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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  • Quincunx - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    If you order it without a keyboard and mouse and 'downgrade' to a standard DVD-ROM, the price comes down to $640. I suppose most people need a keyboard and mouse if it's an additional system. But if you're using it to replace something existing and already have a good keyboard and mouse, that much cheaper.. Reply
  • StrangerGuy - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    When there are things called "laptops"? Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    As others have mentioned kiosks, cash registers, etc. Locking one of these boxes in a cabinet takes less space than doing the same with a laptop; and the laptop's built in input/output are sub-optimal (crappy keyboard, small size vs an external monitor) or non-suitable (pos systems typically have screens at eye height facing the customer and either keyboards with keys labelled for what the app's special functions are or a touchscreen for the cashier). Reply
  • philipma1957 - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    looks like this can be upgraded to 16gb ram and a big ssd. if you can put in a i7 3770t this would be a very nice piece of gear. of course adding all that brings the price to over 1k. Reply
  • srtour2011 - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    this is actually completely not true. there is a single screw on the back of the unit (in the middle). take that off and slide the front off (it's kind of backwards from what you think and the first time I tried it, I was trying to pry at it and almost broke it). but if you know how, it couldn't be easier.

    memory and disk upgrades take about 1 minute each. Lenovo does an incredible job of designing clean systems on the inside.

    also, the thermo on it is fantastic. no heat even under load.

    lastly I saw a fully configured system w/ wireless on their weg site for $549. yes it was a sale price, but if you wait, they always put them on sale.

    I've got two of these and they are awesome. I bought my memory online for $40 so mine are $8G (less if you just need a single 4G stick because unlike most vendors, Lenovo puts a single 4G stick in for the 4G config).

    not sure you want to VESA mount the thing anyway. w/out the cage for the DVD (which is as big as the tiny), it sits just about anywhere and looks nice. runs quiet as a church mouse and runs great w/ 7200 RPM drive.

    I have two grips :
    1) Display port? . I want 3 HDMI ports on the little guy, not two display port and VGA. every try to look at VGA next to DVI on idential monitors? you just want to throw the VGA one out.

    2) I want mic and sound ports on the back and front.

    They also should sell 1ft display port to HDMI cables so if you want to VESA mount it on the back of your monitor you dont have a big HDMI cable coiled up. everything always looks good in pictures until you get all the damn cables on them:-)

    I'd love to see Lenovo build a monitor stand for two monitors that is connected to a base that you could slide the Tiny into. better than an all-in one at that point and probably costing alot less...
    Reply
  • CharonPDX - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Small SSD instead of spinning drive, quad-core option, and pair it with a DisplayPort display with audio, and it would be a GREAT corporate desktop. Reply
  • waldojim42 - Saturday, August 18, 2012 - link

    Ok, while it isn't identical to a mini, my first thought, is that this was meant to be a competitor in that market. For $649 You get what is essentially the same machine, in a much nicer package. Paying $100 more than the Lenovo nets you a decent video card as well.

    For some reason, I am simply not impressed. Lenovo could have done much more with this, and opted not to.
    Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Saturday, August 18, 2012 - link

    If it had that, I'd have ordered one right away. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, August 18, 2012 - link

    There are USB 2.0 to 10/100 NICs available right now, and I'd wager at some point we'll see USB 3.0 to gigabit. At that point, you should be covered. Reply
  • pixelstuff - Saturday, August 18, 2012 - link

    Might have been interesting to see a do it yourself option compared as well.

    I recently built a mini system for about $400. While the CPU muscle is certainly less than an i5, the Foxconn nt-A3700, 4GB Ram, a 128GB Samsung SSD, and Windows Pro make for a pretty good system. The SSD makes it feel faster than some of the more powerful desktops around the office as long as your aren't running a CPU intensive task (which most office people don't now days).

    At the time of purchase I got every piece on sale (except RAM), bringing the total down to $400.

    Foxconn nt-A3700
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    G.Skill DDR3 1333 - 4GB
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    Samsung 830 - 128GB
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=20...

    Windows 7 Pro - 32bit
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    The total at regular prices appears to be $464.46
    Reply

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