Lenovo ThinkCentre M91p Ultra-small Desktop PC

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Audio Recordings

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product at various states. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Lenovo ThinkCentre M91p hits most of the relevant marks for an enterprise-class desktop PC. The Q67 chipset gives it advanced security and management features and the Core i5 "S" processor delivers high speed, quad core performance with truly impressive energy efficiency. The power savings over the Clarkdale-powered M90p with the same case were substantial. Though based on relatively recent hardware, the system does lack quite a few extraneous features like USB 3.0 and eSATA. It's a powerful PC, but in many regards it's rather basic.

Expansion is severely limited due to the form factor, so if you require a system with more versatility, the M91p also is available in two larger sizes depending on your needs. The USFF case is not new, being used previously with the M90p, but this is a good thing. It's compact, takes little space on the floor or desk and perhaps most importantly, is incredibly easy to open. This last quality is simply magnificent making it extremely convenient to perform physical maintenance and upgrades. It's the type of thing we wish was more common in consumer PC cases. Our only complaint about the design is how loosely the hard drive is secured.

While these types of systems aren't typically designed for low noise operation, the M91p is reasonable in this department as the office/corporate environment generally has more ambient background noise than at home. We would recommend keeping it at a distance of one meter or greater or keeping under a desk though. The quality of the noise generated is worse than the total volume, especially at close proximity. The hard drive mount makes the entire case vibrate, the fan's ball bearing motor has an unpleasant rattle, and the CPU/VRM circuitry emits coil whine when idle. The M91p is squarely pegged as a business PC, unsuitable for home use due to these noise issues and presence of premium chipset features that would likely go unused in non-corporate settings.

Custom Alternative to Lenovo ThinkCentre M91p
(Base Configuration, US$799)
Component
Model
Street Price*
Processor
Intel Core i5-2400S
$200
Motherboard
Intel BOXDQ67EPB3
$120
Memory
Crucial Rendition 2GB DDR3-1333
$10
Hard Drive
WD Caviar Blue 250GB
$50
Optical Drive
Samsung SN-208BB Slim DVD Burner
$25
Case/PSU
Antec ISK 300-150
$75
Keyboard/Mouse
Microsoft Wired Desktop 400
$15
Speakers
Cyber Acoustics CA-2012
$10
Operating System
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit OEM
$140
 
TOTAL
$645
*Rounded to the nearest US$5.

A common way to gauge the value of a pre-built machine is to see how its price stands up to that of a comparable custom system. We priced an equivalent DIY build to the M91p's base configuration and found it to be cheaper by US$154. While this seems large, it's actually fairly reasonable compared to most business PCs on the market. It's also difficult to put a dollar value on the M91p's slimmer, easy to open enclosure, and far superior warranty and support.

Our thanks to Lenovo for the ThinkCentre M91p Ultra-small Desktop PC sample.

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