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Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A - Review 2020


Economy PCs have their place, as plenty of consumers just want a simple, affordable home computer for basic needs. The Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A ($499 as tested) fits the bill, an unassuming budget desktop with modest components at a low price. There are no major flaws, but relative to similarly priced competition, the IdeaCentre doesn’t have anything special going for it from a build-quality point of view, and its AMD-powered performance, in certain measures, lags behind Intel-alternative chips in some comparable budget systems. (The modestly better graphics performance, though, does carry some light appeal.) The Acer Aspire TC-885-UA92, which we’re reviewing alongside it, is just $50 more with a superior CPU, more RAM, and more storage, making it our current top recommendation in this category.

Simple Styling

The Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A is very plain, a gray rectangular tower with unadorned sides and an almost equally simple front panel. There, a line runs vertically to split the panel unevenly, though it’s more than just aesthetic.

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You can pull open this section of the front panel to reveal a set of ports, including two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, an SD card slot, and microphone and headset jacks. On the other side of the front panel is a DVD+RW optical drive, but other than that, this case is about as simple as they come.

Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A-18

It is, however, nice and compact. Budget desktops have no reason to be especially big, but still, it’s a plus that this system has a small size and tiny footprint. It measures 14.4 by 5.7 by 11.2 inches (HWD), not too tall or wide and definitely less deep than average. This makes it a good fit for a tight workspace, including fitting on a crowded desk, a desk shelf cutout, or on the floor.

Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A-02

With a system so inexpensive and a design so simple, it’s hard to have many complaints. An equally simple keyboard and a basic mouse, both wired, are also included. Interior access isn’t toolless, which could be a complaint if I was being picky, but it’s not a big deal. Two simple rear screws allow you to remove the left-side panel, revealing the interior. Also in the rear are two USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port, a VGA connection, and an Ethernet jack.

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The system’s interior is almost as simple as its outside, though there are a few things to discuss. A system at this price has no glitz or glam, including just the necessary components. There is a plate blocking most of your view, and access, when you first take off the outer panel.

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It’s more irritating to get this out of the way than it should be, requiring you to squeeze some clips and pull the front panel away for the plate to swing out. It took a few minutes to figure this out, and I found it finicky to open and close. Fortunately, there’s a strong chance you’ll never need to open a desktop like this up, or at least not often, but you may want to add or swap memory or storage some day. To that end, there are two memory slots for a maximum of 16GB of RAM, while there is just one M.2 slot, but room to add a hard drive.

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What components lurk inside beyond the metal plate? Not surprisingly, they are quite modest, including AMD’s quad-core Ryzen 3 3200G processor with Radeon Vega 8 integrated graphics, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB solid-state drive. Depending on your needs, this could be perfectly adequate, and indeed, this is generally the caliber of components you’ll find in this price range. There are some differences among competitors, though, so read on to the next section to see how they perform.

Performance Testing: So-So Speed

For our benchmark comparisons, I’ve gathered a batch of similarly inexpensive desktops. They all fall within the same low price range, but use a variety of components to get there. Below is a cheat sheet for their names and core components:

Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A

The ThinkCentre is our lone AMD representative, while the others all pack different Intel processors. There are a variety of chip types and generations among the group, including one Core i3 among mostly Core i5 CPUs, and one Core i5 chip that’s newer than the rest. The Acer is carrying both the latest i5 and the most memory (not to mention twice the storage of the Lenovo), so it’s the system to beat here.

Productivity and Storage Tests

PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet work, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s boot drive. Both yield proprietary numeric scores; higher numbers are better.

Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A

The Lenovo lags behind the rest in everyday productivity, the AMD APU unable to keep up. It’s adequate for simple home and office tasks, but not much more than that, and is slow enough compared to the better performers here that you may notice the difference in real-world use. Fortunately, its SSD is as snappy as the others, leading to quick boot times and reducing wait time as you navigate your files.

Media Processing and Content Creation Tests

Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.

Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A

Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that’s highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video (the open source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel) to a 1080p MP4 file. Lower elapsed times are better.

Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A

We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image, timing each operation and adding up the total. The Photoshop test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.

Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A

As on PCMark 10, the Lenovo is the slowest on average across these tests. To be sure, none of these desktops is a professional-grade production machine by any means, but even in context, the 510A is slower than its counterparts.

Synthetic Graphics Tests

UL’s 3DMark suite measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.

Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A

Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the company’s eponymous Unigine engine for a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess.

Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A

As you can see, the trends from the CPU-centric tests don’t continue here. The AMD APU’s integrated graphics top their Intel rivals (at least the generations on display here). This can help greatly with some casual gaming (and, in a real pinch, some 3D apps).

A Decent Option for Shoestring Budgets

The Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A is about as straightforward a desktop as it looks on the outside, unassuming in design and modest in performance. The price is very low, so you can’t complain too much about its shortcomings or speed. And the onboard Vega graphics do give it an intriguing boost for (very) casual gamers who might want to do some light play without shelling out for a video card.

Still, it doesn’t look particularly good compared to machines that perform better or offer more for similar prices. This is especially true of the Acer Aspire, our recent Editors’ Choice for the category. The IdeaCentre may be the most budget of the budget options, but it’s probably not the best value—consider the equally inexpensive HP Envy Desktop (TE01-014) if you don’t want to pay a bit more for the Aspire.

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