Big Blue Delivers


Courtesy of International Business Machines Corporation. Unauthorized use not permitted

IBM has made a strong addition to both business and home office desktops with its new IBM ThinkCentre A series.  With their long standing reputation for producing cold, unfriendly, business like machines, we were surprised at how sleek, stylish and easy to use this new addition turned out to be.


Big Blue has realized that fashion and function go hand in hand with today's PC consumer and have styled their new systems with a sleek black casing with easily accessible USB, Firewire, headphone and microphone jacks. The model we tested came equipped with a DVD drive, SoundMax digital audio system, and a 2.8 Ghz Pentium 4 processor.


Another element that IBM seems to be considering in it's new models is upgrade ability. The AGP slots, which are upgradeable to 8x, are as easily assessable as the rest of the systems hardware.


            It has been predicted by industry watchers that DDR SDRAM will eventually be replaced with RDRAM as the preferred memory architecture for high-end performance systems. Here IBM is not only ahead of its time, but apparently leading a trend. It has equipped all it's A-series models with RDRAM, putting a temporary hold the often frustrating trend of this week's system being obsolete next week.


Our system also included a 109 Gigabyte hard drive that was more than enough room to place an entire music catalog or edit video with confidence.  Running even the most CPU taxing programs like Photoshop 7 proved no problem for this powerhouse. The model we tested came with a Radeon 9600 Pro graphics card, which is one of the best in the industry. Premiere 6.5 ran similarly well, performing both layering and rendering with surprising speed.


            On the gaming side of things the A-Series once again surprised skeptics. We ran, what is considered the litmus test for any 3D graphics processor, Quake III Arena. What makes the game the ideal test subject is it doesn't require DX8 hardware support--as 3DMark2001 does--and is therefore an excellent means of comparing the performance of low- to high-end graphics subsystems. Once again the IBM shined producing not only in excellent pixel and shade rendering but also in it's blazing frame rates (210 frames per second in the model we tested). To put this into perspective the system is on par with some Alienware systems, which run upwards of $2500.


            An additional bonus was the incredibly sleek ThinkVision flat screen 17" monitor that produced excellent picture clarity and was easy on the eyes as well. Our model was comparable to NEC and even Apple monitors which far exceed the ThinkVision in both industry stature and price. This attention to detail shows once again that IBM is listening to consumer demand for well equipped, esthetically pleasing machines.


            Where there is great picture there must be great sound and IBM doesn't falter here either. Our test system came with Infinity audio speakers that were compact in size but definitely not in punch providing crisp treble and desk shaking bass.


One innovation that impressed us the most was the IBM Rapid Restore Ultra software. With systems viruses and crashes running ramped IBM has found an effective remedy to these unfortunate and often times unavoidable disasters. By pressing F11 key after a crash, the system automatically restores your previously saved data, applications and operating system. An easy and efficient and stress reducing idea, which we were surprised had not been implemented elsewhere.



Setting up the ThinkCentre was straightforward, because IBM color-codes its ports. Though minimal documentation was supplied with the system it did not cause any hindrance. The printed quick-start guide offers only basic information while the 116-page PDF user guide covers a wide variety of systems in addition to the ThinkCentre. If you run into problems, IBM offers 24/7 toll-free tech support during the warranty period, as well as automated Web- and phone-based support databases.


The ThinkCentre A series we tested is covered by a one-year labor warranty, with three-year coverage on parts (other, less-expensive models in the series are covered by a one-year warranty for both parts and labor). IBM promises second-business-day response on warranty issues, and the warranty can be extended to three or four years, including onsite repair if the system is located in a business.


ThinkCentre computers start at only $399.99, impressive considering it's output potential. So if you are a student looking for a good computer to take to school, a business professional looking for a high end, well equipped machine, or start up graphic artist on a budget, the ThinkCentre Series A is not to be underestimated. This is definitely not your grandfather's IBM.

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