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I don't normally write about desktops for business users, but the Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 91z has enough design and performance appeal to draw in home office workers, or even general consumers looking for a relatively clean-looking Windows all-in-one. This system is missing some common consumer-oriented bells and whistles; no surprise given its business leanings. For those looking for a no-frills all-in-one that is both fast and affordable, the ThinkCentre Edge 91z offers a reasonable alternative to traditional consumer PCs. Just note that other vendors offer all-in-ones with better-rounded configurations for just a few dollars more.
The ThinkCentre Edge 91z's design is not on a par with that of Apple's iMac, HP's TouchSmart 600 line, or Samsung's Series 7 all-in-one, but the Lenovo's clean-lined shape and glossy black plastic sheen give it an air of professionalism. You'll find no extraneous accent plastic or other distracting or arbitrary exterior highlights. The plastic feet on the front of the system look tacked on, but otherwise, this system has more visual appeal than many other all-in-ones.
Its lack of a touch screen also makes the ThinkCentre Edge 91z an outlier among midrange all-in-ones. Given the digital media orientation of most pure consumer touch-screen desktops, it's reasonable for Lenovo to have left it off a system aimed at more business-minded users. The absence of a touch screen might hurt the appeal of this system to home office workers who would want it for both work and more demanding digital entertainment tasks. But even in that multiuse case scenario, I'm not convinced that touch-screen input is an integral-enough feature to turn off would-be purchasers.
The bigger issue for those who would want to use the Edge 91z at home is the fact that it lacks an HDMI input. You do get a VGA-in, which means you can use the Edge 91z as a second monitor, or use it to easily swap between the primary desktop and a second system desktop you've wired in.
I'd rather have VGA than no video input option, but the absence of an HDMI-in, a near-universal feature among standard consumer all-in-ones, limits your ability to connect cable boxes, game consoles, or other video entertainment devices. An included HDMI output means that you can connect a second display to the Edge 91z, or even run it to a television. I suspect few home-based users will take advantage of the latter capability, but second-monitor support is welcome, particularly for boosting productivity.
|Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 91z||Toshiba DX1215-D2101||HP Omni 200 5380-qd|
|Display size/resolution||21.5-inch, 1,920x1,080 pixels||21.5-inch, 1,920x1,080 pixels||21-inch, 1,920x1,080 pixels|
|CPU||2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2500S||2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410||2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760|
|Memory||4GB 1,333MHZ DDR3 SDRAM||4GB 1,333MHZ DDR3 SDRAM||6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||Embedded 128MB Intel HD Graphics 2000||Embedded 64MB Intel HD Graphics 3000||1GB AMD Radeon HD 5570 graphics card|
|Hard drives||500GB, 7,200rpm||1TB, 7,200rpm||1TB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
From a value standpoint, the ThinkCentre Edge 91z falls where I expect given its feature set. Its 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 CPU is one of the faster chips among all-in-ones at this price, which pays off in our performance tests below. My one complaint is that the 500GB hard drive seems small for this price. Note that both competing all-in-ones offer twice the storage capacity with 1TB hard drives.
The reduced storage space might give media hoarders pause. Also, the lack of a discrete graphics chip, as you'll find on the HP Omni 200, limits the ThinkCentre's capabilities as a budget gaming desktop. Perhaps, to minimize distractions, you'd prefer a system that lacks gaming capability for a home office. But for media creation, using Photoshop 5 in particular, a graphics card can provide benefits beyond the merely frivolous.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
The ThinkCentre Edge 91z posted commendable performance on a number of tests, particularly tests that rely heavily on CPU capability. I'm especially impressed that it outperformed Apple's $1,199 21.5-inch iMac in a number of cases. If your day-to-day computing tasks find you most often using Microsoft Office applications, managing social media accounts, or generally reading and writing on your computer, this system is more than up to the challenge. It will also be of particular help for brute-force CPU tasks like file compression and decompression, encoding, and other linear work. For more creative endeavors, like editing photos and videos, a graphics card can provide a noticeable speed boost, depending on which applications you use.
Lenovo has added a few more touches to this system to lend it some appeal for the deskbound. The wired mouse and keyboard set includes a spill-proof keyboard design. Indeed, the keyboard survived after I poured a cup of water on it. Lenovo also includes two applications, ThinkVantage Toolbox and Vision Wise. The Toolbox is a straightforward, but useful, system information and diagnostic tool, although the dedicated Toolbox icon bolted to the taskbar is annoying and can't be removed easily.
Vision Wise sounds like an interesting program, but it didn't work on my review unit. Designed for when you have a second computer connected via the VGA port, Vision Wise is supposed to let you set up active windows from both systems on the Edge 91z's display. Ostensibly, Vision Wise lets you divide the screen into two, three, and four different windows via a simple settings menu, and in general acts as an advanced multiscreen management tool. During testing, I was able to launch the application and dig around in the settings via the Vision Wise task bar icon, but the program would not take the final step of splitting up the screen. Lenovo agreed with my suspicion, gleaned from the help file, that the program wasn't launching due to an incompatibility with 64-bit operating systems. I hope a 64-bit-friendly update is in the works for Vision Wise, because it seems useful.
Aside from the video inputs, the ThinkCentre Edge 91z has only a few other connectivity options. You get six USB 2.0 jacks around the back and left side of the unit. Audio jacks are limited to an analog input and output set. For display and general system control, you get a dedicated brightness button of the right side of the system, as well as media controls, and a dedicated Windows Calculator launch button on the keyboard. The Calculator button is convenient, but I'd prefer if it both opened and closed the Calculator app, like a toggle switch. As designed, it opens a new instance of Calculator with every new button press.
|Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 91z||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.72|
|Sleep (10 percent)||1.63|
|Idle (25 percent)||20.5|
|Load (5 percent)||73.78|
|Annual energy cost||$11.28|
Lenovo has achieved the holy grail of power efficiency with the ThinkCentre Edge 91z, achieving strong performance while using less power than its competition. Both the Dell Inspiron One 2305 and the HP Omni 200 have CPUs other than Intel's superefficient, second-generation Core CPUs, so at least they have an excuse (both vendors also have newer models with Intel's new chips I'll be testing shortly). For Apple and Toshiba, while you can't say they're power hogs in the relative sense, they apparently could still learn a thing or two from Lenovo about saving energy.
Lenovo's service and support policies hold to the near-universal industry standard of one year of parts and labor accompanied by a 24-7 toll-free tech support number. You can add at-home service and extended warranty coverage if you purchase your system online from Lenovo directly. You will find basic drivers and documentation on Lenovo's support site, but I wish the site gave you more direct access to the product-specific information.
The IdeaCentre Edge 91z's design is not as good aesthetically as that of an iMac, but Lenovo is clearly making an effort to stand out visually from its competition, perhaps surprising given this system's business orientation. For those looking for a crossover all-in-one for work and light-duty home use, this system offers compelling features and value. If you want a PC for productivity as well as gaming or more creative endeavors, you can find more broadly capable all-in-ones from other vendors.
Find out more about how CNET tests desktop systems.
Apple iMac 21.5-inch (2.5GHz, Summer 2011)
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.7; 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2400; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB AMD Radeon HD 6750 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive
Dell Inspiron One 2305
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.4GHz AMD Phenom II X4 610e; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5470 graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
HP Omni 200 5380qd
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 5570; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive