Lenovo ThinkCentre M58p Eco USFF: Green Corporate SFF PC

Complete|Mobile Systems
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The mechanical design of the hinged clamshell case is ingenious. Remove the locking screw from the back panel latch, and a little flick gains wide open access to components, which are laid out with tidy logic and no clutter.

The clamshell case design is beautifully executed. The top half holds the optical drive and 3.5" HDD, both SATA, while the bottom half holds the motherboard that holds all the other components.

Many things stand out here:

  • The motherboard is not mini-ITX. It measures 18 x 20cm, which makes it close to the mini-DTX form factor (17 x 20cm) but not quite identical. It is proprietary.
  • There is a shroud between the fan and the CPU heatsink designed to force the fan's airflow from the front intake vents through the CPU heatsink before being evacuated. With or without the shroud, the intake side of the fan will be fairly impeded. The HDD mounted on the top side blocks nearly half of the fan, while the path from the intake vents forces the air through the fairly tightly spaced fins of the CPU heatsink.
  • Notebook memory is used, presumably to save on space, because when the clamshell is closed, the components on both the top and bottom halves come together tightly, leaving little space in between them.
  • There is a PCI slot on a built-in riser on the left edge of the motherboard. It will only take half height cards.
  • A spare SATA port and extra fan header are available on the board.

Removing the plastic airflow shroud shows that the heatsink mounting holes are not standard socket 775, the heatsink has serious looking spring loaded bolts and a substantial copper base, and the fan is mounted to the chassis with high quality viobration damping elastopolymer plugs. Note the fins on the northbridge heatsink: Half of them are very short to accommodate top components when the case is closed.
The spring and sliding locking mechanism is visible on the front edge.

The top half holds both optical and hard drives. The HDD feels sloppily mounted, but it's actually not possible to dislodge without deliberately squeezing the blue side tabs towards each other. Then the locking mechanism on the side rails release easily and the drive can be removed. Very clever.

The HDD is held to the rails with metal pins that have vibration damping sleeves. No tools are required to remove the drive. The whole HDD assembly is intelligently designed, and provides a degree of intentional "decoupling", presumably to reduce vibrational noise. When the case is closed, the front of the hard drive is very close to the front intake vent, and the airflow through that vent helps keep the drive cool.

The fan shroud squeezes the air through the CPU fins. It is much narrower than the area of the fan blades, which will result in increased turbulence noise. Still, it's a reasonable solution for CPU cooling in the tight space.

The mechanical design of the M58p Eco USFF shows a high level of intelligent system engineering. These parts were not just cobbled together, but carefully designed and integrated to make a single efficiently working whole. It's impressive.

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