Lenovo 3000 J105 review

Price when reviewed

Appearances can be deceptive: this PC may look humble, but it signals a number of changes for Lenovo. For starters, it’s the first worldwide launch of a Lenovo-branded product since the company took over IBM’s personal computer group in 2004. It’s also the first Lenovo machine we’ve ever seen to include an AMD processor, which is, in turn, a reflection that this PC is aimed at the small-to-medium business buyer rather than a corporate.

Lenovo 3000 J105 review

Then there’s Lenovo Care. Anyone familiar with IBM’s ThinkVantage technologies will already appreciate excellent applications like Rescue and Recovery, which offers a one-click route to creating backups and also restoring them, as well as offering a way to rescue a PC even if Windows is entirely corrupted. Lenovo Care takes the main components of ThinkVantage and wraps them up in a new, friendlier interface. So if one of your staff has an emergency – a virus strikes, for example – they’re able to press the Lenovo Care button and hopefully find a solution. In reality, they’ll almost certainly still need to find a tech-savvy member of the team to help them, but it’s a big step up from the built-in Windows tools that most small-business PCs are shipped with.

What you shouldn’t expect is any management software. While Lenovo ThinkCentres include tools like Software Migration System to make deployment and management easier, the J105 is designed to be bought off the shelf. So Lenovo makes no commitment to this particular disk image, specification or longevity; if you come to buy again in three months’ time, you’ll have to accept that even the motherboard chipset may have changed.

There’s a lack of flexibility too; in crude terms, you get what you’re given. The J105 is only shipped in a midi-tower system, unlike Lenovo’s Intel-based J100 series, which can also be bought in a small-form-factor desktop chassis. If you buy the J105, you should certainly consider hiding it away under desks, especially as the yellowy orange plastic buttons don’t scream quality.

Aside from the cosmetics, the chassis is actually identical to that of Lenovo’s ThinkCentre range, which typically cost £100 more. That means there’s plenty of room inside the chassis if you wish to add to the supplied hard disk; our review system (code PPHJ8UK) came with a 160GB disk, and you could take advantage of the SATA RAID controller on the motherboard to add another disk for mirroring.

Alternatively, you could just back up to a recordable DVD. The lower-end J105 systems only come with a combo CD-RW/DVD drive, but the price here includes a DVD writer and we prefer to have the option of archiving the full contents of the system to disc. Our initial backup took 30 minutes, and Lenovo estimates weekly backups will then take only two-to-five minutes, depending on the amount of new data created.

One area that could be considered a compromise is the processor. While HP’s dx5150 is based on an Athlon 64 3200+ processor, Lenovo has opted for an AMD Sempron 3400+ chip. Coupled with the same 512MB of RAM found inside HP’s machine, the lower-spec processor didn’t make a huge amount of difference in our benchmarks: Lenovo’s machine scored 0.83 compared to 0.86 from HP.

In terms of day-to-day use, it’s unlikely anyone would be able to tell the difference. They’re both fast machines, and if all you need a PC for is Word, Excel, email and web browsing you’ll be more than happy with the J105.

The only time you might wish for more firepower is if and when you upgrade to Vista. As standard, the J105 comes with a low-powered integrated graphics chipset, which isn’t able to run the advanced graphics effects like transparent windows. You can upgrade, but note that the slot is AGP 8x rather than the PCI Express 16x slot we’d have preferred.

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