Our technology is constantly being downsized, with ever more power fitting into smaller packages. The humble desktop PC is no exception, and with the advent of the nettop (the desktop counterpart to the netbook), pint-sized PCs have become common and affordable. Lenovo’s current consumer-focused contender in this market is its IdeaCentre Q180, the “world’s smallest fully functional desktop PC”.
This miniature marvel is available in a variety of compact configurations, weighs a mere 742g, and has around the same volume as two stacked DVD cases - that is, unless you go for the model with included optical drive, which ups the thickness to 4cm. Can it match up to the competition with impressive contenders like the award-winning Zotac Zbox Nano already in the game?
First off, let’s get more of a feel for the Q180. Due to Lenovo’s use of an Atom processor and AMD Radeon 6450 graphics across the range, it’s definitely a nettop rather than a full-strength miniature Mac mini-like desktop PC such as the ASRock Vision 3D. However, since our review model comes with 4GB of RAM and a 750GB HDD plus the optional Blu-ray drive attachment and full keyboard remote, it’s at the premium end of its category, and a proper challenger to the Acer Aspire Revo 100.
If right now you’re thinking the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q180’s other specifications are more than Intel’s Atom CPU will know what to do with, the Atom D2700 isn’t the same underpowered architecture that limited most netbooks of yore: rather it’s Intel’s next-generation, 2.13GHz, dual-core ‘Cedar Trail’ processor with support for four virtual cores. We’ll check out just how it all holds up in the performance section of this review.
Design & Build
It’s on style and size that the Q180’s appeal is strongest though. The dinky base unit is undeniably cute and super-slim. You can either stand it upright with the provided base or rest it horizontally on tiny rubber feet. Cleverly, the base accommodates both the slim standalone unit or the PC with its optical drive attached by merely turning it upside down (or downside up, as the case may be).
Build quality is pretty good, though nothing like any of Lenovo’s ThinkPad models.
The silver strip around most of the Q180 does make it look just a little cheap, but generally the combination with glossy black does work. What's more fingerprints shouldn’t be as much of a problem as with a laptop, though when plugging peripherals in or out you’ll still get smudges on the shiny bits.
Attaching the optical drive section to the main unit is as simple as clicking it in and then plugging in the supplied USB bridge connector, which provides both power and data output to the otherwise sealed drive, as well as helping to hold the two units together. Though you do lose a USB port, it’s a simple and reasonably elegant solution.