Lenovo's Horizon all-in-ones fold down to blend unique tabletop apps with solid desktop functionality, and the new Horizon 2s serves up this combo in a more compact package than ever. Like the rest of the Horizon line, this slim 19.5-inch PC uses Lenovo's engaging multiuser Aura interface, allowing the whole family to huddle around the screen and share photos, watch movies and play games.
The Horizon 2s also performs admirably when propped up as an everyday desktop, with a speedy Intel Core i5 processor and a crisp full HD display. Is this $950 all-in-one the best family PC you can buy?
Taking some sleek design cues from the 27-inch Horizon 2, Lenovo's Horizon 2s is even more attractive and versatile than its big brother. A smooth aluminum-brushed finish coats the PC's thin, 0.62-inch edges and its back panel, which sports an easy-open hinge that flips open to keep the all-in-one standing upright.
Like the larger Horizon 2, the 2s has rubber bumpers on the rear panel for when you want to lay it flat and play some tabletop games. An optional, elegantly circle-shaped charging stand allows you to prop up and pivot the display, adding a nice touch of functionality that I wish didn't cost an extra $90.
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Measuring 19.29 x 11.53 x 0.62 inches and weighing only 5.4 pounds, the Horizon 2s feels like a giant tablet, and is far easier to carry around than its 27-inch, 16.6 pound Horizon 2 counterpart. By comparison, Apple's 21.5-inch iMac weighs 12.5 pounds (including its stand), while the similarly sharp ASUS ET2322INTH offers a 23-inch frame and weighs a notably heavier 19.8 pounds.
Ports and Webcam
The Horizon 2s' thin edges sport all of the essentials when it comes to ports, starting with 2 USB 3.0 ports, a headphone/microphone combo jack and a power input on the left. An SD/MMC card slot, volume rocker and power button sit on the right, with a magnetic strip at the bottom edge that connects to the all-in-one's optional charging stand.
While you're probably not expecting exquisite detail from an all-in-one's webcam, the photos I took on the 2s' 2-MP webcam were extremely grainy. Your friends will still recognize you when you use the camera to video chat with them, but I couldn't help but notice the strange white speckles that appeared on my face in pictures.
Packing a 19.5-inch, 1920 x 1080 display, the Horizon 2s is vibrant enough for family movie and game nights. The colorful trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron played back faithfully on the 2s, allowing me to see everything from Hawkeye's facial creases to the creepily charred remains of Ultron's repurposed Iron Man suit in full detail.
The trailer remained highly watchable at about 80 degrees from the left and right edges of the screen, though I wish the display's max brightness was just a bit higher.
To put this brightness in perspective, the Horizon 2's 232-nit display is far dimmer than the iMac's luminous 424-nit screen as well as the 315 average for all-in-ones. The 2s's brightness only slightly trumps the 's 204-nit display.
From the vibrant, multihued tiles of the Windows 8.1 Start menu to the yellows and reds of Iron Man's armor, colors looked satisfyingly rich on the Horizon 2s' display. This was reflected in the PC's ability to produce 95.8 percent of the sRGB color gamut, though the all-in-one also exhibited a less-than-impressive Delta E color accuracy of 7.3 (closer to 0 is better).
Lenovo's PC displayed just slightly better color representation than the iMac and ET2322 (both around 93 percent), though the all-in-one's color accuracy fell behind the iMac (6.57) and the 5.8 category average.
Like its Horizon 2 big brother, the Horizon 2s' big draw is the Aura interface that turns the PC into a tabletop entertainment machine. Designed to be used by multiple people at once, the intuitive Aura software allows you to share photos, watch videos and sift through the Horizon's multitude of family-friendly games and apps.
At the heart of the Aura interface is a movable carousel, which sports tabs for games, music, apps, photos, videos and educational content. Selecting a category will surround the carousel with icons for relevant apps, pictures and movies, which you can freely drag around the screen.
Navigating Aura felt natural; I was able to quickly resize any open photos by pinching and spreading my fingers, and could move the pictures around the interface as if I was passing along a physical photo. When the screen became cluttered with app icons and pictures, I simply flicked open my fingers once to spread the content out, and one more time to clear the screen.
