Lenovo ThinkCentre M90z Review
A few months back we reviewed the Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z, a 19″ All-in-one PC. We discovered that the A70z is a capable, well made PC geared towards Small Businesses to large sized businesses. But despite the fact that the M90z is aimed at businesses, we still felt that that the A70z could have plenty of consumer appeal and would also do very well in educational settings. Sporting a similar signature Thinkpad-like design, but with a 23″ 1080p display, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M90z is essentially a big brother to the A70z. It also improves on the A70z with a faster processor, a longer standard 3 year on-site warranty, even easier expansion capabilities, and an optional multi-touch display. Our system which we received as a long term loan unit, came with 4GB of ram, and a Core i5 3.2ghz processor.
The Lenovo M90z is almost identical in design to the A70z as it sports that same signature ThinkCentre industrial chic look. One of the minor differences in design, besides the different physical display sizes, is that the M90z comes with a thin metal stand below its display. Lenovo designed the M90z to be space saving and energy efficient. Measuring only 2.5″ deep, the M90z can be mounted in multiple business environments. To help keep things neat and tidy, Lenovo thought of everything in that respect – they packed the computer’s power supply into the M90z’s chassis so that you don’t have to worry about hiding that ugly unwieldy power brick that so many AIO’s come with. But as much as we love the fact that the power supply is built-in, we found that the power chord is way too short. Sure, you can use an extension chord, but that is kind of annoying when you’re trying keep clutter minimal – which is probably what you’re attempting to do in your business if your buy this machine. Built-in WiFi comes standard, and the system is also available with an optional wireless keyboard and mouse so that you can further cut the chords. There is also an optional height-adjustable stand (57Y4351) and an extendable arm (57Y4352) available to use with the M90z. The system packs in a DVD burner which can be accessed on its right side along with a set of mic in and audio out jacks and two usb ports. On the back side of the computer are an additional 4 usb ports. The chassis also sports a Kensington lock slot to prevent unauthorized people from opening it.
The system is also designed to be easily serviceable and upgradeable. While the A70z did require removing some screws to upgrade the hard drive and memory, the M90z has a tool-less chassis for easily upgrading the ram and hard drive. Overall, the system is built very well and looks like it is tough enough to withstand a good amount of knocks – we don’t suggest dropping it off of your desk, but rather it should withstand rigorous use.
Again, like with the A70z, the M90z is all about being green – even down to its packaging. The system is also packaged in a reusable bag. That means that the M90z is easy to unpackage and quick to set it up. You can literally be up and running in just a few minutes. Your IT guy will love you. And unlike most traditional packaging, you don’t have to feel bad about all that unnecessary Styrofoam and plastic packaging hurting the environment. Even the user guide is included as a PDF on the hard drive in order to eliminate paper waste. And let’s be realistic, those user guides always end up getting lost and unused anyway.
The M90z is also all about being green and saving money long term. To that effect, it is made from 41.8% post consumer content (PCC) which is the equivalent of 65 plastic bottles. The system also comes with special Power Manager software that lets users monitor power usage and savings with Power Analyzer, and also features an auto-sensing brightness control. Lenovo claims that this can cut electricity consumption to 69% and save $8.20 per unit per year. That might not seem like a lot, but if you’re a large scale enterprise, that can quickly add up to a nice savings.
The built-in speakers on the M90z are pretty powerful and they can get pretty loud, definitely loud enough to fill up your average office. Unfortunately, they are only 2 watt speakers and really lack bass and body, they also tend to sound tinny. When playing bass heavy tracks, they produced static. They also often produced some feedback when playing music tracks in general. That said, they do get the job done, and they will serve their purpose in most business environments, who are probably using them just for presentations and not so much movie watching and serious multimedia tasks.
Our M90z model is running on a 3.2ghz Core i5-650 processor with a q57 chipset which is an “enterprise class” chipset that includes the ability to turboboost. We found the system to be very fast and very capable multi-tasker. Running several applications like Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and Photoshop all at once doesn’t ever seem to slow down the machine, even when playing back HD video files.
The system garnered a healthy score of 7475 PC Marks and a Windows Experience Score of 4.2. In 3DMark06 the system earned a score of 1745. That means that it should be able to handle basic graphics intensive applications, thanks to the on-board Intel HD graphics, and even some casual gaming, but it’s still not up to the task of being a serious gaming machine – but it’s certainly not designed too. Currently, the system does not have an option to be configured with a dedicated graphics card. For most business environments, the Intel HD graphics are good enough for their purposes. But without a dedicated graphics card, CAD and 3D professionals will really need to look elsewhere.
The M90z’s 1080p 16×9 display is able to get very bright, which is great. It’s color reproduction is solid, and so are its viewing angles. However, it does feel like it lacks in sharpness a bit, especially when it comes to text. We tested an M90z with a Multi-touch display, so it’s possible that the non multi-touch display is different in this respect. Overall the system sports a solid, if not spectacular, display.
