Recently we covered Lenovo ThinkCentre M75q-1 or Gen1 AMD Ryzen-based ~1L system as part of our Project TinyMiniMicro series. When we did that, a major point of feedback was that we needed to look at the Gen2 version. Although the model numbers may seem similar, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M75q Gen2 Tiny or M75q-2 offers a completely new level of performance. We do not say that for a 10-15% generational performance gain. This is closer to 100% generational improvement. As a result, we wanted to take a look at an AMD Ryzen option the Lenovo ThinkCentre M75q-2 Tiny to see how it performs and how we should rank it in a value system.
Project TinyMiniMicro Lenovo ThinkCentre M75q Gen2 Tiny Video
As part of this project, we are releasing videos with some additional looks at the systems and some more candid thoughts. Here is the video for this:
This article will have a bit more since there are some facts and concepts easier to convey using text rather than video. You can also see the full video series using this YouTube playlist. Our suggestion is to open the video and play it in the background to listen.
Project TinyMiniMicro Background
In Project TinyMiniMicro we are purchasing a large number of these devices from different sources. While a standard STH review is of a new product, these TMM nodes occasionally have specs that differ from what one would expect. In all of these pieces, we are going to talk about what makes the nodes unique. We are now well over 20 different nodes to increase diversity. We are testing these on a more circular economy/ extended lifecycle basis to see how they can be deployed after their initial use as corporate desktops.
For our $736, we received a node with an AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 4750GE, 16GB of memory, WiFi, and a 512GB NVMe SSD. We even got an embedded Windows 10 Pro license which would have cost us around $140 alone. Since this was a new unit, we received a 1-year onsite warranty with our unit at that price.
That price is about $150 more than we spent (used) for the Lenovo ThinkStation P330 Tiny which had a Core i7-8700T and a NVIDIA Quadro P620, but had a bit less RAM and NVMe SSD space. It is also about $150 more than what we spent for the Gen1 system new which had somewhat similar specs but was based on the older processor. This system is also around 2.5x the price of many Core i5-8500T systems we have purchased across Dell, HP, and Lenovo offerings. As part of Project TinyMiniMicro we are looking at these systems across vendors and generations to see which are the best value.
Since this was started as a series looking at value options, we understand that this is a much higher-cost and newer unit. At the same time, there is value in comparing this unit to older units to see if the secondary market pricing makes sense given what one gets with a system like this.
We are going to go into the hardware overview, then into the key specs. We are then going to talk a bit about performance and power consumption before getting to our lessons learned from these units and our final words.
Lenovo ThinkCentre M75q Gen2 Tiny Hardware Overview
The chassis itself is a fairly standard design for the older ThinkCentre Tiny series. It measures 179 x 183 x 37mm (7.0 x 7.2 x 1.5in) which means it is around 1L like the other systems in this series. This is the updated front look from Lenovo.
In the front of the chassis, we get a headset jack as well as two USB 3.2 ports. One of these USB ports is a Gen2 Type-A port while the other is a Gen1 Type-C port. We generally prefer systems that have at least one Type-C port given how prevalent that is today. We have also seen some systems offer three USB front panel ports on other ~1L workstations, but here we have the more common design with two. We will also note here that the dedicated microphone jack was removed with the new front design. Beyond aesthetics, there is functionality lost. Perhaps it is nostalgia, but I am not certain this new design is an upgrade especially since there is a functionality loss.
On the rear of the unit, a DisplayPort and a HDMI port standard. In our unit, the dual optional slot has a single DisplayPort. Here we can get features such as another VGA, DisplayPort, or HDMI output and serial console ports. Most of the units we have purchased have something in this slot, but this is one of the few that did not.
On the rear, we get two USB 2.0 Type-A ports and two USB 3.2 Gen1 ports. Compared to the M75q-1, that changes one of the USB 2.0 ports for a USB 3.2 Gen1 port. Higher-end Intel systems such as the M920q and M920x from this era had all USB 3 ports so this is an area where we feel this system is a bit behind. For networking, we can see the 1GbE port based on a Realtek RTL8111 and a WiFi antenna. More on that as we get inside.
Opening the system is done via a single screw. Lenovo’s design, unlike HP’s for example, does not retain the screw on the chassis. As a result, one has to keep track of it when working in the unit. The fit and finish for the M75q-2 are good.
Inside the system, we see the CPU on top and a 2.5″ SATA tray on the bottom. The SATA tray is a tool-less design that can be installed in the system without tools. Also, the 2.5″ HDD/ SSD can be installed in this tray without tools as well. This is a great serviceability feature.
We pulled away the fan and plastic airflow shroud by removing two cables and activating a single latch. Underneath, we can see the cooling solution for this unit that we wanted to quickly highlight since it is a more standard straight fin design than we saw on the M75q-1.
Our system came with the AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 4750GE with is an 8 core/ 16 thread part running at 3.1GHz base and 4.3GHz maximum turbo boost. It also integrates AMD’s Vega graphics. This is the highest-end SKU in this generation and doubles the core count compare to the AMD Ryzen Pro 5 3400GE.
While there are two M.2 slots in this system, one is designed for WiFi. Our unit came with an Intel AX200 dual-band 802.11ax 2×2 adapter and included Bluetooth 5.1 as well. While this unit has WiFi 6 installed, there were also 802.11ac options available. When we started this series, we underestimated how much we prefer to get built-in WiFi in these units as many we purchased did not come with WiFi pre-installed.
Lenovo’s design we really like. Once the top cover is off, one can remove the bottom cover by simply sliding the cover off. Underneath, we find the memory and NVMe storage expansion.
A quick note here is that while the internal mounting points are very similar between generations, for whatever reason our M75q-2’s bottom cover is significantly harder to get on/ off than any of the other Lenovo units we have tested with this feature, and that number is 10+ at this point. We are not entirely sure why, but after many attempts to re-install the chassis, we often saw a misaligned pin. Again, while the performance is improved, this new chassis design feels like a step backward.
Our unit came with a single 16GB DDR4 SODIMMs for 16GB total. These are very easy to service so upgrading if you get less takes a few seconds. For an 8-core CPU, 16GB feels a bit low for memory. One can add a second 16GB DIMM for 32GB which is a great option. Alternatively, one can configure this system with 2x 32GB for 64GB from Lenovo. One item to note is that with this system we highly recommend running in dual channel mode with two DIMMs instead of one. Adding the second DIMM for memory bandwidth is especially important with integrated GPU processors. We like that Lenovo is giving an easy 32GB upgrade path, but this is something that we wanted to point out to our users.
For NVMe storage, there is a single M.2 drive slot. Some other Lenovo Tiny models have two M.2 slots which are why the chassis hole exposing this area looks twice as big as it needs to be. The M.2 retention mechanism is a blue tool-less design as we saw in on newer Lenovo Tiny models. After servicing a few dozen of these nodes, having everything tool-less is a major design win for us. Our unit came with a WD 512GB NVMe SSD which is an Opal unit. Beware though, this is M.2 2280 (80mm) capable but not M.2 22110 (110mm.) This is standard on TMM class nodes, but it is something we have received questions on.
Next, we are going to look at the key specs we have been able to pull from a number of different sources to get you some idea of what to expect in terms of configuration diversity. We are then going to get to performance and power consumption.