After PC World decided to up the price of the hp Compaq Presario SR1719UK by £100, the quest for a budget desktop PC is still on. Although this Lenovo desktop is cheaper than the Compaq, it is slightly lower specced and is aimed more at the business environment rather than the home. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t make a nice addition to a home office though.
Decorated in a light grey, I quite like the look of this Lenovo case. It’s a desktop rather than a tower case, which is a rare occurrence nowadays. This means you can potentially save desk space as you can put an LCD panel directly on top of it, while also saving you from banging your knee on a tower case under your desk. This would have to be at the very front of the case, due to the air vents towards the rear-top of the case.
Unlike full-sized ATX cases, which in a desktop format tend to look a bit dated and ugly, this is actually half-height, although the motherboard is still a full-sized ATX specimen. The consequence of this is that you can only upgrade using half-height expansion cards. This is actually a lot harder than it sounds as very few cards are made in this format - so say good bye to the idea of putting a Creative X-Fi in here, or even upgrading the onboard graphics. Although there is an AGP slot (PCI-E support will be added in a future model), finding a half-height card that isn’t a low-end card, and therefore not much better than integrated graphics, is close to impossible. The only benefit to changing to a discrete graphics adapter would be to add DVI output, as the integrated graphics only supports D-SUB. If you’re a gamer, then steer well clear of this system, but then you're not who it's aimed at.
On the front we have two USB 2.0 ports, a headphone jack and a microphone jack. There are another four USB ports at the rear should you need them, but no FireWire. Audio is provided by the low-end Realtek ALC655 chipset which supports 5.1-channels, when sacrificing input jacks.
Inside the machine is a pretty decent cooler that is ducted to the case top – this is impressively quiet and about as close to silent as you can expect to get from an air cooled Pentium 4. Underneath is an OEM Gigabyte motherboard that is incredibly similar to the GA-8S661FXM. In fact, short of a different sticker on top of the BIOS chip, it’s hard to tell the two apart. This is based on the SIS 661FX chipset, which is very much a budget solution. Expansion is good with three PCI slots and an AGP slot, but as mentioned – finding cards to populate these might be tough.
One aspect of Gigabyte motherboards is that pressing Ctrl+Shift+F1 opens up more menu options in the BIOS. If you specifically purchase an overclocking motherboard, having to do this is rather pointless. But for OEM solutions, I can finally understand why it's there. If you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing, all the options that can cause problems are hidden. However, upon pressing the magic combination, up opens more options, such as changing the frequency of the graphics processor, and how much of the system memory it should take as its frame buffer. Disappointingly there are no CPU overclocking options as one might expect from Gigabyte.