Creature Comforts in a Business World
In addition to good looks and functionality, the IdeaCentre B540’s 23-inch screen also offers excellent image quality. The panel delivers full 1,080p high-definition resolution (that’s 1,920 x 1,080 pixels for those of you who are counting), which makes for crisp text and superb high-res photo reproduction. And of course, HD video looks terrific, letting the B540 pull double duty as a personal cinema.
In fact, the viewing angle of the panel is wide enough that you can share it with a couple of friends. (If you will use the machine for work and play, be sure to get a model with a Blu-ray player as the optical drive, rather than the standard DVD burner.) The built-in stereo speakers deliver rich sound and enough volume to fill a room. While the sound quality isn’t a match for a good set of external desktop speakers—music playback could use more bass response—it is good for an all-in-one and should suit most needs.
Figure 2: The "kickstand" on the back of the IdeaCentre B540 adjusts to two positions, or you can remove it to mount the PC on a wall. Note the connector panel with LAN, USB and HDMI ports.
The roomy, video-friendly screen is also perfect for videoconferencing. There’s enough screen real-estate to have your GoToMeeting session open while also keeping an eye on your email Inbox off to the side. Oddly for such a video-friendly PC, Lenovo has equipped the IdeaCentre B540 with just a .3-megapixel webcam. That means your broadcasts and video captured with the camera will have a low-resolution "soft focus" effect. Most smartphones and tablets have much higher-resolution cameras these days. If better video capture is a must for your business, plan on adding an external webcam.
We also found the keyboard and mouse to be merely okay. We appreciate the fact that the set is wireless, since it keeps the clean look of the whole setup, but the keyboard and mouse don’t have the heft of the usual desktop PC input devices. The keyboard can rattle a bit if you tend to have a heavy finger when typing, and the keys feel spongy. The mouse, too, feels a bit lightweight, and is somewhat on the small side.
Connect to the World
The IdeaCentre B540 comes with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless, as well as a wired Ethernet jack. On the left edge of the screen you’ll find two USB 2.0 ports, headphone and mic jacks, and a six-in-one memory card reader. Two more USB 2.0 ports reside on the back panel, along with two high-speed USB 3.0 ports, the LAN jack and an HDMI-out port—in case you need to connect to an even bigger screen. If the B540 will serve as an entertainment hub as well as a business PC, note that you can opt for a model with an integrated TV tuner.
Inside the IdeaCentre B540 you’ll find a 1TB hard drive, which should be plenty of storage. But should you need to upgrade the hard drive or RAM, the back panels of the machine slide apart for easy access to those components. This is unlike almost every all-in-one (not to mention many laptops), which tend not to have user-accessible components.