lenovo-y910-aio_2017_01All-in-One PC has evolved from “Familly computers” limited by their relatively thin form-factor, they have now become one of the best-selling categories this year. The Lenovo IdeaCentre Y910 AiO breathes Gaming Performance (including VR-Capability) into the All-in-One category, opening a Pandora box that will never be close from now on.

The Lenovo IdeaCentre Y910 AiO should have been called Lenovo Legion Y920 AiO. The thing is: Lenovo went public with this computer before the “Lenovo Legion” gaming brand was made official at CES 2017. Therefore, the closest line of product that it would fit in is the IdeaCentre, which is typically family/productivity oriented. This is not your regular IdeaCentre computer (not that there anything wrong with productivity computers, lol).

Display: good, image quality could be better

“The display is the computer” – this line which NVIDIA came up with fits the all-in-one category. The Y920 AiO display uses LCD TN technology, which offers some (but not all) benefits of LCD IPS, and historically had the better ratio between price, (image) quality and fast response time. Although IPS LCD have come down in price, this is still true overall. As such, this makes this display an excellent candidate for a gaming computer.

Quick display specs:

  • 27” (2560×1440) 144Hz LCD TN with AMD FreeSync support.
  • Monitor-only mode (HDMI-in)
  • 96% RGB gamut, 75% Adobe RGB gamut
  • 340 Nit brightness, 5ms response time
  • 144 FPS games possible at 1080p

One thing that some of you may notice is that the display is compatible with AMD FreeSync stutter-free technology, while it may ship with an NVIDIA GPU, which has NVIDIA G-Sync, a similar, but otherwise incompatible technology.

Important: The Y920 AiO computers configured with NVIDIA GPUs will not have a stutter-free technology because the screen is only AMD FreeSync compatible. I don’t see a Y910 AiO model with AMD GPU on the Lenovo website at publishing time, but sources tell me that Lenovo should come up with an AMD option at some point. You can visit the official site, or contact Lenovo directly to inquire about “when/where”.

In theory, it would be possible to support both G-Sync and FreeSync, because the technologies are very similar. However, my understanding is that this is a licensing (and licensing fee) issue, with NVIDIA being the most expensive option (by $100, says AMD). One possible solution would be to choose the standard at order time, but there won’t be such an option.

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That aside, the display looks decent with a resolution of 2560×1440 (called WQHD) and a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz. When we played with it, the image quality was quite acceptable. It’s fair to say that you can easily find better image quality among PC monitors. However, most of those monitors would not be “gaming friendly” (fast refresh, response), so it’s an important distinction to make.

The image quality and view angle could use some improvements. Although view angle is typically not an issue for single-user computers, this monitor tends to color-shift quickly as you look at an angle. In terms of image quality, it is not better than my 10 year old Dell 3007WFP or my more recent Samsung S27C750 monitors.

This weakness will cost this computer in our final review score, but I think that the image quality is not a problem for gaming, but I would not recommend this monitor for graphic design and photo retouching purposes. Multi-monitor users can of course alleviate this with a secondary screen (max 4K/60FPS via HDMI).

"AT 1080P, SOME GAMES CAN EVEN HIT 144HZ"The 2560×1440 resolution is a fine choice. On the one hand, the GPU should be fast enough to play many current games at 60FPS at the native resolution. On the other hand, the text and interface are sharp and clear. If you decide to play at 1080p (with scaling), some games can even hit the maximum 144Hz rate.

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From the front, the monitor bezels seem  thin, and to keep that design element, Lenovo has embedded the Intel Realsense webcam into a retractable chassis. Note that even when a camera is tucked in, it remains fully functional, which means that it will activate and try to use Windows Hello etc… the audio is still fully functional too. If someone hacks the microphone, it will work. This is usually true for PC webcams that have a mechanical privacy option.

It’s a good idea because the computer is not designed to be super-slim. Intel RealSense webcams are 3D capable, like the Xbox Kinect camera. For everyday usage, Windows 10 Hello can let you log-in using a 3D scan of your face (it works well, and only takes ~2 seconds).

In the future, I hope that Lenovo would even come up with 30”, 32” or even 34” versions of this computer.

Industrial design: nailed it!

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The Lenovo Y920 AiO is really unique. It has the aggressive design language of the Legion Y-Series line of laptops and desktops computers, but at the same time, it doesn’t look like any other AiO. The external surfaces are mostly plastic, but the computer doesn’t feel cheap or fragile. I’m glad it doesn’t weigh a ton like some all-steel gaming PC chassis do.

