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Lenovo ThinkCentre M92z All-In-One Desktop PC

The functionally styled Lenovo ThinCentre M92z is a very capable all-in-one desktop PC with a quad core Ivy Bridge processor, Dolby speakers, a fully adjustable stand, and a 23″ 1080p IPS screen. The display is also touch-capable but it frankly doesn’t add a lot to the experience, though perhaps an upgrade to Windows 8 could change this.

October 29, 2012 by Lawrence Lee

Product Lenovo ThinkCentre M92z (3311B3U)
All-in-one Desktop PC
Manufacturer Lenovo
Street Price US$799 (20 inch base model) US$949 (23 inch base model) US$1099 (23 inch touchscreen base model)
US$1717 (sample configuration)

The advantages of the all-in-one PC are obvious. Transplanting the internals of a traditional desktop computer into the back of a monitor makes things more efficient by freeing up space and reducing cable clutter. The usual downside is a decline in upgradeability and serviceability, and in the past, it meant compromising on hardware in order to work within the thermal restrictions created by physical limitations. Manufacturers commonly used slower, laptop hardware to make it work but thanks to the superb energy efficiency of Intel’s Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge platforms, this isn’t as much of a problem today. Intel’s integrated graphics chips have also made low-end discrete cards redundant.

Efficiency is key in business environments so it makes sense that all-in-ones should be just as popular or more, in the workplace than in homes. Lenovo obviously has a great pedigree in this space having acquired IBM’s personal computer division in 2005. The deal made Lenovo a worldwide name and they’ve done fairly well to keep the legacy alive, continuing the ThinkPad and ThinkCentre line of PCs. The ThinkCentre M92z is their latest all-in-one PC, using Intel’s Q77 chipset which supports Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, and various virtualization and management technologies popular with IT professionals. A 3-year on-site warranty also comes standard with the M92z.

Lenovo ThinkCentre M92z (3311): Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
Configuration
Base Model
Sample Configuration
Processor
Intel Core i5-3470T
(2.9 GHz, 3MB Cache)
Intel Core i7-3770S
(3.1 GHz, 6MB Cache)
Form Factor
23″ All In One Multi-touch (1920 x 1080)
Graphics
Integrated
Memory
1x4GB PC3-12800
2x4GB PC3-12800
Hard Drive
500GB 7200rpm SATA
1TB 7200rpm SATA
Optical Drive
Slim DVD
Card Reader
No
Integrated
Network Connectivity
Bluetooth 4.0, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n
Peripherals
Integrated webcam and speakers
Keyboard & Mouse
USB full-size
Lenovo Ultra Slim Plus Wireless
Operating System
Windows 7 Professional 64
Warranty
3/3 year on-site
Price
US$1,099
US$1,717
Note: Component upgrades over the base configuration in bold.

The system is offered in three basic models with various upgrades and add-ons. There’s a 20 inch and 23 inch variant starting at US$799 and US$949 respectively, both with dual core processors. Our sample is a souped up version of the top model which features a 23 inch touch screen and a low power quad core Ivy Bridge chip. The base price is US$1,099 but our configuration has been upgraded with a beefier Core i7 CPU, an extra 4GB of RAM, an additional 500GB of storage, a memory card reader, and a wireless keyboard and mouse, bringing up the total to a hefty US$1,717 on Lenovo’s website.

Other notable options include a 2.5 inch 64GB mSATA SSD for $225, an ambient light sensor for $30, and $15 for an Express Card slot. By default, the machine is configured with an adjustable monitor-style stand but you can save $15 by selecting a standard frame stand that essentially props the machine up at various angles.


Our sample was packed very well with generous amounts of foam protecting the unit’s corners.


The ThinkCentre M92z.

As ThinkCentres are Lenovo’s business line of PCs, they’ve never been particularly attractive. The M92z is very plain-looking with a plastic housing and slightly rounded corners. Lenovo obviously decided to keep the design simple, making it resemble just a standard LCD monitor except for the enlarged borders and speaker grill running along the bottom. All the PC goodness of course, is packed into the back. While it has a dull aesthetic, it is a bit of a premium model, having 1080p IPS screen and fully adjustable stand.

