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Lenovo ThinkCentre M58p Eco USFF: Green Corporate SFF PC

Rated Gold (read: super Green) by EPEAT, the Ultra SFF M58p is a modern corporate PC from Lenovo. Lean and mean is what we expect, and hopefully quiet, too. A matching Gold (yup, read Green again) monitor, the ThinkVision L1940p LCD monitor is part of our review package.

ThinkCentre M58p
Eco Ultra Small Form Factor
Desktop Computer
ThinkVision L1940p Wide LCD Monitor
Starts at US$869; depends on components selected by buyer. $249

The trend towards smaller PCs is at least as pronounced in the corporate world as it is in the mainstream consumer markets. Nowhere is this more evident than in Lenovo’s current Ultra Small Form Factor models. A few scant years ago, the typical business PC featured a full size ATX or BTX motherboard and was housed in a case with 15″~17″ as one of its dimensions. Today, almost all mainstream PCs are housed in cases no taller than about 13″, and the vast majority use micro-ATX size motherboards. The Lenovo ThinkCentre M58p Eco Ultra Small Form Factor is especially small, with a case that measures 238 x 275 x 80mm. The two larger dimensions barely exceed the size of a standard letter-size sheet of paper.

The M58p Eco USFF is more than just another small PC, however. It happens to be Gold certified by EPEAT, the US environmental assessment system for IT gear, which puts it at the forefront of green technology. This is the key feature which brought SPCR’s attention to the M58p. Our request for a review sample resulted in a complete system being shipped to us, including a ThinkVision L1940p Wide LCD Monitor, also a Gold EPEAT product, as well as a keyboard and mouse. We’ll be assessing the system for its computing performance, for energy consumption, for acoustics, and for thermals in various conditions. In the process, we’ll also examine its mechanical systems.

The standard mouse and optical drive opening should give you a good sense of the small size of the Lenovo M58p USFF. Note AC/DC power brick in the background.
The $69 optional Vertical PC and Monitor Stand II “lets you combine your desktop PC and monitor into one compact, space saving, and flexible solution.”

The Lenovo M58p is marketed to large enterprises as well as education, public sector and mid-market. Most large PC makers equip business desktops with a smaller capacity hard drive, less powerful video card, and fewer bells & whistles than their consumer-oriented counterparts. The most obvious aspects of the business orientation of the M58p are the Windows Vista Business operating system and the absence of any memory card readers. The latter seems like an unnecessary ommission as memory cards have become ubiquitous. Surely, business people also use digital cameras, videocams and other devices that require frequent access to memory cards. A multi-memory card reader is available as an option, however.

Lenovo promotes several aspects of the M58p: Manageability and security for IT managers, performance and productivity for users, and high energy efficiency and green qualities for the environment. All of these aspects are exhaustively covered on the Lenovo Thinkcenter M series web pages. Like other major PC makers, Lenovo offers extensive end-of-life asset recovery and recycling services, which are essential today.

The M58p Ultra Small Form Factor sample we received had the following main components:

– Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 Processor (3.00GHz, 1333MHz, 6MB L2 cache)
– Intel Q45 chipset motherboard w/Integrated Video GMA4500

– 2GB PC3-8500 SDRAM (two sticks)
– Hitachi HDT725025VLA380 250GB 3.5″ SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM)
– Windows Vista Business
– Mechanical Package Eco USFF 1×2, 87 Plus / WW

– 130W External 85% Efficiency AC/DC Power Adapter

– Integrated Gigabit Ethernet

– DVD Recordable drive (w/ DVD Playback & Burner Software)

Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
– Integrated High Definition Audio

Accessories included:

– Lenovo Preferred Pro USB Full Size Keyboard
– Lenovo Optical Wheel Mouse – USB Primax 400 DPI

– DisplayPort to DVI Dongle

This is one configuration from wide range of available options. At time of writing, the sample system came to $914 with standard 3-year warranty/service at the US Lenovo site. The price for the base configuration M58p Eco USFF was $869, the differences being 1GB less RAM, a smaller 160GB hard drive and no optical drive.

