IBM ThinkPad R52
At a Glance
Lenovo ThinkPad R52
The R52 has a comfortable keyboard, and its modular bay accepts many optional drives.
IBM updates the processor but not much else with the ThinkPad R52, its latest entry into its R line of laptops. A thicker version of the thin-and-light T line, the R52 is virtually the same 7-pound corporate laptop as last year's R model, only faster and with a couple of new connections, including the new ExpressCard slot, which takes the place of a second PC Card slot.
The $1749 R52 offers dual pointing devices: a well-behaved touchpad and a comfortably squishy stick embedded in the keyboard, each equipped with its own deep-depressing mouse buttons. The keyboard is firm and quiet, topped by a launch button for IBM's excellent animated manual and a handy set of volume-control buttons; unfortunately, audio from the front-mounted speakers is not especially robust.
A squarish unit with a gently beveled front, the R52 offers most of its connections on the left side, with a parallel port for legacy peripherals as the sole rear connection. Unlike with the T line, a FireWire port is included for fast video downloads. The modular right bay can accommodate any one of three devices: an optical drive such as the combination DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive in our test unit (a DVD burner is available for $299), a second battery, or a second hard drive. A pop-out tab release built into each device lets you swap it in and out using one hand. The unit's hard drive and memory are user upgradable, although only one DIMM slot is accessible.
No wide-screen wonder, our review R52 came with a sensible 14.1-inch screen capable of a native 1024-by-768-pixel resolution (models with 15-inch screens at 1024 by 768 or 1400 by 1050 are also available). The screen has one thing most others don't, though: the tiny ThinkLight LED embedded in the top edge to illuminate the keyboard in dark environments. The ThinkLight may not be IBM's most exciting invention, but I find it quite useful.
On our benchmark tests, the 1.73-GHz Pentium M 740-equipped R52 performed like the typical 1.7-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M laptop. The R52 earned a WorldBench 5 score of 77 compared with our average of 78 for notebooks using the slightly less powerful processor. Battery life was a solid 3.5 hours.
If you've been waiting for an IBM ThinkPad R51 with improvements, you'll like the R52, a very similar black business laptop with a slightly faster processor.