Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q Tiny review: Security, ports, and performance in a compact PC

Lenovo Thinkcentre m720q Tiny
Lenovo Thinkcentre m720q Tiny (Image credit: Windows Central)

Mini PCs, desktop devices that offer about the same performance as many Ultrabooks while taking up far less space, are popular for those without a lot of room yet who like to keep something connected to keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Lenovo's ThinkCentre M720q fits the bill, coming in at about the size of an optical drive yet containing impressive performance hardware, decent selection of ports, and plenty of configuration options. I used it for about a week to figure out exactly who it's meant for and to see whether or not it's worth your time.

What you'll love about the ThinkCentre M720q Tiny

Lenovo offers a generous amount of hardware configuration options for the ThinkCentre M720q, including up to an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8700T processor (CPU), 32GB DDR4 dual-channel RAM, up to a 1TB PCIe M.2 solid-state drive (SSD) and a 1TB SATA hard-disk drive (HDD), and rear punch-out ports that can be used for extra Serial, DisplayPort, HDMI, VGA, or USB-C ports depending on your needs, no doubt satisfying many IT departments in bulk-purchase scenarios.

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Form factorMini desktop PC
ProcessorIntel Core i5-8500TUp to 3.50GHzSix cores
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 630
ChipsetIntel B360
StorageSamsung PM981PCIe M.2 SSD256GB
SecurityTPM 2.0Smart USB ProtectionKensington lock slot
WirelessIntel Wireless-AC 8265802.11ac (2 x 2)Bluetooth 4.2
PortsThree USB-A 3.1 (Gen 2)Two USB-A 3.1 (Gen 1)USB-C 3.13.5mm audio3.5mm micDisplayPortHDMIRJ45 Ethernet
Size7 inches x 1.4 inches x 7.2 inches(179mm x 36.5mm x 182.9mm)
WeightFrom 2.91 pounds (1.32kg)

There's also a PCIe slot inside the PC behind the punch-out ports that can be used for an extra LAN or COM card. In any case, no matter the internal hardware you checkout with, the M720q "Tiny" remains exactly that. It's only just a bit larger than an old optical drive and weighs in at less than three pounds, and it includes a vertical stand to help free up even more space on your desktop. Lenovo also sells a VESA mounting bracket that could be used to attach the PC to the back of a compatible monitor, as well as a separate mount to keep it under your desk. In an office situation where there are, say, 30 people who all need a desktop PC, the flexibility and size of the ThinkCentre M720q Tiny is no doubt a boon.

On the front of the M720q is a power button, status LED, 3.5mm headset and mic outputs, as well as USB-C 3.1 and USB-A 3.1 ports. On the back, you'll find another four USB-A 3.1, DisplayPort, HDMI, and RJ45 Ethernet, as well as the aforementioned punchouts, which in the review unit's case has one replaced with an extra USB-C port. Desktop PCs will almost always have far more ports than the average Ultrabook, and Lenovo has done its best to emulate that here by jamming as many ports as possible into the compact chassis.

By removing one screw on the rear of the PC, the entire top and front sheath slide forward away from the main chassis. This gives you access to the 2.5-inch hard drive bracket — you can upgrade storage yourself after purchase with relative ease — and single-fan cooling system. The fan does a respectable job of keeping the PC cool, no doubt thanks to a considerable heat sink above the CPU.

The M720q's compact, durable chassis comes apart easily for future storage and RAM upgrades.

With the top and front sheath removed, a panel on the bottom of the PC can also be removed, revealing dual SODIMM RAM slots and an M.2 PCIe SSD slot. Getting everything down to the skeleton like this only takes about a minute, so future upgrades should be as painless as possible.

All parts feel relatively sturdy, and the PC has been subjected to MIL-STD 810G certification to prove its durability in a number of scenarios that would likely only be seen outside of an office. To put IT departments more at ease, the M720q features Smart USB Protection that allows for control over what is allowed through a USB port, as well as a dTPM 2.0 chip and Kensington lock slot.

With an Intel Core i5-8500T (Coffee Lake) CPU and 8GB of RAM, this review unit was able to cut through daily productivity tasks like word processing, heavy web browsing, and video streaming with ease. I ran some synthetic benchmarks to give an idea of where the performance sits compared to a bunch of laptop's we recently reviewed.


