Customer Reviews: Lenovo IdeaCentre Q180 31102KU Desktop (Black)
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on May 29, 2012
Excellent PC. When I first got it, I was disappointed becuase it wasn't playing 1080p well. This is the solution - delete Windows, or don't buy one with Windows. Stick Linux Ubuntu 12.04 (or later) on it. This will automatically install all the right drivers and is a great (free) OS. Then install XBMC (also free) as a media player. This will play anything and looks / sounds great.

The dual core Atom 2.13gz processor is fine, no issues there. To the previous reviewer, you are not going to see much difference between 2.13gz and 2.3gz, but in fairness, Amazon should change this page to say 2.13gz so people know what they're buying.

The 2 USB ports on the front are USB 3 - a quick web search would have answered this for you.

Great PC - small, neat, quiet, and with 4GB RAM - perfect for a HTPC. Wouldn't bother using this with Windows though - I think you'd need an Intel i3 or i5 processor to get Windows to play 1080p flawlessly but as I said, the Dual Core Atom is perfect with Ubuntu 12.04.
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on June 4, 2012
update: I strongly recommend paying a couple of hundred bucks extra for a system with I3+Intel HD3000/4000 graphics that will simply work. I've now run into enough Flash files that choke the Q180 (but not my older laptop) to realize that, specs not withstanding, there are many files/streams on hulu etc. which do not properly take advantage of hardware acceleration, even if Flash itself does. For a compotent HTPC, you really need to have a processor that can handle the decoding in software when necessary for those odd files. E.g., I've seen some episodes that have significant problems where other episodes don't; no problems with the same episodes on the laptop. 720p Netflix remains marginal, with occasional desyncing issues although these haven't been more than once or twice per movie. Thanks to Lenovo's restocking fee, I won't be returning it. But if I had it to do over again, definitely an Asrock or Mac Mini.

Note: I purchased the 4gb memory + blueray player version, but the comments below apply equally as long as you bump the memory (and maybe even without it).

Some of the problems people (like me) first have with this computer are due to Lenovo's outdated drivers. Lenovo's support page drivers are also outdated as of the time of writing (they're dated Oct. 2011). To get this machine working as smoothly as possible, I needed to follow clues from several forums and do the following:
1) update Realtek ethernet driver and Intel chipset driver from those two web sites directly (Realtek HD Audio driver also had an update). Windows doesn't find these automatically.
2) Disable many of the AMD video effects, especially Mosquito Noise Reduction. and dynamic contrast adjustment (go into Catalyst control center > Video Settings).
3) Possibly change the Windows theme to something that sounds less flashy, like Windows Classic or Windows 7 Basic. The Arrow and Glass special effects are big system hogs. However, some other Atom + Ion users report that disabling Arrow breaks Flash acceleration.
4) Uninstall McAffrey, replacing it perhaps with Microsoft Security Essentials or NOD32, both of which run lighter.
5) You might want to try adjusting the minimum processor power to 100% under Advanced power plan settings if you still have slow-down issues.

I had major networking issues and sleep problems (computer's and mine) until updating those drivers. I really don't expect to have to troubleshoot a computer right out of the box just to get the ethernet connection and such to work. [update: turns out the ethernet connection itself is just not well-made. Regardless of the cable being used, nudging the connector--or oftehn the computer itself--causes the cable to back away a millimeter or two, severring contact. At least on my unit]

The oft-noted choppy Netflix HD playback issue has been common to all processors short of a Mac Mini because of Silverlight + Netflix uneven hardware acceleration support. The Q180 can do graphics well, thanks to the AMD discrete GPU, as long as the Atom processor doesn't have to handle it. Silverlight 5 (Dec. 2011) adds hardware acceleration, but it isn't clear to me if this AMD GPU is supported yet. It's a toss up right now whether Netflix and Microsoft will make Atom processors with discrete graphics work or just wait until the last Nettop and netbook devices go extinct, which appears will be soon as more I5 etc. platforms are put into these smaller cases (e.g., Lenovo's M92p "Tiny").

Netflix HD within Windows Media Center and flash in Chrome or Firefox have been smoother than the horror stories I've read. There are certainly occasional issues that you won't have with a normal processor, but it's watchable. Maybe profound choppiness at the beginning of a flash video, which largely then clears up; or a 2-minute desync issue 45 minutes into a movie that fixes itself after a couple of minutes. I've also seen a bit of jerkiness on DVD playback once or twice when the computer starts doing something in the background.

Wireless performance is very limited, as one might expect inasmuch as laptops have that nice big monitor bezel for stringing a much longer antenna. Placed on top of a desk 15 feet from the Wireless-n router, I got a respectable 63mbps. But 45 feet away in the living room on a shelf beneath the TV, that became 13mbps, unusable for HD streaming. I therefore use a stand-alone network bridge to provide wireless at 5GHz at 83mbps over the same distance. Powerline adapters also work well if they work in your house (they don't in mine).

