The Bottom Line
Mar 12 2012 - Those looking for a compact desktop system to be used with a home theater system for streaming movies, TV or audio as well as browsing the web should take a look at the IdeaCentre Q180. While the pricing may be a bit higher than some might want to look at, it does offer a bit more than other nettop system including full HD video playback and a dedicated HDTV mount. It would have been nice to see Lenovo include wireless peripherals with all versions of the Q180 which does detract a bit from a HTPC setup but their higher models do offer it as well as Blu-ray for their top of the line version.
- Dedicated Graphics System For Smooth HD Video Playback
- USB 3.0 Ports For Easy Storage Expansion
- Includes VESA Mount For HDTVs
- Wired Keyboard And Mouse
- Base Price Near Many Budget Class Desktops
- Intel Atom D2700 Dual Core Processor
- 4GB PC3-10600 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- 8x DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Burner
- AMD Radeon HD 6450A Mobile Graphics With 512MB Memory
- Intel HDA 7.1 Audio Support
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless
- Two USB 3.0, Four USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, 8-in-1 Card Reader
- 6.1" x 7.6" x 1.6"
- Windows 7 Home Premium, McAfee AV+
Review - Lenovo IdeaCentre Q180
Mar 12 2012 - Lenovo's IdeaCentre Q180 is a very different PC from the rest of their product lineup. They market it specifically as a compact home theater PC for expanding the media capabilities of a home theater system. Because of this, it is much more focused on size and price than performance. It is based around the Intel Atom D2700 dual core nettop processor rather than a full sized desktop processor. This gives it modest performance that falls well short of even the most basic of desktop classed processors but it is enough to handle multimedia functions including HD video playback, browsing the web or doing light productivity work. It is nice to see that Lenovo is including 4GB of DDR3 memory as many past generation nettops still ship with just 2GB.
With such a small profile, it is no surprise that the IdeaCentre Q180 has to rely on laptop components for the storage. Included in the unit is a 500GB hard drive for storing applications, data and media files. This is a good size for a nettop based system or other compact mini desktops that rely on laptop drives. The drive itself spins at the traditional 5400rpm rate which gives it modest performance compared to faster 7200rpm drives or newer hybrid hard drives. The version that I looked at includes an optical drive that essentially doubles the width of the platform and also uses up one of the four rear USB 2.0 ports. This model uses the dual-layer DVD burner for playback and recording of CD or DVD media but those really wanting to use it for home theater purposes might want to opt for the Blu-ray equipped model. One nice aspect of the IdeaCentre Q180 is the inclusion of two USB 3.0 ports that does make it quite easy to add a high speed external drive for expanding the storage.
One of the big problems that nettops had was the graphics systems. They typically relied on the internal GMA graphics engine that was included with the Atom chipsets. It lacked sufficient performance for them to really be used for high definition media playback. Lenovo gets around this problem by including an AMD Radeon HD 6450A graphics processor in the IdeaCentre Q180. This is certainly not going to provide much in terms of 3D performance for those wanting to also play some PC games on it but it does allow for HD media playback to be smooth even up to 1080p standards. This can also help boost some non-3D applications but then again this system isn't really built for any serious work like video editing.
Lenovo very clearly had in mind that the IdeaCentre Q180 will be used with a home theater PC which is very apparent with some of the accessories they include. Most notable of these is a VESA compatible frame that can allow the system to be mounted onto the back of an HDTV. Of course, this method only works if the TV isn't already mounted to a cabinet or TV stand. In this case, a nice sturdy metal stand allows it to be stored vertically or the small rubber feat allow it to be laid flat. One disappointment is that wireless keyboard and mouse is not standard to all the versions including this one. This makes it much more difficult to use in a home theater environment. Now, there is an optional Lenovo Enhanced Multimedia Remote that can be added onto the wired models or comes standard with the higher models with wireless peripherals. This remote features basic media controls, a trackpoint style pointer and a chiclet keyboard similar to a smartphone. It works decently enough but isn't something you want to write lengthy documents with.
Pricing of the IdeaCentre Q180 might also be a bit of a problem. The unit I looked at had a base price of roughly $430. This is similar to what many budget class traditional desktops can run for but come with more performance. It is also a bit higher than many competing nettops are at but this does have more features. With various discounts, it is possible to find the system for under $400 which is more reasonable for its intended functions. Buyer's really interesting in using it for a home theater PC would probably want to spend a bit more for the version with Blu-ray, wireless keyboard and mouse and larger hard drive though.