Lenovo ThinkCentre A62 Review

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Lenovo has been making strides in their consumer market lately, with the IdeaPad notebooks and IdeaCentre desktops, but it’s important to remember that their bread and butter remains the business segment, and the steadfastly industrial Think line of computers.  The ThinkCentre A62 is Lenovo’s mid-range business desktop, with dual-core, tri-core and quad-core processor options.  With interesting features such as an integrated speaker and just about every video out you could need, it offers an attractive choice for businesses looking for an affordably-priced machine.  Read on for our full review.

Specifications

Our review unit came with the following specifications:

  • Operating system: Windows Vista Business 32-bit
  • Processor: AMD Phenom 8600B @ 2.3 GHz
  • Memory: 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • Hard drive: 250GB SATA @ 7200RPM
  • Optical drive: SuperMulti DVD+/-RW
  • Graphics: ATI HD Radeon 3100 integrated graphics
  • Sound: Integrated HD Audio + built-in speaker
  • Wired keyboard and mouse
  • 280W power supply
  • One year limited warranty

 

The Lenovo ThinkCentre A62 starts out at $469; our review configuration carries a price tag of $754.

 

Build and Design

As I said earlier, Lenovo is known for their business machines, which carry a certain expected aesthetic: squared off edges, black or grey finishes, function over form.  While they’re trying out new looks in the Idea product lines, the ThinkCentre still fits in with older models; you can tell that Lenovo is playing it safe by looking dependable in the eyes of large business buyers.  The case itself is sturdily built, with an all-metal frame.  The front is a plastic overlay, with a grate on the right providing extra venting to keep the inside cool.  While our system had a single optical drive, you can see that Lenovo leaves ample room for extra optical and floppy drives; the latter of which still have the misfortune of being used in some large, old organizations.

You can see that the A62 has what I hope is a handle (since I’ve certainly been using it as one) on the top of the machine, making it easy to move around from desk to desk.  It would also make deploying large numbers of these computers all that much easier, since you can have several units on a cart, and just swing one around when you need it.  The left side panel has an indentation at the front, making it easier to slide that side of the case off in case you need to get in and move around.  I’m a huge fan of manufacturers making it easier to root around inside of their computers, so thumbs up to Lenovo for that one.  Two thumb screws in the back hold the panel on, making it a fairly easy process to slide off in case you need to swap out some hard drives or a bad stick of RAM.

There isn’t a whole lot to talk about on the inside of the machine; it’s a fairly small box but still manages to have a lot of open space on the inside.  The only negative thing I can think of on the inside of the A62 is that the wiring for the for power supply and drive bays makes it slightly more annoying when you need to change RAM out, since they lie directly above the DIMM slots.  The tri-core AMD processor in this box runs cool enough that you don’t need much more than the stock heatsink and fan.

 

Inputs and Expansion

The front of the machine gives you the basics, and that’s pretty much it.  You get two USB 2.0 ports in addition to audio in and out.  It would have been nice to see some extra inputs on the front, but this is an inexpensive business desktop, so it isn’t too surprising.  Moreover, the external 3.5″ and 5.25″ drive bays means you can add in plates with just about any functionality you need, such as a memory card reader.

The back of the computer is where all of the input action is, unsurprisingly.  The most interesting thing, though, is the inclusion of the legacy ports: Lenovo added in a parallel port and two PS/2 ports.  It’s not that great of a leap to see them on a conservative business desktop: large companies use all kinds of legacy hardware, sometimes because it still works and sometimes because they need it to run specialized instruments or machinery.  I wondered about including PS/2 ports and I mentioned this to HP last year and they responded with the fact that many major IT departments have security problems with USB ports; sometimes they’ll disable them, and sometimes they just fill them with glue.  It makes it easier to keep users from both adding software and stealing data; offering PS/2 ports gives companies the option of disabling USB ports and still be able to use a keyboard and mouse with the computer. 

In addition to the legacy ports, Lenovo offers up several different video options on the A62; while it comes with DVI and VGA outputs as standard, for an additional $20 you can add a card in that outputs DisplayPort, too.  This end of the computer also offers audio in, out and dedicated mic in ports; it’s good enough to hook up a basic speaker set if necessary.  It really isn’t, though, since there is a perfectly functional speaker built in to the front of the computer, a fact that still surprises me about these business desktops, but I really like it.  It’s handy having a built-in speaker if you just need to check on something and don’t want to bother hooking up a set of speakers or digging out some headphones.  There are also six USB 2.0 ports as well as Gigabit ethernet. 

Inside, there’s still a surprising amount of way to upgrade or otherwise add functionality; if you need to add a video card, there’s an open PCI-express slot on the motherboard.  If you don’t, there’s also a couple of regular PCI slots, which are likely more useful to businesses than PCI-express expandability.  There’s also room inside to add in extra drives if you need it; while there’s only one hard drive-specific bay, there’s enough room to shove them all over the case as well as a couple of open SATA ports on the board.

