Lenovo's All-in-one: IdeaCentre A600

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Much of the listening was done in a quiet, normal 20' x 10' room with 8' ceiling where ambient conditions were 20 dBA and 23~25°C. Acoustic testing was done mostly in the anechoic chamber, where the ambient level was 10~11 dBA and the temperature was 23~25°C. Idle measurements were taken 5~15 minutes after boot or reboot, whenever none of the temperatures had changed for several minutes. Load measurements were taken after >20 minutes of Prime95.

In the normal room, the system's SPL measured ~27 dBA from 0.6m away. Moving back to a meter reduced the level to about 22~23 dBA. This was with ambient noise at about 20~21 dBA.

Here are the measurements from the anechoic chamber on our sample.

Acoustics: Lenovo IdeaCentre A600
Test State
System Power

ISO 7779 (the Standard for Measurement of Airborne Noise Emitted by IT and Telecommunications Equipment) specifies 0.6m as the SPL measurement distance for Seated Operator. This is the most relevant distance and position for SPL measurements of a desktop all-in-one PC. Another 0.4 meter distance reduced the idle SPL to just 18 dBA, but few users would actually sit a meter away from the screen.

The sound is not loud but it has complex tonalities which can be mildly annoying. The big spike at 120 Hz in the spectrum curve below is caused by the hard drive and is heard as a constant low level hum which can be somewhat amplified by a hollow desktop. The smaller spikes at 5~600 Hz, 1.2, 2, 3 and 3.5 kHz indicate some of these tonalities. The much lower level spikes at around 10kHz may also be audible.

The 120 Hz peak is the hard drive's primary sound. The various peaks through the midband suggest some tonal complexity, but the overall loudness level is modest.

At full load, internal fans seemed to speed up a bit, but the increase in noise was subtle, with peaks just 2 dBA higher at the 0.6m distance in front of the screen. The overall noise character did not change.

By general standards, the Lenovo A600 is a fairly quiet computer whose overall acoustic signature is not obtrusive. By SPCR standards — and we admit to heightened sound sensitivity — it's a little too noisy to be ignored easily. The close position of the all-in-one computer puts a premium on noise; if it was a meter away, the noise would be easier to ignore. Still, after several weeks of having the Lenovo A600 set up just outside the bedroom for early morning and late evening web and email work, I can say the noise was rarely much of a bother, and its many positive aspects — including the responsive mouse and the subtle way screen brightness adjusted with ambient light conditions — won my acceptance.


Comparing the acoustics of this system against a conventional floor-standing PC is not realistic, because the latter sit farther away, and have the noise diminishing benefit of that distance. The only all-in-one systems we've reviewed are iMacs, but the last one was examined some three years ago, before the construction of our anechoic chamber and improvements in sound measurement equipment last year. That model has also been replaced by newer iMacs, of course.

No matter: This will be a rough comparison with the 24" iMac from three years ago, based on measurements recorded in that review, and from memory. Devon Cooke, the reviewer, wrote that "it is one of the quietest off-the-shelf systems"; I recall noting that it is a very quiet, unobtrusive PC. There's no question that the Lenovo A600 is noisier. The iMac 24" was measured at 20 dBA@1m in a live room, but the ambient room level was close to 20 dBA, so this measurement is not really that helpful. I'd guess that it might measure some 2-3 dBA less at 0.6m than the Lenovo A600 in our anechoic chamber, with a subjectively smoother, less tonal sound. While we can hope that the current iMacs are similarly quiet, there's no way of knowing for sure until we've tested them in the same conditions.

We can also do a comparison against small PCs that we've reviewed in the past year, which is somewhat relevant because small PCs are usually placed on the desk next to the monitor. Sometimes they are placed behind the monitor, giving them the functional attributes of an all-in-one.

Mini System Acoustics: SPL at ISO 7779 User Position (0.6m)
Lenovo ThinkCentre A600
23 dBA
25 dBA
Lenovo M58p Eco USFF
27 dBA
32 dBA
26 dBA
35 dBA
21 dBA
21 dBA
24 dBA
26 dBA

The overall sonic signature of the Lenovo A600 is closest to the Asus Eee Box B202 but somewhat more complex and tonal. The Asus Eee Box B202 is a tiny, low power net box not capable of 1080p HD video reproduction, although newer models B204 / B206 incorporate a 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3400 GPU for HD video capability in the same chassis with similar acoustics.

The A600 is far quieter than the Dell Studio Hybrid, which is the worst of the mix due to its nasty sonic signature. It's also better than its office-oriented brethren, the M58p, which is both louder and more tonal.

The Anitec SPCR-certified SilenT3 system, with capabilities similar to the Dell, including HD video playback, is the quietest of the bunch, not only in level but also overall smoothness and unobtrusive lack of tonality.


These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review. Most of the recordings listed below were made with the mic at 1m distance.

Note that the Lenovo was recorded at 0.6m as well. This is the ISO 7779 user position distance, and it is more realistic than the 1m distance for small PCs which are almosyt always placed close to the monitor. For now, the Lenovo is the only product we have recordings for at 0.6m. We'll be adding 0.6m recordings to all small PCs in future.

For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files. Please note that some of the recordings were made at 1m distance and others at 0.6m.

Comparable System sound files:

  • Asus Eee Box B202 at idle, 18 dBA@1m and 14 dBA@1m (behind LCD monitor) -- The recording of the Eee Box was made with the unit at idle, and the microphone 1m away, first on a table in the hemi-anechoic chamber, and then mounted on the back of an LCD monitor, and the microphone 1m away from the front of the monitor. It starts with the room ambient, followed by the product's noise. The acoustics of the Eee Box barely changes with load, which is why only idle noise was recorded; there's virtually no audible difference at full load.

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