Lenovo has had a reputation for building efficient and capable business hardware since long before they became a commonly known name in the US. Those machines have typically come with a price premium, however, meaning users looking for stability and security often choose a different OEM. It's a new season, however, bringing us new low-priced hardware like the ThinkCentre A58. Let's take a closer look.
This configuration of the Lenovo ThinkCentre A58, 7515-J5U, is available for $489.99.
Build and Design
It's been said countless times, even by us, but Lenovo has a reputation for quality build, and the ThinkCentre A58 is no different. The A58 may seem a bit pricey for the relative performance you get out of it, but we're comparing the machine to desktops that sometimes are built with a significant amount of plastic. The case on the A58 is very sturdy, with essentially zero flexing, even on the broad sides. There is of course a plastic facade on the front, but it's covering a solid piece of metal behind it. Even where there is plastic, it's relatively high quality; we've (and this includes the guys at NotebookReview) have noticed a disturbing trend lately regarding the plastics used in building computers and displays. The trend these days is to go very glossy, typically black or another dark color. Unfortunately, these plastics can be scratched VERY easily, even by paper towels, microfiber, or terrycloth. The plastics Lenovo used on the ThinkCentre aren't glossy, but they're also very scratch resistant, so cleaning won't be so risky.
The color is typical Lenovo grey ("business black") with the iconic red details that Think* fans will recognize and appreciate. The front of the machine features Lenovo's updated business look, with venting lines running diagonally down the right side. Ports are semi-hidden within an indented niche, and the optical drive bays feature additional covers that match the rest of the computer. Little industrial-esque buttons replace the traditional eject buttons on the drives themselves. It's actually been a long time since we've seen a commercially-built desktop computer that doesn't have these covers. It used to be a little annoying, with auxiliary buttons not working quite as well as the old style, but that's long in the past. When it comes to the subtle, industrial, business-inclined look of Lenovo's machines, it's typically a love it or hate it mentality. Even if you don't enjoy the heavy appearance, it's easy to have an appreciation for Lenovo's build quality regardless of its design.
One of my favorite features of these desktops, and to date only found on Lenovo stock, is the handle at the top. Another of our editors came in and looked at the handle, declaring it a bit of wasted space, since it only has the power button in the upper right. It's so, well, handy, however, that I'm willing to vote for a case of function over form. A handle makes the desktop very easy to move around, especially for reviews; I suspect that it's also easier for IT workers who are tasked with rolling out dozens or hundreds of the same machine.
It doesn't take both arms to carry these, only a single hand. The sides of the machine are relatively sparse, with one blank face and the other featuring the Lenovo logo and a button. In some of Lenovo's older desktops, the side panel slid off with a couple of thumbscrews and just an indentation. Here, that indentation is actually a physical button hidden inside, and you just push it in to slide the panel off. It's nice since it makes the side of the case easy to get off and easy to put back on, with no complicated switches or levers to mess things up.
Inputs and Expansion
Typically, lower-end and value machines cut costs primarily by reducing the expandability and functionality of their desktops. This is both true and false for the A58. Ports wise, the front features the now standard 2 USB2.0 ports as well as headphone and audio in jacks. That's all, though; no memory card readers. At $500 there should definitely be more going on here. You can see the two 5.25-inch drive bays here, covered with their protectors. The top one features the optical drive, but the bottom one is empty and ripe for filling with a drive or auxiliary display. The 3.5-inch bay is also empty, but it should have a memory card reader in as standard.
Most of the ports are naturally on the rear, with two PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse and four more USB2.0 ports. There's also Gigabit Ethernet and VGA out, as well as serial and parallel ports, too.
It might seem odd to be talking about parallel ports in late 2009, but you would probably be surprised to learn that many businesses still rely on these relatively outdated ports in order to run important equipment and accessories.
Inside the case is a lot of open space, which is a bit of a surprise. Most manufacturers try and reduce the amount of unused space inside their desktops to cut costs. It's both a blessing and a curse; while we like smaller desktops, the ability to easily expand them is a nice touch. Here you can see the built-in speaker in the lower right that all of Lenovo's business desktops have. It's handy if users don't need speakers very often since it cuts down on complexity, mess and cords. Right above that are the drive bays; the lower 3.5-inch bay containing a hard drive comes with tool-less modifications for easy change out. The second 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch bays sit empty.
The memory slots are full, but all of the card expansion slots are empty, making this desktop ripe for upgrades. There's a PCI-E x16 slot available as well as a PCI-E x1 and two regular PCI slots. I'm a little surprised Lenovo didn't use any of these for additional ports or video out capabilities. Still, if you need to improve on the desktop's base offerings, here's your chance.
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