The concept of the desktop PC that folds flat like a tabletop is catching on. HP was first, with its Z1 workstation, but Lenovo brought the technology to consumer all-in-ones with its very sexy IdeaCentre A720. Now Asus has adopted the idea for its new ET2300 series (we reviewed the model ET2300INTI-B022K).
Asus’s ET2300 isn’t as sleek as Lenovo’s A720, but it delivers plenty of features
Like the A720, the E2300 tucks all its components inside the base of its display; but for whatever reason, Asus needed more room than Lenovo. The E2300’s base is thin enough at the front, but it slopes up to about 1.5 inches high in the back. Lenovo’s A720 is less than an inch thick all around.
Asus makes very big claims for the ET2300’s audio performance, as in “the best audio experience ever in an AiO.” Uh, no. Asus did go farther on this score than most manufacturers have—the ET2300 has a four-speaker array augmented by an internal subwoofer, and you can buy an optional (and proprietary) outboard subwoofer—but this all-in-one sounds only slightly better than the nails-on-a-chalkboard A720. Plan on using headphones for a personal audio experience, or external powered speakers to fill a room.
This model ET2300 costs $400 less than Lenovo’s A720, but its 23-inch IPS panel is much smaller than the 27-inch VA panel that Lenovo delivers (both models deliver the typical resolution of 1920x1080, and both provide 10 touch points to support Windows 8.) Although the Asus has a lesser CPU (the ET2300 ships with a 3GHz Intel Core i5-3330 desktop processor that doesn’t support Hyper-Threading, compared to the A720’s 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM mobile that does), the two machines traded benchmark wins. The Asus proved slightly faster on the gaming-oriented tests (3DMark 11 and Metro 2033), despite the fact that both machines are equipped with 8GB of DDR3/1600 memory and discrete graphics in the form of Nvidia’s GeForce GT 630M. We surmise it’s because the Asus’s base clock is far higher. The Lenovo, on the other hand, delivered better performances with our Adobe Premiere and MainConcept benchmarks, thanks to its Hyper-Threading.
Aside from the size of its display and with the exception of its optical drive (Lenovo packs a slot-feed Blu-ray player/DVD burner in the A720, where Asus provides only a slot-feed DVD burner), the balance of the Asus’s spec sheet is far superior. Both machines come with 1TB of storage, but the drive in the ET6300 spins its platters at 7,200rpm compared to the 5,400rpm model in the A720. And where the A720 is outfitted with two USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports, the ET2300 ships with four USB 3.0 ports plus an eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port and two Thunderbolt ports.
Thunderbolt technology delivers bidirectional data transfer speeds up to 10Gb/s, and you can daisy-chain up to six Thunderbolt devices, including a DisplayPort monitor. While there are just a handful of storage devices currently on the market, we expect to see them proliferate over time. Ditto for Thunderbolt displays.
Like any all-in-one worthy of the name, the ET2300 has an HDMI input (to support a gaming console or set-top box); but in addition to providing HDMI out (to support a second display or a video projector), the ET2300 also supports WiDi, so that it can wirelessly mirror its audio/video output to a TV or a streaming box (such as Netgear’s new NeoTV Max) that supports that Intel technology.
The ET2300 certainly isn’t a barn burner, but it is a solid all-around family PC. While we expected to see a Blu-ray drive at this price point, the presence of Thunderbolt and WiDi are welcome features.