FRONT & ACCESSORIES

The Lenovo ThinkCentre M92z’s total dimensions with the monitor stand are 44.7 x 25.4 x 56.8 cm or 17.6 x 10.0 x 22.4 inches (H x D x L) with a weight of 12.8 kg or 28.1 lb. Integrated into the frame are a set of Dolby speakers, and a 2.0 megapixel webcam. Our sample also came bundled with a wireless keyboard and mouse.


The screen is a 23 inch 1920 x 1080 IPS panel. As it also has a touch interface, there’s a small frame around the edge so users can more easily press along the edge.


The power button and on-screen menu controls are located on the bottom right of the panel. Dual Dolby speakers are positioned underneath the display.


A 2.0 megapixel webcam with a sliding cover is positioned at the top/center next to the mic and the space for an optional ambient light sensor.


The keyboard has a fairly standard layout except the Prt Scr key being in the bottom row, sandwiched between the right ALT and CTRL keys.


It utilizes a chiclet style with shallow keys, similar to the one found on the Edge series of laptops.


The mouse has a comfortable, uniform shape with gentle contours. It’s quite small though, only about 3 inches long and weighing approximately 100 grams.


Opening the mouse cover is a very satisfying experience as the mechanism is quite springy. The USB dongle for the wireless combo is tucked inside for convenience.

SIDES, BACK & STAND

There are no inputs directly on the side, bottom or front of the M92z; instead they hidden from view slightly, sacrificing convenience for aesthetics. The system is mounted on a thick stand with the same range of adjustments you’d find on a high-end monitor.


Flush against the right side are physical volume buttons. A little further up and behind is a hidden tray-loading DVD writer.


The left side is home to a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a headphone and microphone jack and a memory card slot. It’s tough to find these ports sight unseen as they’re located behind the panel.


At the back on the left side is a standard power connector and Kensignton lock port. There are also optional slots available for PS/2 and serial ports not used in our configuration. The RJ45 jack is poorly located at the very center in front of the stand. When an ethernet cable is plugged in, the stand presses against it unless the screen is tilted up by a few degrees.


Toward the right there are DisplayPort input and outputs and four USB 2.0 connectors.


The system’s exhaust port is at the top. A healthy section of the chassis has been hollowed out to give the air somewhere to go and this also creates a lip to make it easier to physically pick up the machine.

Supporting the panel is a thick, cylindrical stand. There’s a simple release mechanism underneath the junction.


Attached to the stand is a plastic hook for typing up cables and blue plastic key for locking the height adjustment, though it only works at minimum height. The stand also tilts up and down and swivels from side to side.

INTERIOR

An important aspect to consider when choosing an office PC is how convenient the machine is to service. Like many of Lenovo’s standard desktop PCs, the M92z opens up rather easily without any tools, giving users access to the internal guts of the system.


All you have to do is pull the two release mechanisms at the bottom outward and lift to open the back cover.


The cover is attached with a series of plastic hooks running along the edge.


Inside is a slim optical drive, a desktop hard drive, an embedded power supply (no external brick) and a laptop style motherboard with a pair of DDR3 SODIMMs and a low profile heatpipe cooling system.


The hard drive is secured with a easily removable plastic mount with rubber grommets. Our sample was equipped with a 7200 RPM Seagate, the Barracuda 1TB (ST1000DM003).


The power supply is an 80 Plus Bronze unit with a maximum output of 150W. It’s plenty as our configuration has a low power Ivy Bridge chip and uses integrated graphics.


Clamped onto the processor is a two heatpipe cooler with a very dense stack of fins positioned in front of a blower fan that exhausts out the top of the machine.


In addition to the drives, the memory, wireless NIC, and even CPU appear to be easily replaceable if the desire arises.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Software and Measurement/Analysis Tools:


Device listing.

