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Lenovo IdeaCentre Q110

by John Brandon

When we reviewed the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q100 not long ago, we had one critical complaint: while the system looked sleek, it ran too slow for even rudimentary tasks. That main complaint has been partially solved with the successor – the IdeaCentre Q110.

Details:IdeaCentre Q110 - Angle Shot - High Res
Price:
£220
Tech Specs
OS Tested: Ubuntu Remix for Netbooks
CPU: Intel Atom 230 (1.66GHz)
Memory: 2GB
HDD: 160GB
Dimensions: 18 x 450 x 380mm
Weight: 1.18kg
Lenovo

Pros: All-in-one nettop uses the powerful Nvidia Ion chipset for fast graphics
Cons: Games ran a bit slow for an IGP that is supposed to bump up graphics speed

When we reviewed the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q100 not long ago, we had one critical complaint: while the system looked sleek, it ran too slow for even rudimentary tasks. For example, even though the system is meant as a web terminal or for knowledge workers who just need access to enterprise services at a company, the slow processor and sub-par graphics made the original Q100 inadequate for power-user tasks.

That main complaint has been partially solved with the successor, called the IdeaCentre Q110. The higher model number denotes a fairly important change: the Q110 uses the Nvidia Ion chipset to handle graphics performance. This also means the Q110 has an HDMI port for connecting the device to your home entertainment system for both audio and video, or to a monitor that supports the connection. Suddenly, the Q110 becomes more interesting. The stylish design, with an angular look and an all-black exterior, fits well in your entertainment room and the Q110 plays movies and games at reasonable speeds, making it one of the most well-suited computers for the coming generation of downloaded content.
We say ‘the coming generation’ because some popular movies are still heavily encrypted – and Blu-ray still reigns supreme. The Q110 does not allow you to download any movie at any time and watch it on your big screen. Instead, the Ion chipset is a good match for those who already have high-def films stored on a network server and need a dumb terminal to play them. In several tests with movies like District 9 encoded as hi-res MPEG files, the Q110 managed to play them off a server over Ethernet without any problems. We also used FFmpeg to encode movies and noticed similar speed improvements over the Q100.

IdeaCentre Q110 - Side Shot - High ResFor games, the Q110 was less powerful. This may have to do with the fact that Nvidia never made any claims about the Ion chipset dramatically improving frame rates or graphics realism, especially compared with the firm’s desktop cards. Testing Wolfenstein 3D on a ViewSonic HDMI-enabled projector, there were frequent graphical pauses and slow gameplay. This is not a major surprise, since the Ion chipset is actually the same one used on Apple MacBook laptops which are notoriously under-powered for games compared to PC laptops that use the latest Nvidia chipsets that handle first-person shooters just fine.

In every other way, minus the HDMI port and exceptional movie playback, the Q110 is similar to the original Q100. The Q110 is also 38cm by 45cm in size, or small enough to stash away on a bookshelf or tuck behind a PC monitor out of sight entirely. (The Q110 does not support a method to actually attach the nettop to the back of a monitor, as is true of the Acer Aspire Revo.) The system comes with 2GB of RAM, but still runs the Intel Atom N230 processor at just 1.66GHz.

For those interested in a nettop, the older Atom processor is still acceptable given that the follow-on, the Atom N450 introduced at the 2010 CES trade show, is primarily designed for longer battery life and not a speed improvement. (If you buy a netbook, make sure it uses the N450, however.) Like the Q100, the Q110 has four USB ports on the back of the unit and two on the front for a total of six. There are also headphone and microphone sockets, an Ethernet port and a 160GB hard drive that runs a bit slow at just 5400rpm. The Q110 is a marked improvement over the Q100 for movie playback and thin-client computing, especially in Ubuntu Remix for Netbooks.

Verdict: 3/5
A great entertainment-room PC with fast movie playback.
John Brandon

This article originally appeared in issue 84 of Linux User & Developer magazine.

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