Lenovo ThinkCentre M90z
All-in-one desktop computers aren’t simply the domain of classrooms and overcrowded homes.
Harley Ogier | Friday, February 18 2011
Product type: All-in-one PC
RRP incl GST: $2823
- High spec Intel Core i5-650 processor
- Optional multitouch screen
- No dedicated graphics card available
- Pricey compared with its consumer-focused competition
A solid business machine with a range of customisations available.
All-in-one desktop computers aren’t simply the domain of classrooms and overcrowded homes. Business computing mainstay Lenovo offers a strong range of office all-in-ones atop its base model M90z, aimed squarely at professional users.
Squarely, actually, is a good description. While some disapprove of Lenovo’s utilitarian, unexciting designs, the IT professional in me is a fan. The M90z is solidly constructed, available with either a ‘picture-frame’ or adjustable-height monitor stand. It’s bulky and heavy for an all-in-one, but Lenovo’s offering will withstand the rigours of office use far better than the pretty little models we checked out in November’s issue of PC World.
At $2,518, the base model features an Intel Core i3-550 processor, 2GB of DDR3 RAM and a 320GB, 7200rpm SATA hard drive. Unlike most all-in-ones we’ve seen, the M90z base model doesn’t include Wi-Fi.
The i3-550 is a decent processor when it comes to web browsing, office work, even basic photo manipulation. It clocks in at a respectable 3.2GHz, with two physical cores and Intel’s HyperThreading technology to provide four processing threads. Graphics capabilities are on-chip (though not on-die as with Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processors), giving very limited performance in multimedia-intensive applications such as CAD and gaming.
The model we reviewed was a few steps above the base with an Intel Core i5-650 processor, plus Wi-Fi and a webcam. These upgrades will cost you an additional $305, bringing the total to $2,823.
The i5-650 matches the i3-550 in most specs, but notably adds Intel’s Turbo Boost technology – this allows one core to be shut down and the other boosted from 3.2GHz to 3.46GHz during processor-intensive, single-threaded tasks. The i5-650 also boasts some additional virtualisation and encryption features that may provide performance benefits for business users – particularly if you’re running virtual machines or working with software that uses AES encryption.
Push the price up another $446 to $3,269 and you get a multitouch screen. This limits you to the picture-frame stand only; the adjustable-height stand isn’t available with this configuration. Whether the touchscreen is useful really depends on your usage. If you use touchscreen-optimised software – perhaps for point of sale use or a catalogue – then it’s probably worth it. If the vast majority of your work is typing and browsing the web, that’s probably an extra $446 you don’t
need to spend.
Our test model performed very well as an editorial machine – I used it for writing reviews, wrangling complex spreadsheets, heavy web browsing including watching videos and downloading large photos, plus some programming and photo-editing during production of the PC World DVD. The only time it really struggled was while transcoding a movie trailer, where its performance lagged behind our regular desktops.
I tried to run Mass Effect 2, my least-intensive gaming benchmark. With the M90z’s integrated graphics, it was unplayably slow. If you want to discourage your employees from gaming at work, without complex security policies, that’s just great. If you need to, say, work with 3D models as part of your job, this machine isn’t going to cut it.
You can push the specs up to include 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB hard drive, a multi-card reader and Express Card slot, Bluetooth, a wireless keyboard and mouse (as pictured) and a light sensor for auto-adjusting brightness for a total of $4,181 without multitouch or $4,627 with. However, you can’t move beyond the Core i5-650, and you can’t add dedicated graphics. If you need a high-powered 2D or 3D graphics workstation, or a machine for video processing, you’re going to have to stick to a full-sized desktop.
Altogether, the M90z offers a sturdy and office-friendly form factor with a range of customisation options. As long as your hardware demands aren’t too high, its a nice space-saving alternative to a desktop on
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