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Lenovo ThinkCentre A70Z & Asus EeeTop ET2203 All-In-One PCs

Lenovo ThinkCentre A70Z & Asus EeeTop ET2203T All-In-One PCs

February 18, 2010 by Lawrence Lee

Product Lenovo ThinkCentre

A70Z 1165A3U
Asus EeeTop PC

ET2203-B0017
Manufacturer Lenovo ASUSTeK
Street Price US$690~$720 US$800~$900

Recently PC makers have been ramping up development of all-in-one computer
systems, machines with all the hardware including the monitor integrated into
one unit. Taking the big tower out of the equation improves the look of the
system, gets rid of a couple of cables, and frees up space on the floor or desk.
Apple relies heavily on these inherent advantages in their marketing campaigns
for the popular iMac. PC manufacturers have been lagging thus far in all-in-ones,
never producing anything quite as elegant or fast as the iMac, though they deliver
lower price-points. We have two all-in-one PCs up for scrutiny, the Lenovo ThinkCentre
A70Z, and the Asus EeeTop ET2203.



The Lenovo ThinkCentre A70Z.

The ThinkCentre line is targeted at corporate users, so naturally the A70Z
has a simple understated look compared to the more consumer-oriented IdeaCentre
A600
we reviewed a few months ago. The system is business black from
top to bottom and sports a modest 19" 1440x900 screen in a boxy, no-nonsense
enclosure. The LCD has a matte finish so glare is kept to a minimum, ideal for
offices with harsh lighting. The high-end models ship with a conventional looking
wireless keyboard and mouse. Lenovo has worked to make the A70Z as inconspicuous
as possible.



The Asus EeeTop ET2203.

The EeeTop ET2203 is the A70Z's polar opposite. This is the first system we've
seen that truly rivals iMac aesthetics; that is to say, the entire machine is
attractive, not counting the multitude of stickers that plagues all PCs. The
EeeTop has rounded corners, a slick black on silver scheme, and a stylish transparent
outer shell that brings the screen closer to eye level. The 21.6" 1920x1080
glossy LCD is perfect for watching high definition material; Asus also sells
a version with a touch screen and Blu-ray drive, the ET2203T-B0037.
All the 20"+ EeeTops ship with a compact laptop-style chiclet wireless
keyboard and a disproportionately large mouse with round contours.

Comparison: Features & Specifications
Part Number
A70Z 1165A3U
ET2203-B0017
Dimensions

[W x H x D]
472 x 355 x 70mm

(18.6 x 14.0 x 2.8")
548 x 450 x 48mm

(21.6 x 17.7 x 1.9")
Weight
7.2kg (15.8lb)
8.9kg (19.6lb)
Screen
19" 1440 x 900 LCD (matte)
21.6" 1920x1080 LCD (glossy)
Processor
Core 2 Duo E7500 (2.93GHz)
Core 2 Duo T6600 (2.2GHz)
Chipset
Intel G41 Express
Intel PM45 Express
Graphics
Intel GMA X4500 (integrated)
ATI Radeon HD 4570 256MB
Memory
2GB DDR2 (4GB max)
4GB DDR2 (dual channel)
Hard Drive
320GB 7200rpm
500GB 5400rpm
Optical Drive
DVDRW
Networking
Gigabit, 802.11n
Card Reader
No
SD (HC), MMC, MS (Pro)
Webcam
1.3mp
1.0mp
Speakers
2 x 2W
2 x 3W
Ports
Side: 3 x USB, line-out, mic

Rear: 3 x USB, RJ45, COM
Side: 2 x USB, line-out, mic, card reader

Rear: 4 x USB, RJ45, HDMI, S/PDIF (optical)
Keyboard & Mouse
Wireless
Operating System
Windows 7 Professional
(32-bit)
Windows 7 Home Premium
(32-bit)
Street Price
US$690~$720
US$800~$900

Our Lenovo A70Z sample is the top-of-the-line model, featuring a Core 2 Duo
2.93GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and a 7200rpm desktop hard drive all running on
Windows 7 Professional. The CPU is quite speedy for day-to-day tasks but with
integrated GMA X4500 graphics, it's safe to say you won't be distracted by the
temptation of PC gaming. The specifications are very modest compared to a typical
PC, but some sacrifices had to be made to get it all to fit, and to bring the
price down to a reasonable level.

