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Titanic tablets clash in our Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon vs. Asus Transformer AiO showdown

Lenovo Horizon vs Asus Transformer

With the launch of Windows 8, we suddenly started seeing a slew of “convertibles” coming to the market. At first, we oohed and aahed at these exciting new devices that could twist, bend, and do crazy yoga positions (some of which we’ve been trying to master for years) – converting from laptop to tablet and back again. We had a feeling we’d see more of these types of convertibles at this year’s CES  – and we did. However, we also saw two hybrid computers that we weren’t prepared for. 

Doubling as tablets, one thing was glaringly different from what we were used to: they weren’t laptops. Nay, they were big, honkin’ desktops. Both all-in-ones, meaning their guts and brains are packed into their slim bodies, Lenovo’s IdeaCentre Horizon and Asus’ Transformer AiO are unlike any desktop we’ve ever seen. At a time when the industry is obsessing over thin and light Ultrabooks, who do these all-in-one desktops think they are stepping into the game? But which one should you pick? Read our in-depth comparison to find out.

Display

Both the Asus Transformer and Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon have full HD 1920 x 1080 LED-backlit multiouch displays with a 16:9 widescreen-viewing angle. The only difference is in the size. Asus’ model has an 18.4-inch display, whereas Lenovo’s has a whopping 27-incher. Both screens looked fantastic, but they are glossy, which can make it difficult to enjoy when in a brightly lit room. Aside from the size, there aren’t too many differences here.

Design 

Though the Transformer and Horizon are both desktops that can be used as tablets, they’re completely different in terms of design. Since the Transformer’s display sits in a base station that allows the user to tilt and change the height of the display, it’s naturally bulkier than the Horizon’s single-unit body.

The Horizon is simply a large tablet that balances on a kickstand. It has no base, and if you didn’t have the keyboard and mouse in front of it, it could easily be mistaken for a 27-inch TV or monitor. At just 1.1 inches thick, the display itself looks sleek, and would make a good addition to an open home office area. Its adjustable kickstand lets users change the display’s height up to 90 degrees.

Between the two devices, the Transformer wins the Looks More Like a Computer Award. With the tablet and dock combined, the Transformer has a depth of 6.4 inches, which is much thicker than the Horizon. That being said, the tablet itself is only 0.7 inches thick, so the dock is where the Transformer really adds its bulk. Still, both all-in-ones do a good job at keeping their hardware contained within their relatively slender bodies.

Portability and battery life

One of the differences between using the Transformer and the Horizon as a mobile device is that the Transformer has a dock that sits where you leave it, whereas the Horizon is contained within the display. At just about six pounds, the tablet part of the Transformer doesn’t feel very heavy. It’s easy to remove from the dock thanks to a useful handle situated near the top on the back of the device.

The Horizon, however, is quite hefty. At 17.8 pounds, this 27-inch tablet isn’t something you’re going to want to be carrying around. In fact, we were surprised to see in Lenovo’s promo video that two small children were able to steal it from their father’s office and take it to their bedroom. It’s definitely a bit unwieldy and not intended for travel like the Transformer is. Lenovo’s lack of carrying handle, further drives that point home.

The Horizon aims to be an all-in-one table PC big enough for multiple people to use at the same time, whereas the Transformer is geared more towards being able to take the desktop experience out of the house. How do we know this? Let’s take a look at the battery lives of each. The Horizon has a battery life of 2 hours, which is hardly enough to leave the comfort of your home and outlets. We still don’t know the exact specs of the Transformer’s battery life, but we’re told the battery is somewhere between 38Whr and 44Whr. To put that into perspective, the iPad has a 42.5Whr battery and provides up to 10 hours of normal activity.

The Transformer is clearly far more portable, and with a Wi-Fi range of about a 30 to 40 feet, you can undock it and continue your work in Windows 8 anywhere within that range. Once outside the Wi-Fi range, the tablet will change from Windows 8 to Android 4.1. 

Operating systems

Yes, the Transformer has two operating systems. The snap-off tablet runs Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, while the PC part runs Windows 8. When docked, the Asus model will run dual operating systems, but the tablet will only run Android when undocked and out of Wi-Fi range. The advantage of having two operating systems is that the user can seamlessly switch between the two depending on the situation.

