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Lenovo IdeaCentre Q100

A low-cost nettop PC designed primarily for accessing the Internet, the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q100 is an ideal computer for knowledge workers and end-user quality assurance testing.

Price: £181
Tech Specs:

OS: Novel SUSE Enterprise Linux 11
Processor: Intel Atom 1.6GHz
Memory: 1GB

One of the smallest. thinnest PCs around. Plenty of USB ports, does exactly what it’s designed to do at a very affordable price.
No official Linux support from Levono. Lacks the ION chipset and HDMI connectivity of the Q110.

A low-cost nettop PC designed primarily for accessing the Internet, the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q100 is an ideal computer for knowledge workers and end-user quality assurance testing. As a primary development system, the Q100 lacks graphics power, is low on RAM, and has a slow processor.

The most attractive specification on the Q100 is not inside the system at all, however. At just 38cm by about 45cm (or about the size of your hand), the Q100 barely takes up any footprint at all. For those who set up multiple PCs in a testing environment, or who have knowledge workers in the office who need a low-profile system that does not make any noise and stays fairly cool, the Q100 is one of the smallest and best-designed computers we’ve tested. The Q100 comes with a small stand and looks well-suited next to a think LCD display. The all-black design is subtle and unobtrusive.

In essence, the system has the same characteristics as a netbook without the screen. The Q100 has just 1GB of RAM and uses the Intel Atom 230 processor running at 1.6GHz. Another version, the Q110, provides an extra boost with the NVIDIA ION chipset for faster graphics, HD movie playback, and an HDMI port for connecting the system to an HD television. (The Q110 is not quite available for review yet.) As it stands, the Q100 does not work for an entertainment machine because it lacks the HDMI port, although you could conceivably attached it to a large screen computer monitor using the VGA connection. Mostly, Lenovo intends this system to be a thin client for business or home use.

The system has six USB ports, a healthy number considering the small size. There are four on the back of the machine and two in front, under a plastic cover that also hides a headphone and microphone jack. On the back, there is a VGA connection, an Ethernet port, and the power connection.

Test results
In tests, we first discovered that Ubuntu 9.04 would not install on the Q100. We could not figure out any reasoning for this, and Lenovo does not officially support Linux on the Q100. However, we tried Novell SUSE Enterprise Desktop 11 and it installed without fail. As expected, performance was just good enough to get us on the Web, check e-mail, use some of SUSE’s included OpenOffice word processing and slideshow tools, and play-test a couple of casual games. When we ventured outside of these confines, the Q100 would quickly become sluggish, especially when playing a HD movie using M-Player (the screen would stutter and halt occasionally) and when we tried Warzoine 2100, which is a real-time strategy game that requires 3D graphics for the vast number of units on screen at once.

That said, we also ran an additional test: to re-calculate a large spreadsheet with over 1000 cells. Amazingly, the Q100 had no trouble with these calculations and actually performed on par with a home-built PC running an Intel Core i7 processor. This is not necessarily a major surprise, since the Atom uses some of the same processing tricks to speed up calculations the high-priced i7.

Interestingly, after using the system for a full day, we found the Q100 a capable system for its intended use – browsing Web sites, typing up short documents, and checking e-mail in Evolution. It will not win any speed contests. The Q100 is small enough to tuck away back behind your LCD, performs reliably without too much heat build-up, and stays whisper quiet. The system is well-suited as a low-cost Linux thin client for accessing Web applications, and as such gets major kudos.

Verdict: 4/5
Ultra-thin and compact, the Q100 will take up haly anyoom on y desk. As long as youdon’t expect too much performance from it, it works well as a standard nettop.
John Brandon

This article originally appeared in issue 81 of Linux User & Developer magazine.Q100_image_black