The Asus EeeTop has a sleeker profile thanks to the use of notebook hardware.
It is equipped with a mobile Core 2 Duo processor running at 2.2GHz, 4GB of
RAM, a budget ATI graphics card and a 5400rpm notebook hard drive. Unlike the
A70Z, the EeeTop has a memory card reader and HDMI and S/PDIF out. The feature
list seems to emphasis the consumption of media. Our sample shipped with Windows
7 Home Premium, but it was the 32-bit version so only 3GB of the total 4GB of
system memory was accessible.



A70Z device listing.



ET2203 device listing.

PHYSICAL DETAILS: Lenovo ThinkCentre A70Z

The A70Z is about 3" deep due to the use of desktop hardware and is held
up by a simple metal stand.



The left side of the machine houses a slim DVD writer. Our sample shipped
with a Sony/NEC 8x burner.




The system can be pushed down up to 35° from perpendicular..




Located on the left side are buttons to adjust screen brightness, line-out
and mic ports, and three USB connectors. The left USB port pictured above
is occupied by the wireless radio for the keyboard/mouse, which incidentally,
we found well-hidden in a compartment inside the mouse.




There are RJ45 and COM ports at the back as well as an additional three
USB ports. The A70Z has a built-in power supply, so there's no power brick;
all you need is a standard PC power cable.



There are large vents at the bottom for intake and similar ones at the
top for exhaust.


PHYSICAL DETAILS: Asus EeeTop ET2203

The EeeTop is about two thirds of the A70Z's depth. The use of laptop hardware
makes it a significantly slimmer device.



Our sample shipped with a Toshiba/Samsung 8x DVD writer.




The machine can be tilted to about 25° from perpendicular. The left
side is home to a media card reader, line-out and mic ports, and two USB
connectors.




The rear.




AC power, RJ45, HDMI, S/PDIF are all plugged in at the rear. There are
an additional four USB ports as well.



A thin, long exhaust grill is located at the top of the system.




The power adapter accepts 100~240VAC, 1.5A max current; its output is
19V at up to 4.74A.

Screen & Peripherals: Lenovo ThinkCentre A70Z

Peripherals are often overlooked in all-in-one PCs, but as they can be as important
as the hardware inside. With almost all computers being fast enough for all
tasks an average user would perform, the quality of the screen, speakers, keyboard
and mouse become more noticeable.



ThinkCentre A70Z display.

The A70Z's matte screen is fairly bright; we only had to set the brightness
to 40% for indoor use in moderate light. It's a sharp display but the colors
seem a bit dull. The speakers have a high maximum volume, but they produce poor
quality at that level. Overall they sound better than most laptop speakers but
are still rather tinny and hollow.

The webcam seems lacking compared to standalone 1.3 megapixel models, producing
images that are a touch on the grainy side, even in well-lit conditions. The
webcam also tints everything toward the cooler end of the color spectrum, so
if a person is cast in warm yellow light from an incandescent bulb, on screen,
the redness of their flesh disappears and he/she looks like they're under white
fluorescents. Its performance in low light is surprisingly good, with objects
in the background clearly visible in a darkened room with the screen as the
only source of light. This strength is more useful in a home environment.



A70Z keyboard and mouse.

The keyboard has a standard layout, and the keys have a good amount of resistance,
though they are quite loud. The mouse is surprisingly small, more closely resembling
a notebook mouse than a desktop model. It has a rubberized coating on the top
surface and slight contours at the side. Like the keyboard, its good enough,
but that's about as much enthusiasm as we can generate. A poor set of speakers
and/or webcam on a business machine can certainly be forgiven, but a higher
quality keyboard and mouse could go along way to improve productivity.

Screen & Peripherals: Asus EeeTop ET2203



EeeTop ET2203 display.

By comparison, the EeeTop screen is a joy to behold. It doesn't get as bright
as the A70Z, but for indoor use, it's more than bright enough. The colors definitely
pop more and the contrast is excellent. The speakers are more powerful than
the A70Z, but they're still noticeably worse than a cheap standalone pair, sounding
muffled and flat. The webcam is a 1.0mp model, but mes to captures a clearer,
less pixelated image than the ThinkCentre's camera. It doesn't do nearly as
well in low light, however.



ET2203 keyboard and mouse.

The included keyboard has the dimensions and layout of the same keyboard found
on their 13~14" UL series laptops, complete with FN hotkeys for controlling
WiFi and screen brightness, etc. The keys are shallow but springy, and if you
push down hard enough, there is some flex. It's not as comfortable to use as
a laptop keyboard as there is no palm rest. The mouse is closer to a full-sized
mouse in size and has a pleasntly smooth, glossy surface.

