Lenovo ThinkCentre A61e

Lenovo's A61e is not only the smallest form factor we've seen from the ThinkCentre range, but it's also the greenest product available from Lenovo. Built on AMD's 45Watt Athlon 64 X2 BE 2350 CPU, the Lenovo A61e is designed for low power and noise. Although we are unable to determine how energy efficient it really is, it is certainly quiet and takes up very little working space on the desk.

Lenovo, however, is fairly certain about its power efficiency; the A61e can apparently run on an optional solar panel, which is quite impressive. The ThinkCentre A61e has also been recognised with Gold status by EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool), a Web site run by the Green Electronics Council, which aims to allocate electronic products into classifications based on their environmental friendliness. The A61e has been recognised, not just as a low power option, but also for its use of up to 90 per cent reusable or recyclable materials.

It offers a gigabyte hard drive, 1GB of DDR2 667MHz RAM and, as we mentioned earlier, the AMD Athlon 64 X2 BE 2350 2.1GHz CPU. It's not the most powerful system, but a little more RAM might give it a boost. We definitely feel this PC has more focus on size, efficiency and noise reduction than it does on performance. Unfortunately the monitor seen in the images is not included, but costs an additional $649.

In our benchmarks we saw moderate results. In WorldBench 6 the ThinkCentre A61e scored a total of 57, while our MP3 encoding test also showed fairly basic performance from the CPU. Encoding 53 minutes worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files took 115sec using iTunes, then 133sec using Cdex.

Apart from power savings and quiet operation, the A61e offers a very manageable solution for IT administrators. Although the small form factor provides little to no upgrade options (there's only one hard drive bay and one optical drive bay, but only one of the four RAM slots is occupied), it has a tool-free chassis, which folds open with ease, allowing quick and simple maintenance.

It's a fairly plain design, with two USB ports and a set of audio ports on the front, as well as access to the DVD re-writer. At the rear there is a total of four more USB ports, a D-Sub port for the monitor and the main audio outputs. Beyond that there's little more to consider.

The power supply, like a notebook, is external which helps keep the size and heat down and with only one fan running inside this machine it is the reason why it's so quiet. This makes it ideal for cramped conditions where you can't escape the noise, and the size of the PC almost forces you to keep it on top of your desk, so the quieter the better.

During the initial setup Lenovo bombard you with a heap of software offers from Microsoft Office to antivirus applications, which is a little irritating, unless of course you don't have the software and think you need it. The system also prompts you to setup Lenovo's automated updates, which can be quite useful. Lenovo's management software ThinkVantage is a great little tool for keeping the system running smoothly. It provides quick access to maintenance features like backups, but also has shortcuts to a number of standard Windows features, like hardware configurations.