Occupying a very small space on a desk, the Lenovo ThinkCentre A57 will suit any corporate or small business environment that requires inconspicuous yet powerful and easy to manage desktops. It has the necessary grunt to run most office applications with ease and it won't consume too much power.
The ThinkCentre A57 is more than just a bunch of slapped-together hardware; it's a well-designed tiny PC that also ships with plenty of useful management tools. Its ThinkVantage range of software tools cover areas such hardware-based data security, data migration, software updates and disk management, and data backup.
ThinkVantage Productivity Center is perhaps the most useful management tool for end users: it provides easy access to change hardware settings — it's more than a list of shortcuts to various sections of the Windows Control Panel though. It also gives clear shortcuts to tasks such burning DVDs and watching videos; it can take to you to the Web support pages for your specific PC, as well as take you through step-by-step processes for data backups. If there is ever anything wrong with the PC, the Productivity Centre will notify you via its Message Centre.
Administrators of large computer networks might not appreciate the amount of software that comes pre-installed on the A57 — such a trial version of Office 2007, PC Doctor, and Disk Keeper — but small business users might find them useful. Either way, with all the pre-loaded software, the A57 takes less than 60sec to boot and use.
With a 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 E8200 CPU and 2GB of RAM under the bonnet, the A57 will handle most office applications and multitasking with ease. But it's by no means a powerhouse. In our WorldBench 6 tests, the PC scored 92, which is a slower result than we were expecting. This was noticed in our MP3 encoding test, too — in which we convert 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s — as the machine took a sluggish 1min 12sec to complete this task. Nevertheless, if you're not going to be running applications that need a lot of CPU grunt, you won't notice this sluggishness.
The Core 2 CPU in this PC is one of the latest 45nm models, and it has a power rating of 65W. During regular Web surfing and office application use, the entire PC drew approximately 32W of power, which is an efficient result. At a full CPU load, consumption fluctuated between 50-100W. Physically, the PC is so small it actually weighs much less than a typical desktop replacement notebook (of course, it doesn't have a screen attached to it). A miniature motherboard measuring only 17x17cm resides inside the compact PC case. While it runs a desktop CPU and an Intel Q965 chipset with integrated Intel GMA3000 graphics, it relies on notebook-sized (SO-DIMM) RAM modules. There aren't any expansion slots or free SATA ports (both are occupied by the installed DVD burner and 250GB hard drive). You can't fit any more drives into the chassis, but the installed drives are in a 5.25in optical drive bay and a 3.5in hard drive bay, which is convenient if you need to replace them.
The computer's power supply isn't built into the PC case; instead, power is delivered through a hefty power brick with a 120W power rating. This can be placed on the floor or hidden away from the PC itself. We did notice some fan noise while running the PC, but it's not loud enough to be bothersome in a typical office environment. The unit has a convenient built-in speaker, although this can be an annoyance if you forget it's there. It's probably best to make good use of the headphone port on the front of the machine.
You get six USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port and DVI and D-Sub ports, so there's not much to this PC at all. But to be useful in a business environment it doesn't need to have much. The most important factors are taken care of: it's very small, won't consume too much electricity, it's fast enough for office applications and multitasking and it comes with some useful management software.
The A57 ships with a comfortable keyboard and mouse and its standard support plan includes a one-year, on-site warranty.