The ThinkVision L1940p Wide is a 19″ wide 1440 x 900 LCD Monitor with ergonomic stand designed for office use. A sample was sent by Lenovo as a logical accompaniment for the M58p. Like the M58p Eco USFF, it is rated Gold by EPEAT, which makes it relatively friendly to the environment. The modest size is ho-hum for many PC users now enamored with 22″, 24″ and even bigger wide screen monitors, but its low power consumption, rated at 16W typical and 23W maximum, is compelling to the green user. This monitor is being reviewed separately, but we’ll touch on various aspects of its design here in the context of a companion piece for the M58p.

– 19-inch wide (481 mm) viewable image size
– Native resolution of 1440 x 900
– Internal power with 16 watts / 23 watts power consumption (typical/maximum)
– Up to 30% less power consumption than conventional monitors of same size / resolution
– 50% less mercury content than conventional monitor of the same size and resolution
– Tilt, swivel, and height adjustable stand for optimum viewing comfort
– Pivot for portrait or landscape viewing (graphics card dependent)
– Button for automatic image setup / brightness allows quick and easy monitor setup
– Analog and DVI-D video signal connectors
– Supports High Definition Content Protection (HDCP)
– Compliance with ENERGY STAR 5.0
– Kensington Lock slot for security
– TCO’03 compliance
– EPEAT Gold certified
– GREENGUARD certified
– Direct input selection allows easy switching between two systems
– Matches ThinkPad, ThinkCentre and ThinkStation design
– Wide viewing angles enlarge the workspace for comfortable viewing
– Meets 100 mm VESA standard for mounting
– Detachable base for wall- or arm-mounting (sold separately)


The fanless power adapter and the single exhaust fan visible on the back panel gives rise to hope that this Lenovo could be quiet. Some readers may recall that we had similar hopes about the Dell Studio Hybrid, cited to be 24.2 dBA SPL at the ISO 7779 defined “operator position” (a little over 0.5 meter from the PC). The M58p Eco USFF is rated by Lenovo for almost exactly the same ISO 7779 SPL: 24 dBA, according to the spec sheet on the Lenovo web site. We already know from our experience with the Dell that this SPL is not “SPCR quiet”, but we’ll reserve judgement on the M58p till after the complete analysis.


The system came in a large sturdy box obviously meant to be reused for shipping samples.

This shipping carton is made from some type of corrugated plastic.

Contained within the blue box: The M58p with keyboard, mouse and power supply were very nicely packaged with recycled/recyclable materials. The other carton holds the L1940p Wide monitor.


You’ve already seen the front of the M58p Eco USFF on the previous page. Here are more details from different angles.

A plastic U-shaped stand enables the M58p to be positioned vertically. The back end of the PC rests on the desk, with the front tilted up a bit. It looks a touch unstable, but we never managed to knock it off the stand during our time with it. Note the two USB ports and basic audio in/out on the front panel.

The rear panel is all business: A single 70mm diameter exhaust fan, DC power input jack, VGA port, DisplayPort (the first we’ve seen on a PC), six USB 2.0 ports, ethernet port, and analog audio i/o. A DisplayPort-to-DVI dongle was provided. Absent are any legacy mouse/keyboard, DVI, S/PDIF, eSATA or Firewire ports. On the bottom right side, there is what appears to be a slot for an expansion port. On the far right is a plastic piece which is actually a spring-loaded lever. It is the latch which opens up the clamshell design of the case with a little push to the left. A locking screw, which we already removed, keeps this from occuring accidentally.

The power adapter is not insubstantial at 0.7kg and 16 x 8 x 4cm, rated for 6.66A at 19.5V or 130W. It’s double the size/capacity of typical laptop power adapters.


The mechanical design of the hinged clamshell case is ingenious. Remove the locking screw from the back panel latch, and a little flick gains wide open access to components, which are laid out with tidy logic and no clutter.

The clamshell case design is beautifully executed. The top half holds the optical drive and 3.5″ HDD, both SATA, while the bottom half holds the motherboard that holds all the other components.

