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Since the monitor is part and parcel of the A600 package, a bit of time was spent to assess its performance and quality.
The overall performance of the monitor is good, sharp, vivid, and without any visible odd artifacts or lags in motion for video playback. Corner to corner sharpness and color is consistent and even. There are a couple of utilities in the Lenovo Vantage Start Center to help optimize monitor settings. Under "Healthcare Software", one utility uses the built-in camera to determine the user's distance from the monitor. When that distance is deemed too close, a caution is displayed or sounded. Another utility automatically turns the monitor's brightness up or down depending on the ambient light level in the room. Both are useful utilities for typical home users.
The only controls on the front panel of the A600 are on the right bottom, near the edge of the screen. They are touch sensitive controls that light up when activated by a finger touch and disappear completely when not used. Elegant though they are, the annoyance is that they stay lit for a only a second or two after the fingers are removed. This is far too short a time.
Four buttons light up when this area of the front panel is touched: Screen brightness lower and higher, screen off, and optical disc eject. The lights turn off and the buttons disappear just a second or two after your touch.
With the Windows Home Premium 64-bit OS, the system feels speedy and responsive with all the usual tasks: Web browsing, email, creating and examining office documents, viewing and editing photos, downloading files, listening and viewing music/video. The system was delivered with the power mode on Balanced, which is a compromise between minimal power and maximum performance. The systems goes to Sleep mode after an hour of inactivity. After resetting the inactive time to 15 minutes, there was rarely any need to turn the system off, as Sleep mode drew just 2W, and awakening it only took a touch of the spacebar or mouse and about a 10-second wait, which is much quicker than boot time.
The optical drive can get quite loud when accessing data at high speed, but the maximum speed can be limited using software. The wireless keyboard lacks tactile responsiveness and key travel is very short. Its integrated touchpad is small and not that nice to use. The best thing about the keyboard is that it's wireless. The wireless mouse is quite nice, with a good shape and quick responsive feel.
The wireless keyboard is light, low profile and a bit flimsy, lacking in good tactile feel and key travel. The integrated touchpad is OK but not great, and a touch-sensitive pad of controls that light up above the touch pad is even worse than the touch controls on the front panel. The remote control works well, however, and the wireless mouse is great.
Wireless networking functioned flawlessly with the unit about 30 feet and one floor away from the 802.11g router. The maximum transfer speed was around 23 mbps, about the highest seen on this wireless network with other computers.
The 2.0 megapixel camera located at the top center above the screen has two pin-holes on either side for the pair of noise cancelling microphones, and they provided good picture (with adequate ambient light) and sound on Skype and Google video conferencing calls.
There are many preinstalled utilities and programs, many of which are useful:
Lenovo OneKey Recovery - Useful.
Driver and Application Installation - Useful.
Lenovo Recovery Disk Maker - Useful.
Lenovo Healthcare Software - Basically, automated screen adjustment software; quite useful.
VeriFace - Face recognition instead of keyboard login; sometimes would not recognize my unshaven face.
Media Show - Helps keep media files organized... but Windows Media Center is also here.
Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 2008 - Necessary, but just a short trial.
Windows Live Toolbar - Search engine helper.
Microsoft® Office 2007 Trial (60-day) - Bloatware, but you may need it.
Cyberlink Power2Go (DVD±RW, BD player) - This is quite useful, a complete package.
Corel WinDVD (BD player) - Useful.
The IdeaCentre A600 is not noisy, though it is certainly audible by any user seated in front of it. The noise is not just broadband. Vista often accesses the hard drive, which often causes a near-constant touch of chatter. There are some tonal aspects, low in level, which come from both fan(s) and the drive. We'll delve more deeply into the acoustics in the test results.
The quality of the built-in sound system is surprisingly pleasant. Most users will have no problem accepting the sound quality for video playback accompaniment or casual music playback. It can get decently loud before starting to distort. Don't expect thumping bass, though, or good orchestral reproduction.
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