Review : Lenovo ThinkCentre M92p Tiny

Summary: Unless internal expansion is required, we can find little wrong with the ThinkCentre M92p Tiny as a business-class ultra-small-form-factor PC.

The days of the traditional tower-format PC as a business workhorse may be numbered, but that doesn't mean it's appropriate for every organisation to embrace BYOD, filling their offices with assorted notebooks, ultrabooks and tablets. There remains a need for affordable and manageable desktop PCs that are space- and energy-efficient, and that IT departments can deploy with minimal hassle.

Lenovo's ThinkCentre M92p Tiny takes the small-form-factor PC very seriously, squeezing a perfectly reasonable (albeit minimally expandable) specification into a very small 'one-litre' volume of desk space. The price of our review system (system unit plus keyboard and mouse) was UK£531.05 (ex. VAT); nearest-equivalent prices elsewhere are US$774 and AU$651.89 (both these configurations are for a Core i5 rather than a Core i3 processor, as reviewed here).
The ThinkCentre M92p can be specified with an optional VESA monitor mounting bracket that also accommodates a USB 2.0 optical drive.
Design :
The overall impression of the ThinkCentre M92p's design is functional and unobtrusive. We measured the base unit at 18.2cm by 17.8cm by 3.3cm, which works out at 1.07 litres, so we'll give Lenovo its 'one-litre' claim (that's 7.2in. by 7in. by 1.3in. and 2.27 pints). Our review unit was fitted into a VESA monitor mounting bracket that also accommodates an external USB optical drive, bringing the full dimensions of our review sample to 18.2cm by 18.2cm by 6cm (7.2in. by 7.2in. by 2.36in.). The weight is 1.32kg (2.91lb) for the system unit and 2.07kg (4.56lb) with the VESA bracket and optical drive.
The ThinkCentre M92p (minus the optical drive) mounted on the back of a monitor using the VESA bracket.
When used independently of the VESA mount, the M92p can be lain horizontally or propped up vertically in a custom stand. There's no user access to the internals, so you'll need to make sure you get your initial specification right. 

Features :

Our review M92p unit runs a 2.6GHz Intel Core i3-2120T processor with 4GB of DDR3-1600 RAM. Graphics are handled by the integrated Intel HD Graphics 2000 GPU and the OS is Windows 7 Professional (Windows 8 Pro is now available too). The second-generation Core i3 processor used here doesn't support Intel's vPro remote/out-of-band management technology, but a third-generation Core i5-3470T chip is available that does.

For storage, our review unit had a 320GB SATA II (3Gbps) Western Digital hard drive spinning at a moderate 5,400rpm. Options include alternative hard drive capacities (500GB, 750GB) and a faster 128GB solid-state drive. We also had an optional USB 2.0 optical drive attached to the monitor mount.

The M92p has four USB 3.0 ports — two at the front and two at the back — plus another USB 2.0 port at the back for attaching the optical drive (which adds two more free USB 2.0 ports). For networking there's a Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45) port, with the option (not present on our review unit) for Wi-Fi (single- or dual-band 802.11n) as well. Video connectivity is good, with two DisplayPort connectors and a legacy VGA port on offer. If you buy a couple of the optional splitter cables, you can configure a single large screen using four monitors in what Lenovo calls Mosaic mode (we didn't get to test this, as the cables weren't supplied):
The ThinkCentre M92p driving four monitors in Mosaic mode, courtesy of a pair of DisplayPort splitter cables.
The power supply is a reasonably compact external 65W unit.

Performance & power consumption :

The Windows Experience Index (WEI) for the ThinkCentre M92p is a moderate 4.6 (out of 7.9), the WEI corresponding to the lowest component score. As usual, this is for the integrated graphics — specifically Graphics (Desktop performance for Windows Aero). Memory (RAM) (Memory operations per second) and Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) both scored 5.9, Gaming graphics (3D business and gaming graphics) registered 5.8 and Processor (Calculations per second) led the field with 6.9:
This isn't stellar performance, particularly on the graphics front. However, there are options available for boosting speed if necessary: upgrading the RAM to 8GB or even 16GB; specifying a faster third-generation Core i5 CPU; or fitting an SSD rather than a 5,400rpm hard drive. All of these upgrades will boost the cost, of course.

Running the demanding Cinebench 11.5 CPU and GPU benchmarks shows that the Core i3/HD Graphics 2000/4GB ThinkCentre M92p performs similarly to the Core i3/HD Graphics 2000/4GB ThinkCentre M92z AIO system we reviewed recently:
However, when it comes to disk performance, the ThinkCentre M92p's 320GB SATA II 5,400rpm hard drive lags behind the M92z's 500GB SATA III 7,200rpm drive in the ATTO Disk Benchmark (61.1MB/s write and 67.1MB/s read versus 129MB/s write and 130.3MB/s read respectively):
One of the reasons for specifying a small form factor PC is to minimise power consumption, so it's pleasing to see that the ThinkCentre M92p is frugal in this regard, drawing between 13.6W and 37.6W under various workloads:
ThinkCentre M92p power consumption under different levels of load (PT8 = Passmark Performance Test 8; CB = Cinebench 11.5).
Conclusion :
Unless internal expansion is required, we can find little wrong with Lenovo's ThinkCentre M92p as a business-class small-form-factor PC (and there are bigger models in the range if expansion is required). Our review unit was only a moderate performer, but alternative configurations are available to give it more muscle if required. 

 Power :

Pros :

  • Compact 'one-litre' form factor
  • Four USB 3.0 ports
  • Business-grade manageability
  • Monitor-mountable
  • Multi-monitor support

Cons :

  • No internal expansion
  • Lacks Wi-Fi as standard
  • Entry-level CPU lacks vPro support

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