Lenovo Brings Pizzazz Back to PC Design

When was the last time anyone chatted about the cool new PC in the office? Chances are it’s been a while. The new generation of smartphones and even newer iPad, tablet get most of the “oohs” and “ahs” around the water cooler these days while desktop computers have largely been a functional, if boring, commodity.

Lenovo hopes to change that perception, not just in design but with new functionality.

The sleek, ThinkCentre M90z all-in-one (AIO) desktop sports a 23-inch touchscreen display. The system is available with a choice of Intel Core i5 or i3 processors, DDR3 memory and hard drive or solid-state storage as well as a DVD player and optional WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity.

The computer also includes a Webcam for video conferencing. In response to security concerns by some customers, notably one in a nuclear facility, Lenovo said it designed the Webcam with an on/off switch.

Analyst Roger Kay said Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has been the most successful maker of AIO systems that combine the computer and display. “On the enterprise side, the all-in-ones traditionally have been a niche play, mostly showing up in the front office where companies want to put something jazzy out there to make a good impression with customers,” Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told InternetNews.com.

“Now if you have systems that are more modular, than the earlier sealed all-in-ones, that’s going to be more attractive along with the space saving design,” Kay added. The back of the M90z can be removed for upgrading certain components.

Kay said the ThinkCentre M90z’s touchscreen interface is somewhat distinctive, but he noted HP (NYSE: HPQ), has had touchscreen models for some time. Kay also noted that early AIO models came out at quite a premium over PCs that offered a choice of monitors. The M90z, available later this month, starts at $899 which Kay said puts it in the upper middle compared to other name brand PCs equipped with a monitor.

“IT departments will also look kindly on the fact these systems include vPro and all the management features,” said Kay. Like other Lenovo desktops, the M90z includes the company’s ThinkVantage Technologies software that includes a hardware password manager for encrypted hard drives, power manager and ImageUltra Builder software designed to simplify the creation and distribution of corporate images.

Lenovo is also touting the M90z’s “green” design which meets Ene rgy Star 5.0 standards. The M90z uses the equivalent of 65 plastic bottles in recycled materials, the company said.

Wide monitors, built-in connectivity

Separately, Lenovo announced two monitors, the L2230x Wide and L2321x Wide, which offer unique connectivity for notebook users.

The L2230x includes a port replicator in the 21.5-inch display. Lenovo said someone connecting a notebook with an 11-inch display could expect almost 200 percent in extra display space on the monitor. The monitor includes a USB port for connecting peripherals and Lenovo said it’s the first to allow direct plug-in of an Ethernet cable. Lenovo said the $259.99 price is a “cost-effective solution” versus having to purchase a monitor and port replicator separately.

The new ThinkVision L2321x Wide monitor features a “duo” or dual display function that lets users run two applications in split-screen mode. For example, you could have PowerPoint slides running on one side and Word on the other taking advantage of the screen real estate on the wide display which supports inputs for both VGA and DisplayPort video.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.