So for an additional $100, you can configure the M90z with a multi-touch capacitive display. The touchscreen is responsive and the system comes with some basic software including an onscreen keyboard and Lenovo’s own SimpleTap software to help utilize the multi-touch screen more efficiently. The SimpleTap software lets you control hardware functions like volume, mute, camera preview, sleep mode, microphone and system lock. The app stays at the top of your screen in the form of an unobtrusive red tab which you can use to access these functions on the fly.
The idea here is that there are many enterprise environments that can really take advantage of the system’s multi-touch screen, especially when mounted. The option for a touchscreen makes the system ideal for hospitals and even construction environments -especially because the computer is built to last. Furthermore, the system’s display can even be used while wearing a glove – which makes it especially ideal for hospital and construction environments. Also, the touchscreen display is made of a normal glass overlay which means that it can safely be cleaned and disinfected – again, making it very suitable for healthcare environments.
The display also has a display port out so that it can drive external monitors and projectors, which can be very practical in education environments. It’s also important to note that Windows 7 features an onscreen keyboard, which is especially useful in environments where the display is mounted on a wall.
The fact that the M90z packs in a 2MP webcam in an enterprise oriented machine is appreciated, since even businesses need to make video calls nowadays. Unfortunately, the quality of the camera is just ok. It isn’t very sharp and its colors tend to be washed out. But it does serve its purpose well enough. To its credit, the camera can be disabled using a dedicated top switch. Lenovo included this in the system’s design because they understood that in many industries, especially the healthcare industry, privacy is often needed. The system’s mic also features background noise cancellation so it can be used without a headset for comfortable, on the fly VOIP conversations
Aside from the SimpleTap software, our unit came preloaded with Skype, Norton Internet Security, a Microsoft Office 2010 trial. Lenovo ThinkVantage Tools. Corel DVD MovieFactory Lenovo Edition and Microsoft Touchpack for Windows 7. Lenovo ThinkVantage Toolbox software includes tools for rescue and recovery, a productivity center and other very useful tools that are designed to help “reduce your IT resource impact”. The included ThinkVantage System Update also keeps the system stable by providing automatic updates for drivers. However, unlike some of the consumer oriented touchscreen AIO PCs out there which come with robust multimedia software packages to compliment the touchscreen, the M90z’s inclusion of software to take advantage of the system’s touchscreen is minimal. It’s really up to businesses to take advantage of the system’s touchscreen display with their own software. Customers can also opt to order the M90z with a custom software image on it for large enterprise roll outs.
Keyboard & Mouse:
Our system came with a standard matching wired keyboard and mouse. The keyboard in particular very comfy with good tactile feedback . You can also opt for a wireless mouse and keyboard if you pay a little more.
Consumers looking for serious multimedia machines will want to look else where. Sure, the M90z’s processor can handle plenty of multimedia intensive tasks, like HD video playback, but there are many other more alluring all-in-one machines geared towards consumers out there which are more suitable for multimedia. Lenovo themselves offers some really slick all-in-ones, including the Lenovo A310 that comes with a TV tuner.
That said, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M90z has the potential to transform the PC landscape for businesses. When All-in-one PCs first started becoming popular, as great as they were, they were still left mostly suitable just for homes and consumers. The M90z, and the A70z too, change all that. These models bring all the convenience of the AIO form-factor and polish it up to suit the needs of the enterprise. The M90z is truly a business class machine that is designed to keep up with the demands of a fast moving, hard working business with its powerful processor, sturdy built-to-last chassis, easy upgradability/expansion, helpful ThinkVantage Tools software and green efficiency . An upcoming refresh of the system will even add a special ambient light sensing technology that can automatically detect when someone leaves the room and shut down on its own. Overall, the M90z is a capable machine, and a dedicated work horse that manages to stay slim. Businesses will especially appreciate that the M90z Comes with a 3 year on site warranty which covers anything going wrong – including problems with the display panel. That means that someone will come out to you in field and replace and parts that are needed. We wish more companies included warranties like that one! Pricing for the M90z begins at $860, with a 2.8ghz processor and without the multi-touch display option.
Space saving energy efficient design, great performance, multi-touch display option extends the system’s possibilities, built-to last even in tough work environments, tool-less design allows for easy upgrades, allows for quick and easy set-ups, 3 year on-site warranty is standard, mic with noise cancellation is perfect for VOIP calls without headsets, green friendly packaging, convenient top switch to disable camera ensures privacy when needed
Speakers are not equipped for serious music playback, no 3D card option, webcam does not provide very good image quality, despite a higher priced system there are no eSata, USB 3.0 or Firewire ports
Update 03/20/12: The M90z has been recalled for repair. If you own one, you’ll need to inquire with Lenovo to find out if your model is affected.