IBM ThinkCentre M series Tower
IBM must love quotes like in O'Reilly's new book 'Build the Perfect PC' where they say that if you're buying readymade, just buy IBM. In saying that in the book, they're just following their own rules of which components are good and which are not so good. Anyway, if you're buying something, it's nice not to get the feeling that you're being nickle and dimed to death over every little component.
As an aside, it makes you wonder just what first Compaq and then HP thought they were doing by swallowing and killing DEC and then Compaq itself. I suppose they'd say that with servers becoming a commodity, there was no room for all these brands. But it doesn't make sense to buy them if that's the case. Anyway, this is just by way of reminiscing about the old Decstations, which were cool in their day and were built like tanks. They were expected to work hard and were built to take it.
This Thinkstation comes in two sizes, a tower, and a smaller desktop unit. We have the tower case which has an easily removable access panel on one side. Inside there's tons of room for expansion. On the front panel there's a DVD/CDROM, a 5 1/4 floppy ... Whoa! When was the last time you saw one of those? As it happens, there's a floppy here that needs reading so that's handy. There are also two USB2 ports on the front and jacks for a mic and headphones.
The case comes in Spiffy Darth Vader black with the front panel slightly angled to give it a little added spaciness, if you notice. The angling has been used to put in a grille where air is scooped up and dumped on the CPU inside.
In the back panel at the bottom are four slot spaces for cards with a handy foldover plastic clamp which fixes the cards in position and makes getting those nasty little screws in unnecessary.There's an ethernet jack, more USB ports, and the usual stuff for monitors and printers.
The CPU is a Pentium 4 with Hyperthreading running at 3GHz. There's 512Meg of DDR RAM, and a SCSI HDD with 75G available. In addition to there being lots of space inside, most operations (as with the cards clamp) are able to be done without tools by way of various plastic clamps and such. Cleverly, these are not black!
The keyboard that comes with the unit is matt black plastic and feels reasonably substantial and makes little clicks as you go. It's not my favorite keyboard, but keyboard choices are very personal.
There's also the ThinkVision flat panel LCD monitor and it's very nice -- bright and sharp.It's 1280 x 1024.Sound is catered for by an AC'97 chip and graphics by Intel 915 G.
As standard, these units come with Windows XP Professional which will be just what some people want. We thought we'd try the new SuSE 9.2 on it and it went on with no problem at all. Interestingly, there were some problems with hardware sensing with 9.1. It looks like someone is talking to somebody here.
Another aside: Time used to be that if you got SuSE you got pretty much every Linux program known to man and woman on your large set of CD's. These days there is still a lot of stuff there but it's missing some of the main apps in areas like PVR and audio -- I speak of MythTV and Ardour to be precise.
This setup is aimed primarily at small business or, we suppose, whoever wants it. There's not much to dislike and a lot to like. It has good components that are well put together and represents quite a practical choice for most tasks. Some people might not like the big black box, but then I suppose you could get a similar machine with a small black box. They do make a smaller form factor model in this series.
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