 The Horizon is simple: it runs Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro.

 Processing Power

Asus’ Transformer is like the Noah’s Ark of the computing world. It has two of everything, including different CPUs. Inside its tablet screen, it has a Nvidia Tegra 3 Quad-core CPU, and in the docking station it has an Intel Core i7 or i5 processor (depending on your configuration) and Nvidia GT 730M (2GB) graphics card.  As for memory, it has two separate specs, too: the tablet has 2GB of memory, and the PC dock comes with 4GB of memory, which can be upgraded to 8GB. Storage-wise, the Transformer offers 32GB in the tablet, and either a 1TB or 2TB SATA hard drive in the PC station. 

The Horizon only has one processor, but it’s a powerful one. Lenovo offers up to Intel Core i7 with Nvidia GeForce GT 620M 1GB graphics with DirectX 11. In terms of memory, it comes with 8GB. Storage-wise, we’re seeing up to a 1TB hard drive, and even an optional 64GB solid-state drive. An SSD is something the Transformer lacks in its main unit.

Connectivity

In terms of ports, the Horizon has two USB 3.0 ports, as well as a 6-in-1 card reader, and HDMI – there arent a ton of ports on it.

The Transformer’s PC dock has a SuperMulti DVD drive, one 3-in-1 Card Reader, four USB 3.0, and one USB 2.0 ports. Toward the back of the dock it also has an HDMI-Out port, LAN, and a Kensington lock. And that’s just the dock; the tablet itself has a microSD card reader slot, a mini USB 2.0 port, DC in, and a Kensington lock port.

The Transformer takes the cake in terms of connectivity.

Extras

Both convertibles come with a keyboard and mouse, but the gaming and entertainment-focused IdeaCentre Horizon comes with a plethora of gaming accessories, including a joystick, striker, and E-dice. Keeping with the gaming theme, Lenovo pre-loads games like Monopoly, Air Hockey, Raiding Company, and King of the Opera.  It also has an integrated 720p HD webcam.

Though we’re not sure about the pricing on this particular accessory, when we checked out the Horizon at CES, we saw it placed on a moveable stand with wheels. This is definitely something that would make moving the Horizon from room to room a breeze, especially considering its weight.

Other than the obvious fact that the Transformer AiO is basically giving you a free oversized tablet, that’s about all that’s included as an “extra.” The Horizon definitely wins in this category.

Price

It’s never easy to compare prices considering they can vary greatly depending on your particular configuration. That being said, the starting prices do differ. The IdeaCentre Horizon starts at $1,700, and is slated for release early this summer. The Transformer AiO with a core i3 processor starts at $1,300. Prices go up for those with Core i5 and i7 processors, and we expect to see the Transformer sometime before March.

Judging by the price, it looks like the Asus Transformer is a better bang for your buck. You’re basically getting two computers with two operating systems for $400 less than the starting price of the Horizon. That being said, a larger processor could bump it up to equal the price, so, at that point, you have to ask yourself whether you’d rather have an AIO that can double as an Android tablet when needed, or if you’d rather have a portable desktop with a beautiful 27-inch display?

Winner: Asus Transformer AiO

We think the Asus Transformer is more diverse and multifunctional, and although we havent done a full review of either desktop, we think it’s a good option for those who want the big screen of a desktop computer, but also want the option of easily taking it with them if necessary. At just six pounds, that’s very doable.

If you just want a desktop that you can easily transfer from room to room, the IdeaCentre Horizon is a great choice for a multipurpose entertainment computer. Not only can you lay it flat and play games, you can use Lenovo’s built-in interface to launch apps, open photos and movies, and move things around the screen à la Minority Report. But, at nearly 18 pounds, we must remind you to bend at the knees, not with your back, when lifting this off a low surface.

Though the Horizon has made the dream of the tabletop touchscreen real and available to the public, we’re not sure if it’s practical at nearly $1,700. For those who want a cool toy, go with the Horizon; those looking for something more down-to-earth, we recommend Asus’ Transformer AiO.

What do you think? Which giant “tablet” would you choose?