Lenovo 3000 J review: Lenovo 3000 J

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MSRP: $399.00

The Good Affordably priced; decent suite of system utilities and restore tools.

The Bad No recordable DVD drive; lacks support for PCI Express expansion cards; small 80GB hard drive; one-year warranty not enough for business users.

The Bottom Line The Lenovo 3000 J105 is best suited for basic office and home productivity tasks; but with limited upgrade options and a one-year warranty, better deals are out there.

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5.6 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5
  • Support 5

Lenovo 3000 J105

Since buying IBM's PC business in 2004, Chinese computer company Lenovo has continued to rely on the staid IBM ThinkCentre branding. In February, however, it introduced the first Lenovo-branded PCs in the United States, Intel-based Lenovo 3000 J100 models and AMD-based J105 models, one of which we review here. The J-series desktops bear some striking similarities to the ThinkCentre line, including a familiar case design and proprietary maintenance software. Aimed at businesses with 25 or fewer employees, our Lenovo 3000 J105 review unit trades impressive specs for a low price point and a well-rounded support package to keep businesses running. The consumer-focused eMachines T6420 offers more impressive hardware for roughly the same price, albeit without the business-specific software utilities Lenovo provides. The higher-end models in the J105 series, such as our $808 test system ($529 without monitor), will fill the bill for light office tasks, e-mailing, and Web browsing, and the Lenovo Care package will provide peace of mind for your business operations. We'd have a better sense of security, however, if the standard warranty lasted longer than one year.

At the time of this writing, the Lenovo 3000 J series desktop includes 17 base configurations, split almost evenly among Intel and AMD CPUs. The systems are fixed configurations; options mainly involve adding peripherals, accessories, and software. Lenovo 3000 J105 systems are priced as low as $349, though at that rock-bottom price, you're getting a questionable combination of an AMD Sempron 3000+ and 256MB of RAM. We'd be happy to invest a bit more in our review unit, which featured an Athlon 64 3200+ processor, 512MB of RAM, and a 17-inch LCD monitor.

The J-series chassis is dressed in the familiar IBM/Lenovo business black but with a beige front panel. Like the ThinkCentre desktop, the front bezel extends nearly an inch above the top of the case and can be used as a handle. The orange drive buttons are less buttoned-down and give the system a cartoony touch--an odd choice for a machine aimed at business users. The case is only partially tool-free; the side panel is held on by two thumbscrews while the expansion boards and the drives require a screwdriver for removal and installation. Upon initial power-up, the J105's fans are quite loud, but once the system starts, things settle down to a whisper.

Two USB 2.0 ports and a floppy drive are located on the front of the Lenovo 3000 J105, with four additional USB 2.0 ports and jacks for the integrated 6-channel AC'97 audio controller around back. Notably absent, even from the upgrade options on Lenovo's Web site, are FireWire connections and a DVD burner; you're stuck with the stock CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive. Some of the more expensive base configurations now include a double-layer DVD burner. At 80GB, the hard drive is on the small side to be in a desktop these days, but you have room to add three more and another optical drive.

Under the hood of the Lenovo 3000 J105 is an AMD Athlon 64 3200+ processor running at 2.2GHz. Surprisingly, the J105 actually matched the eMachines T6420, which has double the RAM and a slightly faster Athlon 64 3400+ CPU, on CNET Labs' SysMark 2004 application benchmarks. The most recent Lenovo desktop we've looked at, the ThinkCentre A52, easily outclassed the Lenovo, coming in 13 percent faster, thanks to its 3.2GHz Intel Pentium 4 640. For most home-office uses, the stock Athlon 64 3200+ will be more than sufficient.

Video comes by way of VIA's S3 Graphics UniChrome Pro IGP (Integrated Graphics Processor) solution, with 64MB of shared system memory. If you decide to add a bit more graphics power, you'll have to settle for an AGP card, since the VIA K8M800-based motherboard does not support PCI Express expansion cards. There are, however, three traditional PCI slots available.

Included in the price is a bright 17-inch LCD monitor, the Lenovo L171, which has a matching black case, an attractive narrow bezel, and a native resolution of 1,280x1,024 pixels. You also get a standard wired PS/2 keyboard and an optical USB scroll mouse.

The appeal for business buyers comes in large part from the Lenovo Care suite of system tools. Lenovo Care provides quick links to multimedia applications, backup software, one-button system recovery, and Web-based service and support. By setting a backup point, you can restore your system to a previous working configuration, even if you can't boot to the OS.

Lenovo Care will also keep you informed of driver and software updates, upgrades, and new product announcements, as well as provide easy access to third-party maintenance applications such as the included hard drive defragger, Diskeeper Lite.

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