Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 520S review: A space-saving PC that doesn't break the bank

The Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 520S is a compact PC that isn't a huge step up from its older sibling, the IdeaCentre 510S.

When it comes to all-in-one (AIO) PCs, things can get quite expensive quite fast. Just look at Microsoft's Surface Studio. Lenovo understands there's a huge market for budget AIOs, and the IdeaCentre 520S is a result. It has everything you need for under $1,000, but its price really shows in some areas. Let's take a closer look to see if this AIO will find a spot on your desk.

About this review

Lenovo loaned Windows Central a review unit of the IdeaCentre AIO 520S. It has a seventh-generation Intel Core i7-7500U processor with a base clock speed of 2.70GHz, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 1TB hard-disk drive (HDD). This exact configuration is available at Best Buy (opens in new tab), but better value configurations can be found at Newegg, starting at about $990 (opens in new tab).

Lenovo IdeaCentre 520S hardware and tech specs

Configurations vary quite a bit depending on country, but here's what seems to be offered in the U.S.:

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CategorySpecs
ProcessorSeventh-generation
Intel Core i5-7200U
Intel Core i7-7500U
Storage1TB hard-disk drive
5400RPM
RAM8GB/16GB DDR4
Display23-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, touch, matte
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 620
PortsFour USB 3.0
HDMI 1.4
RJ45 Ethernet
3.5mm jack
AudioTwo 3W speakers
Dolby Home Theatre
WirelessIntel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165
802.11ac (2 x 2)
Bluetooth 4.0
CameraFront-facing, 1080p
KeyboardIncluded
MouseIncluded
Weight9.7 lbs (4.39 kg)
Dimensions12.8 inches x 20.6 inches x 1.6 inches
325 mm x 523 mm x 40.6 mm
OSWindows 10 Home
ColorSilver

Slim body

Lenovo IdeaCentre 520S design

When you first take the IdeaCentre 520S out of its box, it's hard not to remark on how slim it is near the top. Yes, there is some bulk near the bottom to house all the hardware and to mount the stand, but everything is rounded off in a way that makes it seem like a lot less. At its thickest, it's about 1.6 inches, and at its thinnest, it's only about a quarter inch. It fits nicely anywhere a normal monitor would fit, and you don't have to worry about finding space for a PC tower in as well. The plastic chassis is available in a silver color option only.

On the back, to the side of the body, are two buttons: one for power, and one to toggle the display if you want to use the IdeaCentre 520S as a monitor for a different PC. Only have room on your desk for one monitor but want two PCs? Keep a tower below and switch back and forth.

The chassis rotates only one way on its stand — up and down, not left and right — which can be frustrating if you're used to adjusting a standalone monitor with more freedom of movement. Along the bottom edge of the unit is a speaker bar that runs from edge to edge. Despite its size, there are two speakers encased in there. Regardless, they deliver quality sound that doesn't seem hollow, even at loud volume.

Below the speaker bar, on the very bottom of the chassis, is a pop-out, 1080p webcam that has a USB 3.0 port on either side. The placement is odd, and many of you will hate having it looking up your nose during video calls, but the fact that it can be tucked away when not in use keeps the bezel on the display small and eases more paranoid minds. If you can't see the webcam, the webcam can't see you.

Bright and clear

Lenovo IdeaCentre 520S display

The best part of this AIO PC is its 23-inch, 1080p touch display. The predecessor to the 520S, the 510S, was criticized for being too dim, and Lenovo has seemingly taken it to heart. There was no time, even when working in a sunny room, I felt the brightness needed to be more than 75 percent.

The bezel around the display is very slim — only about a quarter inch — and makes watching TV and movies on it very pleasurable. Testing the display revealed great color, with an excellent score of 98-percent sRGB and a 76-percent AdobeRGB. Altogether, the picture is outstanding.

This is a touch display, but I didn't find much use for it — I'd rather use a mouse and keyboard. In testing, it responded well to touch, and the matte finish cut down significantly on unsightly smears and fingerprints.

One of the issues I discovered with the touch screen was not immediately apparent. At the bottom of the screen, there's a small opening between the display and the chassis. It seems as though the plastic above the speaker bar was set over the display, and it doesn't quite fit perfectly. When I took a closer look, I noticed some dust and dirt was starting to collect there, and it's very difficult to clean out.

Bring your own keyboard and mouse

Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 520S ports and peripherals

The IdeaCentre 520S comes with a keyboard and a mouse, but after using each for about an hour, I ditched them. The mouse is similar to the Microsoft Arc mouse (opens in new tab) in style, but this one from Lenovo is a bit too boxy and wide to fit my relatively large hand comfortably.

The keyboard, which appeared initially to be modeled just the same as a ThinkPad keyboard with cupped keys, was ultimately a disappointment. You have to press extremely hard on the keys to get them to register, and even then I found myself hitting keys two or three times to get a letter to appear on screen. That's as far as I got with it, even after replacing the batteries, so that's about all I can say. If you pick up this AIO, be sure to have a backup keyboard and mouse on hand.

It's hard to find issue with the ports here. There are four USB-A 3.0, one HDMI 1.4, one RJ45 Ethernet, and a 3.5mm audio jack. While it would be nice to see a USB-C or Thunderbolt 3, the price is the limiting factor. Getting very picky here, the USB ports are pretty stiff, and you have to be right on target if you want to connect. Not a big deal, but a bit frustrating when the majority of ports are on the back of the chassis.

Not bad for the price

Lenovo IdeaCentre 520S performance

This configuration came with an Intel Core i7-7500U processor, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 1TB HDD. I used this AIO as my primary device for about a week, and although it was mostly smooth sailing, there were some noticeable performance hiccups, no doubt related to the low-end HDD.

CPU

Geekbench 4.0 Benchmarks (Higher is better)

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DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 520Si7-7500U4,0367,760
HP Envy 34i7-7700T4,39614,272
Surface StudioCore i74,20013,323
Surface Pro 2017i7-7660U4,5139,346
Surface Laptopi5-7200U3,7257,523
Lenovo ThinkPad T470i5-7300U vPro4,3948,580
Dell Latitude 5285i7-7600U4,6359,289
Lenovo ThinkPad X270i7-7600U4,5128,566
Lenovo X1 Carboni5-7300U4,1398,311
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Exti7-7500U4,3168,320
Dell XPS 13 (9360)i7-6560U4,1207,829
HP Spectre 13i7-7500U4,1007,469
Surface Booki7-6600U3,9487,415

The processor here is one that's often used in Ultrabooks thanks to its lower TDP, and it has a base clock speed of 2.70GHz and a turbo clock speed up to 3.50GHz. It performs well enough, and it keeps up with many other Core i7 processors we've tested. When things get tough, however, the fan kicks on and is quite loud.

GPU

Geekbench 4.0 Graphics OpenCL (Higher is better)

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DeviceScore
Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 520S16,663
Lenovo ThinkPad T47021,276
Dell Latitude 528521,921
Lenovo ThinkPad X27017,376
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s16,635
Lenovo Yoga 72018,185
Lenovo X1 Carbon20,932
Dell XPS 13 (9360)19,410
Surface Book HD52018,197
Dell Latitude 728017,827

Here we have Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated with the CPU. While you won't be able to use this PC for any intensive gaming, it can handle some light to medium stuff quite well. Just don't expect The Witcher 3 on Ultra.

PCMark

PCMark Home Conventional 3.0

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DeviceScoreComparison
Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 520S2,454Better than 34 percent of all results
Lenovo ThinkPad T4703,103Better than 62 percent of all results
Dell Latitude 52853,079Better than 57 percent of all results
Lenovo ThinkPad X2703,009Better than 57 percent of all results
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s2,576Better than 40 percent of all results
Lenovo Yoga 7202,717Better than 46 percent of all results
Lenovo X1 Carbon Core i52,965Better than 57 percent of all results
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Ext2,998Better than 57 percent of all results
Dell XPS 15 (9560)3,534Better than 71 percent of all results
Dell Latitude 72802,829Better than 52 percent of all results
HP Spectre x360 152,472Better than 41 percent of all results

The PCMark Home Conventional test is important because it measures how well a bunch of your system components work together in a variety of everyday tasks. This AIO scored in the same area as a lot of the other devices we've tested. It will serve you well for basic, everyday tasks.

HDD

CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)

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DeviceReadWrite
Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 520S102.1 MB/s95.84 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad T4701,079 MB/s716.1 MB/s
Dell Latitude 52851,300 MB/s1,113 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad X270 PCIe1,049 MB/s636.9 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s1,557 MB/s1,333 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 7201,904 MB/s1,169 MB/s
Lenovo X1 Carbon1,518 MB/s1,188 MB/s
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Ext1,365 MB/s1,213 MB/s
Dell Latitude 5480 SATA443 MB/s