Lenovo Horizon 2s First Impressions

Lenovo Horizon 2s First Impressions

A kid-friendly giant tablet? Awesome

No PC maker has embraced the crazy potential of Windows 8.x more enthusiastically than Lenovo, and maybe it's not coincidental that this firm has become the world's largest PC maker during the same time period. Some of Lenovo's most interesting designs are, perhaps not surprisingly, the ones that push at the boundaries of what we expect from PCs. And so it goes with the Horizon 2s, a slim "tabletop" PC that offers a unique multi-person UI and around-the-home portability that may be ideal for families.

It's like a Yoga on steroids. Indeed, the Horizon 2s makes a Surface Pro 3 look like a Windows Phone handset by comparison.

So what is this thing?

In some way, it's a giant tablet, with a 19.5-inch 1080p IPS screen. You can carry it around—at 5.4 pounds, with two hands—and experience as an adult what it must be like for a small child to use a full-sized tablet. Obviously, it has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

It's also what Lenovo calls a tabletop PC. You can lay it on a table, ottoman, or other surface and use it by yourself, or with another person using a unique and curious Lenovo user experience called Aura. In this sense, it's also a stab at what might otherwise be a dying breed, the family PC. I haven't spent any time with Aura yet, but that will be a big part of the testing of course, and I'm particularly intrigued by AuraU, which lets you connect an Android device to the Horizon and drag and drop content between the two using on-screen targets. Really cool, as are the bundled two-person games and apps.

Or, you can use it like an all-in-one desktop PC. The Horizon comes with a built-in kickstand, and a keyboard and a mouse, and you can use it like you would any other desktop PC. Behind that thin form factor beats an Intel Core i5 processor, a 500 GB hard drive, and 4 GB of RAM. It's even expandable (to 8 GB of RAM). There are also two USB 3.0 ports, NFC, a dual-array microphone, a 3-in-1 card reader, and an integrated web cam.

Lenovo also sells an optional $90 charging stand, which I'll be testing as well. This stand elevates the Horizon to a more acceptable height for day-to-day PC use at a desk, and it provides height and angle adjustments. The best part, perhaps, is how easily it connects.

But there are some amazing-looking accessories I don't have, including Striker controllers, which look like air hockey controllers and glide across the device's surface using multi-touch for games. (You can still play the Lenovo Air Hockey game with your fingers however.) And "e-dice" which use accelerometers to interact with Horizon-based games.

The Horizon 2S is apparently a smaller and thinner version of the Horizon 2, which is a 21.5-inch design with similar specs. I've not used a system like this, however, so this will be interesting on a number of levels. I suspect my kids will be particularly intrigued by this. But it's hard not to imagine a variety of uses for this device, in the kitchen, in the living room, and in the dining room during homework time.

But the real fun starts with all the cool games and apps. More soon.

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