The Q180 Works smoothly with my HDHomeRUn. 24-bit Digital optical also sounds very nice: good enough to where I am not worrying about USB audio, although I have that as an option through my external DAC. Overall, the system runs about the same as the 5-year-old 2GHz Intel Core II Duo system it replaces, which was an AOpen mini-PC with roughly the same form factor. So the replacement is sort of "ho hum" for me: I'm doing it to cut down (way down) on power consumption and to be able to leave the PC on/sleeping all the time. If i had never owned a mini system, I'd be pretty happy about this model or the Acer 70p, its main competitor. Reports indicate that going to 4GB memory makes a significant difference, though.

Reports also indicate that installing an SSD snaps things up as well, despite the processor being the real limiting benchmark (Atom 2700=3.8 on Windows Experience Index whereas other onboard components are 5.9-6.2). SSD performance will be "only" 250MB/s, however, because the controller is SATA2

Minor points: Sound from the HDMI is not duplicated through the optical jack (because this isn't the way Windows does things: they're separate sound devices). There's a slight high-pitched electrical noise from my system during sleep. About what you'd hear through headphones from noisy unshielded PC innards. The fan runs pretty much constantly at an "I'm here" level if you're in a quiet room, but certainly you won't hear it from more than a couple of feet away and it's a non-issue when playing media. Effectively, you just won't hear this computer unless you put your ear close to it. The buttons on the computer and BD player are hard to press, IMO. The optional BD player is bolted onto the main unit with magnets--not easy to separate at all, so call it permanently fused. There's a nice enclosed connector that snaps onto the back to connect these two devices via USB. I like this approach: you get a perfectly matched external optical drive that fits in the same footprint, is bus-powered, and can be replaced/upgraded/ditched. However, with this plus the hand-held keyboard/mouse dongle plugged in, you're down to two USB ports in the back. Finally, I really wish one of the USB 3.0 ports was on the back for external drive attachment, but I suppose I can put it back there at 2.0 speed and bring it over to the front for large transfers or backups. The optical drive option, USB 3, and comparatively easy hard drive upgradability are what this unit has over the Mac Mini, to the extent it has anything over the mini.

Atom processors will always be an underwhelming experience: that's not a problem with the processor, but a tradeoff. Low low power consumption and low processing power, hopefully in a balance that creates a good value. What seems to be happening in the market, however, is that the user experience can't keep this arithmetic in mind--using an Atom processor just feels sluggish when you actually have to launch programs, etc. So the value is good on paper but I think these nettops haven't satisfied customers on the gutt level, Ubuntu not withstanding. And, power efficiency improvements in the I3/I5/I7 platform are quickly rendering the Atom idea irrelevant for non-embedded uses. The Q180 actually runs pretty well as a basic machine. But unlike a Mac mini, it won't give you that "I just bought an upgrade" feel.

Surveying the market: Looking forward to early 2013, this unit, is perhaps best for small size, running cool, and sipping very little power. You will have issues with Web streaming noted above, though, even at 720p or Flash SD at times. Brazos-platform and Brazos 2 nettops like the Acer 70p and upcoming Asrock mini might do a slightly but maybe not earth-shakingly better job (I have no direct experience and am going on benchmarks). Mac Minis require expensive extra software for live TV (as will Windows 8, for which WMC will be an inexpensive "app" add-on), and you apparently have to entirely disassemble the Mac--including the logic board--to get at the hard drive. Then there's Asrock: their CoreHT 252b (no longer available), 231b, and upcoming Vision HT 321b are the perfect HTPCs with everything you could dream of wanting. Once you add significantly more dough for Windows plus blueray playback software, they're an expensive option. Worth it though, if you really need a PC. I don't see any I3/I5 options with optical drives coming up that will be in the price range of the Q180, but without optical drives the Zotak ID-82 and of course Mac mini are great. FoxCon has also started marketting equivalent boxes. In short, if there's a nitch where the Q180 remains the best option, it's a mighty narrow one. Can't beat it for cuteness, anyway, and it's good if streaming and desktop applications aren't your main goal.
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on March 22, 2012
I've been playing around with this little machine.

1. Standard Def plays well. Streaming via wifi works well with standard def files.

2. It can play 720p videos although streaming via wifi does not work too well. The audio and video desync. If the 720p file is on the physical harddrive it will play decently. The audio and video of some files will desync sometimes.

3. It doesn't play 1080p files well at all. It stutters when played using GomPlayer.

Netflix seems to run fine on Chrome browser. I haven't really checked it out on Internet Explorer because I don't really use it.

Youtube HD runs fine as well.

I give this a four star because:

-It is compact.
-It will play netflix.
-Youtube HD will play fine.
-Streaming SD content Via wifi works fine

Minus 1 star because the product does not do full HD 1080p

I really wish this product had a bit more power to run full 1080p without hiccups. Maybe the next iteration will be better.
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on March 14, 2012
I just received and setup the Q180, and my first impression was "wow, it's tiny!". It's much smaller than any of the other Mini-PCs I've purchased in the past (I purchase quite a few for clients).

I'll just give a quick overview of my first impressions.

- Very small form factor!
- Seems to be faster than your average Mini-PC; I'm guessing the graphics card has something to do with that.
- Comes with a cool little handheld keyboard/mouse combo. Helped me get it setup quickly and not have to go digging for a keyboard/mouse.