Many things stand out here:

  • The motherboard is not mini-ITX. It measures 18 x 20cm, which makes it close to the mini-DTX form factor (17 x 20cm) but not quite identical. It is proprietary.
  • There is a shroud between the fan and the CPU heatsink designed to force the fan’s airflow from the front intake vents through the CPU heatsink before being evacuated. With or without the shroud, the intake side of the fan will be fairly impeded. The HDD mounted on the top side blocks nearly half of the fan, while the path from the intake vents forces the air through the fairly tightly spaced fins of the CPU heatsink.
  • Notebook memory is used, presumably to save on space, because when the clamshell is closed, the components on both the top and bottom halves come together tightly, leaving little space in between them.
  • There is a PCI slot on a built-in riser on the left edge of the motherboard. It will only take half height cards.
  • A spare SATA port and extra fan header are available on the board.

Removing the plastic airflow shroud shows that the heatsink mounting holes are not standard socket 775, the heatsink has serious looking spring loaded bolts and a substantial copper base, and the fan is mounted to the chassis with high quality viobration damping elastopolymer plugs. Note the fins on the northbridge heatsink: Half of them are very short to accommodate top components when the case is closed.
The spring and sliding locking mechanism is visible on the front edge.
The top half holds both optical and hard drives. The HDD feels sloppily mounted, but it’s actually not possible to dislodge without deliberately squeezing the blue side tabs towards each other. Then the locking mechanism on the side rails release easily and the drive can be removed. Very clever.

The HDD is held to the rails with metal pins that have vibration damping sleeves. No tools are required to remove the drive. The whole HDD assembly is intelligently designed, and provides a degree of intentional “decoupling”, presumably to reduce vibrational noise. When the case is closed, the front of the hard drive is very close to the front intake vent, and the airflow through that vent helps keep the drive cool.

The fan shroud squeezes the air through the CPU fins. It is much narrower than the area of the fan blades, which will result in increased turbulence noise. Still, it’s a reasonable solution for CPU cooling in the tight space.

The mechanical design of the M58p Eco USFF shows a high level of intelligent system engineering. These parts were not just cobbled together, but carefully designed and integrated to make a single efficiently working whole. It’s impressive.


The monitor came with both DVI and analog signal cables, AC cord, printed manual, support CD, and a clever cable hiding clip-on cover. It has a no-nonsense look with nice visual appeal.

The “waved” look of the OSD controls on the bottom left of the bezel is about the only deviation from no-nonsense style in this monitor.

The multi-pivot stand is beautifully functional, with a huge 4.5″ height adjustment range, ~35° up/down tilt range, and ~120° left/right rotation arc. Note the cables hidden and guided behind the plastic cover that clips to the back of the stand.

The overall performance of the monitor is very good, sharp, vivid, and without any visible odd artifacts or lags in motion for video playback. Corner to corner sharpness and color is consistent and even. There are several different application profiles, a feature that’s not unusual in LCD monitors. The review sample made no audible or measureable noise of any kind during the weeks of testing and use. All in all, it’s a fine monitor, although its $249 price tag is a little steep for the screen size in the day and age.

One quality makes it shine brighter than the screen: It’s has the lowest power consumption of any monitor we’ve examined.

With a completely white screen, one full of vivid colors or fast, colorful motion, the maximum AC power drawn by the L1940p monitor was only 19W. This was at full brightness, using the automatic picture adjustment feature. Although the visual performance was excellent, it was judged to be too bright for most users, certainly for me. When turned down to 75%, where the screen was still bright but not so much that it would strain the eyes over long use, the power consumption dropped to a mere 13.5W. At 50% brightness, it was still quite usable, and power dropped to just 10.2W. Turning the brightness to minimum made the screen too dim, although some would probably still find it usable, and the power dropped to 8.8W. These miserly power figures alone are enough to put the L1940p monitor on the top of the want list for many green-conscious PC users.


When the power button is pressed, the M58p starts with a couple-second burst of whooshing sound from the fan, which then slows to a much more moderate level. With the Windows Vista Business 32-bit OS, the system feels speedy and responsive with all the usual tasks most people undertake on a PC: Web browsing, email, creating and examining office documents, viewing and editing photos, downloading files, listening and viewing music/video.

The optical drive is typical; it can get quite loud when accessing data at high speed, but the maximum speed can be limited using software. The included keyboard feels a bit mushy, but the keys have a soft muted sound that quiet seekers would probably welcome. The center wheel optical mouse feels and behaves quite conventionally.

