Lenovo ThinkCentre M58p Review

by J.R. Nelson Reads (23,026)
  • Pros

    • Handle makes moving easy
    • High-end CPU blazes through tasks
    • Lots of room for expandability
  • Cons

    • Some configurations are needlessly pricey
    • No DVI ports

Not every business demands cutting-edge style when it comes to buying computers for their workforce.  Instead, they prize efficiency, productivity and lower TCOs.  This is where Lenovo steps in with their M series of desktops.  The M58p is designed to meet all the stringent requirements commercial organizations have while still providing that Lenovo touch through OEM software, warranties and support.  Is the Lenovo ThinkCentre M58p a good fit for your small business?  Read on for our full review. 

Specifications:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 @ 3.16GHz (6MB L2 cache)
  • Memory: 2 GB DDR3 SDRAM @ 1066 MHz
  • Hard drive: 250GB SATA @ 7200RPM
  • Optical drive: DVD+/-RW
  • Sound: Integrated HD audio with integrated speaker
  • Video card: ATI Radeon HD3470
  • Networking: Gigabit Ethernet
  • Operating system: Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
  • Power supply: 280 watts
  • Warranty: 3 year on-site parts and labor

Lenovo’s new ThinkCentre A600 starts at $871; the suggested retail price of this configuration is currently $1136.

Build and Design
Business desktops aren’t typically known for pushing the boundaries in terms of design, and Lenovo’s M-series ThinkCentre is certainly no exception.  The computer itself is grey and black, and designed for maximum efficiency over pretty much everything else.  That’s not to say that the M58p is boring so much as it comes off as a very serious computer — which is fine, it’s meant for business, after all.

The front of the machine shows off the three externally-accessible drive bays, with two 5.25″ bays and one 3.5″ bay.  Only one was filled in this configuration, with a DVD+/-RW.  Below those are the power button as well as power and hard drive activity lights.  USB ports and audio jacks follow below.  One visible and very nice feature on the front of the machine is the venting on the side and bottom.  Even when under heavy workloads, airflow should be more than sufficient to keep the desktop cool.  Moreover, all that extra air can come in handy if the computer is being used in warmer environments.

The right side of the machine is completely blank, so the computer can be set against a wall or desk, or even another computer, without worry of blocking some vent or the other.  One notable feature in this picture is the same thing found on every Lenovo business desktop: the handle.  It’s one of my favorite things about Lenovo computers, and it would be really amazing if other manufacturers would pick up on this.  It’s true that a handle adds a little bulk and height to the computer, but it makes it so much easier to move around — which is important to consider when a company is rolling out a thousand of these.  The left side is almost blank, but features the Lenovo logo and a small round indentation that is used to pull the cover off of the side.

The rear of the machine is pretty basic as far as features go, but distinctly modular in design.  Two thumb screws are on the right, providing easy access to the internals.  That’s always a nice thing to have when technicians need to service some component or another.  Inside of the machine, there is an abundance of free space.  Aside from the empty drive bays, there is plenty of room beneath the drive cages to add extra components or hard drives.  The bays already present in the machine are, again, all screwless, letting someone quickly and easily swap out either a bad hard drive or optical drive without much fuss.  The sooner manufacturers banish all screws from commonly serviced components, the happier anyone who has to go inside a computer will be.

In the lower-right hand side of the case is the built-in speaker.  A feature that surprised me the first time I reviewed a Lenovo PC, it’s something I’ve definitely come to appreciate.  It’s really handy being able to play back something or test something without being forced to hook up speakers with a mess of wires or find a pair of headphones. 

Inputs and Expansion
The front of the machine is all business when it comes to expandability, with the previously-mentioned externally-accessible drive bays, as well as two USB2.0 ports, audio in and audio out.  The back of the machine is where everything lies, with another six USB2.0 ports, analog audio in and out ports, keyboard and mouse PS/2 ports and a serial port.  Surprisingly, there’s no parallel port on this model, and it’s still something of a surprise to not see one on a business desktop.  It might finally signal a shift in terms of the technology businesses adopt: while there are no doubt some who still need that parallel port, most have long since moved on.  With the adoption of USB and its backwards compatibility as a standard, eventually computers will likely have USB ports for input and nothing else; even old USB devices work with new plugs.