Benchmarks and Performance

As a general office machine, the Lenovo A62 is more than capable; it comes with enough RAM to handle XP, Vista or Windows 7, and AMD’s tri-core processor will handle typical office tasks as well as some more demanding applications like photoshop or illustrator, if it needs to.

wPrime is a PC performance benchmarking program that forces the computer to perform recursive mathematical calculations. This program is multithreaded, meaning we can take advantage of more than one core of a processor at a time, resulting in a more realistic estimate of a computer’s performance.

wPrime benchmark comparison results (lower numbers mean better performance):

Desktop wPrime 32 time
Lenovo ThinkStation S10 (Core 2 Extreme QX6850 @ 3GHz) 13.869s
Dell Studio Slim (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz) 16.301s
Lenovo A62 (AMD 8600B @ 2.3 GHz) 24.226s
Gateway GT5670 (AMD Phenom 8400 @ 2.1GHz) 27.65s
HP Pavilion Slimline s3500f (Athlon X2 5400 @ 2.8GHz) 29.733s
HP Compaq dc5850 (Athlon X2 5000B @ 2.6GHz) 31.421s
Dell Studio Hybrid (Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.10GHz) 35.582s

PCMark05 overall system performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance):

Desktop PCMark05 Score
Lenovo ThinkStation S10 (Core 2 Extreme QX6850 @ 3GHz) 9,999 PCMarks
Dell Studio Slim (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz) 6,887 PCMarks
Lenovo A62 (AMD 8600B @ 2.3 GHz) 5,203 PCMarks
HP TouchSmart IQ506 (Core 2 Duo T5850 @ 2.16 GHz) 5,189 PCMarks
Gateway GT5670 (AMD Phenom 8400 @ 2.1GHz) 4,981 PCMarks
HP Pavilion Slimeline s3500f (Athlon X2 5400 @ 2.8GHz) 4,593 PCMarks
Dell Studio Hybrid (Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.10GHz) 4,305 PCMarks

3DMark06 overall gaming and 3D performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance):

Desktop 3DMark06 Score
Lenovo ThinkStation S10 (Core 2 Extreme QX6850, NVIDIA FX4600) 10,327 3DMarks
Dell Studio Slim (Core 2 Quad Q8200, ATI HD3450 256MB) 1,820 3DMarks
HP TouchSmart IQ506 (Core 2 Duo T5850, NVIDIA 9300M GS) 1,714 3DMarks
Lenovo A62 (AMD 8600B, ATI HD3100) 1,215 3DMarks
HP Compaq dc5850 (Athlon X2 5000B, ATI HD3100 IGP) 1,041 3DMarks
Dell Studio Hybrid (Core 2 Duo T8100, Intel X3100) 528 3DMarks
Gateway GT5670 (AMD Phenom 8400, NVIDIA 6150SE) 403 3DMarks

HDTune benchmark results:

The hard drive is completely serviceable, but you could stand to notice a measurable increase in performance by upgrading to a faster hard drive.  It’s not too expensive a proposition, either.

 

Software

Lenovo really excels in terms of the additional software they add to their computers, both notebooks and desktops. The coolest of these added applications is probably the ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery tool.  It walks users through backing up their computers and restoring from said backups, should the need arise.

To access any of the Lenovo software, you just go to the ThinkVantage folder in the Windows Start menu.  Different message centers alert users to software and firmware updates, while other applications help you to create recovery media if you need to reinstall the OS or other software.

In addition to the regular ThinkVantage applications, Lenovo packages the system manuals on the system in PDF files.  That way. if you need to modify system hardware or repair something, you don’t need to worry about digging out the manuals from the dark corner in which they’ve been thrown.

To be fair, I’m not sure how many people will get that much use out of the e-manuals, it’s really nice to have the option there just in case you need it.

 

Power Consumption and Noise

While power consumption isn’t a huge worry of consumers, it’s a steadily growing statistic for people buying a new computer.  For businesses, however, it’s always a major concern: when you have hundreds, sometimes thousands, of computers running in a single building, the noise, heat and power consumption really starts to add up.  You don’t want to have to hire large diesel trucks to sit outside and burn fuel just because you can’t pull enough power from the grid. 

The A62 manages to be a reasonably power efficient box; while we’ve seen computers (including some from Lenovo) that offer much reduced power usage, they typically manage it by using lower-power components, which means no triple-core processor.  At idle, the A62 draws 99 watts of electiricity, which is pretty reasonable.  Under average use, like web browsing, word processing and other typical office apps, the computer draws an average of 120 watts, which still isn’t too bad.  Under maximum usage with everything between stressed, you can get the A62 to pull down 165 watts, but chances are this won’t happen too often. 

The A62 also does pretty well on the noise front.  There is noticeable fan noise, but it’s certainly not bothersome unless you stress it out constantly while working in a monastery where people are punished for making noise.  In other words, it’s not bad.  Most people using these will probably be working in typical office environments or have this machine under their desk, and in either case, any complaints you might have probably won’t be related to the noise levels.

Conclusion

As I said earlier, Lenovo is known for their business machines: black, industrial, dependable.  The ThinkCentre A62 follows the same lineage with understated design; every feature on the case has some sort of function behind it, which is kind of a nice change from computer cases that are overly designed and sometimes impede functionality.  At the same time, however, it would be nice to see Lenovo make the computers a little more exciting; just because it’s a business machine (and businesses typically fear change) doesn’t mean you can’t jazz things up a little bit. 

Whether you’re buying computers for a large business office, or a single machine for home office use, the A62 can be an appealing choice.  The price is approachable and it’s backed up by Lenovo’s typically great service and support.  For light to moderate activities, this ThinkCentre would work fine, but if you need to be doing any kind of audio or video encoding, you’ll need to upgrade the processor and hard drive.

Pros

  • Well-built case: sturdy, easy to access innards, the handle is…handy
  • Lots of video out options to fit your displays or projector
  • Included OEM software can be very useful

Cons

  • Case design is pretty conservative
  • Messy wiring inside
  • Extra hard drive bays would be nice


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