IBM ThinkPad R52
IBM recently breathed new life into its mainstream business ThinkPad R-series laptop. For the ThinkPad R52, IBM simply loaded up the solid case with new parts such as Intel's next-generation Centrino platform, fast 533MHz RAM, and ATI's latest Mobility Radeon graphics chips. The result is a well-made laptop with enough oomph to tackle any basic business task.
The ThinkPad R52 test system we received came in at 12.4 inches wide, 10.2 inches deep, and 1.3 inches thick and weighed 5.9 pounds--a moderate size and weight for a budget laptop with a 14.1-inch screen. The notebook draws AC power from a demure, 0.8-pound, blackboard-eraser-shaped adapter.
The ThinkPad R52 includes some of the ThinkPad line's trademark design features. Sturdy metal hinges tether the system's lid to the bottom, making the screen a bit less subject to breakage. The ThinkPad R52 also features IBM's traditional red eraser-head pointing stick, with a flat, tactile top that we prefer to the smooth, rounded tops on other pointing sticks. The stick has two mouse buttons of its own, which sit beneath the spacebar and sandwich a handy scroll button. Below the buttons lie a somewhat small touch pad and two more mouse buttons. The ThinkPad R52's comfortable keyboard is another IBM staple, with keys in places familiar to desktop users. The business-minded system doesn't provide as many extra buttons and controls as a multimedia notebook, but it does include four convenient buttons for turning volume up and down, muting the sound, and accessing support information.
IBM takes the guesswork out of configuring the ThinkPad R52 series by offering dozens of preconfigured versions via online resellers and computer stores, though you can also build your own system through the IBM Web site. Head over to CNET's ThinkPad R52 series review for more information on configuration options.
The ThinkPad R52 we tested offered parts that were satisfying overall, including a midrange 1.73GHz Intel Pentium M 740 Sonoma processor, 512MB of fast 533MHz RAM, and an integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900 graphics subsystem, which borrows up to 128MB of video memory from main RAM. The average-size 40GB hard drive in our test unit spun at a fairly fast 5,400rpm, while the 14.1-inch screen had a somewhat low-end 1,024x768 native resolution. Compared to the prices of more expensive business notebooks with similar specs, such as the and the Sony VAIO VGN-S260, this ThinkPad R52's $1,468 cost (as of April 2005) is reasonable.
The ThinkPad R52 earned a respectable performance score in CNET Labs' mobile benchmarks. The laptop finished our benchmark 12 percent faster than the Toshiba Tecra M3 and 8 percent ahead of the Sony VAIO VGN-S260, which has a slower processor. The ThinkPad R52 delivered fairly long battery life in our drain tests, holding out for 217 minutes--better than the Tecra M3's 184 minutes, though a bit shy of the VAIO VGN-S260's 229 minutes.