The M58p has four different video ports: VGA and DisplayPort on the video card, and VGA and DisplayPort on the computer’s motherboard.  It was a big surprise to see DVI leapfrogged so quickly in favor of DisplayPort, especially since DVI-I can handle both analog and digital connections.  At least users will be able to hook up multiple monitors out of the box.

Performance
Our review configuration of the M58p came with a relatively powerful E8500 Core 2 Duo CPU, so it excels at strictly computational tasks.  The ATI Radeon HD3470 is sufficient to run the desktop compositing found in Vista and Windows 7, though it is definitely starting to get a bit long in the tooth.  There won’t be much in the way of games running on this machine, which is fine, but GPGPU applications are starting to pick up steam.  It would be nice to have a more powerful video card in the box, especially for the overall price of the system.

wPrime CPU performance comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Desktop Time to complete wPrime 32M
Dell Studio Slim (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz) 16.301s
Lenovo ThinkCentre M58p (Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 @ 3.16GHz) 24.194s
Dell Studio Hybrid (Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.10GHz) 35.582s
Lenovo A600 All-in-one (Core 2 Duo P7450 @ 2.13GHz) 37.363s
Apple Mac Mini (Core 2 Duo P7350 @ 2.0GHz) 38.754s

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

Desktop PCMark05 Score
Lenovo ThinkCentre M58p (Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 @ 3.16GHz) 7738 PCMarks
Dell Studio Slim (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz) 6887 PCMarks
Lenovo A600 All-in-one (Core 2 Duo P7450 @ 2.13GHz) 5589 PCMarks
HP TouchSmart IQ506 (Core 2 Duo T5850 @ 2.16 GHz) 5189 PCMarks
Apple Mac Mini (Core 2 Duo P7350 @ 2.0GHz) 4593 PCMarks

3DMark06 overall graphics performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance):

Desktop 3DMark06 Score
Lenovo A600 All-in-one (Core 2 Duo P7450, ATI HD3650) 4265 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkCentre M58p (Core 2 Duo E8500, ATI HD3470) 2478 3DMarks
Dell Studio Slim (Core 2 Quad Q8200, ATI HD3450 256MB) 1820 3DMarks
HP TouchSmart IQ506 (Core 2 Duo T5850, NVIDIA 9300M GS) 1714 3DMarks
Apple Mac Mini (Core 2 Duo P7350, NVIDIA 9400M) 1552 3DMarks

HDTune results:

In short, the M58p has more than enough power for pretty much anything that doesn’t require extensive 3D performance. The high speed of the E8500 Core 2 Duo CPU shot it above the low-end quad core Q8200 in PCMark’s test suite. 

Power and Noise
These days businesses (and even consumers) are taking a hard look at where to cut costs and surprisingly, one of those places is the electricity bill.  The ThinkCentre M58p is pretty attractive in that respect; despite its high performance processor, it doesn’t cost all that much to run.  At idle, the system consumes around 46 watts of power, while under heavy usage, that might spike up to 76 watts.  Maxing everything out only brought the system to 86 watts of power, which is surprisingly low.  No doubt part of its power efficiency, the system doesn’t produce a lot of heat, which means it doesn’t produce a lot of noise, in the form of cooling fans, either.  The fans are audible, but in typical office environments, probably unnoticeable.

Conclusion
The Lenovo ThinkCentre M58p is a strong little computer.  It doesn’t take up much room, it’s very sturdily built, and it offers a lot in the way of expandability and easy access.  The handle makes it very easy to move around, and the screwless design means that technicians don’t need to carry around a toolkit just to swap out a hard drive. The 3D performance is weak, but easily sufficient for 99% of office tasks, including decoding HD video, while the CPU performance, at least in this model, was above and beyond what typical businesses might need. 

Unfortunately, all that usability and efficiency come at a price: in this case, over eleven hundred dollars.  Granted, you get a rock stable computer that comes included with a three year on-site parts and labor warranty; that warranty upgrade often costs several hundred dollars above the base price of standard computers.  The warranty and promised stability alone likely make up for the higher sticker price.  Overall, the M58p is a great, if somewhat pricey, choice for businesses looking to upgrade their computers, and with Lenovo’s long history of solid business performance, it’s hard to go wrong.

Pros

  • Handle makes moving easy
  • High-end CPU blazes through tasks
  • Lots of room for expandability

Cons

  • Some configurations are needlessly pricey
  • No DVI ports


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