Testing Procedures

If available, the latest BIOS is installed prior to testing. Certain services/features
like Indexing, Superfetch, System Restore, and Windows Defender are disabled
to prevent them from causing spikes in CPU/HDD usage. We also make note if energy
saving features like Cool’n’Quiet/SpeedStep or S3 suspend-to-RAM do not function
properly.

Our test is a simple one, determine the overall AC power consumption, noise level, and heat output of the product
at various states. To stress the CPU, we
use either Prime95 (large FFTs setting) or CPUBurn depending on which produces
higher system power consumption. To stress the GPU, we use FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.

TEST RESULTS

Thermals, Power Consumption & Noise

System Measurements
System State
Temps
Power (AC)
SPL @0.6m†
CPU
HDD
Ext*
Off
N/A
1W
N/A
Sleep (S3)
N/A
2W
N/A
Idle
(screen off)
N/A
24W
19 dBA
Idle (max. brightness)
N/A
48W
19 dBA
Idle (typ. Brightness)
35°C
34°C
32°C
39W
19 dBA
H.264 Playback
40°C
36°C
33°C
49W
19 dBA
TMPGEnc Encoding
75°C
39°C
52°C
86W
20~21 dBA
CPU Load
80°C
39°C
52°C
109W
28 dBA
CPU + GPU Load
85°C
39°C
52°C
130W
28 dBA
Ambient: 20°C, 10~11 dBA.
*External temperature measured using an IR thermometer pointed at the hottest portion of the external chassis (near the center of the exhaust port).
We measure SPL at 0.6m for all devices meant to be used atop a desk, as it is more realistic a distance than the usual 1m. It also corresponds to the “seated user SPL” distance specified in the computer noise measurement standard ISO 7779.

Considering the M92z also has to power a 23 inch 1080p monitor, it’s a very energy efficient system, idling at 39W and using a maximum of 130W on full synthetic GPU and GPU load. As the system consumes 24W when the screen is disabled, at typical brightness, the monitor uses about 15W.

The system runs fairly cool when it’s not being heavily taxed. Running Prime95 pushed the CPU to 80°C and adding FurMark to the load brought it up to 85°C. Video encoding with TMPGEnc is a more realistic stress test, but even then, 75°C is a bit toasty. That being said, the CPU never throttled during any of our tests.

The noise level of machine is excellent, measuring only 19 dBA@0.6m (typical seated user distance as per ISO 7779). TMPGEnc only increased the SPL by 1~2 dB. Only synthetic loads would make the system significantly louder. As the display sits between the machine’s only fan, much of the noise produced is blocked from the user.


The fan does has some tonal qualities, and is a bit clicky, but these were only noticeable from the back of the machine. Sitting in front, it wasn’t very offensive though not super smooth, either. We got used to it after a few minutes of operation and it sort of blended away into the background.

PERFORMANCE

CPU & GPU

Our configuration features an i7-3770S, a low power version of the i7-3770K which we reviewed earlier this year. It has a lower TDP (65W vs. 77W) and includes virtualization and security features not found on the “K” series (vPro, VT-d, Intel Trusted Execution Technology), but it’s clocked at 3.1 GHz instead of 3.5 GHz, though the maximum Turbo Boost speed is the same at 3.9 GHz. On paper, the 3770S should be slower in multi-threaded workloads but according to CPU-Z, it was clocked at 3.5 GHz throughout our synthetic load testing. So performance-wise, the two chips are almost identical.

The integrated HD 4000 graphics is also the same. Its 3D performance is similar to that of an entry level graphics card like the Radeon HD 5450, so don’t expect much in the way of gaming performance. It is very adept at rendering high definition video though.

Hard Drive


HD Tune Read benchmark result.

In CrystalDiskMark, the M92z’s Barracuda 1TB hard drive scored results similar to the WD Red 3TB (one of the faster drives we’ve tested despite it running at 5,400 RPM). While this is fairly quick for a mechanical hard drive, it’s not nearly as snappy as an SSD. Lenovo does offer the option for one, but it’s an extra US$220 for only 64GB.

