It's great to have fast, new hardware in the office. While my current system does a nice job (thanks for the recent upgrade, guys), nothing can beat a fresh-from-the-box system that's not cluttered with all the files you've accumulated over the years.

My time with the IBM ThinkCentre A51p Tower has been all too brief. The 3 GHz processing speed made using applications a breeze, and the ultraspeed CD-RW, floppy drives, two USB ports and headphone and microphone jacks are conveniently located on the front of the tower. The standard keyboard offers solid yet quiet operation. The optical wheel mouse froze once just after setting up the unit but gave me no trouble later. The buttons and scroll wheel have a soft, quiet, comfortable feel.

The Cyber Acoustics amplified speaker system installed easily and emitted quality sound. The small sleek speakers complement the flat-panel monitor, though I detected a hint of wobbling in one. The 26-watt subwoofer gave some nice thumping bass for an impromptu editorial dance party, featuring Cake's rendition of I Will Survive.

Sound quality remained clear on both prerecorded and homemade CDs, and it took only a few minutes to burn a music CD using IBM RecordNow. There were no problems to report -- the sound quality came through just fine. Data CDs also run well, and streaming video runs decently.

IBM sent along a ThinkVision 17-inch monitor. A fine monitor, but lacking the full movement range of the previously reviewed 19-inch version. The 17-inch monitor tilts forward and backward, but does not slide vertically for height adjustment, nor does the base swivel. It does, however, have the same crisp clarity of the larger model.

Software includes the company's Rapid Restore Ultra to back up the system -- including operating system, applications, personal settings and device drivers. It also schedules and archives backups, and can restore system and individual files as well.

The IBM data transfer program lets users transfer settings and data from one computer to another. A wizard guides users through the transfer process and allows them to select how to transfer data, such as by removable disk or across a local area network. The transfer program is available as a free download from the company's Web site for licensed systems only.

All in all, a quality piece of machinery. If only they didn't want it back ...

Specifications

  • Intel Pentium 4 Processor 530 with HyperThreading technology, 3 GHz

  • 80 GB hard drive (40 GB standard), 7200 rpm, serial ATA interface

  • 512 MB RAM installed/4 GB max, DDR II SDRAM, 400 MHz

  • Eight USB ports, 1 serial, 1 parallel, PS/2 mouse, keyboard, VGA

  • 26-watt speakers

  • 4-inch polycarbon, high-excursion woofer

  • 2.5-inch high frequency satellite speakers

    Price

    The ThinkCentre retails for $799. The ThinkVision monitor is sold separately for $319.

    Rating: 4 out of 5

    Miriam Jones  |  Chief Copy Editor