Lenovo must have caught wind that gamers are into aggressive designs because the company's new IdeaCentre Erazer X700 features a gnarly aesthetic that we haven't seen from the company before. The styling is more in line with what we'd expect to see from a premier boutique vendor, not a bulk OEM, which is a pleasant surprise.
Of course, looks will only get you so far. In terms of brawn, the configuration Lenovo sent us to review includes an Intel Core i7 3820 quad-core processor clocked at 3.6GHz (3.8GHz via Turbo) with 10MB of cache, 12GB of DDR3-1600 RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 graphics, and a 128GB solid state drive for OS chores flanked by a 1TB hard drive (7200 RPM) for storage duties.
It's a rather burly foundation, though the GPU is a few pegs down on the gaming totem pole. The upside to having a mid-range GPU is a somewhat affordable price tag. As configured, the Erazer X700 runs $1,700 (or several hundred dollars less when a coupon code is available from Lenovo)and includes several other amenities (see below), which isn't egregious for a gaming machine. We put Erazer X700 through a workout; what did we discover?
- Intel Core i7 3820 (4 cores / 8 threads, 3.6GHz, 3.8GHz Turbo, 10MB cache)
- 12GB DDR3-1600 RAM
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 660
- 128GB solid state drive + 1TB hard drive (7200 RPM)
- DVD burner
- 7.1-channel surround sound support
- 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi; Ethernet
- 7 x USB 2.0; 3 x USB 3.0; HDMI output; DisplayPort; 2 x DVI; microphone + headphone jacks
- 29-in-1 card reader
- Dual hot-swap bays
- Windows 8 Pro 64-bit
- 24.01 inches by 10.62 inches by 20.86 inches; 61.72 pounds
- $1,700 MSRP
What We Liked:
- Intimidating Design: Lenovo's now the top PC supplier on the entire planet, but at a glance, there's nothing about this machine that gives away its heritage as a bulk OEM. The large and heavy chassis sports aggressive angles and curves at every turn, it has a mesh side window (also angled), and plenty of blue LEDs. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if your preference is for a mean looking machine, the IdeaCentre X700 Erazer delivers.
- Solid Component Selection: There are some things we would have configured differently (more on that later), but for the most part, Lenovo did a great job balancing price with performance when picking out components. By going with a mid-range GPU instead of a monster graphics card, for example, Lenovo is able to cram the Erazer X700 full with a high-frequency processor and gobs or RAM, and even managed to squeeze a solid state drive into the budget. These are the kinds of touches that will benefit every facet of computing, not just gaming.
- High Resolution Gaming: Nvidia's GeForce GTX 660 graphics card may not be the top dog, but it's certainly capable of holding its own. In some instances, you can even get away with gaming at 2560x1600, the native resolution of most 30-inch panels. In Aliens vs. Predator, for example, the Erazer X700 topped 50 frames per second with the settings on Low. When cranking up the eye candy to Very High, framerates dipped to 22.5fps, underscoring that more pixel pushing power is needed to really drive a monster display, though with a little tweaking, it's still possible. At 1920x1080, the Erazer X700 didn't break a sweat, posting over 41fps with the settings maxed out.
- Quality Peripherals: Bulk OEMs are notorious for bundling generic keyboard and mice with their gaming systems, and that's a shame. Kudos to Lenovo for bucking the status quo and bundling bona fide gaming peripherals with its system. The keyboard has an adjustable LED backlight and same aggressive design as the chassis, while the mouse looks like it was built by a third-party gaming peripheral manufacturer and rebranded for Lenovo. It even comes with an adjustable weight system.
- Quiet: Thanks in part to the self-contained liquid cooling system, the Erazer X700 never gets really loud, even under load. It's not a silent machine, but it definitely keeps the noise level to a minimum.
What We Didn't Like:
- Funky RAM Configuration: The X79 chipset that serves as the foundation of the X700 Erazer supports quad-channel memory, though Lenovo only populated three of the four DIMM slots in the configuration it sent us. That means it was running in triple-channel mode and not taking full advantage of what the memory subsystem has to offer. On the bright side, 12GB is a lot of RAM.
- Middling GPU: We understand why Lenovo configured this particular setup with a GeForce GTX 660 graphics card, though if you need something burlier, higher end options are available. Just be prepared to pay a premium for them.
- Cable Clutter: As a bulk OEM, Lenovo probably isn't in much of a position to spend a lot of time cleaning up cables. But hey, it's not up to us to make excuses for the company, and for a gaming series that looks to intimidate out of the box, Lenovo should figure out a way to clean up the clutter so that the inside is as impressive as the outside.
Hands down, this is the best gaming machine from Lenovo we've seen to date (and we've seen a few). It has the looks, the performance, and even the right peripherals, the latter of which is oft overlooked by bulk OEMs. From the moment you unpack the IdeaCenter Erazer X700 out of the box, you know you have a serious gaming machine on your hands.
Setup is easy -- just plug in a few cables and press the power button -- and performance is very good for the money. If you need an extra bit of oomph, there's an overclocking button on the front panel that works in conjunction with Lenovo's built-in software so you can goose the CPU without mucking around in the BIOS. It's not a failsafe approach to overclocking, though certainly accessible.
We'd like to see another stick of RAM added to this configuration for quad-channel memory mode, and a beefier GPU would complete the package. As configured, however, this is fast system with lots upside and not very many flaws.
Our Score: 4 out of 5
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Lenovo IdeaCentre Erazer X700 Gaming System Review