Lenovo ThinkStation E31 review

Lenovo has squeezed the high-end Xeon processors and NVIDIA Quadro 600 graphics into a small-form-factor workstation. It makes for a powerful, but noisy machine.

Software

Perhaps the arrival of Windows 8 has stirred Lenovo into action, as there's been plenty of innovation when it comes to software. A small icon at the top of the machine opens Lenovo's SimpleTap an overlay that, in a similar way to Windows 8, fills the screen with large tiles designed to be prodded.

The large icons open Lenovo's own software and offer links to a host of popular websites, with LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Gmail amongst others opening in a basic browser inside SimpleTab. Tiles can be customised and while it's a slick interface, it's of no real use unless you have a touchscreen.

There are few surprises about the rest of the software. Lenovo's ThinkVantage Tools is a neat collection of options: backup and restoration tools, PC health and diagnostic services, and links to Microsoft's firewall and update areas.

The BIOS has several options that are suitable for businesses. It's a UEFI system allows for mouse control, even if it looks like older keyboard-operated software. Administrator and hard disk passwords improve security, and other options enhance the level of control on offer: the USB ports, network ports and SATA sockets can be disabled. Boot and display output options are customisable, and it's even possible to prevent the BIOS from being flashed with updated software.

We're going through changes

Lenovo offers plenty of customisation options if you're not happy with the E31's specification. Downgrading to a Xeon E3-1220V2 processor running at 3.1GHz drops the price by 43, but improving to the most powerful chip on offer here the 3.5GHz Xeon E3-1270V2 puts 156 on to the price.

Doubling the memory is an additional 38, and switching to a 2TB hard disk will cost you an extra 80. A 256GB SSD trades capacity for speed but costs a whopping 320 and, somehow, Lenovo can fit two drives into the E31. The dual-drive option doesn't allow for two SSDs, but it doubles hard disk prices.

The base warranty lasts for a generous three years and plenty of service options are available. One, two and three year options provide courier collection, next business day options and accidental damage protection for a variety of prices. It's also possible to extend beyond the initial three-year period, but these options cost: a four-year on-site next-business-day warranty is 100 more, and a five year next-business-day option is 242 extra. Add priority technical support, and the price balloons to 547.

Conclusion

It's not the flashiest of business PCs, then, but Lenovo's E31 does plenty right: high levels of performance, especially in applications, decent versatility for a business machine, and strong build quality. At 871 exc VAT it's priced comparably to rival Dell machines, so if you're looking for a smaller workstation this is a fine choice.

Verdict

Lenovo’s system isn’t particularly quiet but, aside from this, it doesn’t do much wrong: plenty of application power, a decent discrete graphics card, reasonable versatility and plenty of component options. No small form-factor workstation comes cheap but, if you’re after a machine like this, the Lenovo is a great choice.

PROCESSOR: 3.3GHz Intel Xeon E3-1230V2

RAM: 4GB DDR3

GRAPHICS: NVIDIA Quadro 600

STORAGE: 1TB Seagate Barracuda hard disk

CONNECTIVITY: Gigabit Ethernet

PORTS: 4 x USB 3, 4 x USB 2, DVI-I, DisplayPort, 5 x audio, 5-in-1 card reader

OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

WARRANTY: 3yr RTB

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