How does it sound? It is a bit noisier than the specified 24 dBA@1m SPL would suggest. The subjective impression is that the fan seems to be running faster that it needs to, there is some vibration from the HDD, and some higher pitched tonal elements make the overall noise signature more obtrusive than it has to be.

Before we delve further into the acoustics, let’s test this PC for performance and value.


Measurement and Analysis Tools

Benchmarking Particulars

  • Eset NOD32: in-depth virus scan of a folder containing 32
    files of varying size with of them being file archives.
  • WinRAR: archive creation with a folder containing 68 files of varing size
    (less than 50MB).
  • iTunes: conversion of a MP3 file to AAC
  • TMPGEnc Xpress: encoding an XVID AVI file to VC-1 (1280×720, 30fps, 20mbps)

SpeedStep was enabled, and the following features/services were disabled during
testing to prevent spikes in CPU/HDD usage that are typical of fresh Vista installations:

  • Windows Sidebar
  • Indexing
  • Superfetch

Our main test procedure is designed to determine the overall system power
consumption at various states (measured using a Seasonic Power Angel), and to
test the integrated graphics’ proficiency at playing high definition video.
Standard HD-DVD and Blu Ray discs can be encoded in three different codecs: MPEG-2, H.264 / AVC and VC-1. MPEG-2 has been around for years
and is not demanding on modern system resources. H.264 and VC-1 encoded videos,
on the other hand, are extremely stressful due to the complexity of their
compression schemes and will not play smoothly (or at all) on slower PCs,
especially those with antiquated video subsystems.

We use a variety of H.264/VC-1 clips encoded for playback on the PC. The clips
are played with PowerDVD 8 and a CPU usage graph is created by the Windows Task
Manger for analysis to determine the approximate mean and peak CPU usage. High
CPU usage is indicative of poor video decoding ability on the part of the integrated
graphics subsystem. If the video (and / or audio) skips or freezes, we conclude
the board’s IGP (in conjunction with the processor) is inadequate to decompress
the clip properly.

Video Test Suite

1080p | 24fps | ~10mbps
Rush Hour 3 Trailer 1
is encoded in H.264 with Apple Quicktime.
The Quicktime Alternative 1.81 codec was used to make it playable in


1080p | 24fps | ~7.5mbps
Coral Reef Adventure trailer
is encoded in VC-1 using the
WMV3 codec (commonly recognized by the moniker, “HD WMV”).


720p | 60fps | ~12mbps
Dark Knight: Dark Knight Trailer 3 is a 720p clip encoded in H.264 inside an Apple Quicktime container.


1920×1080 | 24fps | ~19mbps
VC-1: Drag Race is a recording of a scene from
network television re-encoded with TMPGEnc using the WVC1 codec.



The M58p was able to play all the video clips in our test suite with modest CPU usage. The electrical power consumption was a bit higher than expected with Prime95. Idle system power was a modest but not record-breaking 41W at the wall outlet.

Lenovo M58p Eco USFF
Test State
System Power
Sleep (S3)
Rush Hour
Coral Reef
Dark Knight
Drag Race
core: 87°C
hard drive: 40°C
Note: Neither Furmark nor ATITool would run properly on this system.

With Prime95 running over 15 minutes, the core temperatures were quite high, and the exhaust air very warm to touch. The power adapater also became quite warm. No errors were recorded, however, so the system stayed stable enough.

36 sec.
179 sec
176 sec
262 sec
310 sec
*Boot-up Time – start button to when the round Vista logo

CPU-centric performance was speedy, as expected with the Intel E8400 processor. Boot time was quite quick.

It’s interesting to compare our power conusmption results with Lenovo’s data. Two major difference exisit in Lenovoi’s test data and ours: Lenovo does not specify the load used to determine maximum power, and the system configuration may not be identical to our sample.

Lenovo’s specs indicate lower power draw across the board, except when turned off.


We have very few products that are close comparatives to the M58p. Business PCs are not our usual stock and trade; however, there are two small systems we tested recently. The Dell Studio Hybrid
is geared more to the consumer market and uses notebook components. Our DIY mini-ITX System is a small desktop PC an enthusiast could build from retail components. Both would normally be positioned on the desk close to the user.

