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ThinkCentre Desktop Computer M81 Intel Core i5 3.1 GHz 4 GB DDR3 250 GB HDD Windows 7 Professional 64-Bit
  • Verified Owner
  • Owned For: less than 1 day

Pros: See other thoughts. Many pro's:
1) Case big enough for an aftermarket power supply.
2) Mobo accepts standard ATX 24 pin and P4 4 pin connections. Other very similar specs-wise PC's at this price have custom PSU and mobo connections.
3) PCIe area is big enough for a double-height graphics card.
4) Ran Prime95 for several hours - no errors!
5) The i5-2400 actually has a turbo of 3.4 GHz, usually runs 3.2 under load.
6) Cosmetics on the case are more than acceptable.
7) Like other reviewers, Win7 Pro 64 was not chock full of bloat. Uninstalled 1 anti-virus program and that was about it.
8) I've always like Lenovo's approach to design for the Thinkcentre's - the louvers, push-button side panel release, etc.
9) 4 memory slots, with only 1 populated - memory upgrades without chucking a stick, yeah!
10) Pretty standard looking CPU heat sink/fan, none of that goofy air duct stuff.

Cons: Can't really think of any...really got what I wanted.

Other Thoughts: I've always had the idea of using a refurb PC to update older hardware. What I wanted to do was find a PC that had decent specs that could support a PSU with enough wattage to power a mid-level gaming card - a GTX 550ti (or any other 6-pin power card). Didn't want to go down the route of a used mobo/CPU/memory and try to get everything to work together. I'm sure for the price I could have found a combo that would have been great. But factor in Windows $, not having to tweak to get everything to work together, this is a pretty good way to go.

After receiving, I ran the stress test to be sure everything is good. HWM tells me the system pulls like 78 Watts at full blast - gotta love 2nd gen Core iX stuff.

Then I pulled the power supply, put in a 80+/400W that supports a 20Amp/12V rail that can push a decent card. Ran FurMark for a while. Checked all the voltages - everything was fine.

I'm speculating, but I bet games will get a few more FPS because of the CPU upgrade, and the CPU will hold back the graphics card less.

As always, Newegg is a great vendor.

Mushkin Enhanced ECO2 2.5
  • Verified Owner
  • Owned For: 1 week to 1 month

Pros: Inexpensive, right size, right capacity, quiet. I also like the idea of some USA content in my purchases.

Cons: Can't think of anything.

Other Thoughts: I set up an HTPC system using a QC5000-ITX/Wifi from ASrock. Initially I tried a WD 800 Gb 5400 Green drive to run the whole system. The combination of the embedded solution and the slow drive really made the computer almost unusable in terms of pauses and delays. Using the Mushkin as the Win 7 drive, and the 800 Green drive as recorded TV storage really works great. The 800 Gb drive is good for low power and continous data streaming when watching recorded shows. The Mushkin just makes the system snappy to use in general. Access to Windows programs like WMC is quick, boot up is quick (quicker than mainstream mechanical drives), zero complaints.

In fact, I just bought another Mushkin to clone another HTPC operating system from a mechanical drive. I'll wipe the mechanical drive and it will be the storage drive. Instant, noticeable perforance boost for less than a family movie at the theaters.

ASRock QC5000-ITX/WiFi AMD FT3 Kabini A4-5000 Quad-Core APU Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU/VGA Combo
  • Verified Owner
  • Owned For: 1 month to 1 year

Pros: I really like the form factor; ITX fits a standard ATX/mATX pattern, and this board looks dinky in my giant full ATX Antec HTPC. 4 supported monitor connections - dSub, DVI, HDMI, DP. , 7.1 sound capable - I'm running 5.1. USB 3.0 and SATA 3 (6 mbps) are nice. UEFI BIOS, pretty, intuitive. There is an option to load the Ethernet driver from the BIOS and download all the drivers from, never tried it, but for anyone without options, that looks like a good option.

Cons: The included CD cannot boot properly. Here is what I did to load drivers - I loaded Win7-64, loaded a wireless USB stick driver I had lying around, went to, then to to get Catalyst. The site has an all-in-1 driver suite that gets all the CPU level stuff loaded. Due to an issue - see below - I actually tried different driver install methods and found this to be best. The screw on the board that holds on the wireless antenna was loose and I had to take 2 pair of pliers to tighten it up, noticed other reviews said the same thing. The CPU fan after a couple of weeks is now noisy - more so than a standard AMD APU 80 mm fan would be. The manual is so-so. Board picture is small - yeah small board, but even smaller picture.

Yes - this is an inexpensive solution, but you can get better solutions for 20-25 more. Big and little things are just not as good as they could be, even considering price.

Am I happy with the solution - yes, just not happy with some of the initial quality shortcomings. The board works - everything works - it just took a while to get there. Long term I will be putting on a big passive cooler to eliminate the fan noise. Have a machine shop at work where I can get that made.

Other Thoughts: I initially set up my HTPC with a 800 Gb WD green @ 5400 RPM that I had lying around. The combo of the CPU and the slow HDD really made the computer unpleasant to use. I purchased a 60Gb Mushkin SSD to pep up the system. This definitely makes the setup usable as a HTPC. The 800 Gb drive is now the recorded TV drive.

The intended purpose of this board is for HTPC to be a Tivo for digital cable using HDHomerun as a 3-tuner device across my LAN. Because M$ is so worried about Win10 right now, they had some major support gaps in changing guide providers in Windows Media Center. I tried valiantly to get the guide, which makes recording shows possibly in the first place, and tried re-installing Win 7 several times. Finally, time won out and the guide eventually downloaded properly. Look up Zap2It to Rovi transition - lots of unhappy WMC users out there.

Quad core anything running this slow is actually kind of silly. I wonder if this was cut back to a dual core if there would be any noticeable performance hit just using this as a WMC/HTPC box. The real strength of this system is good graphics system that pulls loads away from the x86/x64 cores.

This embedded solution is not recommended for anyone who wants to transition to a lower-power desktop solution. It is just not snappy enough for even the least serious user to notice pauses and delays.


Mark S.'s Profile

Display Name: Mark S.

Date Joined: 05/22/06

  • Reviews: 49
  • Helpfulness: 22
  • First Review: 05/26/06
  • Last Review: 10/12/15
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