Power on the Desk
Anyone who tells you that the desktop is as dead as the dinosaur is either misguided or lying to you. Inexpensive desktop PCs are everywhere and often make a compelling case where performance counts for more than portability.
Take, Lenovo’s C560 Touch, an all-in-one system that is not only a good value but can put desktops and notebooks to shame. At 17.8- by 22.6- by 6.1-inches, it is a bit large, particularly for a system with a 23-inch screen. That’s because there’s an extra 0.7-inch rim around the display as well as a half-inch screen frame.
The mid-range configuration that I looked should provide all the power any school task requires with a Core i3 4130T processor that runs at 2.9GHz. It, however, lacks Intel’s TurboBoost variable speed technology and vPro security enhancements. On the other hand, the C560 is top shelf with a generous 8GB of RAM, a 1TB high-performance hard drive and up to 5GB of online capacity with Lenovo’s Cloud Storage service.
One of the best equipped systems around, it includes a 720p Web cam and a DVD drive that can create discs as well as play them. The system has Dolby Advanced Audio, a set of built-in speakers and Lenovo sells a matching pair of external speakers for $30.
The configuration that I looked at is sold at Best Buy for $765. It’s not only a good value, but Lenovo also sells a stripped down model for $700 with 4GB of RAM and a similar non-touch version for $615. The company also has a higher performance model for $829 that uses a Core i5 processor and includes a 2TB hard drive.
The C560 Touch comes ready to teach with a matching keyboard and mouse. It takes just a few minutes to set up. All you need to do is screw on its dull silver base. The stand’s legs look more like sculpture than something purely functional. On the downside, the system doesn’t have VESA mounting holes for wall-mounting the unit, so it will be deskbound.
The center of attention is the system’s 23-inch HD display. It shows 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, uses Intel’s HD 4400 graphics engine and has 32MB of dedicated memory. It can use up to 1.76GB from the system RAM for a total of nearly 1.8GB of video memory. It, however, lacks a Windows key under the screen, although the included keyboard has one.
Rather than a capacitive multi-touch display, the C560 Touch has an infrared system that can interpret up to five independent touch inputs. The screen is recessed, which can make some touch moves awkward, but it works reliably, regardless of whether it is touched with a finger or a generic stylus. Unfortunately, the screen wobbles a little when it is tapped.
The display can’t be raised or lowered to accommodate different size users, but it can be tilted from 85- to 115-degrees to get to a comfortable angle. It isn’t able, however, to get to a full horizontal orientation for small kids to finger paint on the screen, though.
Below the screen on the left are LEDs that show the computer’s activity and whether the WiFi radio is turned on. The right side has adjustments for volume and screen brightness. It was able to deliver 203 candelas per square meter of brightness, which is a little dull for a desktop system but is on a par with a good notebook. On the downside, its color balance is slightly off with greenish yellows, but for most teaching situations, like interactive Web sites and online curriculum, it should be fine.
This is the system to get if you need a good assortment of ports, such as in a computer lab or science room. While it lacks a good old VGA connector, the system has an HDMI plug for using a projector or external monitor. There’s also a pair of USB 3.0, four USB 2.0, microphone and headphone jacks; it has a wired LAN port as well as a full-size SD card slot.
The C560 Touch goes against the grain for all-in-one systems because it can be opened, cleaned and upgraded. All you need to do is slide the lower half of the back panel off to expose the system’s memory chips, hard drive and DVD drive.
The system is very powerful, particularly compared to what it is likely replacing. It scored a 1,820.4 on Passmark’s PerformanceTest 8 suite of tests that checks out all the system’s major components, and the system should be able to keep up with just about any school activity. Even when it is running full blast, the system only uses 36-watts of electricity, less than one-quarter what the typical four-year old desktop consumes.
It all adds up to annual operating expenses of less than $9 if it’s used for 8 hours every school day and is in sleep mode for the rest; I used the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity.
In addition to Windows 8.1, the C560 comes with a slew of software aimed at children and education. In the final analysis, the C560 is one of the best values around that combines low operating expenses and the ability to get inside with high-performance. In other words, it can change your mind about desktop computing.
+ Good value
+ Touch screen
+ High performance
+ Low operating expenses
+ Access for upgrades and repairs
+ Includes wired keyboard and mouse
+ Good assortment of ports
- Screen doesn’t fully tilt
- No Windows Key