All-in-One PCs for Everyone

Nate Ralph
PC World
Friday, October 1, 2010; 12:19 AM

Illustration by Hanna Melin>

Having a powerful, dependable computer in your home office will keep you productive when you're away from the cubicle farm. As seasoned travelers know, Lenovo's ThinkPad laptops offer business-centric software and functionality designed to keep the machines running smoothly. If you're looking for the familiar ThinkPad touch in a large, powerful package, Lenovo's ThinkCentre M90z all-in-one has you covered.

Much like the laptops in Lenovo's ThinkPad line, the ThinkCentre M90z is a sleek, black box. It's attractive in its simplicity, with a spacious 23-inch display sitting on metal brackets. A 3.2GHz Core i5-650 processor powers the computer, which packs 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB hard drive. The M90z netted a score of 117 on our WorldBench 6 test suite: Few all-in-ones have more muscle, other than the significantly more expensive Apple iMac.

Toolbox Extras

The ThinkCentre M90z comes bundled with Lenovo's ThinkVantage Toolbox software. Like the corresponding utilities on Lenovo's business laptops, the ThinkVantage tools help keep your ma­­chine in working order--always handy, since your home office lacks a dedicated IT staff. The Toolbox can automate data backups and monitor your software and hardware drivers to ensure that they remain up to date.

The Toolbox tools regularly scan and analyze the M90z's hardware as well, to verify that the All-in-One's innards are working as expected, cataloging any hardware or software changes. That way, if something goes wrong, you'll have a concise timeline of critical events, which should make troubleshooting your software or rolling it back to an earlier, trouble-free state less of a hassle.

Lenovo's ThinkCentre M90z features a roomy, 23-inch multitouch display.>The M90z's screen supports Windows 7's multitouch gestures, if you'd like to add a bit of poking and prodding to your workflow. Lenovo has also added its own finger-friendly magic, with SimpleTap. A two-fingered double-tap on the display fires up the SimpleTap overlay, which presents a grid of large tiles that serve as shortcuts to frequently used apps and hardware controls. You can add shortcuts to any file, program, or Website you like, speeding up your workflow with an intuitive gesture.

Saddled with integrated graphics, the M90z is inadequate for serious gaming. The display offers a native 1080p resolution, and HD video playback is smooth and stutter-free, but images are far from vibrant. Colors appear muted even at the brightest display settings--which tends to leave images looking a bit dull. You'll also want to replace the lackluster built-in speakers with a set of headphones or proper speakers.

The M90z comes with a total of six USB ports to accommodate external de­­vices. Notably absent, however, are ad­­vanced connectivity options like Fire­Wire and eSATA, a disappointment for storage buffs. A multiformat card reader makes getting photos onto the M90z a snap, and the unit also offers a DVD burn­­er. Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity helps reduce cable clutter, and VGA and DisplayPort connectors invite you to add a second monitor to your workstation.

Lenovo's ThinkCentre M90z packs a lot of muscle into a svelte package. The home-theater experience is a bit lackluster, despite excellent video playback, due to subpar speakers and a dull picture. But for a work-focused PC user, the M90z combines strong performance and a robust software platform in a package that will simplify your workspace.

The Internet is a treasure trove, with music, movies, and television shows available on demand, so you aren't be­­holden to your cable provider's schedule or programming lineup. You could wait for a Web-connected TV to hit all the right notes. But if you want a taste of what the Web has to offer, without having to replace your television set, HP's TouchSmart 600 Quad offers you a lush display, great speakers, and an intuitive, touch-optimized interface.

A 1.6GHz Core i7-720QM processor and 6GB of RAM power this 23-inch all-in-one. The i7-720QM (a CPU more commonly used in notebooks) supports Intel's hyperthreading and Turbo Boost technologies, delivering power and performance while keeping energy consumption and heat levels lower than a full-fledged desktop processor would. The TouchSmart 600 Quad earned a score of 104 on our WorldBench 6 test suite--not bad, but a bit low for an all-in-one of this size. The PC comes with a 1TB hard drive, providing lots of room for your music and movie collections.

The 23-inch display has a native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels--perfect for viewing 1080p high-def video--and the machine includes a slot-loading Blu-ray drive and customizable ambient lighting for setting the movie-watching mood.

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