Boot performance was surprisingly good for a hard drive. There isn’t much delay in the pre-O/S process with the “Starting Windows” screen appearing 10.8 seconds after engaging the power button. It took about 49 seconds in total until we heard the Windows startup chime ringing out.

USB 3.0


HD Tune Read benchmark result.

According to the specifications, our USB 3.0 dock is limited to 5 Gbps but most of the controllers we’ve tested it with fail to achieve even half of that figure despite using a SandForce drive (Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB) and an easily compressible data set. The Intel controller on the M92z is native to the Q77 chipset and it performs on par with the best we’ve encountered, the VIA VL800 controller on the Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H.

SOFTWARE

Like previous Lenovo systems we’ve reviewed, the M92z is packed with pre-installed software, though most of it consists of Lenovo system management utilities. There is some third party bloatware as well: Adobe Reader/Air, Corel Burn Now and DVD MovieFactory, Evernote, and trial versions of Office 2010 and Norton Internet Security. On the initial boot-up, the total used size of the operating system partition was already ~65GB.


HD Tune Read benchmark result.

Of the Lenovo software included only a couple of utilities really caught our eye. One app that got our attention was “AutoLock” a simple program that uses the webcam and facial recognition to put on the Windows lock screen when you walk away after a predetermined amount of time.

“SimpleTap” is an touch UI that works like a primitive version of Windows 8’s Metro/Modern UI. Clicking on the shortcut to SimpleTap (a red button on the taskbar) takes you into Android/iOS style home screen with shortcuts to various applications or web pages. You can hold and drag icons to move their position, swipe left and right to get to more home screens

The problem is all of the apps and pages you can launch are simply modified versions of what you would see running in vanilla Windows 7. Many of the shortcuts, like YouTube for example, simply takes the desktop browser version of the site and puts it in full screen with basic navigation controls at the top.

There are some original Lenovo apps as well but they’re not terribly impressive. Take Lenovo Music, a music player with everything you’d expect, that have like Cover Flow, playlists, search ability, but when you actually play a song, it launches Windows Media Player in a new window, and exposes the taskbar in the process, effectively breaking out of SimpleTap and reminding you that plain old Windows is available in the background.

PERIPHERALS

While the physical hardware inside a PC determines the speed, responsiveness, energy efficiency and noise of an all-in-one PC, the peripherals bundled with the unit are equally important as they are the interfaces with which the user interacts with the system. Some of these things like the mouse and keyboard are easily replaced, but if you also have to purchase separate webcam and/or speakers, it makes the all-in-one form factor somewhat superfluous.

Screen

Naturally, the most important peripheral is the screen — it can tint your entire experience regardless of the sophistication of the gear sitting behind it. The M92z’s 23 inch 1920 x 1080 panel is somewhat disappointing. Everything looks a bit washed out as if an infinitesimally thin sheet of white paper was placed over the surface. If it wasn’t for the incredible viewing angles, we wouldn’t have realized it was an IPS panel. If you’re in mixed company, be aware that NSFW content can be viewed without distortion even at very acute angles. The display also has a fairly good level of brightness but the added luminosity amplifies the screen’s under-saturation. It would be a shame if this is a side-effect or compromise for having a touch interface incorporated into the screen, especially as touch doesn’t really add to the overall experience in our opinion.

On a unit like the M92z where the user will be sitting about two feet from the screen, touch just doesn’t make sense. It’s very difficult to make accurate touches on such a large display that’s also at an arm’s length distance away, especially compared to a 7 to 10 inch tablet that’s resting on your lap. Touch on Windows 7 is also not very functional, that is it doesn’t make any task easier to perform than using a mouse and/or keyboard, except perhaps touchscreen gaming, drawing/painting, and point-of-sale.

