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It’s difficult to explain why all-in-one PCs aren’t more popular on the current market. For instance, notebooks also have a worse price/performance ratio compared to desktop PCs. Yet they are being sold in heaps, despite the fact that many are buying them for the wrong reasons, with the notebook in question never leaving its desk surface. So what’s the problem with all-in-one models, then? Well, other than the very limited import in most smaller countries, it might be due to the huge variations in quality among manufacturers, starting from bad production quality, over slow hardware, to overheating. Lenovo’s ThinkCentre Edge 91z is a prime example of an excellent PC which has none of these issues, leaving only the question of financial viability as the key factor in favour or against it.

Exterior

 

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The design of this PC can be deemed moderately conservative, mostly due to the lack of rounded edges and its uniformly coloured mask. The entire front of the PC is glossy enough to reflect anything in front of it, but this doesn’t come across as aggressive, despite our general lack of affection for all things glossy, including displays. The display isn’t touch-sensitive, unfortunately, which might bother users eager to experience the upcoming Windows 8 in its native environment, but this also meant a lower price for the PC, as well as the lack of any fingerprints across the smooth reflective surface of the front. Although we’re dealing with a TN panel, the display itself is of reasonably high quality, due to the excellent factory settings for contrast and brightness, but also the fact that the display is internally connected with the graphics chip by a digital connection, making the image crystal clear and sharp.

All connectors have been placed very discretely, so that they go unnoticeable to all not specifically looking for them. The DVD drive is located on the right, in its usual portable format, but luckily, with a tray mechanism instead of a slot-in one. On the left, there’s a card reader, a microphone/headphones connector and two USB 2.0 ports, while the back contains the power socket, Ethernet connector, VGA input, HDMI output and four USB 2.0 ports. The only thing that spoils the front a bit is the buttons for backlight correction and source selection (PC/VGA), although they are discreet enough not to actually pass for bothersome.

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The PC arrives with a Lenovo mouse and keyboard bundle, with a quality just above average. The keys are of the Chiclet sort and seem reliable enough for prolonged everyday use, while the mouse tends to get a bit screechy after extensive clicking, but has a mass and firmness that make the feeling in hand good. Overall, both components are quite a bit better than the usual cheap peripherals that passes for hardware in PC stores, so don’t fret about additional expenses to make this PC fully functional.

Interior

 

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The hardware inside this ThinkCentre is anything but meagre – we’re talking about a Core i3-2100 CPU, which provides enough horsepower to tackle all contemporary tasks, while the graphics department, to our surprise, is handled not by Intel’s GMA, but AMD’s Radeon HD 6650A with 1 GB GDDR3 RAM. Understandably, this chip is insufficient for full HD gaming, but at 1366x768 with moderate detail levels, you’ll feel at home. More importantly, this Radeon enables hardware HD video acceleration using the madVR video rendered in popular players, so that you get high-quality picture in additional to high resolution. The speakers are built-in, of course, and are of pretty decent quality compared to similar solutions out there.

As far as memory goes, two SO-DIMM DDR3 slots are available, one of which contains a 4 GB module signed by Samsung. With regard to the current memory prices, it might not be a bad idea to buy another module and bring the total up to 8 GB, the maximum capacity supported by the PC.

The hard disk is Seagate’s standard 3.5” 7200 rpm issue, while the top edge contains a 2 MP webcam, useful for Skype and similar activities. Windows 7 64-bit comes preinstalled on the PC, and the disk even contains a rescue partition in case something goes wrong.


Impressions

 

Display 21,5" full HD 1920x1080 (16:9), glossy, LED
Processor Intel Core i3-2100 3,1 GHz
Chipset Intel B65 Express (USB 2.0, SATA III)
GPU Radeon HD 6650A (600 MHz, 480 SP, 8 ROP, 1 GB DDR3 @ 1,6 GHz 128-bit)
Memory 4 GB DDR3-1333 Samsung SO-DIMM
Hard drive Seagate Barracuda 500 GB, 7200 RPM, 16 MB, 3,5"
Optical drive
Slimtype DS8A5SH DVD RW
Wi-Fi Intel Wi-Fi b/g/n
Ethernet Intel 1 Gbit
Camera 2 Mpix
Speakers Embedded
Connectivity 6 x USB 2.0, card reader, stereo out, mic in, VGA, HDMI
OS Windows 7 SP1 64-bit
Other Mous + keyboard
Price ~ 725 €
Contact www.lenovo.com

 

 

Despite our eagerness to find a tangible flaw on this PC, we’ve simply been unable to. Edge 91z is almost completely silent in operation, while the little heat generated by it gets properly conducted to the exhaust, the sole warm point of the PC. With all the components this system contains, together with a 180 W PSU, it’s clear that engineers have come up with an excellent cooling system.

Out of the four total negative remarks we have on account of this PC, two are trivial, while the other two refer to specific functionality rather than general drawbacks. The trivialities include the following: firstly, the preinstalled graphics driver is rather stale (dated June 2011), so make sure you update the graphics driver as soon as possible (the usual driver offered for download by AMD works perfectly well); secondly, the entire PC tends to vibrate when an optical medium is being read, but since the drive is placed vertically, and at an angle at that, this doesn’t come across as surprising. The first actual issue is that the installed HDMI port is output-only, so you can’t connect a gaming console or an HD tuner to the PC and use it as a display device. If you weren’t planning to anyway, feel free to disregard this remark. Otherwise, it’ll be a problem, as you’ll simply have to purchase an additional display device for this purpose. Finally, the model we tested had a hard disk with a capacity of 500 GB, which might feel too tight for some folks, but bear in mind that there’s also a slightly more expensive variant with a 1 TB HDD, so don’t quit on this model just because of that.

 

 

7-Zip 9.20 comp./decomp. [kB/s] 7.295 / 96.023
x264 encoding [fps] 16,4
Blender 2.57b [s] ** 409
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL [fps] / xCPU [pts] 34,9 / 2,97
AIDA64 memory read / write / copy [MB/s] 10.192 / 10.448 / 9.826
AIDA64 memory latency [ns] ** 54,8
HDTune Pro 5.0 read [MB/s] / access time [ms] 109,2 / 17,7
  1366x768, 0xAA 0xAF 1920x1080, 0xAA 0xAF
3DMark Vantage, high settings, GPU score 5.042 2.527
Unigine Heaven, DX11 high, tess. off [fps] 20 10,4
Crysis Warhead, DX10 Gamer [fps] 24,4 14,7
Aliens vs Predator, DX11 high [fps] 28,7 15,8
Resident Evil 5, DX10 high [fps] 54,5 33,8
** less is better

 

approved

The price of this PC is the make-or-break factor here. One could certainly assemble a more powerful desktop PC with a monitor for 650€, but honestly, the difference in the price/performance ratio is at its historical smallest with this model. 91z will give you a sufficiently powerful CPU, GPU that makes short work of video and is adequate enough for casual gaming, and most importantly, a compact form factor that looks and feels great, unlike the bulky enclosures that take up a huge amount of space on the floor or the desk. Although enthusiasts will hardly ever see something noteworthy in all-in-one PCs, Edge 91z seems like a very interesting solution. If the list of features makes you think that Edge 91z is what you’re looking for in a PC, you’re most probably right.