into a situation where my C drive was almost full, but there was lots of space on my D drive. All that was needed was to decrease the size of the D partition and increase the C partition. Unfortunately, I was unable to do this.

It can't be done through Windows and I didn't want to have to buy software. There is quite a lot of free software available and after some research I decided on GParted.

I installed the software successfully and had figured out what I needed to do, but there was one small problem. My input devices would not work so I couldn't do anything. No matter what I tried, including making sure I had the BIOS configured for a USB keyboard, I could not get the mouse or keyboard to do anything.

On other computers it may be possible to use the PS/2 ports for the mouse and keyboard, but the Lenovo A300 does not have these ports.

Eventually I gave up trying to alter the partition. I removed as many programs from the C drive as I could and reinstalled them on the D drive.

I have enough space on my C drive now to carry out essential maintenance and Windows updates, etc, but it is a constant battle preventing the C drive from running out of space. I really don't know why Lenovo partition their hard drives the way they do.

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Summary

I'm updating this after six years of using the A300 as my main computer every day. I still love it. The original Bluetooth keyboard and mouse went a long time ago, but the processor, disk drive and display keep going strong.

Six years is a long time in the world of technology, but the processing speed is still fine for my needs and Microsoft have got Windows 7 running really smoothly.

When I first got the A300 Apple computers were undoubtedly better than Windows machines, but now I'm not so sure. Apple users talk about Windows PCs being slow and unproductive, but my Windows PC works very well and I can't think how it could be more productive.

For the first time recently I read complaints about Apple machines. They are not as problem-free as some people make out and users are really getting upset about some of Apple's decisions.

It seems that whatever device you want to attach to a Mac you have to purchase a special Apple connector and Apple have taken the concept of minimalism to extremes concerning the ports on its machines. No matter how many devices you want to connect to your Mac you may only have one port to do so.

The A300 hasn't been available to buy for a long time, but there have been updates and I would not hesitate in getting one of Lenovo's newer all-in-one ideacentres.

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