IBM, Compaq/HP, and Dell are generally regarded as the “big three” in Corporate Computing. While there are other players, and delivery may be by a third party like EDS or Decision One, the battle for the Corporate desktop and mobile computing needs is most often played by the “Big 3”. It is for this market that the IBM Think Center is designed, and IBM has generally done a brilliant job in creating this small computer for corporate needs.

IT Professionals have very different concerns than the home computer user or computer enthusiast. They are more concerned with the “cost of ownership” and the related “technology refresh” cycle. Most corporations lease their computer equipment, and they build into their lease/deployment plans when computer equipment will be “refreshed” (replaced). As the pace of innovation in computers accelerates, the refresh cycle has generally become shorter. Most corporations are now working on 2- to 3-year refresh cycles; although, the current recession has lengthened those times for many Corporations, who have been holding onto equipment for a longer time to cut costs.

Once the refresh cycle is plugged into the equation, “cost of ownership” becomes the next consideration. Computers break, they have to be maintained, they sometimes need to be upgraded to meet the requirements of the latest and greatest tools that the Corporation decides to roll-out to their desktop — and all of these cost money. For this reason, IT departments are very concerned about warranties and parts replacement by their computer vendor; and even with the cost of parts covered by warranty, generally on-site service is an additional contracted cost from either the computer vendor or a 3rd party.

The larger the corporation, the more scrutiny these costs are likely to undergo, and the greater the desire to control the costs to an absolutely predictable level. A recent and growing trend is “user-replaceable” parts. Dell was the company that first excluded items like the mouse, keyboard and monitor from technician replacement. They would ship the replacement part to the end-user who would do the replacement themselves. That trend caught on and is growing with all the Corporate vendors, and as a result, the list of items considered “user-replaceable” has been growing — in a effort to cut cost-of-ownership.

Enter the IBM Think Center SFF. As you will see when we delve deeper into the guts of this little PC, IBM has engineered a computer whose main reason for being is to reduce cost of ownership to the absolute minimum. Having come from managing a large National Computer Service organization and a National Help Desk, I could almost hear the scripts that the Help Desk employees would use to guide the end-user through replacing their hard drive or adding memory. IBM certainly is listening to their clients, and the IBM Think Center carries “End-User Replaceable” to heights that a computer technician could only imagine.

System Specifications

 System Specifications
   IBM Think Center S50  Soltek Qubic EQ3401M  Biostar iDEQ 200T  Shuttle SB65G2
Expansion Bays (5.25"/3.5"/Hidden) 1/1/1 2/1/1 1/1/1 1/1/1
Front USB Ports 2 2 2 2
Rear USB Ports 6 4 2 4
Internal USB Ports N/A 2 4 2
Front Firewire Ports None 1 Standard 1 Standard 1 Mini
Rear Firewire Ports None 2 Standard 1 Standard 1 Standard
On-Board Parallel Port Rear Internal Header Internal Header Internal Header
On-Board Game Port None None Internal Header None
On-Board Serial Ports 2 2 Rear 2 — One Rear & One Internal Header 2 Rear
Front Audio Jacks 2 — Mini Mic & Headphone 2 — Mini Mic & Line-In 2 — Mini Mic & Heaphone 3 Mini
Rear Audio Jacks None 3 Mini 3 Mini 3 Mini
SPDIF None One — Front
Optical Out
Two: Rear Optical Out & Front Optical In Two: Rear Optical SPDIF In & Out
Number of Fans (including CPU/chipset) 2 2 2 1
Power Supply 200W 250W Enhance 200W Enhance 220W Enhance

IBM Think Center S50: S50 Chassis
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  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - link

    You are missing the point #9, the machine isn't designed for high performance enthusiasts. Its designed for people who call the computer case a modem.
    If you want a high performance machine, you will rarely pick up machine designed for a corporate enviroment.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - link

    Shalmanese, what the hell is the point of selling an SFF with a 3.2GHz processor if you claim that no one buying this SFF is going to notice the difference between a 3.2GHz CPU and a 500MHz CPU? You're missing the point; IBM is selling a high-end PC with a high-end CPU that doesn't perform nearly as well as other SFFs, and that's a big deal for high performance enthusiasts.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - link

    Try inserting a USB-memory-dongle, Bluetooth-dongle etc. in the front USB-ports here... will not work...
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - link

    does anyone know who designs ibm computer cases?

    whoever it is, must be the same guy that has been designing them for the past 10+ years.
    they all kind of look the same from, as long as i can remember...unlike some other companies (hp/dell etc) that seem to change every couple of years...

  • Shalmanese - Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - link

    Seriously, how many people in a typical office environment would notice a 10% drop in performance in content creation? The average user would probably not be able to tell a 500Mhz and a 3.2Ghz apart in typical usage.
  • Joony - Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - link

    Personally, I think the Dell GX270 is a better looking SFF PC. Performance is also quite decent! only thing bad compared to the IBM is only a half height AGP and PCI slot. The place I work at have hundreds of these and servicing them is very easy for IT people like me. Go Dell, whoo!

    (Posting from my Dell Latitude D600 :D)
  • AgaBooga - Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - link

    Its good to see more SFF competition. Hopefully they will become increasingly popular over time.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - link

    Wow, this computer kicks ass for non-gamers/graphics designers. I wouldn't mind having one!!
  • Anonymous User - Tuesday, October 21, 2003 - link

    Not so fast #1. The law office that i worked in just replaced all 40 of their workstations with Shuttles!
  • Anonymous User - Tuesday, October 21, 2003 - link

    Where are the comparisons to Dell SFF business systems and Compaq EVO business systems!??

    Apples to apples, people... it would be rare that a business would buy a SFF kit and build their own PCs..

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