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.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • piroroadkill - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    We buy our PCs from a small company here in the UK, and they will assemble a Shuttle based machine (nice and small) with a Core i3 3.3GHz, 4GB RAM, 64GB Samsung 830, with keyboard and mouse for less than 300 quid (ex VAT).. $470 - it even comes with a 2 year warranty. A far better machine for a desktop where local storage is rarely used. Reply
  • Pino - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Dustin,

    The chassis is not rivet locked, you can open the chassis.

    Just slide the top cover to front.
    Reply
  • mfenn - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    "Skint"? "aces"? Kids these days Reply
  • Demon-Xanth - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    One possible target here may be call center type locations where the person using it will always have a headset on that is connected to a phone. Thus the audio connection lacking becomes entirely a non issue. The small size makes replacing it with spares incredibly easy and can be done in seconds quickly. Much like replacing a home network switch. I wouldn't be surprised if they sold these things by the dozen. Reply
  • valjean - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    There should be an evaluation on whether the unit is still stable or has a tendency to tilt to one side when all the ports (USB, Video and LAN) are used since this unit is small and could be light as well. Reply
  • kevith - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    ...it´s so close! Wireless, SSD (and if you actually can just slide the case open that presents no problem) and a better CPU, primarily graphics-wise, and it´s very close to a machine for me. Reply
  • Quincunx - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Which one did Ars review, because theirs seemed to pop right open after two thumbscrews and a phillips:
    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/08/review-ivy-...

    Of note: They also didn't compare it to the Mac Mini. The ThinkCentre brand specifically caters to enterprise. I'm pretty sure the folks asking about the absence of this comparison, don't have an enterprise IT perspective. I saw this review and thought, "Oh joy, perhaps next time I perform a desktop replacement, I can just pop the new machine into my laptop bag and be off."
    Reply
  • BigLan - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Comparing the pictures, it looks like anand's unit doesn't even have the thumb screws that the one at Ars had. There should just be one philips head screw to remove (probably the one right next to the kensington slot on the back) and then slide the top half forward and off. Reply
  • poorted - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    To me, this looks like the perfect type system for yes kiosks, but also point of sale type systems.

    -Thermal headroom so when its shoved in a small cupboard and left on 24/7 it still keeps going.
    -No need to be serviced on site, just swap out if something fails, easy enough for a retail worker to do, just unplug 2-3 cables and plug in the new one.
    -Lack of audio also isn't an issue in this environment.

    The idea is that it will be small, cool running, and be able to stay on for months/years at a time without (ever) needing to be serviced.
    Reply
  • Quincunx - Friday, August 17, 2012 - link

    Also, as of this moment, you can upgrade this to a 500GB, 7200RPM drive for zero additional dollars. Reply

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