ThinkPad R51 review: ThinkPad R51

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.4
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Battery life: 7.0
  • Service and support: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Fast mobile performance; big, 15-inch screen; wide, comfortable keyboard; 802.11b/g wireless.

The Bad High-end models are expensive; lacks a handy Windows key.

The Bottom Line Check out the basic IBM ThinkPad R51 if you're low on cash, but think twice before loading up on expensive options.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

Review summary

IBM's new ThinkPad R51 focuses on function. The mainstream laptop's plain black case doesn't elicit excitement, but its fast Pentium M processor and ATI Mobility Radeon graphics chip deliver ample horsepower for the average user in the home or business. In addition to speed, the IBM ThinkPad R51 boasts some cool component options, such as a 15-inch display with a fine 1,400x1,050 native resolution, a DVD-RW drive, and integrated 802.11b/g wireless. Load up on these options, however, and you could owe IBM a pretty penny, because high-end configurations are pricey. If you're a typical business or home user on a budget and you'd be satisfied with a basic configuration, give the IBM ThinkPad R51 a try. Those with a few more Ben Franklins, however, should graduate to a better-equipped thin-and-light laptop, such as the IBM ThinkPad T41 or the HP nc8000 . The IBM ThinkPad R51's no-nonsense design doesn't knock our socks off, but this mainstream laptop successfully meets the demands of mobile computing on a tight budget. The 1.5-by-10.6-by-13.1-inch laptop weighs 6.5 pounds on its own, and it's 7.3 pounds with the AC adapter. One of its best features is a big, 15-inch screen with a high 1,400x1,050 native resolution that renders crisp graphics. The wide, comfortable keyboard comes in a close second, offering a familiar, desktoplike layout with one glaring omission: a useful Windows key that activates the Windows Start menu and gives you instant access to applications and system tools. IBM's signature red pointing stick rests above the B key, with a trio of complementary mouse and scroll buttons in the wrist rest below. The company also keeps touch-pad fans in mind, including a pad with two additional mouse buttons. Three handy volume-up, volume-down, and mute buttons sit in the upper-left corner above the board, along with an Access IBM button that connects you to online help and support for the R51.

The IBM ThinkPad R51 includes one convenient, swappable drive bay that supports various modules, including a cutting-edge DVD-RW drive. The 9.5mm-high modules for the thin-and-light IBM ThinkPad T42 conveniently fit in the R51's 12.7mm bay, but not vice versa. The bay opens out of the right edge, which also has a VGA port. A smattering of standard ports and slots reside on the left edge: there are ports for 56Kbps modem, Ethernet (either 10/100 or Gigabit, depending on which configuration you choose), headphone, microphone, S-Video out, two USB 2.0, and two Type II (one Type III) PC Card slots. FireWire isn't included in the offering. A lone parallel port occupies the back edge. The front edge slopes in, making the system appear slightly slimmer from a head-on view. Unfortunately, however, this design also points the speakers and their tinny sound down at your desk rather than straight at you. IBM offers a dizzying array of component options for the ThinkPad R51, including Celeron M or Pentium M processors, ranging from 1.3GHz to 1.7GHz; up to 2GB of fast 333MHz SDRAM; a CD, DVD, DVD/CD-RW, or DVD-RW drive; a 4,200rpm hard drive measuring between 20GB and 80GB; and a 5,400rpm hard drive at 40GB or 80GB. The R51 comes with IBM's Active Protection System, designed to protect your hard drive from sudden jolts. You can choose among three graphics options: the Intel Extreme Graphics 2 (855GME) integrated graphics subsystem, which borrows up to 64MB of video memory from system RAM, as well as ATI's Mobility Radeon 7500 or 9000 graphics chips with 32MB of dedicated video memory. Screen sizes range from 14.1 to 15 inches, and they feature native resolutions of either 1,024x768, which makes for large, easily readable text, or 1,400x1,050, which results in smaller text but more detailed graphics. You can also choose between 802.11g and dual-band 802.11g/a adapters.

