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Lenovo ThinkCentre A57

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The Lenovo A57 is a well-priced office desktop with a strong performance. While very similar to its smaller sibling, the M57e, the A57 offers better performance and upgrade options for a small price increase.

Design and feature
Lenovo's A57 is similar if not a little bigger than the Lenovo M57e, and its predecessor, the A61e. However, unlike these two desktops, Lenovo has decided to drop the "eco" suffix with the A57 and boost performance while adding in a spare PCI and PCI Express slot.

In terms of size the A57 sits somewhere between a traditional tower and a 3L, or a dictionary-sized, small form-factor desktop. This compact size limits the upgrade options on the A57, but avoids the price jump associated with ultra small systems. While the A57 is compact, placement of the optical drive means sitting this desktop vertically would be awkward, so you wouldn't want to stash it under your desk.

There is absolutely nothing exciting about the design of the A57; it's simple, basic and black. There are two USB ports on the front along with a 3.5mm audio-in/out jack. The rear of the system includes the minimum number of necessary ports on a desktop: a D-Sub serial port, VGA in and out, Ethernet, and two PS/2 ports. There are four additional USB ports on the rear of the machine.

There is no space to include an additional HDD inside this system, so if you want additional storage you will have to do it externally, which is more expensive and slower. The A57 we were sent included a spare RAM slot.

Lenovo touts that its desktops are made to a high standard when it comes to the use of toxic materials. We have previously scrutinised Lenovo's reports about the use of toxic materials and were satisfied that they do indeed meet a high benchmark. It's interesting to note that Lenovo moved from the bottom to the top of Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics. So if environmental friendliness is a factor in your buying decision, Lenovo has become a better choice.

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The A57 gets bonus points for not filling the desktop with useless software — except for trails of Microsoft Office 2007 and Norton Internet Security. It does include Adobe Acrobat, PC Doctor 5 and Lenovo's ThinkVantage Productivity Centre, which provides a range of shortcuts to native help functions for inexperienced users, as well as quick access to Lenovo's help desk contacts.

For such an unassuming machine the A57 is a great performer. PCMark05 gave a healthy score of 4,760, meaning this little warrior will knock over everyday office tasks with ease. That's thanks to Lenovo's inclusion of Intel's latest quad-core processor, the Q6600 clocking at 2.4GHz. The 7200rpm SATA hard drive also gave a healthy PCMark05 hard disk score of 5,884.

However, don't try and run graphics applications on the A57, you'll be taking it way out of its comfort zone. The A57 renders graphics via an Intel graphics media accelerator built into the motherboard, giving a 3DMark06 score of 260.

One nice thing about the A57 was the pre-installation of Windows XP, with an included licence for Windows Vista Business. Regardless of which Windows release you prefer, we like that Lenovo has given you a choice, and pre-installed the less hungry of the two Windows releases.

Along with the A57, Lenovo released the M57e, a smaller desktop with almost identical specs which is AU$150 dollars cheaper. The difference? The A57 comes with an additional PCI and PCI Express slot, and a faster Intel Core 2 Quad processor.

It's our view that the M57e is better suited for large roll-outs, where the expansion slots are less likely to be used, and the reduced price and lower power consumption will stack up with multiple units. For a small office, the A57 makes more sense for its better performance and increased upgrade options.