Introducing the Lenovo ThinkCentre M92 Tiny

It's hard not to notice the direction computing is going, both in the enterprise and at home. Notebooks are getting thinner and lighter, tablets are taking off, and on desktops Mini-ITX is becoming less of a niche form factor and more of a legitimate, mainstream option. As CPU and GPU power consumption is gradually brought in line and more features are integrated directly into the chipset, we simply have less of a need for big desktops capable of dissipating mountains of heat and supporting multiple expansion cards.

Part and parcel with this, we've had a chance to check out two small form factor systems from Puget Systems and a completely fanless kiosk-style system from Logic Supply, and today we have on hand from Lenovo their ThinkCentre M92 Tiny. Ours is the entry-level configuration, and Lenovo packs a healthy amount of flexibility into a small chassis along with a couple of wrinkles of their own. Did they get the balance right with the M92, though, or were the wrong compromises made?

Optical drives are becoming less and less relevant, and that's made abundantly clear just by the removable "cage" that ships mounted to the M92 Tiny. To actually use the DVD writer you need to connect a small external USB cable, but the entire brace is easy enough to remove. That said, the brace also adds VESA mounts to the M92, making it potentially ideal for kiosk duty (much like Logic Supply's LGX AG150), and the system runs below the noise floor of my sound meter even under load. There's a lot to like about the design, but I feel like there are some real omissions here, too.

Lenovo ThinkCentre M92 Tiny Specifications
Chassis Lenovo Custom
Processor Intel Core i5-3470T
(2x2.9GHz + HTT, 22nm, Turbo to 3.6GHz, 3MB L3, 35W)
Motherboard Custom Q77
Memory 1x4GB Samsung DDR3-1600
Graphics Intel HD 2500 Graphics (650-1100MHz, 6 EUs)
Hard Drive(s) Western Digital Scorpio Blue 500GB 5400-RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) Removable DVD+/-RW Drive
Power Supply 65W External PSU
Networking Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC662
Headphone and mic jacks
Front Side 2x USB 3.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Top -
Back Side AC adaptor
2x USB 3.0
Ethernet jack
USB 2.0
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Extras Removable VESA/ODD cage
Warranty 3-year
Pricing Starting at $699

The M92 is a capable machine, but the Intel Core i5-3470T strikes me as being a very unusual choice. This is a dual core Ivy Bridge processor with a 35-watt TDP, and it's presently the only Ivy Bridge dual core desktop processor available. It's certainly capable enough, but it's basically an i7-3520M with a worse IGP and less L3 cache. I feel like Lenovo should've opted for a mobile CPU; the i5-3470T is definitely a money saver, but at a $699 starting price for what are really pretty skint system specs, I'd almost rather see an Intel Core i7-3612QM.

Those skint specs extend to just 4GB of DDR3, a slow 5400-RPM mechanical hard drive, and no wireless connectivity of any kind. These can all be upgraded, mind you, but you'll have to pay for each one. The system itself is next to impossible to actually dismantle, too, so you're stuck ordering these upgrades when you order the system. When we're starting at $699 we should have at least wireless ethernet and Bluetooth standard, especially given just how small and portable the M92 really is.

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  • Crono - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    I think the Dustin hit the nail on the head with the conclusion. The size and most of the specs are fine.

    But for me the biggest flaw with this system is the mechanical drive instead of an SSD.
    I would expect an SSD even in a lower priced computer, but for $699? Flash storage is a must.
  • Samus - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Agreed. With the price of 128GB SSD's (<$100 retail) and the target audience for this machine (who will generally use only 40-60GB of storage) then pouring salt on the wound even further by considering the 500GB Scorpio costs about $50, Lenovo could have outfitted this machine with a SSD for <$50 more in materials. To top it off, being equiped with USB 3.0, IF more storage were needed, its obviously easy to add.

    Just a complete lapse in judgement on their part.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    I do not agree about the SSD comment. Just because everyone under the sun wants one in this machine for that price.

    System integrators make money by building systems. Then adding a profit to the cost. Followed by support. Also, they possibly make commission when one of the trial apps they offer gets upgraded to a full version. This is how it has always been.

    On top of this, the case probably cost a bundle to have designed, and made.

    Does this mean I would buy this system as is ? No. While I can see justification for price. I would not spend this much money on this system. Simply, I can build my own similar system for a little more than half the cost. However, if something went wrong with the machine I built. I would get no on site support / repair. Then there is no telling if I would be able to find certain things as easily as Lenovo, The external brick PSU comes to mind. This is not to say it would be impossible, But there is a good chance that the PSU was also custom made specifically for this system.

    So while I do agree with the original post here in that it is not enough value *for me*. I can see it being of enough value for people who want a small / efficient system. For general computing.

    Before finishing though. 38W load power consumption is quite good. Albeit, with monitor not quite good enough. Sub 50W would be very exciting.

  • Samus - Monday, August 20, 2012 - link

    You clearly know nothing about the corporate market, and I seriously question whether Lenovo does by offering such a configuration, either.

    Virtually all office machines should have 80-120GB SSD's, especially since they now cost roughly the same price as commonly equiped 500GB hard drives.

    99% of corporate PC's I come across on a daily basis have <40GB used on the hard disk. Either all their data is small word/excel documents and some photo's, or all their data is on a server. Multi-user machines on a peer-to-peer network typically have people storing data on a NAS or their personal flash drives. Again, VERY little storage usage. Why equip a machine DESIGNED for this market with a 500GB drive where 460GB will remain free during its entire service duration?
  • Marlin1975 - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Problem is a Mech drive is very reliable and has more room per dollar.

    Yea there are plenty of good SSD's (Intel, Crucial, samsung, etc...) but even then they all have firmware that needs to be updated and updates means someone at the company has to do it, i.e. cost money, and makes it seem like the system is not reliable and could hurt sales in the future.

    I think a faster 7200rpm drive would be better and also another stick of ram in it for dual channel, if its an option.
  • dijidiji - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    If you build a test system on their website, you'll see that you can upgrade the drive to 7200rpm for 0 dollars and 0 cents.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    ... and it will most certainly use more power. How much more I could not say exactly, Possibly 10W give or take.
  • Samus - Monday, August 20, 2012 - link

    Prove a mechanical drive with multiple moving parts and extreme heat/vibration sensitivity is more reliable than an SSD? Excluding some OCZ crap. Think Intel, Samsung, Crucial, companies with 0.0001% failure rates.

    I still haven't seen an Intel or Samsung SSD fail in 5 years.
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    You realize that even fully fledged 3.5" HDDs don't use 10W under load these days? The difference between 2.5" 5400 rpm and 7200 rpm is 1 or 2 W at most.
  • know of fence - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    For businesses and offices compatibility with XP is important still, while boot up times or app. launch times matter very little.
    I think a lot of people are forced to upgrade from mid-2000s office towers, to smaller efficient hardware, without having to give up their (no frills) working environment. That's why we see VGA and HDD, along with USB 3 and Display Port.

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