Bloatware

Both machines came pre-loaded with Adobe AIR and Reader, the trial version
of Office 2007, and a myriad of mostly useless utilities from the manufacturer.
The Asus machine also came with Skype, Arcsoft TotalMedia Theatre, and some
children's games with titles like "Chicken Invaders 2." The ThinkCentre
on the other hand only had one application the EeeTop didn't: Roxio Creator.
These choices are clear indications of what each system is designed for.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Systems Compared:

Lenovo IdeaCentre A600:

Lenovo ThinkCentre A70Z 1165A3U:

Asus EeeTop ET2203-B0017:



A70Z: CPU-Z screenshot taken at full load.



ET2203: CPU-Z screenshot taken at full load.



ET2203: GPU-Z screenshot.

Measurement and Analysis Tools

H.264/VC-1 Test Clips

H.264 and VC-1 are codecs commonly used in high definition movie videos on
the web (like Quicktime movie trailers and the like) and also in Blu-ray discs.
To play these clips, we use Cyberlink PowerDVD.



1080p | 24fps | ~10mbps
1080p H.264:
Rush Hour 3 Trailer 2c
is a 1080p clip encoded in H.264
inside an Apple Quicktime container.





1080p | 24fps | ~8mbps
WMV-HD:
Coral Reef Adventure Trailer
is encoded in VC-1 using the
WMV3 codec commonly recognized by the "WMV-HD" moniker.

x264/MKV Video Test Clip

MKV (Matroska) is a very popular online multimedia container
used for high definition content, usually using x264 (a free, open source
H.264 encoder) for video. The clip was taken from a full length movie; the
most demanding one minute portion was used. We use Media Player Classic
- Home Cinema to play it as its default settings allow it to use DXVA (DirectX
Video Acceleration) automatically when used with a compatible Intel/ATI
graphics chip. For Nvidia graphics we use CoreAVC to enable CUDA (Compute
Unified Device Architecture) support in MPC-HC.



1080p | 24fps | ~14mbps

x264 1080p: Spaceship is a 1080p x264 clip encoded from
the Blu-ray version of an animated short film. It features a hapless
robot trying to repair a lamp on a spaceship.

Flash Video Test Clip

Many users watch media online in Adobe's Flash format on sites
like Hulu and YouTube. Now that the latest 10.1 beta version of Flash supports
GPU acceleration, only slower systems like those powered by a single core
Atom without a proper IGP struggle with Flash in HD. Our test clip is a
HD movie trailer from YouTube played in Firefox.



1280x544 | 25fps | ~2mbps

Flash HD: Iron
Man Trailer #1
is the first trailer from the feature film
of the same name. It's a YouTube HD video, though technically it
is not quite 720p.

Real-world Benchmark Test Details

  • Eset NOD32: In-depth virus scan of a folder containing 32 files
    of varying size, several of which are archives with many files within
    them.
  • WinRAR: Archive creation with a folder containing 68 files
    of varying size (less than 50MB).
  • iTunes: Conversion of an MP3 file to AAC (48KHz, 256kbps).
  • TMPGEnc Xpress: Encoding a 1-minute long XVID AVI file to VC-1
    (1280x720, 30fps, 20mbps).

Our first test procedure is designed to determine the overall AC system power
consumption at various states. To stress CPUs we use Prime95 (large FFTs setting)
and to stress the IGP, we use FurMark, an OpenGL benchmarking and stability
testing utility.

Next we run the system through a video test suite featuring a variety of high
definition clips. During playback, a CPU usage graph is created by the Windows
Task Manger for analysis to determine the average CPU usage. High CPU usage
is indicative of poor video decoding ability. If the video (and/or audio) skips
or freezes, we conclude the IGP (in conjunction with the processor) is inadequate
to decompress the clip properly. Power consumption during playback of high definition
video is also recorded.

Lastly, we run a short series of performance benchmarks — a few real-world
applications as well as synthetic tests.

All nonessential pre-installed software is removed prior to
testing, and certain services and features like Indexing, Superfetch, and
System Restore are disabled to prevent them from affecting our results.
Aero glass is left enabled if supported. All tests are conducted with WiFi
disabled and screen brightness set to a reasonable level, unless otherwise
noted. We also make note if energy saving features like Cool'n'Quiet and
SpeedStep do not function properly.

