- Good wireless kb/mouse
- Solid build quality
- Easily moveable w/handle
- Weird brightness buttons
- Limited port selection
- AD POP UPS!
A solid first offering in the business all-in-one space.
Lenovo has built its brand on solid business computers with good support and great build quality. While they’ve lately been turning their eyes hungrily toward the juicy consumer market, they haven’t forgotten the pillars upon which they’ve supported their core business. To that end, the Lenovo’s ThinkCentre A70z marks the company’s first forays into taking their successful all-in-ones and wrapping them in business black. Was the transition successful? Read on for our full review.
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 @ 2.93GHz
- Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
- Memory: 2GB DDR2
- Hard drive: 320GB SATA @ 7200RPM
- Graphics: Intel integrated HD
- Networking: Gigabit Ethernet
- Wireless networking: 802.11b/g/n
- Sound: Integrated HD audio
- Optical drive: Slot-loading 8x DVD+/-RW
Lenovo has been aiming to make a name for itself recently on eco-friendly product choices. We’ve seen LED-backlit displays, high-efficiency desktops, and recyclable cases. The A70z showcases that movement better than most. As soon as you open the box in which the ThinkCentre comes, it’s apparent that Lenovo has been trying to green up its packaging. First of all, there’s fewer plastic and Styrofoam pieces to go into landfills, and the protective plastic coverings you typically find on new computers, to protect them from scratches and nudges during shipping, have disappeared entirely. In their place is a reusable woven plastic bag, like those you often find selling at grocery stores for 99 cents. It’s a really interesting choice, and handy to boot.
Many of Lenovo’s offerings, whether they’re ThinkPads, ThinkCentres, ThinkStations or ThinkVision displays, all fit in a common theme. They’re built with chunky, industrial design aesthetics, clad in a carbonized greyish black armor. The ThinkCentre A70z follows suit with fat corners, sharp edges, and no glossy surfaces anywhere. After experiencing shiny case upon shiny case in consumer product offerings, it’s nice to see that there are a few companies that still go for the matte, professional finishes.
Once the Lenovo all-in-one has been pulled free, it’s apparent that Lenovo wasn’t going for the same kind of svelte and sleek appearance you find in some of their consumer all-in-one offerings such as the IdeaCentre A600. Instead, the A70z feels thick – almost too thick, really – but it isn’t because the machine is large. Lenovo, choosing to follow the industrial design to its logical conclusion, didn’t really taper any of the edges like on most all-in-ones. The computer doesn’t hide the fact that it’s there and ready for work.
\Looking at the machine head on, it’s clear that the Chinese computer giant wanted to go for something of a minimalistic look head-on, since the only button visible is the power button. Right below the round button, you can see the speaker cover stretching across the entire horizontal width of the machine. The speakers themselves, however, are only in two localized spots within the bar. Above the screen is the A70z’s built-in webcam and microphone setup; given how there’s been a resurgence in telepresence technologies within the workplace, the webcam and mic might be more useful in a business setting than most people think.
The left-hand side of the machine is given over to the optical drive. In this case, it’s a tray-loading model instead of a slot-loading drive, which is fine by us. Slot-loading drives are often difficult to use on an all-in-one with physically moving around so that you can see where the disc is being waved. Tray-loading drives, however, feature a button that you can feel out which then ejects the drive. The right-side of the computer offers up a couple of the necessary port offerings – in this case, it’s three USB2.0 ports, analog audio out and microphone in. There are also brightness up and down buttons, which is a great addition that some all-in-ones, like the Dell Studio One 19, sometimes forget. Their behavior was odd, however, as the bottom button brought up the brightness dialog box, while the top button initiated an ‘auto-adjust’ function. It was just like connecting a display via VGA, which is an odd choice for an all-in-one.
Going around to the rear, the ports continue, though few in number. There is power in, three more USB2.0 ports, and, interestingly enough an old serial port. While the inclusion of a serial port might seem odd at first, it’s important to remember that the ThinkCentre A70z is oriented toward business users, and big enterprises often have old hardware that interfaces via serial only. Just to the right of the serial port is a Kensington lock slot.
Also on the rear of the A70z is the silver locking stand, which holds the computer upright; a black rubber sleeve along the bottom keeps it from sliding around. It hooks into a plastic panel that covers up four screws; if you pop the cover off, the available mounting points are suitable for using a VESA-compatible stand or mounting system. Just above that is the Lenovo handle we’ve come to know and love. It may seem small, but the handles Lenovo builds into half of their business products are one of my favorite features. It’s also sturdier than it appears, since it’s plastic on the outside but metal on the inside. It’s good to know that if necessary, a worker in duress could pick his ThinkCentre A70z up by the handle and swing it as a crude blunt weapon.
Display and Speakers
Outside of dedicated monitor reviews, we don’t often get the chance to talk about a computer’s display; all-in-ones are obviously an exception to that rule. The display used in the construction of the A70z is a 19-inch, 1440×900 resolution screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio. While the display is obviously a TN panel, the horizontal viewing angles were more than adequate. At extreme angles, the display turned cloudy but never inverted. Vertical angles were more of a mixed bag; while the range is perfectly adequate for most users, you will encounter inversion at the far ends.
Unfortunately, while the screen is nice and crisp, the speakers are much less so. The stereo setup sounds much closer to what you’d find on a laptop instead of a desktop, which, with the room available, is a shame. Still, while simultaneously a bit tinny and muddy, it’s more than enough to listen to a quick work tutorial video and perfectly adequate for any spoken word content.