The IBM ThinkPad R52 (manufactured by Lenovo Group Limited) is loaded with valuable features that mesh well with the needs of government agencies -- especially those with strict data security standards. But some of these features, I found, weren't all they were cracked up to be.

The Embedded Security Subsystem supports password, fingerprint or smart card user authentication. Out of 20 swipes, however, the built-in fingerprint reader only recognized my digit once. Just to be sure the problem wasn't my swiping method, I asked a co-worker to try the fingerprint technology, and she had a similar experience.

The ThinkPad came equipped with a suite of ThinkVantage features that provide users with better data protection and less problematic travels than most devices. ThinkVantage Client Security Solution allows users to lock their data. The device supports Secure Data Disposal software that can be downloaded for free from lenovo.com, which will perform U.S. Department of Defense 5220-22-M 3-compliant data scrubs at the end of the notebook's life.

The ThinkPad also offers several features designed to protect data and make mobility easier. ThinkVantage Active Protection provides increased protection from falls by sensing unstable movements and adjusting to better protect the hard drive before impact.

ThinkVantage Access Connections automatically configures your print and network preferences as you move from network to network, and the ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery, available on select models, protects data while allowing users to easily overcome major problems without tracking down support staff.

The UltraNav stick, placed in the middle of the keyboard as an alternative to the touchpad, at first seemed ill placed. But it turned out to be rather intuitive, and I never bumped surrounding keys when I used it.

Often devices with lots of bells and whistles fall short on performance, but the ThinkPad was an exception. It muscled my graphic tasks without any lags or hang-ups.

The machine did fall prey to an infinite loop bug that caused the machine to crash when awakening from sleep mode. As far as I can tell, the bug -- a problem with the video card -- plagues many devices on the market, not just the ThinkPad. After carefully downloading and installing the drivers, however, the problem was resolved.

Minor complaints I had included the lack of USB ports -- the ThinkPad only comes with two -- and the appearance. The ThinkPad is a little dowdy. With all the features, you'd think it wouldn't matter. But looking at all the other notebooks around the office, I felt like I was behind the wheel of an '85 Buick while everyone else drove Corvettes and BMWs.

Appearance aside, the Lenovo ThinkPad gets the job done and offers desirable features.

Specifications

  • Price: $750-$1,798

  • Weight: 5.8-6.68 lbs.

  • Hard drive: 40, 60, 80 GB

  • Intel Pentium M 750 1.86 GHz

  • Combo drive: CD-RW/DVD-ROM (DVD-recordable available on some models)

  • 14.1-inch XGA Active Matrix TFT color LCD backlit display screen

  • 1024x768 resolution with 16.7 million colors (24-bit) internal support display resolution

  • Integrated stereo

  • Integrated stereo speakers

  • 10/100/1000 Mbps gigabit Ethernet integrated

  • Intel PRO/Wireless 2915ABG 54 Mbps Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11a/b/g

  • V.92 56 Kbps fax modem

    Rating: 3 out of 5

    Emily Montandon  |  Contributing Writer