TEST RESULTS

AC Power Draw

System Power
Test State
EeeTop ET2203
ThinkCentre A70Z
IdeaCentre A600
Off
1W
1W
1W
Sleep
2W*
1W
2W
Idle

(screen off)
17W
25W
38W
Idle

(typical brightness)
33W

(65/100)
40W

(40/100)
53W
Idle

(maximum brightness)
39W
49W
CPU Load
70W
83W
100W
CPU + GPU

Load
84W
83W
125W
*drops to 7W after 5 seconds then to 2W after 30
seconds as the the display does not turn off immediately

As the EeeTop is based on notebook hardware it was no surprise to see it undercut
the Lenovo in power consumption, even with discrete graphics and a larger screen.
At typical screen brightness, the ET2203 idled 7W lower, and it used 13W less
on CPU load. The two systems were even once the GPU was placed on load as the
EeeTop's HD 4570 video card uses much more power than Intel's integrated graphics.
Incidentally, both systems are significantly more energy efficiency than the
Lenovo IdeaCentre A600 we reviewed in the fall.

Note: the ET2203's power figures were derived with the graphics card set
to "maximize performance" in the power options. Setting it to "maximize
battery life" prevents the GPU from reaching its nominal clock/memory speeds,
but results in a 1W reduction across the board (except when the GPU is stressed
in 3D).

Video Playback

Video Playback
Test State
EeeTop ET2203
ThinkCentre A70Z
Avg.

CPU
System Power
Avg.

CPU
System Power
Rush Hour

(H.264 10mbps)
13%
41W
30%
50W
Coral Reef

(WMV-HD 8mbps)
55%
47W
20%
48W
Spaceship

(x264 14mbps)
18%
44W
37%
60W
Iron Man

(Flash 2mbps)
50%
45W
31%
48W

Both systems played high definition video fairly well, with the ET2203 using
consistently less power. Though equipped with discrete ATI graphics, we could
not get hardware acceleration to work on the EeeTop when playing our WMV-HD
test clip, resulting in high CPU usage. Flash playback was also more CPU dependent
than we would have liked, but that may have been due to old drivers; the latest
ATI drivers for the HD 4570 are from September 2009, before Adobe released the
beta version of Flash Player that introduced support for GPU acceleration. In
addition the ET2203 has a lower CPU clock speed, so that accounts for some of
the increase in CPU usage.

Performance

Performance Benchmarks
Model
ThinkCentre A70Z
EeeTop ET2203
IdeaCentre A600
CPU
E7500 2.93GHz
T6600 2.2GHz
P7450 2.13GHz
GPU
X4500
HD 4570
HD 3650
RAM
1x2GB
2x2GB
2x2GB
HDD
320GB 7200rpm
500GB 5400rpm
1TB 7200rpm
Boot-up*
0:38
1:14
NOD32
5:24
10:05
WinRAR
3:56
4:20
4:14
iTunes
3:37
4:59
5:19
TMPGEnc
5:11
6:24
7:56
PCMark05
5557
4953
3DMark05
1597
5950
3DMark06
851
3176
3777
*start button to when the desktop loads fully

With a Core 2 Duo running close to 3GHz and a 7200rpm desktop hard drive, the
A70Z easily beat the ET2203 in our benchmark suite except in 3DMark. The Lenovo
posted better times in all our timed benchmarks, particularly anti-virus scanning
where it completed the task in almost half the time. The A70Z also booted up
in less than 40 seconds which is very impressive for a system running Windows
7. Against the IdeaCentre A600, the EeeTop's results were mixed given the similarity
between the two hardware sets.

Acoustics & Thermals: Lenovo ThinkCentre A70Z

System Measurements
Activity
Avg. Core Temp
HD Temp
Idle
22~23 dBA
35°C
34°C
720p x264 Playback
22~23 dBA
50°C
35°C
CPU Load
22~23 dBA
62°C
35°C
CPU + GPU Load
22~23 dBA
65°C
35°C
Ambient temperature: 21°C.

Ambient noise level: 11 dBA.

The fan(s) in the A70Z kept the system reasonably cool with an average core
temperature of 35°C when idle and 50°C during x264 playback. Full load
brought the core temperature above 60°C.

The measured SPL at the ISO 7779 user position of 0.6m was 22~23 dBA regardless
of the system activity. The noise generated is likely adequately low for most
users, but for someone used to super quiet PCs, it is marginally tolerable.
The acoustic character was somewhat high pitched and had a noticeable uneven
wobble.



