The Lenovo ThinkCentre A61e is said to be one of the most energy-efficient PCs in the world. It is Energy Star 4.0 compliant, EPEAT Gold rated and has the same carbon footprint as a small daffodil. Well, possibly.
For around £320, it's intended for businesses that want to lower their energy costs, or for energy-conscious users who want to be kinder to the environment.
Some eco-friendly products just don't look right. It's funny then, that Lenovo -- creators of some of the ugliest PCs in the world -- should design its own energy-efficient desktop. The ThinkCentre A61e never stood a chance.
Most small form factor PCs (SFF) we've seen look great, and so should the A61e, in theory. It's lightweight, has the same approximate dimensions as a phonebook and can be positioned in either landscape or portrait orientation. Unfortunately, the ubiquitous IBM styling -- read: tacky black plastic and garish colour highlights -- will appeal to relatively few.
Still, the A61e has a very uncluttered design. It's small enough to fit on a desk, has two easily-accessible front-facing USB ports, plus front-facing mic and headphone jacks. At the rear there are four additional USB ports, three audio jacks and an Ethernet port.
It's pretty functional on the inside, too. The case allows tool-free access so memory can be added or removed within a matter of seconds. But that's all. The A61e has no room for expansion -- not even a spare SATA port. Once you've bought it, you can only add things via USB.
It's easy to see why the ThinkCentre A61e would appeal to tree-hugging geeks. It uses low-power components including a 45W AMD Athlon X2 BE 2350 dual-core CPU. The 2.1GHz clock speed won't raise any eyebrows, but the chip is well-suited for use in quiet-running living room PCs -- or desktops for the hippy generation. Unlike the vast majority of computers, the CPU is so energy-efficient that it can be cooled by a passive heatsink -- there's no fan required.
Our review sample of the A61e came with 512MB of RAM. Most users would baulk at this and we wouldn't blame them. It's barely enough to run Windows XP let alone anything more demanding. This is of the PC2 5300 (667MHz) SODIMM laptop variety so you can't just add any spare desktop memory you have lying around.
Although the A61e doesn't have a fan over the CPU, there is one situated at the left corner behind the hard drive. This draws cool air from the vent at the front of the chassis across the hard drive and heatsink, and expels it out the back of the PC. Unfortunately, the fan is 40mm so it makes an enormous racket. A larger fan, say, an 80mm part, would have a lower RPM, less noise, yet expel the same amount of air. We know it isn't easy to fit a large fan in a small chassis, but it's certainly possible with a bit of forethought.