Lenovo ThinkCentre M90z Review

User Experience

Lenovo's ThinkCentre M90z is easy to set up. Simply place it on your desk, adjust the back stand as you please, plug in a mouse and keyboard, and fire it up. Total setup took just a few minutes, and while we wish we could adjust the height and tilt a bit more, it ended up working out fine in our test lab. In an office setting, the M90z would fit in perfectly well. In a more modern home office, it looks somewhat dated and behind the times. Just keep that in mind if style is of great concern to you. Boot-up was quick (well under a minute), though we were greeted by a number of pop-ups the first time. The Norton Security trial is always an issue, so we had to muffle that right away. Afterwards, most everything was smooth sailing.

The bundled mouse and keyboard with our test unit looked a bit more dated than the two pictured in many of the M90z press photos. That said, both functioned fine, and while they offered no extra functionality (no hot keys or macros on the keyboard, and no side buttons on the mouse), they both suffice if you're saddled with traditional office tasks. The LCD, as mentioned before, is one of the major highlights. With the glossy touch panel, colors are sharp and crisp, while the 1080p native resolution enables Full HD content to be displayed as it was meant to be. The system could double as a great little DVD/TV setup for a bedroom, if you've been considering as much.

Overall performance was decent, but for around $1,400, we expected more. Application load times were somewhat disappointing, and in general, we felt that the hard drive was both sluggish and too noisy. Also, for $1400, we really expected a discrete GPU. The Core i5 is great, but for tasks that don't require a dedicated GPU, a Core i3 would've had nearly identical perceived performance in most desktop scenarios. Nothing in particular felt slow, but we just didn't feel that the M90z was as snappy as a $1400 quad-core machine should be.

While we're on the topic of hard drives, the Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS that was installed was surprisingly loud. We could hear each and every seek even from a few feet away. We got the impression that Lenovo had enough space in the case to dampen some of that but chose not to. Also, a slot-loading optical drive is always preferred in an all-in-one machine; the tray-load one here means that you'll have to arrange to keep the machine a certain distance from your wall in order to insert discs.

The integrated GMA HD graphics were fine for playing back HD media (even 1080p) without any trouble, and it managed to handle a few FPS titles from yesteryear. It's obviously not capable of playing the latest titles at a decent resolution; but again, this is a machine designed to get work done, so play time always comes second. We will point out, however, that there are all-in-one machines on the market today for well under $1400 that have discrete GPUs (the iMac at $1199, as an example), mostly paired with Core i3 processors. If you need 3D performance, you're better off with a Core i3 + discrete GPU versus a Core i5 + integrated graphics.

Finally, we'll get to the touch features. To put it bluntly, they're mostly a waste. Don't get us wrong, the functionality is great. And touch response on the system was excellent, so we can't knock the implementation.

That said, Windows 7 simply isn't built to be used solely, or even mostly, by touch. Particularly not on a desktop. A 23" screen is pretty massive compared to the average finger, and by the time you lean forward enough to get your finger on the screen, your face is too close for comfort in our opinion. It can be awkward, and we don't recommend that anyone attempt to use touch as a mouse replacement on a desktop or all-in-one. Very little touch-enabled software was included, and none of that was compelling. The touch panel is a +$100 option that users can, and probably should, overlook. Trust us, you won't miss out on much.

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