Geekbench 4.0 Benchmarks (Higher is better)

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DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q Tinyi5-8500T3,91714,659
Lenovo ThinkPad L390i5-8265U4,32011,499
Lenovo ThinkPad L380i5-8250U3,9459,775
Lenovo ThinkPad T490i7-8565U5,43115,608
Lenovo ThinkPad T480i5-8250U3,94012,559
Lenovo ThinkPad X390i7-8565U5,47218,059
MSI PS63 Moderni7-8565U4,90914,466
Huawei MateBook X Proi7-8565U5,19216,757
HP Spectre x360 13ti7-8565U5,05614,767
Surface Laptop 2i5-8250U4,20313,233
LG gram 14 2-in-1i7-8565U4,82913,889

Multi-core scores (the Core i5-8500T has six) line up with Core i7 U-series CPUs, while the single-core score is a bit lower than expected, at least when compared with Core i5 U-series CPUs. Still, nothing to complain about here, and everything seemed to stay cool under load.


Geekbench 4.0 OpenCL (higher is better)

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Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q TinyIntel UHD 63030,855
Lenovo ThinkPad L390Intel UHD 62026,696
Lenovo ThinkPad T490Intel UHD 62037,920
Lenovo ThinkPad T480Intel UHD 62018,245
Lenovo ThinkPad X390Intel UHD 62037,440
Huawei MateBook X ProNVIDIA MX25045,365
HP Spectre x360 13tIntel UHD 62037,487
Surface Laptop 2Intel UHD 62035,473

It would be great to have the option for a bit of extra graphics power, but integrated UHD Graphics 630 will cut it for anything non-intensive.


PCMark Home Conventional 3.0

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Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q Tiny3,283
Lenovo ThinkPad L3903,217
Lenovo ThinkPad L3802,762
Lenovo ThinkPad T4903,620
Lenovo ThinkPad T4803,254
Lenovo ThinkPad X3903,934
LG gram 14 2-in-13,452
Lenovo Yoga C9303,506

The ThinkCentre M720q Tiny holds up well here in a test that measures the performance of all hardware working together to complete regular tasks.


CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)

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Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q Tiny3,498.2 MB/s1,575.6 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad L3902,189.3 MB/s1,350.4 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad L380545 MB/s528.9 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad T4903,254.8 MB/s2,954.9 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad T4801,738.1 MB/s1,174.9 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad X3903,024 MB/s1,563.2 MB/s
Huawei MateBook X Pro3,0416 MB/s2,779 MB/s
HP Spectre x360 13t3,085 MB/s1,182 MB/s
LG gram 14 2-in-1558.1 MB/s523.1 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga C9302,596.2 MB/s806 MB/s

The Samsung PM981 PCIe M.2 SSD offers excellent performance, and it can be upgraded down the line for something larger or faster. There's also a 2.5-inch SATA drive bay inside the PC, which can be used for either an HDD or SSD.

What you'll dislike about the ThinkCentre M720q Tiny

It seems like this PC would be an excellent fit in an Enterprise scenario, and bulk purchases usually mean the PC is going to be in use for some years to come. As a bit of future-proofing, it would be nice to see a Thunderbolt 3 port amongst the otherwise generous selection. On that note, having a microSD card reader built in would also be welcome.

Other than that, the option for some extra graphics processing power I think would be welcome, especially for casual buyers who just love the idea of a compact PC that can be hidden out of sight. Something like NVIDIA's MX250 graphics chip (GPU) would be enough to offer a better gaming experience when the day's work is done.

Should you buy Lenovo's ThinkCentre M720q Tiny?

While a laptop is still going to be the preferred device for a lot of people who want to hold onto mobility and get about the same level of performance, Lenovo's ThinkCentre M720q Tiny has a lot to like. There are ample configuration options, ranging from baseline hardware that makes sense for Enterprise bulk buys, up to more powerful hardware for personal purchases.

The size makes this a versatile PC — you can mount it below a desk, behind a monitor, or just stand it up vertically on your desktop to save a lot of space — yet it holds onto a generous port selection with support for up to three external monitors and your go-to accessories. It's easy to take this PC apart for DIY upgrades to keep it relevant into the future, and it has the security features to make an IT department happy.

The M720q runs quiet and cool, and while it would be nice to see a Thunderbolt 3 port and an option for discrete GPU, it is perfectly able to handle a regular day's work with the hardware on offer. If you're in search of a compact PC for Enterprise or personal use, definitely put the ThinkCentre M720q Tiny on your shortlist.

Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt brings to Windows Central more than eight years of experience writing about laptops, PCs, accessories, games, and beyond. If it runs Windows or in some way complements the hardware, there’s a good chance he knows about it, has written about it, or is already busy testing it.