Typically designed for office or school use, all-in-ones often fall at one extreme or the other: sleek and sexy but packing a sky-high price tag, or affordable but suffering from a boxy and unattractive design. Lenovo aims to change that with the $719 C540 Touch, an all-in-one designed for the family, but that also boasts a gorgeous, high-definition, 23-inch touch screen; killer audio; and a Core i3 processor, all wrapped up in an attractive, black build.
Editor's Note: While the Lenovo C540 Touch is still available for sale, it will be replaced by the C560 Touch, which will offer a 3.0-GHz Intel Core i3-4330T processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 1TB, 7,200-rpm hard drive for $749. BUY Lenovo C560 Touch >>> (opens in new tab)
The C540 Touch's attractive plastic exterior belies its affordable price. Glossy black bezel frames the all-in-one's 23-inch display, with rounded corners at the top and square-cut corners at the bottom. The screen itself rests in a quarter-inch depression and is surrounded by a second bezel that measures about three-quarters of an inch thick. A 720p webcam sits centered above the screen, with a chrome Lenovo logo located directly opposite it at the bottom.
The back panel features a matte black finish with gently sloping contours. A large vent runs the length of the top, while the speaker grille sits directly below the display. A thin strip of silver plastic on the sides accentuates the C540's all-black aesthetic.
A forked metal stand attaches to the all-in-one at two places on the rear panel. Unlike the HP Z1 G2's base, the C540's stand isn't adjustable, although you can tilt the display up or down several degrees.
At 23.12 x 18.85 x 4.21 inches and 18.1 pounds, the C540 looks quite a bit beefier than the sleek 2013 iMac, which measures 20.8 x 17.7 x 6.9 inches (with the stand) and weighs 12.5 pounds. However, the iMac has a smaller, 21.5-inch screen.
The C540 Touch's 23-inch, 1920 x 1080 touch screen boasts crisp visuals and generous viewing angles. When we watched a 1080p trailer for "Guardians of the Galaxy," the beautiful alien landscapes popped off the screen, and we could discern minute creases and crinkles in John C. Riley's face. Colors remained accurate even when we stood at almost 45 degrees from the screen.
Unfortunately, the C540's display proved dimmer than the competition's. With an average brightness of 161 lux, the C540 is easily outshone by the 2013 Apple iMac (483 lux). The HP Rove 20 (400), Aspire Z3 (242 lux) and Tap 20 (254 lux) all have brighter screens, too.
Still, the touch screen proved very responsive to our fingers. We had no trouble, for instance, executing gestures such as pinch-to-zoom and scrolling. However, we were only able to use five fingers simultaneously in Microsoft Paint, as opposed to all 10 with other touch-sensitive PCs.
Powered by Dolby Advanced Audio v2, the C540's speakers blew us away with their volume and fidelity. When we listened to Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," the high notes sounded perfectly clear, and the audio enjoyed plenty of bass at the low end. When we cranked the volume up to the maximum level, the sound easily filled our small office without suffering from distortion.
Our audio test demonstrated the power of the all-in-one's impressive speakers. When we measured the volume of a tone from 23 inches away, the C540 registered 91 decibels, higher than both the 2013 iMac (78 decibels) and the average desktop replacement laptop (90 decibels).
Keyboard and Mouse
The C540 Touch uses a USB variant of its famed AccuType keyboards. Like the ThinkPad series of notebooks, the C540's USB keyboard features an island-style layout with a full number pad on the right and reversed function keys on the top row. The slightly concave keys offer plenty of vertical travel and spacing, while also providing a pleasant amount of tactile feedback. Our only quibble is that Lenovo placed the Fn key to the left of the Ctrl key, which reverses the layout of most other keyboards we've used; as a result, we frequently pressed Fn when trying to execute keyboard shortcuts.
The optical mouse performed reliably, but is otherwise unremarkable. Lenovo has built the left and right mouse buttons into a single piece of plastic on the top of the mouse, bifurcated by a thin silver strip of plastic in the center that contains the scroll wheel. The edges of the mouse slope gently inward, creating a nice grip for the thumb and pinky.
Ports and Webcam
The C540 Touch has enough USB ports to handle all of your peripherals and then some. The machine sports two USB 3.0 ports, a headphone jack, a microphone jack and a six-in-one card reader on the left side. (You'll find the power button on the lower left as well.) Four additional USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI-out port and an Ethernet port are located on the back.
