While the new 2.13GHz, dual-core Intel Atom D2700 beating at the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q180’s heart is a superior chip to previous Atom CPUs, we were actually a little disappointed at its performance. There are still instances in regular use where you’re left waiting and where it does come across that this is not a full-fat desktop chip. However, it must be said that for modest daily workloads, it now provides a smooth experience on some occasions where its predecessors slowed down or stuttered, especially with a few programs running simultaneously.
Just in case you saw the Q180’s promotional video where it shows off some pretty 3D gaming, forget about it. Atom still does not a game-worthy CPU make, and the Radeon GPU it’s paired with here doesn’t help much. In fact, an average frame rate of 22fps in TrackMania Nations Forever at 720p and Medium detail is very poor - even basic 3D games will be out the question.
However, that’s by no means a disparagement of the Q180 compared to other nettops. For example, the Acer Aspire Revo 100 with its AMD Athlon II Neo and Nvidia ION graphics only managed 15fps in the same test. Also, as you would hope, HD video and Blu-ray playback casued no problems.
Part of the generally decent performance of our review sample is doubtless thanks to its 4GB of RAM, which is as much as is found on far more powerful desktop computers. The 750GB hard drive is a slower 5,400rpm model though.
Lenovo’s IdeaCentre Q180 is available in a variety of configurations with prices to match, from £235/£180 (with/without Windows) for the most basic configuration of 2GB of RAM, a 320GB HDD and no optical drive - to £350 for our review configuration with 4GB of RAM, a 750GB HDD and a Blu-ray drive. For most users, the extra storage space and flexibility will be well worth the extra £100 between the two Windows configurations.
So how does the fully-loaded IdeaCentre Q180 compare to its competition? The Acer Aspire Revo 100 immediately springs to mind as an interesting alternative. Similar to the Q180, the £340 Revo is a nettop with some decent specs backing up its Athlon II Neo processor, 3D-compatible Blu-ray drive and mouse/keyboard remote.
However, while it’s arguably more attractive and its CPU/GPU matches up, the Acer gives you less RAM, a smaller hard drive, and a remote that might be nicer for pointer control but is far less pleasant to type with. Considering the Q180 is brand-new while the Revo 100 is end-of-life, Lenovo’s nettop is even better value.
If your main interest is watching Blu-rays, we would probably recommend a dedicated player or £150 PlayStation 3. However, if you want the versatility of a tiny PC, you’re only paying £40 extra over the DVD version of the Q180, and overall it’s a decent machine for an affordable price.
The Lenovo IdeaCentre Q180 is as tiny and cute as its title of “world’s smallest fully functional desktop PC” would suggest, but doesn’t compromise on features or connectivity. It's not the most stylish nettop around but is well-constructed and well-specified, and its detachable Blu-ray drive is a nifty addition. Performance is constrained by its Atom processor but adequate for daily productivity, casual gaming and watching HD video. Best of all is the bundled keyboard/mouse remote, which is one of the better examples we’ve seen and can be used with any device that will accept a USB RF dongle. Frankly, all this for £350 seems a pretty good deal.