Lenovo ThinkCentre 91z: A Stylish, Business-Savvy Sprinter
By Sarah Jacobsson Purewal
At a Glance
Pretty screen, pretty design
Lacks discrete graphics card
This sleek business All-in-One boasts excellent performance.
Lenovo’s ThinkCentre Edge 91z is a stylish all-in-one designed for business users. The machine boasts a sleek, edge-to-edge glass screen, and excellent overall performance. It’s not a high-end machine, so you do give up some features–namely fancy multimedia features such as a Blu-ray disc drive and a discrete graphics card–but it should be fine for business users who are looking for something a little prettier than the typical desktop.
Our review model, priced at $900, comes packed with a Core i5-2400S processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. These are low-end specs–for example, there’s no discrete graphics card, but Lenovo does give you the option of adding an AMD Radeon card. Our model also has a DVD burner, built-in Wi-Fi, and runs a 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional.
But don’t let these specs fool you–the ThinkCentre Edge 91z has plenty of power for your business needs. In PCWorld’s Worldbench 6 benchmark tests, the 91z performed very well with a score of 132–just one point behind our current top-rated budget all-in-one PC, the Cybernet iOne H5. At $1332 the business-oriented iOne H5 is more expensive than the 91z, but it also boasts a Core i7 processor and 8GB of RAM.
While the 91z’s general performance is excellent considering the price, it’s not quite as amazing when it comes to graphics performance. This is no surprise, of course–with no discrete graphics card, our review unit must rely on Intel’s integrated graphics. Still, in PCWorld’s Unreal Tournament 3 graphics tests, the 91z managed an acceptable frame rate of 35.9 frames per second (with medium-quality settings and a resolution of 1024 by 768).
By comparison, the aforementioned Cybernet iOne H5, which sports an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5730 graphics card, has a much more impressive frame rate of 129.7 frames per second in the same test, using the same settings. High-quality graphics performance isn’t necessarily a must-have on business machines, but it’s still a nice thing to have, especially if you occasionally perform graphics-oriented tasks.
The 91z sports a cool, “infinity screen” design, which means that the glass screen extends from edge to edge, across the bezel. This makes the screen look almost bezel-less (though it has a thin, black one), similar to Apple’s iMac and Macbook Pro lines. The bezel is about an inch thick (about three inches on the bottom), and has a built-in webcam and microphone. Four slim buttons are on the bottom of the screen–one for switching to VGA, two for brightness, and a fourth for power.
The 91z’s 21.5-inch screen is glossy and bright, though it’s not a touchscreen (which is something many of us associate with all-in-ones). Viewing angles are particularly good on this machine, and you hardly lose any of the image horizontally or vertically, but the display’s glossiness is prone to reflections. Still, color looks good, and video playback also looks good. I did spot compression artifacts in full-screen HD video playback–especially in darker scenes–but that’s not surprising considering the lack of a discrete graphics card. Audio playback on the 91z is also pretty impressive: very loud, if a bit tinny-sounding at times.
The entire machine sits at an angle, propped up by a small, yet sturdy plastic stand. Two small feet are at the bottom of the computer, keeping the bottom of the screen about an inch from your desktop. These feet make the computer look a little awkward, and take away from the otherwise attractive design, but they do allow you to slide your keyboard under the screen for storage.
Ports are situated on both the side and the back of the 91z. On the left-hand side are two USB 2.0 ports, microphone and headphone jacks, and a card reader. The back has four more USB 2.0 ports, for a total of six, as well as an HDMI-out port, a VGA-in port, and an ethernet port. While you can use the HDMI-out port only to extend your desktop onto another display (or mirror it), the VGA-in port lets you use the all-in-one’s screen as an external monitor.
Our review model came with two wired accessories–a USB-wired keyboard and a USB-wired mouse. The keyboard is a flat, matte-black chiclet style affair with red accents. The keys are flat on three sides but have slightly rounded bottoms. Typing on the keyboard is comfortable and the keys are quiet. The keys don’t have a lot of feedback, though, so you may experience a lot of typos. The function keys are all, by default, special buttons rather than function keys (Apple does the same thing), and pressing the Fn key will get you the typical “Function key” actions. The special buttons include audio and media controls, as well as lock, refresh, print, open, and search buttons.
The included mouse is basic: light, rounded, optical, and with traditional red Lenovo accents. In this case, the mouse’s scroll wheel is red and similar in texture to Lenovo’s signature pointing stick.
Lenovo’s ThinkCentre Edge 91z is a powerful business machine that has the added benefit of being pretty cool-looking. It’s missing a few features we’d like to see–such as an HDMI-in port, Bluetooth connectivity, and a discrete graphics card, but at $900 it’s a great choice for SMBs.
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