Lenovo ThinkCentre A52
Now that Lenovo has taken the reins of IBM's PC business, what changes are in store for the company's venerable desktops? If the ThinkCentre A52 is any indication, not many. Designed for small and medium-size businesses, our $1,363 review system, which still bore an IBM logo on the boxes and the hardware, demonstrated the same attention to quality as its predecessors. Particularly noteworthy are its expansion-friendly design, smart security and backup features, and versatile LCD monitor. Even though IBM is out of the picture, the legacy lives on.
We tested the tower model; Lenovo also offers desktop and small-form-factor chassis, which might be more desirable for space-crunched cubicles. Like IBM units of yore, the all-black ThinkCentre A52 has a stark, industrial look. The tower, based on a BTX design, measures roughly 17 inches high and 16 inches deep--not exactly compact. On the plus side, it offers ample room for expansion. Pop open the push-button-release side panel, and you'll find three available RAM slots, two PCI slots, and an unused 5.25-inch drive bay. All the bays offer tool-free access, and we found it relatively quick and easy to pop out any drives that might need replacing.
The system serves up eight USB 2.0 ports (six in back, two in front)--a surprising number for a business system. Users of older printers and accessories will appreciate the inclusion of both serial and parallel ports--increasingly rare, even in business PCs. Lenovo even goes so far as to include a floppy disk drive. We would prefer a media-card reader, but that's not an available option.
You can, however, customize just about everything else. Not all small-business users will need a double-layer DVD burner such as the one in our review system. Buyers can shave $90 off the price by opting for a plain CD-ROM drive, or $50 for a CD-RW drive. The A52's standard configuration--a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 640 processor, 512MB of 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM, an 80GB Serial ATA hard drive, and an ATI Radeon X300 video card--will satisfy most business users. Likewise, the tower's built-in speaker is suitable for everyday business audio, though external speakers are always an option. Those who need more or less computing power can opt for a 3.0GHz Pentium 4 630 or a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 650. If you want other processors, the ThinkCentre A51 model offers several more choices, all the way down to a 2.6GHz Celeron D 331.
Business users are usually more interested in features and stability than in blazing speed. That's a good thing, because the ThinkCentre A52 performs about one processor step down from where we expected. Its performance is more than adequate for business users, but its use of integrated graphics holds it back from matching the score of the Sony VAIO RB44G, which uses the same Pentium 4 640 chip and a budget ATI Radeon X300 graphics card and twice the memory. The Radeon X300 video card represents a sizable improvement over the integrated Intel graphics chips found in most business systems, and it could prove helpful in graphics and multimedia applications. In the end, the ThinkCentre A52's SysMark score of 180 was roughly 7 percent slower than that of other systems we've tested this year with the Pentium 4 640 chip. It performs more like a system using a Pentium 4 630 processor, such as the .
Ideal for customer-service environments, Lenovo's17-inch LCD monitor can swivel, raise, and pivot, though you'll need to install an included software utility if you want to operate Windows in portrait mode. The onscreen controls can be a bit confusing, and we're disappointed that Lenovo didn't provide a DVI cable, as both the monitor and the video card have DVI ports in addition to standard VGA connections. Although the L171p delivered a sharp picture overall, text exhibited a slight glow--an effect a DVI connection would likely eliminate.