On the left of the screen, there’s a retractable headphones holder. This is a very nice touch because I’m currently using a terrible Ikea hack to do this (lol).

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Just below the screen you will find the Speaker, which is place optimally for single-user situations. In my dreams, there would be an analog volume knob somewhere, but for now you can control the volume with the dedicated keys on the Lenovo Keyboard.

Note that some of the photos above show Lenovo’s gaming keyboard, which is different from the keyboard you get in the box (see below). The default keyboard/mouse combo is okay, but as you can see, there’s nothing much to talk about:

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Designed for user self-upgrade

The user upgrade capability is another unique aspect of the Lenovo Y920 AiO. AiO computers are normally not designed to have users change internal parts. However, this is a frequent requirement from gamers and Lenovo nailed it with the Y910 AiO.

"LENOVO NAILED IT WITH THE Y910 AIO"To reconcile the two, Lenovo has managed to create a design that lets people upgrade the SSD (small PCIe card), HDD (full-size 3.5”), Graphics card (GPU) and RAM modules (SODIMM DDR4) – all without tools.

This is great because a computer’s life-cycle can be several years during which upgrading any of those components can make a huge difference in user experience at a very reasonable cost if you get last year’s model.

Of course, there are sometimes ways to open an AiO to change parts even if it wasn’t designed for this purpose. However, this may void the warranty, and you may get in troubles if the design uses glue, just to cite the obvious.

SSD upgrade: fast and easy

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For the love of tech, we tried to replace the original (Samsung MZ-VLV2560) 256GB SSD with a Samsung 960 Pro 2TB SSD (don’t miss our Samsung SSD 960 Pro Review). It’s “dream storage update” and we wanted to see how easy that was. Replacing the SSD itself just took a few minutes without tools, and if you are organized, you can clone/image the original C: drive in 10-15 mns.

The Samsung 960 Pro SSD comes in 512GB (~$350 on Amazon) to 2TB (~$1300 on Amazon).

This was actually easier than upgrading a tower because there was no data/power/cables and screws to deal with. Also, since there’s a 2TB D: drive in this review unit, we could easily create a disc Image of C: there, and restore it after popping the new drive in place.

System configuration

CPU: Intel Core i5 and i7 6th Gen

As you may expect from a Gaming system, Lenovo allows configurations are going from an Intel Core i5 (i5-6500) to an Intel Core i7 (i7-6700) CPU. Note that the current offerings aren’t using the 7th generation Intel CPUs, but rather a 6th Generation.

In reality, going from 6th to 7th generation CPU would only make a small difference because the performance jump isn’t that high. In the end, the speed/price ratio might even be better when sticking the 6th Gen.

Memory configurations go from 12GB up to 32GB max (2x SODIMM DDR4), which is quite comfortable as a maximum. The system storage is an SSD of 128GB or 256GB while the larger storage is a 1TB to 2TB full-size 3.5″ HDD. Again, both can be upgraded after the fact.

GPU: Up to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB (Desktop Card)

dsc07285While most AiO computers have “mobile” (=slower) GPUs attached to the motherboard, this computer uses a full-on desktop GPU that is completely normal/standard and that you can change. Some cables will simply route the native graphics card connectors to the ones found in the AiO chassis. The GTX 1080 makes this computer “VR Ready”.

As we said before, we expect Lenovo to have an AMD model at some point, although “when” isn’t clear and no official information is available at publishing time.

If you want to upgrade the card, do mind the GPU card form-factor because there’s a large variety of them out there with various width and height. The possibilities offered by this AiO chassis are infinitely higher than other AiOs!

The system has a 380W Power supply, and you should also be mindful of this when upgrading the GPU. In general, both AMD and NVIDIA make it easy to have powerful updates within the same thermal and power envelope so that I wouldn’t worry about it. To date, I have never seen this computer pull more than 280W, even at full load.

System performance (excellent for the size)

dsc07292The Lenovo Y910 AiO reaches a score of 6416 in the 3DMark Time Spy Benchmark. This is quite good, since it is comparable to what a desktop PC equipped with an Intel Core i7-4790K and a dual NVIDIA GTX-980 GPU would score.

Also, the Y910 AiO is comfortably faster than Lenovo’s own IdeaCentre Y900 Desktop (Tower) Gaming PC, also equipped with an NVIDIA GTX-980. The increase in graphics performance is to be credited to the full-size NVIDIA GeForce 1080 graphics card inside the Lenovo Y910 AiO.

