You know what it’s like when you’re trying to work with someone else at a monitor. It gets crowded with just one other person. With two or three more people, it becomes impossible. But suppose the monitor was built into the tabletop, and everyone can sit around it and offer input.
The idea of group interaction is what’s behind the Lenovo Horizon 2. This is an all-in-one computer designed so that it can lay flat on a tabletop so users can orient the screen as needed. Lenovo originally designed the Horizon as a gaming or social center, but the company says it’s getting strong interest in the enterprise for use as a collaborative device.
Think of the Horizon as a 27-inch Windows 8.1 tablet, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this device. Despite its size it’s less than an inch thick and it only weighs about 17 pounds, so it’s easy to move it from one location to another. Even better, Lenovo delivered the Horizon in a cloth satchel that makes transport easier than it might be otherwise.
While it’s unlikely that you’d ever want to use the Horizon 2 in your lap, it’s certainly possible, assuming you have a big lap. The Horizon comes with built-in batteries that will last a couple of hours, and it supports 802.11ac WiFi. There are three USB 3.0 ports on the left side of the computer, but if you use the included wireless keyboard and mouse, then one of those ports is taken up by the required dongle.
There’s a spring-loaded kickstand on the back of the Horizon that will allow you to adjust the angle of the screen. If you press it down until it’s flat on the desk, the Horizon launches an interface named Aura that’s supposed to facilitate use as a tabletop computer.
The only real difficulty we had with the Horizon was with the latch that holds the kickstand in place, which tried its best to defy any attempt to use it. Fortunately, a couple of well-chosen hand tools solved that problem, but they had to be employed every time we tried to use the computer in anything but a flat position.
When placed into its tabletop orientation, the Horizon launches the Aura interface, which is intended to make it easy to use the computer when people are seated and includes a wheel-like touch area that does everything from launch apps to play music. While Aura launches automatically when the computer is placed so it’s flat on a tabletop, you don’t have to use it. You can return to the Windows Desktop or Start screen easily.
And it’s likely you will need to return to the standard Windows environment during a work session. While you can connect Aura to a smartphone, it only works with Android devices.
Lenovo Crafts Horizon 2 PC for Tabletop Collaboration
But a more important issue is that the applications you’re probably going to want to use in a collaborative work environment aren’t the ones that are available from within Aura, which leans toward gaming and home use, although you can use it as a virtual slide sorter with photos on the device’s 1TB hard drive.
Fortunately, Lenovo apparently realized that its use as a tabletop computer would also expose the screen to both reflections and fingerprints. To combat these problems, the Horizon has a matte finish on the screen to combat glare, and it comes with a microfiber cleaning cloth to deal with the fingerprints.
Even if you’re not using the Aura interface, the Horizon 2 is still easy to use as a collaborative device. It includes the <CTRL><ALT><arrow key> sequence to control the image orientation on the screen that Lenovo uses on some of its laptops. This means that you can rotate the screen image to look upright to anyone seated around the table.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of annoying usability issues with the Horizon 2. The matte screen finish may cut down on reflections, but it also makes the colors on the screen look washed out. This may not matter if you’re looking at a Word document, but it’s a problem if you are viewing photos or video.
The review unit came with an Intel Core i5 1.7 GHz processor and 8GB of memory. However, a faster Core i7 2.0 GHz is also available. The Horizon 2 also comes with Bluetooth 4.0 and near-field communications (NFC), although it’s unclear how exactly you’d use NFC with a tablet of this size.
What’s disappointing about the Horizon 2 is that there’s so little real business collaboration software available for the tabletop computer. In fact, despite the Aura interface and its available apps, there’s really not much that would be of a lot of use to business users. This lack of application support for the tabletop mode means that users will always be in a position of having to make things work, rather than of finding that it meets their needs out of the box.
Of course, there are things that the Horizon 2 is well-suited for, especially in the photo department of a magazine or newspaper. There the photo display apps would work well and can lend a big help to story production, but in other types of enterprises, finding a fit may be more difficult.
The Lenovo Horizon 2 as tested is available from retailers for about $1,500. Considering the relatively low cost, it could make sense to add a Horizon 2 to your company’s inventory. It just might be worth picking one up to see how workgroups could use it, even if business applications for tabletop PCs are in limited supply.