The IBM Web site doesn't list all of these options, though. If you don't see an option online, order your system by phone. Keep in mind, however, that you can usually save a little cash by choosing an Express (that is, preconfigured) model from the site.

With all these options, how do you configure the ideal laptop? Luckily, based on the IBM ThinkPad R51's impressive performance in CNET Labs' tests , you can likely pick low-end parts without sacrificing too much speed. Plus, high-end models tend to cost more than comparably configured systems, such as the Gateway M405XL .

One of three Microsoft Windows operating systems comes preloaded on the IBM ThinkPad R51: XP Home, XP Professional, and for those who still can't make the leap to XP, Windows 2000. IBM also throws in InterVideo's WinDVD Creator for systems with a DVD-RW drive, and an IBM-branded version of Sonic's RecordNow for laptops with a DVD/CD-RW drive. IBM also bundles its Rescue and Recovery software for data retrieval when your system's in trouble. Finally, the company includes one user license for the Lotus SmartSuite Millennium office suite, along with the option to buy several variations of Microsoft Office . Mobile application performance
The IBM ThinkPad R51 easily takes the top spot in this small test group. The R51 scored 12 percent ahead of its nearest competitor, the Gateway M405, and 15 percent ahead of the Toshiba Satellite M30-S350. This performance difference can be attributed mostly to the fact that the IBM ThinkPad R51 houses twice the RAM of its comparison systems.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  
Gateway M405
144 


To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark 2002. MobileMark measures both application performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).

Find out more about how we test notebooks.

System configurations:

Gateway M405
Windows XP Home; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855 Graphics Controller-0 (up to 64MB-shared); Hitachi Travelstar 40GB 4,200rpm

IBM ThinkPad R51
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; Fujitsu MHT2040HT 40GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite M30-S350
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX Go5200 32MB; Toshiba MK6021GAS 60GB 4,200rpm Although the IBM ThinkPad R51 came in last place in battery life in CNET Labs' tests, the difference between being first and last is only six minutes. With its 10.8V, 4,400mAh (48WHr) battery the IBM ThinkPad R51 was able to achieve more than four hours of battery life, placing it neck and neck with competing systems. The Toshiba Satellite M30-S350 with its 10.8V, 4,400mAh (48WHr) battery, and the Gateway M405, with its 11.1V, 4,400mAh (49WHr) battery, both lasted only a few minutes longer. We think four hours is a good showing for the IBM ThinkPad R51.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate longer battery life)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes  
Gateway M405
254 


System configurations:

Gateway M405
Windows XP Home; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855 Graphics Controller-0 (up to 64MB-shared); Hitachi Travelstar 40GB 4,200rpm

IBM ThinkPad R51
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; Fujitsu MHT2040HT 40GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite M30-S350
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX Go5200 32MB; Toshiba MK6021GAS 60GB 4,200rpm The IBM ThinkPad R51's base warranty includes a single year of free parts and labor with return-to-depot service--a standard warranty for the laptop industry. But the company offers a long list of upgrades that max out at $399 for four years of onsite, next-business-day service. Toll-free, 24-hour phone support lasts for the length of your warranty.

IBM's support Web site features an extensive, drill-down design that offers news, downloads, and other info about your R51. The site's Submit a Request feature allows you to contact support electronically, but we wish the company offered the more efficient ability to chat with a support rep in real time.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Where to Buy

Lenovo ThinkPad R51 2888 - 15" - Pentium M 735 - Win XP Pro - 512 MB RAM - 40 GB HDD

Part Number: 2888FU1 Released: Aug. 4, 2004
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Aug. 4, 2004
  • Installed Size 512 MB
  • Optical Drive CD-RW / DVD-ROM combo - removable
  • Graphics Processor Intel Extreme Graphics 2
  • CPU Intel Pentium M 735 / 1.7 GHz