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Usage and Closing Thoughts
As someone who had only toyed with multi-touch all-in-one computers for a few minutes at the local electronics store, I was pleasantly surprised at how well everything worked on the C315. Pointing and clicking was dead on without having to calibrate the system. You can perform a number of actions using your fingers such as pinch and pull to zoom, rotate photos, move forward and back through your web browser, etc. There is even an on-screen keyboard of sorts where you write out letters and the system detects your input and converts it into standard typewritten characters.
While all of this is really neat technology, I couldn't help but keep returning to the question of "why do I need this?" It seems more like a novelty than an actual productive addition to a desktop computer when you realize that having to lean forward to physically interact with the machine, as opposed to just using a mouse, starts feeling like too much work after a bit. Moreover, the on-screen keyboard was far from perfect and entering in text took a long time.
I'm not saying I don't like it; it's just hard to see the practicality of it over time for the average home user as much as it may be useful in mobile devices or for certain businesses (think of a touch screen graphical ordering system at a fast food restaurant). Of course, you don't have to use multi-touch input all the time. Lenovo has included a set of media oriented applications that go hand in hand with this functionality, but other than that you can use this as a regular desktop system.
Lenovo includes an integrated TV tuner card in the C315, the AVerMedia Hybrid TV MiniCard A317. Unfortunately the card only supports analog (NTSC) and digital (ATSC) signals, not QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation), which is the format by which digital cable channels are encoded and transmitted via cable television providers. This means you can use the tuner and connect an antenna to receive air signals from your local broadcasting stations free of charge, but connecting your cable directly to the tuner card and using your computer as a PVR isn't really an option.
Design-wise the C315 isn't as futuristic looking as offerings from other manufacturers, but that ultimately comes down to personal taste. The AMD Athlon II X2, 4GB of memory and 500GB hard drive provide a suitable experience for the budget market that Lenovo is targeting and the bloatware-free Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit installation is a plus.
Sound quality is acceptable for integrated speakers. Volume is pretty loud and clear even when set at max, but the audio sounds hollow, there is an abundance of treble and absolutely no bass. The system itself runs very quiet. The cooling system on the C315 exhausts hot air out of the top of the computer but it's just barely audible when under full load.
The 20-inch display looked really nice during use and I had absolutely no issue with it. The included wired keyboard is probably the nicest bundled keyboard I have used with a manufactured computer. While it's not quite as nice as something from say, Logitech or Microsoft, it feels pretty solid with a good bit of heft to it and the keys feel very nice when typing. The wired mouse is just a plain Jane mouse -- nothing fancy.
Having everything integrated into a single package can be very convenient and certainly will save some space on your desk. The downside here is that you are rather limited on upgradeability down the road. Things you can replace or upgrade are limited to the mouse and keyboard, system memory, and perhaps adding your own speaker setup.
Priced as configured our review sample is $849 on Lenovo's website. The lower-priced ($749) version of the C315 cuts the RAM in half and drops the hard drive down to 320GB. Other manufacturers offer similar configurations in the same price range or for slightly less, and sometimes with better hardware options. For example, the Gateway ZX4300-29 is equipped with a higher clocked (and higher power consumption) AMD processor, larger hard drive and wireless keyboard and mouse, but features an ATI HD 4270 instead of the 4530 found in the Lenovo.
The all-in-one computer has made a comeback and is now a growing market with a specific target audience. A system like this would be good for users with limited desk space or for those that prefer a simplified computer setup on a limited budget, but would also want a system fast enough that it wouldn't cause frustration. Those who like to tinker or upgrade their PCs would have more room to play in a traditional desktop system where internal hardware is easily accessible and swappable, but if you are reading this you probably knew that already.