Webcam

The webcam is serviceable and even a step-up if you’re used to the grainy 0.3 megapixel shooters found on budget netbooks and laptops. The color is a bit off, cooler than normal, perhaps to offset the traditionally warm lighting commonly found indoors. Performance in poor lighting isn’t great but we appreciate that it doesn’t try to correct for this by pumping up the ISO and artificially increasing the brightness of the image to create an ugly, pixelated mess. If you’re paranoid, there’s also a manual shutter you can use to physically block the camera. We were neither impressed or disappointed by the camera itself but we were surprised that Skype wasn’t pre-installed. If there was one piece of software that should be pre-loaded into an all-in-one PC, Skype would be it.

Speakers

Though “ThinkCentre” is Lenovo’s business line, the speakers aren’t an afterthought like they are in most all-in-ones or desktop bundles. They aren’t terribly large, located along the bottom of the screen, but the M92z is equipped with Dolby Advanced sound enhancement. The sound quality is surprisingly good, especially the bass, something very rare for any set of integrated speakers. It doesn’t distort until the volume is pumped up very high and though it’s still a bit flat compared to a value set of desktop 2.0/2.1 speakers, it’s probably good enough for most users.

Keyboard/Mouse

The wireless keyboard and mouse we received with our sample are unremarkable. The keyboard feels quite solid but we wish there was more travel — the keys aren’t spongy but they don’t spring back up to attention with as much confidence as we would like. The placement of the Prt Scr key between the right ALT and CTRL keys was also disorienting but to be fair this is used a lot more by reviewers than regular users. The mouse is undersized but is otherwise inoffensive, being fairly light and having generic contours. Like the keyboard, the buttons and scroll wheel aren’t very quiet — they’re quite clicky.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

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.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. 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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M92z (3311B3U) is an excellent all-in-one PC with most of the fundamental qualities we look for. The hardware inside packs more than enough punch for most users including a blistering Ivy Bridge processor. Our only real performance complaint is the lack of an SSD or rather an affordable SSD option. A 64GB drive for an additional US$220 is ridiculous considering you can get twice as much capacity for half the price on the open market. Still its overall appeals hits home for the all-in-one audience, those without need for loads of storage and discrete graphics.

The choice of integrated graphics might not be popular but it has its benefits. Having a low wattage CPU and no graphics card gives the M92z excellent energy efficiency. The lack of the discrete GPU also means the machine runs cooler and doesn’t require an extra fan. The system runs very quiet under normal conditions and only exceeds 20~21 dBA@0.6m when placed under synthetic load.

The M92z is a very bland looking machine with a plastic exterior but as ThinkCentres are marketed as business PCs it’s to be expected. The fully adjustable stand is a delightful feature that separates it from many all-in-one models. However, our favorite aspect of the unit is how easy it is to service. Taking apart the back cover is fairly effortless, requiring no tools, and most of the major components inside can be replaced and/or upgraded without much fuss. There are plenty of connectivity options too, including Bluetooth, WiFi, and DisplayPort in and out.

To our surprise, the M92z has a decent set of speakers that we feel is more than acceptable for most users. For an integrated set, they’re excellent, easily the best we’ve heard thus far. The screen on the otherhand is a disappointment considering it’s an IPS panel. The 23 inch, 1920 x 1080 display has good brightness and fabulous viewing angles, but its palette seems dull and washed out. We’d be interested to know if the non-touch version of the panel has the same issue; if not it would be a far preferable model as touch doesn’t add a lot to the overall experience.

Windows 8 would probably serve the M92z much better in this regard, but we really don’t see touch in general gaining much traction on the traditional desktop as we know it today. For the tasks that most desktop users perform on a day-to-day basic, using the screen rather than the mouse and keyboard is unintuitive, inconvenient, and physically tiring. It’s a chore having to constantly reach out two feet in front of you, or holding your arm in that general position for long stretches, especially for the stereotypical limp-wristed long-term computer user with shoulder muscles atrophied from years of disuse. Until desktops become large slabs that sit horizontally at a low angle so you don’t have to fight gravity every time you interact with the system, touch just doesn’t make sense outside of mobile devices.

Our thanks to Lenovo
for the ThinkCentre M92z 3311B3U All-In-One Desktop PC sample.

* * *

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* * *

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