The Horizon 2 features 21 Aura games, all of which are designed to be played with groups in a tabletop setting. There are digital versions of board and casino game classics like Air Hockey and Roulette, as well as more action-oriented experiences like Tarzan Unleashed, which puts a four-player competitive spin on the endless runner genre.
Some standouts include King of Opera, a humorous fighting game in which Opera singers try to push each other off the stage. There's also Chubby Kings: Penguins, which contains a variety of fun four-player mini-games that involve chucking colorful penguins with a slingshot.
The all-in-one also packs 13 educational apps, including quiz games like Lenovo Best Guess and math challenges like Numbers Touch. My favorite of this bunch is Crayola Color, Draw and Sing, which is a digital coloring book that adds a new instrument to its background music every time you add a new color to the page. The app lets little ones use crayons, markers and paint across a wide spectrum of colors, and all creations can be saved to the Horizon's hard drive.
If you want to make the Horizon's games feel more tactile, you can buy physical peripherals to use on top of the screen: a joystick/striker combo pack for $50 or accelerometer-based E-dice for $60. While the joysticks in particular add a welcome arcade-style feel to shooters like Raiding Company, I found most games to work just fine -- sometimes better -- with touch controls alone.
Aura U Android App
If you have an Android smartphone, you can sync your device's content to the Aura interface using the free AuraU app. Setting up the app is simple; once I synced to the Horizon and laid my phone flat with Aura U open, a second carousel immediately showed up on the PC's interface.
This secondary carousel works just like the main one, allowing you to flip through and move around any pictures, movies and songs stored on your smartphone. If you want to save any of your smartphone's media to the Horizon PC, all you need to do is tap the import icon.
Packing stereo speakers in the rear, the Horizon 2s delivers crisp audio quality at a moderate volume. The synthetic snare drums and pianos of Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" came through clearly, and remained easy to make out once Swift's sugary vocals entered the fold.
Rock songs like the Foo Fighters' "Something from Nothing" were equally satisfying, as I could hear plenty of detail in the song's twangy lead guitars and Dave Grohl's increasingly shouty vocals.
The Lenovo all-in-one registered 89 decibels on our audio test (tone volume from 23 inches away), out-cranking the iMac (74 decibels), the ET2322 (86 decibels) and the 83-decibel average for all-in-one PCs.
Keyboard and Mouse
The Horizon 2s ships with Lenovo's standard-issue wireless keyboard and mouse, with the latter getting the job done a bit better than the former.
Lenovo's slim aluminum keyboard sports black island keys, complete with a full numpad and dedicated buttons for adjusting volume and opening the Lenovo Vantage Technology interface. While I was able to type at a brisk 82 words per minute with 98 percent accuracy on the Key Hero Typing Test, the keyboard's 1.66-millimeter-tall keys felt far too stiff for my liking.
The included mouse is more impressive, sporting a minimal silver design that takes some functionality cues from Apple's Magic Mouse. Replacing the traditional scroll wheel is a small touch panel, which can be used for scrolling through Web pages as well as performing Windows 8.1 gestures like swiping right to change apps or swiping left for the Charms menu.
Packing a 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-4210U processor with 4GB of RAM, the Horizon 2s held up admirably throughout all kinds of everyday activities. Swiping from app to app and hopping between a dozen active Chrome tabs was as instant experience, even while streaming video on Twitch and Netflix and running a full system scan all at once.
In terms of synthetic benchmarks, the Horizon 2s scored a 5,218 on the Geekbench 3 general performance test, which is slightly less than the iMac's 5,464 (1.4-GHz Core i5), the ET2322's 5,937 (1.8-GHz Core i7-4500U) and the 7,116 average for all-in-ones.
Lenovo's table PC took 5 minutes and 10 seconds to match 20,000 names to their addresses in an OpenOffice spreadsheet, performing a bit more slowly than the iMac (4:47) and the ET2322 (4:31) while outpacing the 6:38 category average.