The A70Z measured 22~23 [email protected]

Acoustics & Thermals: Asus EeeTop ET2203

System Measurements
Activity
Avg. Core Temp
HD Temp
GPU Temp
Idle
21 dBA
43°C
33°C
52°C
720p x264 Playback
23 dBA
47°C
33°C
61°C
CPU Load
31~32 dBA
67°C
34°C
60°C
CPU + GPU Load
36 dBA
71°C
33°C
76°C
Ambient temperature: 21°C

Ambient noise level: 11 dBA.

The EeeTop's temperatures were also fairly reasonable with the cooling system
doing an acceptable job. However, with both a CPU and dedicated graphics card
to cool, the EeeTop has a tougher time balancing thermals and acoustics, with
temperatures rising a tad more than the A70Z on load. In addition, it's a much
noisier machine when heavily stressed due to the challenges inherent in the
tight confines of the system's thin profile.

When idle, the EeeTop was fairly quiet, measuring 21 [email protected], and sounded
very smooth with a gentle hiss emanating from the exhaust port. Subjectively,
the noise was low and smooth enough to be easily ignored. During x264 playback,
the SPL increased by 2 dB, but retained its benign nature. When placed on a
real CPU or GPU load, the fan ramped up quickly, settling at above 30 dBA after
temperatures stabilized. The noise was a lot louder and whinier, and just generally
awful.



EeeTop idling at 0.6m.



EeeTop with both the CPU and GPU stressed at 0.6m.

MP3 SOUND 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.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 second segments of room ambiance, then the system
at various activity 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.

Audio Recordings

Comparable System sound files:

FINAL THOUGHTS

Lenovo ThinkCentre A70Z 1165A3U:

The A70Z is an effective all-in-one PC for an office environment. With a matte
finish 19" LCD, reflection and glare are not an issue, making it easy on
the eyes for extended use. Using desktop hardware allowed Lenovo to install
a much faster processor and hard drive. As for noise, it's not really a quiet
machine, but it's not particularly loud either, especially on load, as the fan
speed remains constant regardless of system activity.

The webcam and speakers are not the greatest, but for a corporate product,
they don't have to be. The peripherals that really need improvement are the
bundled keyboard and mouse, which are average at best. The mouse in particular
is not comfortable to use.

We priced out a comparable mini-ITX system at Newegg with a similar screen,
peripherals and an OEM copy of Windows 7 Pro; the total came out to be just
above $700, similar to street price of the A70Z, so it's pretty good value.

Asus EeeTop PC ET2203-B0017:

As a home PC, the ET2203 is close to ideal. It has a good amount of hard drive
space and a big glossy screen, perfect for browsing through photo albums or
watching high definition movies. The HDMI output allows hookup to a big screen
HDTV if that's preferred for movies or TV. For the kids, the discrete graphics
card is strong enough to play older or less demanding games. If you enjoy using
Skype or other video chat programs, the webcam and built-in microphone are pretty
good. Notebook hardware makes the EeeTop impressively energy efficient and quiet,
at least at low load or performing simple tasks like watching video. Last but
not least, the EeeTop is slim and attractive, more visually appealing to the
average consumer than the ThinkCentre.

Mobile CPUs are both slower and more expensive than their desktop counterparts,
so its no surprise to see a modest 2.2GHz chip in the EeeTop. The T6600 used
in the ET2203 is outclassed by the A70Z's E7500, but for home use, it's speedy
enough. It should be noted that the current generation iMac utilizes a desktop
processor without being any thicker, so with some creative engineering, Asus
could potentially pack more horsepower in there.

Our main complaints are rather minor in the grand scheme of things. The speakers,
while probably better than you'll find on most all-in-ones, are still lacking
in quality. Perhaps we're asking too much but watching a high definition movie
with flat, slightly muffled audio impairs the experience. The compact bundled
keyboard also needs improvement.

The model we reviewed can be found for as low as $800 after a $100 rebate.
A comparable SFF PC can probably be built for a little bit less, but the svelte
EeeTop is well worth the extra money. You may also want to take a look at the
ET2203T which includes a touch screen and a Blu-ray drive though you'll
have to splurge about $250 more for those luxuries.

Our thanks to ASUSTeK
and Lenovo for ET2203
and A70Z samples.

* * *

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