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
DisplayPort
2x USB 3.0
VGA
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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  • randinspace - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    I just saw this in a Lenovo promotional email and thought "I wonder if AT will review it" and here we are, so kudos on the quick review.

    Unfortunately, I just can't see any reason to buy one of these instead of a laptop, particularly since your average notebook (as opposed to ultrabook) is actually easier and cheaper to upgrade than one of these would be.

    That said, I'm also hopeful that Lenovo dipping their toe into mini-ITX will help to bring the overall cost of the form factor (particularly the motherboards) down sooner rather than later.

    Side question: who makes the mobo Lenovo uses for this anyway? I didn't just miss it in the review, did I?
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    My guess would be Asus for mobo manufacturer. Just a guess though.

    As this motherboard looks like a custom PCB. I am not sure if this would help us cost wise. Dell also had a Core2Duo mini system they sold a couple years back. However I think it was based on mobile components.

    As for the reasoning of something like this versus a laptop. Well, *if* it were up-gradable. Then *if* you could add discrete graphics . . . For me, that would be all that was needed. Reasonable gaming performance with a small power footprint,. Granted . . . we'd need a decent low power discrete graphics solution too. Something akin to whats used in mobile systems, with the ability to switch between on board, and discrete.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    And it is probably miles ahead in expandability and more importantly, has HD 4000..

    But Lenovo is probably going to sell a ton of these as thin clients to SMBs...
    Reply
  • Scannall - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    So Apple's Mac Mini does more and costs less.

    http://store.apple.com/us/configure/MC815LL/A

    $699 seems way overprices.
    Reply
  • macuser2134 - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Hahahahaha. Too true. Dustin Sklavos you must have been taking crack whilst writing this review not to acknowledge that this product is positioned to compete directly with the Mac Mini. And make a fair comparison. Perhaps you were never aware of the existence of that particular product (the Mac Mini?). Or that it can run Windows 7 and do 100% everything else that this product can?

    But thank you Jarred. I began to laugh at this comment:

    "However, as much as I want to bag on Lenovo for overcharging and nickel-and-diming end users with the M92 Tiny, the fact remains that nobody else has anything like it."

    Jesus what a clanger. I mean really? What makes the Leveno so vastly different from the Mac Mini for you to say that?

    Oh yeah its, probably this little gem:

    "There's no reason to use rivets to seal the enclosure when screws would've done the job."

    It must be that in your review you neglected to mention that this little device was made in the 1950's. That explains it then. Must be doubling up as a battleship or transformers or something.

    Priceless comedy god. That made my day. Actually rivets are great, aren't they? Thats absolutely hilarious though. I genuinely have to thank you for writing that. You can't put a price on making people smile.

    Of course, for many people its rather sad and still a real shame that none of these manufacturers (and Leveno can definitely be added to that list now). They cannot to produce a product to be seriously considered a worthy competitor to the Mac Mini. That is the unvarnished truth. Its even been re-iterated here on Anandtech (by Anandtech staff) when reviewing similar HTPC products.

    Personally I'm not bothered. Because the Mac Mini is so great a product. It seems to be going okay out there on its own. Remaining good value to consumers, even without the competition you would normally expect to drive that. Muahahah Leveno and AsRock eat your face out. Doesn't matter what you write Jarred. Just stop smoking that crack hmm? Its bad for your health man. Its making us worry about you.
    Reply
  • macuser2134 - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Sorry I meant Dustin, not Jarred. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    I don't compare it to the Mac Mini because the Mac Mini isn't servicing the same market this is. Generally speaking if someone wants to buy a Mac, they're going to buy a Mac. Someone named "macuser2134" should be able to grok that well enough. The M92 Tiny is not for Mac users, it's for Windows users, and it's for enterprise and kiosk usage. Those last two markets are places nobody in their right mind is going to buy a Mac for.

    The Mac Mini never enters the equation because even though the form factor and hardware may be similar, the use cases are wildly, WILDLY different.

    You know, we have actual Mac coverage so you don't have to wander in to troll non-Apple articles. You know that, right?
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Dustin: there is no need to get upset with macuser2134, he/she is obviously an apple fanboy.

    Anyhow I just fail to see the point of Lenovo (except maybe for kiosk use). Business can buy cheaper than this and have a case that you can get into to replace damaged parts. Actually a cheap laptop would probably be more useful.

    If business wants a complete non-upgradeable closed system where if something breaks it has to be sent back to the manufacturer, then Mac mini is probably a better choice although, outside of media, not many businesses are willing to consider Apple. The only benefit of the Lenovo over the Mac mini is that it would come pre-loaded with Windows and ready to use whereas the Mac would no doubt need to be loaded up with windows - not really a problem for most IT depts but might be too much for a small business to deal with.

    Lack of an SSD, poor connection choices, this is just a bad product at the wrong price
    Reply
  • macuser2134 - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Allright, lets say "fair enough" that maybe that was a bit harsh. I apologise for the condescending - sounding tones. Didn't mean to give the impression that the rest of your review was rubbish or anything like that. It was very enjoyable to read about this Leveno product and they are an interesting company.

    What seemed really odd to me from a pure reporting and journalistic standpoint the dissmissal of the Mac Mini from the picture here. A kind of biased reporting. There just doesn't seem enough justification or weight behind those market segment arguments to put this product in such a sharply defined seperate category like that. Or rather to exclude the Mini, and put the Mini in a separate category from these other PC products.

    Most times that's fair to do because Macs are often a lot more expensive. However not so in this instance.

    And in the review it actually says that you don't really know who the Leveno is being aimed at. Because of the "SimpleTap feature" with "Flickr, Facebook, PayPal, Netflix, MTV". So your retort about it being a kiosk only or enterprise only product seems to be inconsistent with that previously expressed viewpoint.

    I love the accusation of me being a Mac fanboy but you really know very little about me. I used to have a PC for many years. That is a big reason why I still love to read about these PC reviews and remain interested in the PC market. Nothing really against PCs. When I bought a Mini it was because of merits of the product itself - the Mini. I just couldn't find or make my own PC that was anywhere near as good as that. And there are many other Mac Mini owners just like myself who wanted to get another PC but just couldn't do it anymore. Its a shame but life goes on and maybe one day I can own a PC again.

    I was kindda guessing that you would prefer not to have to answer hard questions about your review. Hence the comedy, the jokes. Lighten up a bit maybe? I see now I was wrong because you sound so serious about defending absolutely everything in your article. But without that kind of constructive criticism how are you going to improve your standards of journalistic reporting? It wasn't meant to be mean, I'm sorry if you took it that way. Just really funny. A bit of a clanger but oh well life goes on. No-one got shot did they? No need to take it personally or anything.
    Reply
  • ananduser - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    A mac mini requires an additional cost, the windows license. And it prevents you from installing backup win images(like acronis). Bootcamp only takes the install .iso. So no, the mac mini is not the best option nor it can ever be. Reply

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