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Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 91z

  • Category: Desktop Computers
  • Review Date: 09/01/11
  • Bottom line:

    Lenovo's SMB-oriented ThinkCentre Edge line expands to the all-in-one desktop space with the ThinkCentre Edge 91z. It's reasonably priced, powerful, and can give the iMac a run for its place in a design studio.

  • Pros:

    Sleek all-in-one design. Powerful quad-core processor. Wireless Internet, keyboard, and mouse. VGA input. VESA wall mount kit.

  • Cons:

    Glossy screen reflections. No 802.11a/n 5GHz support. No HDMI input to use monitor with consoles or other PCs. No USB 3.0 or eSATA ports. Only 30 days of Norton Internet Security updates.

  • Spec data:

    Type: Business, All-in-one

    Processor Family: Intel Core i7

    RAM: 8 GB

    Storage Capacity (as Tested): 1000 GB

    Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 6650A

    Primary Optical Drive: Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW

    Monitor Type: LCD Widescreen

    Screen Size: 21.5 inches

    Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional

Editor Rating:

3.50

By Joel Santo Domingo

The Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 91z ($1,386 direct) is the company's latest all-in-one desktop designed for the SMB market, and as such it's less flashy than Lenovo's IdeaCentre consumer line. That isn't to say it's not attractive: Its black glossy minimalist design will attract design-conscious business users and owners. The system's interior components are top-notch as well, with a quad-core Intel Core i7-2600S processor, 8GB of memory, and enough power to motor through just about any office task you throw at it, including mid-level graphics tasks. It is a serious competitor to the class-leading Apple iMac 21.5-inch, and would fit well in an office that like the look of Apple products, but needs to standardize on Windows 7.

Design
The Edge 91z's looks are a lot simpler—not quite as fancy as the Lenovo IdeaCentre B520 ($1,799 list, 4 stars)—with a seamless front face all the way from the top with its embossed webcam to the two removable feet on the bottom of the unit. The two feet give the user an open space below the screen to stow a keyboard under the system. In the more entertainment-oriented Lenovo B520, the speaker bar blocks keyboard storage. In the back, the Edge 91z's kickstand-like foot can be removed and the whole system mounted on an arm or a wall using the integrated VESA mount. When hung on an arm or wall mount, the system will look just like an HDTV or a large screen monitor. Its built-in 21.5-inch widescreen has a true 1080p HD resolution (1,920 by 1,080). If there's any drawback to the system's looks, it's that the system's glass front panel reflects a lot of ambient light (and items) from the room. This shouldn't be a problem for most users, unless they like to work with a monochromatic background on their screen all the time.

There are quite a few external ports for expansion (internal expansion is limited on all-in-one PCs). These ports include six USB 2.0 ports (one used by the wireless receiver for the keyboard and mouse combo), audio jacks on the side, a card reader, Ethernet, VGA in, and HDMI out. The VGA-in port can be used with any laptop or desktop with a VGA port, so you can continue to use the system's monitor long after the system's Core i7-2600S processor becomes obsolete. You can use the HDMI-out port to extend the system's display to another monitor or mirror what's on your screen. An HDMI-in port would have been welcome as well, but it's not a deal breaker.

Our review unit came with a DVD burner, but you can skip that option if you're placing the system in an area that doesn't need the drive (like in a kiosk or receptionist's desk installation). More "would be nice" features that are missing are faster data ports like eSATA or USB 3.0. These faster ports are useful if your company regularly stores copious data (like database files or graphics) on external drives. The system is almost fully wireless, in addition to the keyboard and mouse; the 91z has an 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi network connection included. Again, it would be nice if the Wi-Fi extended to 802.11a/n 5GHz, which works better if you have lots of other 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks in your area.

The Edge 91z comes with a standard set of software that is mostly useful. The usual Lenovo Rescue and Recovery utility is present, though competitors like Dell and HP have made strides in including recovery utilities on their systems. Other apps include Microsoft Office 2010 Starter, which can be upgraded online to a full professional version. The system comes with a 30-day starter subscription to Norton Internet Security, but that's not too much of a plus, since you can download Norton 30-day for free on the Internet. There are other utilities included for the DVD burner and webcam, but for the most part the system is free of extraneous software you don't need.

Performance
The ThinkCentre Edge 91z' Intel Core i7-2600S processor, AMD Radeon HD 6650A graphics, and 8GB of system memory means that this computer is fast. The 91z completed the Hanbrake video test (1:20) and Photoshop CS5 test (3:03) much faster than other 21.5-inch competitors like the Toshiba DX1215-S2101 ($879.99 at Best Buy, 3.5 stars) (1:54 Handbrake, 4:53 CS5) and Apple iMac 21.5-inch (Thunderbolt) ($1,199 list, 4.5 stars) (1:25 Handbrake, 3:29 CS5). Likewise, the 91z's AMD Radeon HD 6650A graphics help it with 3D gaming tests (65 fps Crysis, 28 fps Lost Planet 2). The 91z trails the iMac on these tests, but only by a few fps (70fps Crysis, 32fps Lost Planet 2). Essentially, this system is ready for work or play, though play is usually less of a concern in an office environment.

The system that compares most closely to the ThinkCentre Edge 91z is the Editors' Choice Apple iMac 21.5-inch (Thunderbolt). For a similar price ($1,399), you can get the base iMac upgraded with 8GB of system memory, so the systems' stats are pretty close. The Lenovo is a smidge faster on the multimedia benchmarks and the iMac is a smidge faster on 3D tasks and everyday tasks. Both systems have 21.5-inch widescreens, 1TB hard drives, discrete AMD graphics, Intel Core processors, and both can be used as external monitors for laptops (VGA for the Lenovo, Thunderbolt for the Apple). However, when you consider that the base $1,199 iMac is just as fast as the Lenovo, even without the extra RAM, the iMac continues to hold on to its EC. The ThinkCentre Edge 91z is a good choice for the design-forward business that's into buying Lenovo desktops for its staff.

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