Dell Studio Hybrid

Price: ~$800

Comparative mini-ITX System:

Price: ~$700

Note that the mini-ITX system was not actually built into the Thermaltake Lanbox, which is a large shoebox style SFF case. The components were put together on an open test bench platform for actual testing. The case was included in the component list to make a complete system.

This is not to suggest that a breadbox style DIY PC or the Dell Studio Hybrid are directly competitive with the Lenovo M58p. Neither of these PCs are specifically for business, and they lack the management features that would be useful to IT managers. However, they are small, relatively energy efficient PCs recently reviewed by SPCR.

Benchmarks Comparison
Lenovo M58p Eco USFF
Dell Studio Hybrid
E7200 / DG45FC
CPU Clock
3.0 Ghz
2.13 Ghz
2.53 Ghz
36 sec.
58 sec.
48 sec.
Idle Power
179 sec
301 sec
319 sec
176 sec
274 sec
248 sec
262 sec
312 sec
242 sec
310 sec
468 sec
380 sec
*Boot – time from start button to when the round Vista logo

Not surprisingly, the Lenovo is substantially quicker than either of our two comparatives. It has the fastest clocked CPU, and the fastest hard drive; the others employed slower 5400rpm laptop drives. It also draws more power, but because it is quicker, the total power consumed in the completion of each task is a bit lower. For example, the NOD32 benchmark required 3.23 kWh on the Lenovo, a bit less than the 3.34 kWh on the Dell or 3.9875 kWh on the E7200 system.


Much of the listening was done in a quiet 20′ x 10′ room with 8′ ceiling where ambient conditions were 20 dBA and 23°C. Acoustic testing was done mostly in the anechoic chamber, where the ambient level was 10~11 dBA and the temperature was 23°C. Idle measurements were taken 5~15 minutes after boot or reboot, whenever none of the temperatures had changed for several minutes. Load measurements were taken after >20 minutes of Prime95.

Here are the measurements from the anechoic chamber on our sample.

Acoustics: Lenovo M58p Eco USFF
Test State
System Power

Lenovo’s specified ISO 7779 user position SPL (at a distance of about 0.6 meters) is 24 dBA, which would be audibly quieter than the 27 dBA we measured. Another 0.4 meter distance reduced the SPL to just 21 dBA, but a small PC like the M58p Eco USFF will be put on the desk next to the monitor, which is usually much closer, about where ISO 7779 specifies.

The sound is not loud but it has complex tonalities which can be annoying. The spikes at 450Hz, 1.8kHz and 3.5kHz in the spectrum response below, taken from 0.6m about 45° left of the front, indicate some of these tonalities. The much lower level spikes at around 10kHz may also be audible.

Some of these tonal peaks were caused by the hard drive which made the top panel vibrate. Pressing firmly on the top panel damped the vibrations and elminated much of the higher frequency tones, making the overall sound less intrusive. So the mechanically decoupled mounting of the hard drive is not quite effective enough to stop its vibrations from affecting the overall acoustics. A 15-lb stack of magazines and books atop the the Lenovo had an acoustic effect similar to my hand. The $69 optional Vertical PC and Monitor Stand II shown on the first page of this article might reduce the perceived noise, with the monitor blocking the PC. The stand looks like it clamps the chassis, which could also have positive vibration damping effects.

At full load, the fan sped up to a fairly high speed, and the system became too loud to be considered quiet, at least not at 0.6m distance. But even at 1m distance, it was a plainly audible, intrusive 27 dBA. Note the peaks at 250Hz, 4~500Hz, 1kHz, and 1.8kHz.


The overall sonic signature of the Lenovo was not dissimilar to the Dell Studio Hybrid: A complex tonal sound rather than the preferred smooth broadband “whoosh” which is so much less intrusive.

The Asus Eee Box B202 is a low power net box not capable of 1080p HD video reproduction, and smaller than the Lenovo. However, newer models B204 / B206 incorporate a 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3400 GPU for HD video capability in the same chassis and should have similar acoustics.

