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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  • Penti - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    You only need a volume/upgrade license and you can image it just fine, you do need to set up OS X to do it though. Reply
  • chrnochime - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Show us one MAJOR retailer that uses the mini in a kiosk or PoS. Does bb&b use it? Does Crate and Barrel use it? Unless you can find one, your incessant praise of the mini is moot. And Lenovo never intended this to be used as a HTPC, so it doesn't mean squat when mini wins when used as such.

    And you pointing out you used to use PC doesn't mean you aren't an apple fanboy now anyway. That's like saying "Well I used to support the rep. now I support the Dem., so I am DEFINITELY not a dem. fanboy now". Nice argument there lolol
    Reply
  • Kevin G - Saturday, August 18, 2012 - link

    I cannot recall where but I have seen a Mac Mini used in a kiosk display before. It was some time ago using either late G4 model or early Intel Core Duo Mac Mini. Since it was just running a looping video I couldn't determine if it was running OS X or Winodws behind the scene. (If it was an old G4 model it had to have been OS X). They are rare but certainly out there.

    Though ultimately I see both of these systems being rather poor candidates for kiosk usage. A system like the Logic Supply LGX AG150 being the superior choice. Nothing with regards to technical specs but rather cooling. Both the Mac Mini and Lenovo M92 have fans and likely need more air circulation than a cramped kiosk can provide.

    If you want a SMF for home or generic office use, then comparing the Lenovo M92 to the Mac Mini is a valid comparison with regards to price and features. If the use case differences is just OS X I don't see merit of exclusion since that can easily be changed. Make a note regarding the added price of a Windows and other differences as part of diligent reporting. For some of the tests, you wouldn't even need to install Windows as there are a few applications OS X native binaries. Simply including the Mac Mini would be another good point of comparison for the article.
    Reply
  • martyrant - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    This sounds like a child who has been chastised, realized he was an a complete idiot, and is trying to justify his idiocy as playing it off as a joke. Kudos to you, macuser, for living up to your cult's moronic stereotypes and furthering my bias against said cults.

    My guess is that you have no idea even how to open up a computer, either, so it wouldn't occur to you that Mac Minis, compared to a custom built mini-ITX system, is a complete and total turd at 2-3x the cost of a custom rig.
    Reply
  • macuser2134 - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Jesus. Thought I had been pretty mean there to the reviewer. But reading it back seems like nothing compared to what that person ended up saying back to me.

    To be fair to Dustin, I honestly hadn't realized Leveno aims this product only at business and enterprise users. But its clearly written in the first part of his review and I totally skipped over reading all of that. I was not apologising for this anywhere earlier but should have been. This Kiosk thing - its a complete misunderstanding on my part. This thing is for locked-down business systems. My reference talking about other Anandtech reviews usually comparing to the Mini - that was all reviews of HTPC boxes. So my bad there too.

    Hadn't understood the implications but thanks to many of these other enterprise people commenting here I am a little better informed now. I can only change my view since reading all that because its really true that Mac Mini doesn't necessarily tick all of those "enterprise feature" boxes. They are considerations which sometimes simply don't exist in the consumer market. Meaning individuals and home users like me.

    Likewise on the other side of the coin I have learned that features like the HD2500 graphics performance don't really seem to be as critical or important in the enterprise market either. So for example me pointing out that the Mini might be better because it has a Discrete graphics option (which admittedly is a bit more expensive). But its just not a fair enough comparison for someone like me to be making. Because I am someone who isn't providing enterprise solutions to business customers.

    Another thing: People here have been quoting hard prices to this unit. Or making some comparisons on some exact dollar figure. But over on Andrew Cunningham's review page many people have stated that the actual cost of the device can vary considerably. It may be a lot cheaper or more expensive depending upon which channels its being obtained through. Just thought I'd mention that too.
    Reply
  • Roland00Address - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Whenever you see a Lenovo with the word Idea you know that it is made for consumers, IdeaPad, IdeaCentre, etc

    If a Lenovo product has the word Think in its name it is made for businesses or professionals. ThinkPad, ThinkCentre, ThinkServer, ThinkStation, ThinkVantage, etc.
    Reply
  • snajk138 - Saturday, August 18, 2012 - link

    Except for the Thinkpad Edge series. Reply
  • Penti - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Two DP's would have been nice. To bad they only ship DP to SL-DVI adapters with it, but I guess this machine fits nicely with a 24" 1920x1200 TFT or newer 27" plus screen with DP at a desk. The latter won't really be possible with a 700 dollar laptop with only HDMI out. (Even if it supports it there aren't a lot of monitors out supporting 3GHz 1.4a HDMI.)

    This should be a light manageable machine for the enterprise though. People seem to forget that you won't get Q77 or Intel vPro in 350 dollar clients. Or 500 dollar laptops. Here it's a question about not having to run around and service the machines physically and do most of the administration remotely or automated. If you need to reimage a machine or change any settings you don't need to run to the physical machine or get anyone to start the process, if it isn't configured to boot to the network installation of your Windows image you can configure it remotely. Machines you can simply manage by all the tools there is, remotely without wasting time, and you don't need to leave them on at night to receive updates if you choose to wake them up when needed and so on.

    It's not expensive in this class, it's just less flexible then some other options.
    Reply
  • waldojim42 - Saturday, August 18, 2012 - link

    Wait a second. For LESS than the price of the Lenovo, a business could pick up an equally well built device from Apple. Enterprise level businesses run site licenses for Windows anyway, this would be no big deal. Install Windows to one Mini, clone drive, and copy away... Why mess with an over-priced, under-performing Lenovo?

    For the rest of us, the home users looking for quality machines, why wouldn't I get a Mac Mini? I can install Windows just as quickly at home, and get a nicer looking device, with the option of a real video card. It seems like you are putting a LOT of effort trying to distance the products, when they are direct competitors, and need to be treated as such.
    Reply
  • cryogenic666 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Actually, if you compare them, the Mac Mini is only $50 cheaper after you upgrade to 4GB RAM. The three year on-site support from Lenovo is worth WAY more than $50. I can assure you that any IT person worth his salt is going to take that next-business-day support any day of the week. Also, I'd venture a guess that the Mini does use a bit more power than the M92p (though that's really only a concern to the bean counters that want to save money on power). Reply

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