The Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z is very much a workhorse PC devoid of bells and whistles, not to mention modern conveniences such an SD card reader, video ports or an eSATA connection. The model we looked at even lacks a wireless networking adaptor. However, it possesses good speed - and that's the main concern when you need to get your work done, whether you're in the office or at home.
Setting up the Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z is a breeze, all you have to do is plug in the power cable and the USB keyboard and mouse. The power supply is built in to the PC, so you won't have to accommodate a bulky power brick under a desk, it means this is a very neat PC. It has a picture frame like stand that's made out of metal and has a rubber strip on the bottom for grip, but you can also install an optional wall mount or monitor stand.
Setting up the Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z's software is a little more involved; it asks you if you want to install virus protection, make backups, install a trial version of Microsoft Office 2007, and register your PC. It takes only a minute or so, but it's inconvenient nonetheless.
Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z: the screen
The 19in display has a wide aspect ratio and a native resolution of 1440x900. You can line up two windows side by side very easily. It's not a touchscreen - but because we've seen so many all-in-one touchscreen PCs over the past few months it was hard to stop ourselves from touching it.
Because the Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z is designed like an oversized photo frame, you can't tilt it up or down, nor rotate it left or right. You can lean it back on its metal leg or make it stand up straighter, however. The brightness and contrast are good enough to view photos, there is some colour shift when viewing the screen from the sides, but whatever is being displayed is still clearly visible. The brightness can be tweaked via controls on the right side (you'll need to adjust the contrast using the graphic driver's software interface). The same controls auto-adjust the position of the screen's pixels to make sure it's perfectly clear. Because the screen is matte, it's not prone to reflections and it is very comfortable to view.
Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z: Specs and speed
The PC portion of the Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z resides within the monitor panel and it gives the unit an overall thickness of almost 7cm. On the inside, it has an Intel Pentium Dual-Core E7500 CPU, which runs at 2.93GHz. Combined with 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM and a 7200rpm, 320GB Serial ATA drive, the ThinkCentre A70z is pretty quick. In our WorldBench 6 benchmark suite the PC recorded fast times in all the individual applications. In Adobe Photoshop, it took 415sec to complete a workload, which is only 16sec slower than what a pre-production A70z running a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo and 4GB of DDR3 RAM recorded. In the media encoding test it was 18sec slower, while in the office productivity test it was 7sec slower.
This translates into fast performance when running typical office applications, as well image editing, video editing and file compression programs. Multitasking will also be a breeze. In the Blender 3D rendering and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, the dual-core CPU's speed was plainly evident; it recorded a time of 1min 09sec in the Blender test and 1min 06sec in the iTunes test. To put it in perspective, these times are only about 18sec slower than what a Intel Core i5-661 based PC can accomplish with two cores plus Hyper-Threading.
Graphics is the one area in which the Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z isn't strong. It uses an integrated Intel G41 graphics chip, which is fine for running office applications, but you won't want to use it for processing realtime 3D graphics (such as games). It achieved a relatively low score of 828 in 3DMark06 and it's not as fast as what an all-in-one based on NVIDIA's ION platform can achieve, for example. However, it's fast enough for running productivity applications and editing high resolution images.
Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z: Ports and slots
Just below the screen sit a couple of speakers that are adequate for watching videos, and you can also plug in a pair of headphones; there is a port on the right side of the unit. Above the screen is a built-in webcam, which can be used for Skype, and there is a built-in microphone. You can also plug in an external microphone.
USB 2.0 ports are abundant - you get four at the rear and three on the right side - and there is also a Gigabit Ethernet port and a serial port. You don't get a video output port, which means you can't run a dual-monitor setup. The Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z also lacks an SD card slot, which is an unfortunate oversight for many business and home users who work with digital images. It also lacks an ExpressCard slot for adding expansion cards. External Serial ATA (eSATA) is also missing, which means that the fastest external storage you can use will be USB 2.0-based. If you're in a small office or a home user and want to use wireless networking, you'll have to add a USB-based Wi-Fi dongle.
The Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z is a little underdone considering it doesn't have an SD card slot or built-in wireless networking, but it's nevertheless a zippy machine on which you can comfortably run office applications and more. It will cope with image editing, file compression and even video tasks, and its screen resolution of 1440x900 is fine for multitasking. If you want a neat all-in-one solution that won't cost you a lot of money, then the A70z it's well worth considering.