The Horizon 2s' 500GB, 5,400-rpm SATA drive transferred 4.97GB of mixed media in 2 minutes and 54 seconds, resulting in a transfer rate of 27.4 MBps. The iMac (500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive) and ET2322 (1TB, 7,200-rpm hard drive) both copied files more quickly at 38.5 MBps and 54.1 MBps, respectively, and the Horizon 2s lagged behind the 73 MBps all-in-one average.
The Horizon 2's integrated Intel HD 4400 GPU proved to be mostly capable for casual gaming sessions. Colorful Aura games like Lenovo Roulette and King of Opera ran smoothly, though I noticed a slight sluggishness when playing visually rich Windows games like Asphalt 8: Airborne.
Don't expect to be playing any PC gaming blockbusters on this machine. The Horizon 2s ran World of Warcraft at a playable 32 frames per second with the graphics set to auto and the resolution set to 1366 x 768, but dipped to a clunky 20 fps with the graphics kicked up to Ultra.
By comparison, the iMac (Intel HD 5000) ran WoW at 53 fps at autodetect and 1280 x 720 resolution, and stayed at a solid 32 fps on Ultra. The ET2322 (Nvidia GeForce GT 740M) had a similar ratio at 1366 x 768, playing the game at 50 fps on auto and 27 fps on Ultra.
The Horizon 2s scored 44,098 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall graphics speed, falling far below the ET2322's 62,848 and underperforming the 49,016 all-in-one average.
Aside from its suite of Aura apps and games, the Horizon 2 ships with a standard smattering of Windows 8.1 apps like Skype, OneNote and Xbox Music.
Among Lenovo's own offerings are Lenovo Companion, which provides a central hub for viewing warranties, buying accessories and accessing apps. You can use Lenovo Support to troubleshoot tech problems via the company's forums, while Lenovo Reach offers up to 5GB of free cloud storage that can be accessed on any Windows, iOS or Android device.
One of the system's more useful apps is Nuance's Dragon Assistant, which adds Siri-like voice commands to Lenovo's all-in-one. The assistant's accurate voice tracking performed Bing searches for me when I made queries such as "When do the Giants play?", directed me to Accuweather.com when I asked for the weather, and opened Yelp when I requested some info on local food.
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If your child wants to play around outside of the Aura interface, they can jump into Lenovo Forest Adventure or Lenovo Dress Up. Forest Adventure is an interactive storybook that mixes in educational challenges, while the self-explanatory Dress Up lets little ones create colorful outfits for virtual dolls.
The Horizon 2s packs a standalone 49Wh battery, allowing you to spend a few hours playing with the device on your tabletop without worrying whether or not an outlet is nearby. The all-in-one lasted through 2 hours and 54 minutes on our battery test (continuous Web surfing on Wi-Fi), which is behind the 3:37 category average but more than a half hour longer than the bigger Horizon 2 (2:19).
Configurations and Value
The Horizon 2s ships in a single $950 configuration, which includes a 19.5-inch, 1920 x 1080 display, an Intel Core i5-4210U processor, Intel HD 4400 graphics, a 500GB and a 5,400-rpm SATA drive.
The Horizon's charging stand will run you an extra $90, while the joystick and E-dice accessory packs cost $50 and $60, respectively.
The 2s totals to $1,040 when you add in the stand, which is still a little cheaper than the $1,100 iMac (2014 edition) and lower than the ET2322's list price of $1,250.
Offering lots of versatility for under $1,000, the Lenovo Horizon 2s succeeds at being both an entertaining tabletop game machine and a solid home desktop. The machine's unique Aura software suite makes it the perfect centerpiece for family game night, while its colorful full HD display is ideal for watching movies or doodling in a digital coloring book. It doesn't hurt that the 19.5-inch all-in-one weighs just 5 pounds, making it arguably the easiest Horizon desktop to move throughout the household.
My one gripe is that the elegant and useful charging stand doesn't come included with the package, but even with the extra $90 tacked on, you're still paying just over $1,000 for a good family PC. Similarly priced alternatives like Apple's 21.5-inch iMac and ASUS' ET2322INTH offer a bit more power, but, if you've got a household of kids who like to play, the Horizon 2s' unique tabletop mode makes it worth the money.