Thursday, 8 November 2012

Lenovo H330: Budget Machine Outperforms Its Category

Our review model, which is priced at $799, sports an Intel Core i5-2500 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an AMD Radeon HD 6450 graphics card. It also has a 1TB hard drive, which is very roomy for a budget machine, and it runs a 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium. It has no built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth (it's a budget tower, after all), but it did ship with a Blu-ray disc player--unusual in a machine that's otherwise very budget-like.

In PCWorld's WorldBench 6 benchmark tests, the H330 scored an impressive 158, which will put it at the top of our budget desktop category. Our previous leader, the Micro Express MicroFlex 23B, scored 141. That machine, of course, has a Core i3-2120 processor and half the RAM, not to mention a price tag that's $200 lower than the H330's. (The H330 is also a step or two up from its earlier sibling, the H320, which immediately follows the MicroFlex 23B on our chart.)
Graphics performance, however, was less than impressive. In our Unreal Tournament 3 tests, the H330 managed a rate of just 18.5 frames per second (high quality settings, 1920-by-1200-pixel resolution). Bumping the screen resolution down to 1680 by 1050 pixels helped a little (22.5 frames per second), but it's not until we go all the way down to 1024 by 768 pixels that we get a playable 46.4 fps. This isn't a gaming powerhouse, but this machine will still be able to perform basic multimedia tasks and stream video with few issues.
The Lenovo H330 is housed in a small, slim tower that can either stand upright or lie horizontally on its side. The tower is simple but attractive, with a shiny black finish on the front casing and orange accents. A few ports are located on the front of the machine--two for USB--plus headphone and microphone jacks, a couple of card reader slots that will accept multiple formats, and of course the tray-loading Blu-ray disc player. The remaining ports are on the back: two PS/2 ports for a mouse and keyboard; four USB ports; gigabit ethernet; and HDMI, VGA, line-in, and line-out.
As you might imagine, you don't get a lot of room inside for tinkering. And opening the chassis isn't exactly easy--not only will you need to break out a screwdriver, but taking off the side also removes half of the bottom of the machine (if you're not expecting this, you may end up knocking it over). Every extra nook is taken, but one PCIe slot (x1) is open.
The H330 ships with a keyboard and a mouse, both of which feature orange accents, similar to the tower. Both are wired, but the keyboard is PS/2 while the mouse is USB.
The keyboard features flat, regular-style keys. It's fairly comfortable to type on, but it doesn't give a lot of feedback, and the keys are a little too soft. On the plus side, this means that the keyboard is extremely quiet; on the minus side, it means that you may end up making a lot of typos. The keyboard also includes an orange LVT button that lets users access Lenovo Vantage Technology (LVT), Lenovo’s custom suite of utilities and recovery tools.
The USB-wired mouse is typical: lightweight and optical, with two buttons and a scroll wheel. The scroll wheel is orange. There's nothing extraordinarily awesome or awful about this peripheral--it's just your run-of-the-mill optical mouse.
Lenovo's H330 may be a budget machine, but it does have a few tricks up its sleeve--mainly, impressive performance and a Blu-ray player. While I'm not sure you really need a Blu-ray player on a system that offers just decent--at best--graphics quality, this desktop is good choice for people who are looking for superior general (nongaming) performance in a lower-cost desktop, plan only moderate multimedia usage, and want a case with a small footprint.