The Anitec SPCR-certified SilenT3 was also added to the comparison mix. This is a system with capabilities similar to the Dell, including HD video playback. In size, it’s a touch bigger than the Lenovo.

Mini System Acoustics: SPL at ISO 7779 User Position (0.6m)
Lenovo M58p Eco USFF
27 dBA
32 dBA
26 dBA
35 dBA
21 dBA
21 dBA
24 dBA

The M58p Eco USFF does not fare well in the comparison, falling in last place with the Dell.


These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality,
digital recording system
inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve
listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original
WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during
the review. Most of the recordings listed below were made with the mic at 1m distance.

Note that the Lenovo was recorded at 0.6m as well. This is the ISO 7779 user position distance, and it is more realistic than the 1m distance for small PCs which are almost always placed close to the monitor. For now, the Lenovo is the only product we have recordings for at 0.6m. We’ll be adding 0.6m recordings to all small PCs in future.

For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient
level is just barely audible, then don’t change the volume setting again while
comparing all the sound files.

Comparable System sound files:

  • Asus
    Eee Box B202 at idle, 18 dBA@1m and 14 dBA@1m (behind LCD monitor)
    — The recording of the Eee Box was made with the unit at idle, and the microphone
    1m away, first on a table in the hemi-anechoic chamber, and then mounted on
    the back of an LCD monitor, and the microphone 1m away from the front of the
    monitor. It starts with the room ambient, followed by the product’s noise. The acoustics of the Eee Box barely changes with load, which is why only idle noise was recorded; there’s virtually no audible difference at full load.


The Lenovo ThinkCenter M58p Eco USFF is a solid corporate/enterprise oriented PC. The Gold EPEAT rating assures us that its production and distribution processes and materials are as ecological as any computer maker can employ today. This does not automatically mean it has the lowest energy profile; it does mean the unit meets Energy Star’s current specification for an energy efficient PC of its class. (For more details, please see the Eco PC Review article on EPEAT.)

Power draw of 41W AC at idle by today’s standards is very good, but not really exceptional, and the same can be said about the 97W under maximum load. It’s a bit surprising that the E8400 is the lowest price CPU offered for this system. A less costly processor in the E6000 or E7000 series would have done just as well; the E8400 is more or less overkill for most functions asked of a typical office PC. It’s also surprising that a 2.5″ 5400RPM drive is not an option for lower noise and power consumption, nor a solid state drive with even more of the acoustic and power advantages. While SSDs are still costly compared to HDDs, a low capacity model would be perfectly acceptable in corporate settings where networked servers with high storage capacity are commonplace.

The mechanical design of the Lenovo USFF case shows a high level of intelligent system engineering. The efficient integration of components is impressive. Still the design is let down acoustically by two details:

  • The HDD mounting causes too much of its vibration to get into the chassis, which makes for a complex, intrusive sonic signature. A 2.5″ drive would be quieter and an SSD would be silent.
  • The fan appears to have a typical (annoying) ball-bearing sound and it is louder than most silent PC enthusiasts would like. (For the inveterate modder, it’s important to note that this is a 70x25mm PWM, a not common type of fan.)

Keep in mind the intended purpose of the system, however — a corporate space rather than a quiet home. The Lenovo M59p Eco USFF emits a level of noise low enough to be masked by the ambient noise in almost any corporate office.

The price of the system seems a bit high, but a comparably equipped Gold EPEAT corporate system from Dell, the OptiPlex 760 Ultra Slim Form Factor, is priced almost exactly the same. It would appear that one pays more for a very small corporate machine with extensive IT support functions and longer service warranty.

Finally, the accompanying ThinkVision L1940p is an exceptionally energy efficient LCD monitor with very good overall performance. The ~13W power consumption measured at the wall is quite simply the lowest we’ve measured for any monitor. It may be a small monitor by current standards, but a >20″ monitor is not ideal or necessary for every application. This one is a green power gem.

Our thanks to Lenovo for the review samples.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
Dell Studio Hybrid
Asus Eee Box B202: An Atom-based mini PC

Hiper Media Center PC HMC-2K53A-A3

Anitec’s SPCR-certified SilenT3 PC

* * *

this article in the SPCR forums.

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