It’s a desktop. It’s a tablet. It’s a table-top computer. Actually, the Lenovo IdeaCenter Horizon is all three of these devices and more. We had a chance to play with this unique device at CES 2013 and came away even more intrigued with its software than its hardware.
At first glance, the Horizon looks like just another giant Windows 8 all-in-one, with its 27-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel touch screen sitting above its included keyboard and mouse. But when you unplug this 17-pound behemoth, it has enough battery power to spend two hours away from the wall socket. We don’t think anyone smaller than Shaquille O’Neal would put a device this size on their lap, but you may want to carry the Horizon over to a place in the home where there’s no outlet available.
At just 1.1 inches thick, the device is certainly thin enough to fit in your hands and even has rubberized bumpers to make it easier to carry. However, the device looked so bulky to us in person that we think moving it would be a two-person job (see our photo gallery below).
As soon as a Lenovo rep folded down its kickstand, the Horizon automatically launched Lenovo’s special Aura multi-user UI, which lets you play family style games, run education apps or move photos and videos around a virtual desktop. Upon first open Aura showed us a blank white desktop with a ring interface in the middle of the screen. The ring has icons on it for photos, video, education apps, games and an app store.
After tapping on photos, we saw thumbnails for different images and were able to drag the images onto the desktop where they looked like little Polaroid pictures complete with white borders. We were able to drag these pictures around the 27-inch desktop, resize them and rotate them. We were able to do the same with videos, each of which appeared in its own little window.
A Lenovo rep showed us how we could easily clear the desktop with a single gesture. By spreading our fingers out on an empty area of the deskotp, we made all the images and videos move off to the edges of the screen, effectively minimizing them. Bringing our fingers closer together brought all the images and videos back to their prior positions, sort of like using the peek button in Windows 7.
Shaking a photo or video back and forth with your finger will make the desktop show only photos or only videos.Though you can rotate or resize images on the Aura desktop, you can only show them full screen if you launch its dedicated gallery app.
Want to play Monopoly with the kids on a giant digital screen? You can do just that, because Monopoly is one of more than 5,000 table-friendly titles that will be available in Lenovo’s app store. Other already-announced apps include Draw Race 2 HD, King of the Opera and Paint, Color Corner. You’ll be able to access 120 streaming channels using an app called FilmOn TV. When we tapped on the app store icon we were taken to a very basic-looking store UI filled with a few sample titles.
Lenovo is making available an SDK and working with partners to create a lot more table-friendly apps by the Horizon’s expected launch date. However, the device we saw already had more than a dozen table-friendly games and education apps. We enjoyed playing a game of Air Hockey on the table using real physical air hockey paddles to control their avatars on screen. We also had a good time painting in a children’s drawing app.
Perhaps the most impressive demo we saw involved the preloaded Texas Hold ‘em Game which puts a whole card table onscreen for up to four players to use. The game also integrates with an Android app, so users can view their hidden cards on their phone screens without showing them to their opponents. Remote users can join the game via phone, so you can play with your card shark aunt in California while you and your kids sit at the Horizon table in New York.
In addition to its custom software and apps, the Horizon will have an entire ecosystem of accessories including a joystick and a pair of e-dice. An optional moveable stand will allow you to adjust the system’s angle.
Starting at $1,699, the IdeaCenter Horizon offers premium specs to go with its premium price, including CPUs up to a Core i7, discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 620M graphics and up to a 1TB hard drive.
To be certain, the Horizon isn’t the first All-in-One desktop to double as a titantic tablet. Last spring, ASUS announced the 24-inch Transformer AIO and, over the summer, we reviewed Sony’s 20-inch Tap 20. However, Lenovo’s product breaks new ground by emphasizing the tablet-top experience and building a rich ecosystem around it. We look forward to taking a closer look at the Horizon when it launches this summer.