Review: Ivy Bridge brings big performance to tiny Lenovo ThinkCentre M92p

August 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Lenovo’s ThinkCentre M92p has much in common with the larger M92 desktops, but comes in a much smaller package. Andrew Cunningham

Businesses are one of the last bastions of the desktop PC. Laptops and all-in-ones have infiltrated offices just as they have everywhere else, but enterprises are still buying plenty of PC towers from the likes of HP, Dell, and Lenovo.

That doesn’t mean that these towers have to be boring. While Micro ATX desktops are still the norm, the advancements in technology that have allowed for thinner and more powerful laptops can be used to make a business desktop that takes up less space without giving up the power and repairability so important for businesses. Lenovo’s ThinkCentre M92p isn’t the first tiny desktop on the market by any means, but it brings Ivy Bridge processors, triple monitor support, USB 3.0, and management and security features that businesses like in a package that won’t take up much space on your desk. Lenovo sent us a review unit so we could investigate further.

Specs at a glance: Lenovo ThinkCentre M92pOSWindows 7 Professional 64-bitCPU2.9GHz Intel Core i5-3470T (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz)RAM4GB 1600 MHz DDR3 (supports up to 16GB)GPUIntel HD Graphics 2500 (integrated)HDD2.5” 5400RPM 500GB hard driveNetworkingIntel gigabit Ethernet, optional 802.11n wireless and BluetoothPorts4x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, VGA, DisplayPort, headphones and microphoneSize7” x 1.35” x 7.1”Weight2.91 lbsOther perksIntel AMT, TPM, Kensington lock, external DVD drive enclosure with VESA mountWarranty3-year on-siteStarts at$639 (as of 8/7/2012)As configured$689 (as of 8/7/2012)

The M92p is the smallest version of the ThinkCentre M92 desktop lineup, and it comes in a sturdy metal case that measures 7″ by 1.35″ by 7.1″ and weighs just a bit less than three pounds. like many business desktops, the various sizes of the M92 use the same components and drivers to make the customization and deployment of operating system images easier for administrators.

The M92p is unique among tiny desktops in its support for business-class features: most notably, it includes support for Intel’s Active Management Technology, which is used by enterprise management systems like Microsoft’s system Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or Dell’s KACE to manage software and patches even when computers are powered off. TPM hardware is also standard, making these PCs easy to encrypt using BitLocker.

Otherwise, the M92p’s hardware is good for a machine of this size. It sports Intel’s Core i5-3470T, a dual-core processor with Hyperthreading that runs at 2.9GHz but can Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz for single-threaded tasks. the accompanying Intel Q77 chipset supports four USB 3.0 ports—two on the front, along with the headphone and microphone jacks, and two on the back, where they join a VGA port, DisplayPort, one USB 2.0 port, a gigabit Ethernet jack, a Kensington lock slot, and a slot for the wireless antenna for models configured with WiFi.

Andrew Cunningham

This particular CPU is paired with Intel’s HD Graphics 2500 integrated graphics processor, which is a step down from the Intel HD 4000 that we’ve seen in most of our other Ivy Bridge review units to this point. Beginning with Sandy Bridge, Intel’s on-processor GPUs became segmented: in almost all laptop CPUs and higher-end desktop CPUs, you’ve got Sandy Bridge’s Intel HD Graphics 3000 and Ivy Bridge’s HD 4000, both of which boost performance significantly over previous-generation products. Lower-end desktop processors, on the other hand, come with cut-down versions of those chips like Sandy Bridge’s HD 2000 and Ivy Bridge’s HD 2500—these GPUs share a common architecture and feature set with their faster counterparts but include fewer rendering units, leading to reduced 3D performance.

Andrew Cunningham

As we’ll see in our benchmarks later on, you do give up quite a lot of graphics performance by eschewing the HD 4000 for the HD 2500—the latter is a slight improvement over the HD 2000, but it’s still slower than last year’s HD 3000. however, it includes features that for most businesses will remove the need for a dedicated graphics card. DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.0, OpenCL 1.1, Intel’s Wireless display technology, triple monitor support (which requires Lenovo’s $79.99 DisplayPort to Dual DisplayPort cable), QuickSync, and certification for programs like AutoCAD, SolidWorks, and Photoshop are all supported by the HD 2500 running the latest drivers. the HD 4000 is still superior, but the HD 2500 isn’t bad.

The M92p uses the same 5400RPM SATA hard drive that you’ll find in most laptops these days, and you can definitely feel the difference compared to the faster 7200RPM drives in desktops. an upgrade to a solid-state drive will fix this issue—Lenovo will sell you a 128GB SSD for $220 as of this writing, but you can easily purchase and install your own for less. the M92p comes with one 6Gb/s SATA 3.0 port on the motherboard—there’s no room for a second drive, and as such there’s no possibility for a RAID configuration here.

Wireless capabilities are also offered as upgrades to the base unit, which by default includes only an Intel gigabit Ethernet port—for $20, you can get Intel’s basic N105 single-band 802.11n WiFi adapter; for $30, you can get Intel’s N2230 which combines single-band 802.11n WiFi with Bluetooth 4.0; or for that same $30 you can get Intel’s N6205 dual-band 802.11n adapter. unfortunately, there’s no option for dual-band WiFi that also includes Bluetooth, but at least the wireless options available are sensibly priced.

Andrew Cunningham Andrew Cunningham

There’s also an included optical drive, which is actually part of a larger frame that is attached to the M92P, slightly increasing its width and increasing its height—this frame also serves as a VESA mount for the computer. the drive connects to the computer using a short USB 2.0 cable and also serves as a USB 2.0 hub that includes two additional USB ports. the drive is included with the M92p base model, but you can shave $25 off the price if you go with a DVD-ROM drive instead of a DVD-RW. It’s nice to have this as an option, especially in the change-averse business environment. but in 2012, with Ultrabooks beginning to infiltrate businesses, I would rather have it available as an optional accessory, perhaps in exchange for standard wireless and Bluetooth connectivity.

Rounding out the package, the computer comes with a basic 104-key keyboard and a three-button optical scroll mouse, both of which can be excluded from your order to save you $10 dollars apiece (and for $50, you can add a keyboard with an integrated fingerprint reader). There’s also an integrated speaker, though it’s so small and quiet that even with the volume turned all the way up you’d be forgiven for thinking it didn’t have any.

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