Lenovo IdeaCentre D400: In-Depth

After playing with with the Lenovo IdeaCentre D400, I think it’s time for an in-depth review. Before I go into the review, I’d like to answer a couple questions raised in my previous post. (Click here to read my first impressions.)

1. Is there warranty coverage if the user upgrades the amount of RAM in their server? The answer to this is no. While I understand why in some respects, I don’t like how there is not an option to either purchase an upgrade at the time the server is built, or an in-warranty option. HP does this (see here for details), I’m not sure about other vendors, but I think if one can do it, what’s preventing others from doing the same?

2. I was curious as to whether or not there was a product page on the Lenovo website as I was having a hard time finding it. Lenovo has sent me the link, and you can click here to go directly to the product page on their website.

3. I asked Lenovo about their feature set and am under the impression that they IdeaCenter D400 is designed to be a no-frills server. For advanced functionality like Photo Sharing, etc., you can go to WHSPlus (http://www.whsplus.com) and find add-ins for the server. In talking to Lenovo, they did drop a hint that sometime next year there will be an update to their offering. I look forward to what it is!

If anyone has any further questions, please let me know on Twitter (@tomontech) or e-mail (tom at tomontech dot com).

Now on with the in-depth review!

Installation:

Installation and configuration of the IdeaCentre D400 is fairly straight forward. Put in the Client Connector Software disk, let the installer download the software from the server, answer some questions and you’re all set and ready to go. However, there is one thing that I do not like about Lenovo’s installer. There are three items on the disk (Home Server Connector, LightsOut Client, and Lenovo’s EasyAccess software). Lenovo does not make it clear on the menu of the installer that to install everything, they each have to be installed separately. I think some clarification on the menu would go along way. Either that, or provide some automation where the user selects which of the three to install, and then they are installed in order automatically without further intervention by a user.

Ease of Use:

Like all of the Home Server offerings out there that use Windows Home Server, this one is no exception to how easy it is to use. Because Windows Home Server is designed to be as consumer friendly as possible, ease of use is very important. Lenovo does a great job of making the server easy to use, with the only exception being the confusion on the software install menu. There is a piece of software that Lenovo includes called EasyAccess, and this software automatically makes the shares on the server appear in your Computer window. Their tab they add to the Windows Home Server Console is very well thought out, and presents important information very clearly.

Server Recovery:

In the event that something happens to the server and a reinstallation of the server software is needed, Lenovo provides a DVD that will perform the recovery. The recovery software is wizard driven, and is very straightforward.  Recovery does take some time, depending on network configuration, and other factors, so be prepared to go for a walk, drink some coffee, read a book, or watch paint dry.

Price:

I’m in love with the price point of the IdeaCentre D400. $499 will get you the 1TB model and $599 will get you the 2TB model. With the holiday season rolling around, there may be some deals to be had on the IdeaCentre D400.

Overall:

Lenovo has a very strong offering here with the IdeaCentre D400. I like that it does not come preloaded with tons of potentially useless extras, and that documentation provided is very easy to follow. While I’m biased towards the design of the HP MediaSmart Server (been an owner since they were first produced), the design of the IdeaCentre D400 has definitely grown on me.  I definitely think that the IdeaCentre can be a great contender in the Home Server space, and I think that now that we have many vendors selling Home Servers we will see some great things in the future.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank the fine folks at Lenovo for providing the IdeaCentre D400 for review. Thank you Lenovo!

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