The all-in-one also features a DVD read/write drive on the right side — a helpful addition if your family plans on using the C540 Touch to watch DVDs.
Pictures and video captured with the 720p webcam will suffice for video chats, but don't expect crisp visuals. When we took a picture of our face, colors appeared muted, and we couldn't make out fine details like the color of our irises. On the plus side, video played back smoothly and didn't suffer from motion blurring.
Packing a previous-generation 3.4-GHz Intel Core i3-3240 processor and 8GB of RAM, the C540 Touch has just enough power under the hood to handle everyday tasks, but don't expect to do any video editing or serious gaming. We had no problem, for instance, composing a document in Word, browsing the Web with a dozen tabs open in Chrome, and running a full system scan in McAfee Internet Security.
On Geekbench 3, which measures overall performance, the C540 notched 6,267. This score beats the HP Rove 20 (1.7-GHz Intel Core i3-4010U, 4GB of RAM), which hit 3,617, and the Lenovo IdeaCentre Flex with the same processor. The 2013 Apple iMac achieved a much higher score, notching 10,405, but it has a beefier, 2.7-GHz Core i5-4570R processor with 8GB of RAM.
When we ran our OpenOffice spreadsheet test, the C540 Touch matched 20,000 names and addresses in 4 minutes and 33 seconds. That beat the 2013 iMac (4:47), the HP Envy Rove (8:03) and the Lenovo Flex 20 (8:06).
The all-in-one's 7,200-rpm 1TB hard drive copied 4.97GB of mixed media files in 1 minute and 28 seconds, for a rate of 58 MBps. That's faster than the iMac's 5,400-rpm 1TB hard drive, which achieved a rate of just 37 MBps; it also beats the Rove 20 (36 MBps) and Flex 20 (31 MBps).
The C540 loaded Windows 8 in 23 seconds, slower than the Rove 20 (16 seconds) and Flex 20 (15 seconds).
Graphics and Gaming
Armed with only an integrated Intel HD Graphics 2500 chip, the C540 Touch won't be able to handle many games beyond "Plants vs. Zombies."
On the 3DMark Ice Storm GPU benchmark, the C540 notched a score of 30,067, beating the HP Rove 20 (22,034) and Flex 20 (19,957).
When we ran "World of Warcraft" at 1366 x 768 resolution and the settings on autodetect, the all-in-one averaged a barely playable 34 frames per second. This is the same score as the Rove 20. Cranking up the graphics to Ultra caused the frame rate to drop to 13 fps.
Turning up the resolution in "World of Warcraft" to the C540's native 1920 x 1080 sent the frame rate plummeting to 23 fps, with autodetect settings and 9 fps on Ultra.
Software and Warranty
The C540 features a number of family-friendly applications from Lenovo. You'll find some puzzle games and an Education Portal that groups the games into different subjects, such as Social, Language and Science.
Two bundled apps help prevent eye strain. The Dynamic Brightness System uses the all-in-one's webcam to automatically adjust the intensity of the display based on the ambient light in the room. The Eye Distance System detects how close you are to the screen and emits a warning noise if your face comes within a certain distance of the screen (the recommended distance is 40 centimeters, or 16 inches).
Lenovo also bundles a number of helpful utilities like Lenovo Rescue System, which lets you back up and recover files and applications, and Lenovo Assistant, which helps neophyte users take care of tasks such as deleting temporary Internet files, detecting and fixing network connectivity issues, and clearing the browsing history.
Third-party applications include a trial version of Microsoft Office 2013 and a 30-day trial of McAfee Internet Security.
The C540 Touch ships with a standard one-year parts and labor warranty.
Overall, the Lenovo C540 Touch hits all the right notes for a family-oriented PC. This all-in-one packs a vivid high-definition display with wide enough viewing angles to accommodate the whole family, high-fidelity speakers that are perfect for listening to music and watching movies, and an excellent AccuType keyboard. Most importantly, buying this machine won't break the bank — the C540 Touch retails at just $719 (less if you do some searching online).
Armed with a Core i3 processor and integrated graphics, this all-in-one isn't suited for demanding tasks like video editing or playing the latest games. But as an affordable all-in-one desktop designed for the whole family, the Lenovo C540 Touch is hard to beat for both value and features.