- Comes with an annoying "Lenovo Screensaver" installed and turned on by default. It's basically a big advertisement for the PC complete with music (very loud by default too). I promptly uninstalled it and highly recommend that be the first thing you do after setup.

The screen saver was my only reason for 4 stars instead of 5. You would think PC manufacturers would wise up to putting such annoying junk on PCs by now.

Overall, I love it.
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on July 9, 2012
I'll jump in quickly, bought this as an HTPC to run WMC and Plex:

* looks nice, can be used with the stand or laying down and is a great form factor for an HTPC
* Comes pre-loaded with almost everything you need for an HTPC
* Pretty solid feature set for a $300 box. (Very solid I/O)
* Remote keyboard / mouse... i like it, functional and backlit. Nice for an HTPC
* Relatively quite.

* Quality... the first one I received the HD crashed during setup and could no longer be detected. Would somewhat forgive but reading other reviews there seems to be some quality issues with this product from Lenovo
* Performance... I haven't played around with it long enough but this thing is slow. I know it's an ATOM processor so it's not going to have i7 speed (or i3 for that matter) but if you're going to market something as an perfect for an HTPC; probably should better tune the system to perform better out of the box with WMC etc. The lag is just unreasonable for even this processor. Over the next couple weeks I'll see if there are things I can tune a bit with the OS to improve performance but should be better out of the box. I may do a clean self install to see if that helps.

Bottom Line: If you're buying this to be a HTPC and want something low maintenance to setup... AVOID. You may get lucky but given some other reviews and my experience I can't recommend it for that. If you don't mind the chance you'll have to get your hands dirty, and maybe have to do a clean self install it may be worth a shot.

I do have to give credit to Amazon, as typical they come thru when there is a problem with something they sold me. Sent me a replacement the next day.

One additional note: if you plan to use this box with a cablecard TV service (thru HDHomerun PRIME for example); you'll need to upgrade the memory to 4GB to get it to go thru the setup smoothly.

I've upgrade my box with 4GB of memory, an SSD drive and a fresh/clean Win7 install... runs 100x better now. Obviously this takes a bit of additional work (and money), so I still can't recommend this device unless you willing to put some extras into it. I basically spent an additional $120 and a few hours time to make it a really functional HTPC.
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on September 5, 2012
I bought this system for use in a HTPC DVR set up. I am using the usb 2 connections for things like a wireless keyboard/mouse and usb tuner card. The usb 3 is how I am attaching a 3TB WD external drive. I am using the HDMI out to push full1080 to my tv. I have very few bad things to say about this system.

The only thing i have noticed is that it will run a bit hot when using the system for extended recording and viewing. As long as the system does not have anything blocking to touching the vents it runs great!
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on June 5, 2013
I love the concept of this computer but I find the internet connection incredibly slow and overall performance lacking for what you need to display streaming 1080p video. The only way I could get it to work was to use ethernet instead of wifi (even after I replaced the included usb wifi with a better one) - and even then it can't seem to keep a solid connection (no problem with my other computers or my rokus on wifi.

The one upside: I can get HBOGO on my TV - which isn't available on Roku in my area.
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on December 13, 2012
Great for web browsing, watching movies and whatnot. Great alternative to a big desktop. I did upgrade the memory from 2 to 4 gb. I was stunned at how nice the build quality was. Very solidly built good-looking unit. I love that it does not try to look like anything from apple.
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on April 19, 2012
I just set up this computer in my glovebox in my car and it works as it should. I feel it is slower than a new computer should be. One reason is that amazon lied about the speed of the processor. This unit comes with a 2.13 Ghz processor, not a 2.3 Ghz as is stated on the product page. This unit (31102nu) is identical to the (31102ku) unit but is attached to an external DVD/RW drive via USB jumper. I also bought the Samsung se-506AB/TSBD blu ray writer but the new writer requires a 3.2 Ghz processor or higher. But other than that hiccup, I am pleased with it. I don't need all that much power and speed since it is only for occasional use on road trips but if you are going to use it in the home, I would get one with at least a 3.5 Ghz processor and more ram. The 31102du should do the trick if you want to spend that much money and still get a small box.

Note: this unit comes with the Lenovo N5902 keyboard/mouse controller. What nobody tells you, even the outsourced "tech" support from Lenovo is that u have to take the blue dongle out of the battery compartment and use up one of the USB slots instead of making the receiver internally part of the computer. Still haven't been able to figure out which of the USB ports are supposed to be 3.0 and which are 2.0
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on July 4, 2012
I purchased this for the purpose of hooking it up to my TV to stream online videos from the major network sites. My internet connection is super strong and streams Netflix just fine. But with this computer, I did not have luck. I didn't feel like this computer was powerful enough to do what it should have. You should also keep in mind that there are different models of this devise that may or may not include the additional hard drive or Blu Ray player. Do some research to understand what you are actually getting as I don't feel the description was very helpful. This also did come with the handheld mouse/remote so you don't need to buy another one.
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