capsule review

Lenovo ThinkCentre A52

At a Glance
  • Lenovo ThinkCentre A52

    PCWorld Rating

    Slightly overpriced and underpowered, this Lenovo business system offers easily upgradability and good security features.

Lenovo ThinkCentre A52
Artwork: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

Though the ThinkCentre A52 officially belongs to Lenovo's product line, the IBM logo on our review system reminds us of its roots. This rebranded midrange business desktop is slightly underpowered, but offers some nice features that will appeal to IT managers and business users.

The insides of the ThinkCentre A52 are easy to access: Press the quarter-size button on the side of the case, and the side panel slips away. Adding or replacing hardware is easy; a handful of cables pose a minor obstruction to the three open RAM slots, but otherwise nothing hinders access to the slots or components. Several quick-release mechanisms for the PCI slots, optical drives, and hard drives also make for quick hardware changes.

IT folks will also like the ThinkCenter's Rescue and Recovery feature, which allows for automatic system recovery outside of Windows; the process activates with a single keystroke at boot-up. Business users will also appreciate IBM's built-in Client Security Solution, which provides an effective and easy-to-use encryption and password management scheme that's based on both software and an integrated hardware chip.

Our review system came with a 250GB hard drive--big enough to satisfy most business users--but the hard drive chassis has space for only one drive, so make sure the system you order has a hard drive large enough for your current and future needs.

The diminutive 17-inch Lenovo ThinkVision L171p LCD display that came with our system produced comfortably readable small text, fits easily on a crowded or cramped desktop, and can be rotated to support viewing in portrait orientation.

The system's performance, while not stellar, was ample for most common business tasks. Our review unit came configured with a dual-core 2.8-GHz Pentium D 820 CPU and 512MB of DDR2-533 SDRAM. Given the hefty $1958 price (as of 3/23/06), I'd expect at least a full 1GB of RAM--a necessity for anyone working with large files and lots of open applications. The system produced a score of 84 on our WorldBench 5 applications benchmark.

Using ATI's Radeon X300 SE graphics card with 128MB of DDR RAM, the ThinkCentre turned in slightly better graphics performance than PCs with integrated graphics chips that share system memory. The unit's frame rate scores of 89 fps on our Return to Castle Wolfenstein and 161 fps on Unreal Tournament at 1028 by 768 resolution ranked above the scores of such systems.

Our test system's featherweight optical mouse felt flimsy, and the no-frills keyboard, while offering good heft and a solid feel, lacks any programmable buttons. Lenovo's site offers options for other mice and keyboards, however.

Documentation, which includes a cryptic setup poster and a sparse quick-reference guide, is of little use. Lenovo received average scores in our Reliability and Service tech support survey.

The A52 isn't for the high-powered gamer or budget-minded consumer, but its upgrade and maintenance features are well suited to the business workplace.

Kirk Steers

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Slightly overpriced and underpowered, this Lenovo business system offers easily upgradability and good security features.

    Pros

    • Easily upgradable; system recovery tools

    Cons

    • Expensive; subpar performance
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