General Hands-On Usage
Here's a CPU-Z screenshot showing some detailed specs of what's running under the ThinkCentre's hood:
And a GPU-Z screenshot, just for grins:
Setting up the machine is as simple (or so we thought) as connecting the power cable and installing the included batteries in the keyboard and mouse. However, after the machine booted, we noticed that the keyboard and mouse weren't connecting to the system. Unable to do any troubleshooting in this predicament, we connected a spare USB keyboard and mouse we had on hand.
We searched the A70z's control panel looking for a Bluetooth or other wireless connection to activate to get the keyboard and mouse working, but came up empty. It was only after some Googling that we hit upon the answer.
It turns out that the mouse's battery compartment houses a tiny Bluetooth dongle, which we missed while installing the batteries. There's a small pictogram representing the dongle on the battery compartment cover, but its meaning is far from obvious. To our eyes, the image looks more like a sheet of paper emerging from a printer.
In fairness to Lenovo, a quick-start guide folded up amongst the system documentation reveals the dongle's location, but a small sticker on the mouse or paper insert in the compartment where the mouse resides perhaps would have made things easier.
Once that was sorted, we explored the ThinkCentre Message/Productivity Center icon embedded in the taskbar next to the system tray.
It's basically a system utility that provides diagnostics, backups, and a link to Lenovo's tech support.
Apart from the Recycle bin, the only other icon on the desktop was a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office. The software load includes an installation package for Norton Internet Security, but it's up to the user to install it.
The hard drive had a 4GB backup partition on it. Clicking on the partition brought up a window prompting us to burn this partition to a blank DVD to use as a recovery disk. Although the prompt walked us through a rather straightforward set of steps to burn the DVD, we'd really prefer the ability to restore from the partition itself, or for Lenovo to just include a hard copy of the restore image on a DVD. As it is, if the system crashes before you've gotten around to making your own restore disc, you're on your own.
The machine has a nice physical heft to it-it feels like a rather heavy monitor. However, we had a couple of gripes with its ergonomics. First, the spring that keeps tension on the kickstand has a tendency to contract the stand when you don't want it to; not to the point where the machine falls over, but rather to where the slightest forward pull on the case causes the system to snap into a more upright than desirable position.
Second, the way the optical drive is tucked underneath a lip formed by the monitor bezel makes it very difficult to see the eject button, and said button is so small that locating it by feel proves equally problematic. The drive's vertical orientation on the side of the system makes it difficult to snap a CD or DVD onto the spindle with one hand. Lenovo might want to take a page from Apple's all-in-one iMac design book and use a slot-loading drive.
The integrated speakers won't pump out booty-shakin' bass lines, but they do sound pretty good and don't suffer from the "tin can" sound we sometimes hear from small speakers. It would also be nice to have a dedicated volume control on the front or side of the system.
Overall, the A70z performs quite well when handling single tasks, such as opening an Excel spreadsheet or encoding email attachments. However, when tasked with performing multiple operations at once, such as switching between programs while unzipping a large file, the machine's performance suffers considerably. A Core 2 Duo processor should be able to handle such basic multitasking without issue, and we wonder if the slowdown is a function of having only 2GB of RAM.
Home users might also bemoan the inclusion of a 32-bit version of Windows instead of the 64-bit variety.
Where the A70z really shines is with its matte 19" TFT screen, which provided some of the sharpest image quality we've seen on a non-glossy screen, despite its relatively low resolution of 1440x900.