This GPU makes a world of difference when compared to the NVIDIA 9xx Series. Despite being powerful, the IdeaCentre Y900 was just VR capable to power our HTC VIVE Review. The Y910 AiO easily passes the Steam VR Test.

"EASILY PASSES THE STEAM VR TEST"Obviously if you are seeking absolute performance, you would need to use multi-GPU configurations (2 to 4), but it’s fair to say that you would not be looking at an all-in-one if that was the case. Just for reference, a desktop (Tower) PC with a more recent Intel Core i7-6700K and TWO GeForce GTX 1080 gets a score of 10380. The gain in performance is paid in size, power consumption, heat and… money.

In fact, 3DMark scores show that most 4K Gaming PCs stay below the 7000 points mark. Beyond that, the number of PCs fall of a cliff.

I’ll drop more benchmark scores, just for reference, in case you want to compare this computer with other systems:

  • PCMark8 Home (accelerated) = ~4646
  • PCMark8 Creative (accelerated) = ~7372
  • PCMark8 Work (accelerated) = ~5399
  • PCMark8 SSD Storage (C:) = ~5004
  • PCMark8 HDD Storage (D:) = ~2677

Power consumption: efficient

The other great thing about the Lenovo AiO is that it consumes relatively little power in relation to its performance. For example, while running the power-hungry 3DMark Time Spy benchmark, the power consumption was hovering around ~270W (stable instantaneous reading from a Kill-a-Watt), PC and Monitor included. My desktop PC which is bigger and slower pulls more than ~500W in the same benchmark, for a lower performance.

Sitting around with monitor on, but without doing anything, the computer pulls ~50W from the outlet. Compare that to my older desktop PC (which is slower) which pulls 200W while I’m just looking at the Windows Desktop, and you’ll see what kind of difference the Y910 makes. In sleep mode, the Y910 AiO requires as little as 1.4 Watt at times (wakes in a few seconds after touching the keyboard).

This shows that while computers didn’t evolve in sheer speed as fast as they used to, they have been getting much more power-efficient over time, and it’s really a good thing.

Ports/connectors/inputs: well endowed

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The Lenovo Y910 has a wealth of ports that easily compare to a desktop computer: 7 USB 3.0 ports and a Killer Ethernet network interface for low-latency gaming.

Front Ports

  • Pop-up Hideaway Camera
  • Dual Microphone

Rear Ports

  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • Power AC in
  • RJ45 Ethernet
  • 1x HDMI™-in / 1x HDMI™-out

Side Ports

  • 3 x USB 3.0
  • 6-in-1 Card Reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MS, MS-Pro)
  • Head and Microphone Array
  • HDMI-in Switch Button
  • Optical drive

I can’t say that we lacked ports during our review, but there are things that Lenovo could do better in the next generation:

For multi-monitor users, there’s only ONE HDMI output which can’t support 4K display. It’s too bad because the full-size GPU has a bunch of useful connectors such as Display Port or Dual-Link DVI which could be really handy. Unfortunately, those connector are hidden in the chassis, and unavailable. Lenovo, please make that piece of chassis removable.

USB C Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt support could have helped the multimon and high-speed connectivity in general, without requiring access to graphics card native outputs.

Conclusion: an unchallenged Gaming AiO

If you are looking for a gaming computer that can keep your desk looking neat at the same time, the Lenovo IdeaCentre Y910 AiO is a very attractive “true” gaming computer that offers a lot of compute power and upgrade options in a chassis that will save space and look neat. While it may not (yet) represent the absolute most powerful gaming rig you can buy, it’s fair to say that the trade-off is completely fair, if not advantageous in terms of speed/chassis volume.

Performance comes with heat (and top dollars), and heat needs to be dissipated. That’s why absolute fastest gaming rigs will remain in large water-cooled chassis with multi-GPUs for some time. It’s just physics.

In the end, the IdeaCentre Y910 AiO is an AiO without performance compromises and a great computer overall. It creates a brand new market segment that I’m sure others will look at… and copy. The Y910 could have been just perfect if a couple of things such as a better display and Thunderbolt support were present.

Starting at $1800, the Core i5/GeForce 1070/12GB RAM/128GB SSD/1TB HDD is shipping now.

At $2300 there’s a Core i7/GeForce 1080/16GB RAM/256GB SSD/2TB HDD available too.

Overall product rating: 9/10

Filed in Gaming >Reviews. Read more about all-in-one, CES, CES 2017, gaming pc, Lenovo and Lenovo reviews.

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