Lenovo ThinkCentre M91p

If you love the old-school look of Lenovo ThinkPads, but you want desktop performance and pricing, check out Lenovo’s ThinkCentre M91p series. This machine packs second-generation Intel processors into a slim, retro-style case.

Our review model, priced at US$1180 as of July 25, 2011, features an Intel Core i5-2500S processor running at 2.7GHz, 4GB of installed RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and a 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional.

The ThinkCentre M91p’s performance was pretty solid. In PCWorld’s WorldBench 6 benchmark tests, it managed a respectable score of 142. By way of comparison, the Dell Studio XPS 7100, the fifth-ranked desktop on our list of Top 10 Mainstream Desktop PCs chart, scored a 120, and the fourth-place Micro Express MicroFlex 25B scored a 188.

The ThinkCentre’s graphics performance is somewhat less impressive–not a surprising weakness considering that the system has no discrete graphics card and relies instead on the integrated graphics of its Sandy Bridge processor. In our Unreal Tournament 3 graphics tests, the ThinkCentre M91p managed a barely playable frame rate of 29.4 frames per second (at high quality settings and 1024-by-768-pixel resolution). Still, you’ll be able to perform basic business tasks and stream video without a problem.

The ThinkCentre M91p looks and feels quite a bit like the models in Lenovo’s ThinkPad laptop line. The chassis is slim and black, and it constitutes the “ultrasmall form factor” member of the M91p series. The other two ThinkCentre M91p machines are larger. Because our review model was the ultrasmall version, you can’t get into the case at all to upgrade. Our review model had matte black aluminum sides and a plastic face with an old-school diagonal vent pattern.

The included peripherals similarly follow the ThinkPad design route: The black keyboard sports loud, evenly spaced keys and no special buttons. The mouse is small and black, with a red scroll-wheel that looks and feels a lot like the red ThinkPad pointing nub. Neither peripheral is wireless, but both are USB and comfortable to use.

The front of the ThinkCentre accommodates two USB ports, plus microphone and headphone jacks, and a tray-loading DVD-RW drive. On the back of the computer are six more USB ports, gigabit ethernet, a microphone jack, line-out and line-in, Display Port, and VGA-out. To foil thieves who find the slim profile of the ThinkCentre too tempting, there’s also a Kensington lock slot.

The Lenovo ThinkCentre M91p is a solid performer, but otherwise it isn’t terribly interesting. For example, it lacks the Blu-ray disc drive and integrated Wi-Fi of the HP Pavilion Slimline S5-1060, even though the Slimline costs US$350 less and slightly outperformed the Lenovo in our WorldBench 6 tests.

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