Fujitsu Siemens’ P-series ultraportable notebooks tend to draw admiring comments -- even, as we found during this review, from seasoned technology reporters. P-series systems are comfortably small enough that when the person in front of you in economy class leans back, you don’t have to worry about the screen breaking. The latest in the line, the 1.1GHz ultra-low-voltage Pentium M-based P7010, has one of the sharpest, crispest LCD screens we’ve ever seen; it also packs an enormous amount into a very small space, including a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive, slots for the three main types of flash memory cards, and 802.11b/g wireless networking. At £1,399 (ex. VAT) including upgrade options such as an 80GB hard disk and 512MB of RAM, the 1.3kg P7010 is extremely good value and gets a well-deserved Editors' Choice award.
There is a trade-off for the small size of the P7010, which measures 26.1cm wide by 19.9cm deep by 3.2-3.5cm high: the keyboard is shrunken, and type on the wide-screen 10.6in. display can be very small -- particularly when you're browsing the Web. Fortunately, the screen's extra brightness and crispness mitigates this effect.
Previous P-series LifeBooks had a significant keyboard flaw, in that the right shift key was half its normal size, with the up-arrow next to it. It was easy to accidentally highlight a sentence and delete it in the normal course of typing. The P7010's 82-key keyboard fixes that problem -- the right shift key is back to full size -- but introduces a different one: in the interest of keeping the cursor keys in the inverted-T shape, the three punctuation keys on the bottom right-hand row have been squashed to approximately three-quarter size. It is now easy to type a forward slash when you want a dot. Aside from that, though, the keyboard is reasonably comfortable for the touch typist.
Like many ultraportable manufacturers, Fujitsu Siemens has ditched the PgUp/PgDn/Home/End keys, assigning these functions to the cursor keys in combination with the Fn key.
Another problem with earlier P-series LifeBooks was their rather noisy fans, and the fact that they became quite hot on the underside. The P7010, with its ultra-low-voltage (ULV) Pentium M processor, has a much quieter fan, which is ingeniously built into the hinge at the back -- what you see is a largish, wire-mesh cylinder with six vents at the back right. Thanks to these features, the P7010 stays much cooler in operation. Set into the mesh is a metal strip containing the power button, which lights blue if the machine is on, and a couple of other lights (invisible when they are not lit) that indicate if the battery is charging, in use or fully charged. The speakers are also located in this mesh cylinder, and the sound is surprisingly good considering their small size.
For navigation, you get a trackpad with two big buttons separated by a scroll button.
Fujitsu Siemens manages to pack even more into the P7010's diminutive chassis than previous P-series models, albeit at a slightly higher price. It's based around a 1.1GHz ULV Pentium M processor, the 855GME chipset with integrated graphics (which commandeer up to 64MB of the system's 512MB of DDR RAM), and an 80GB 5,400rpm hard disk.
The P7010's 10.6in. wide-screen display has a native resolution of 1,280 by 768 pixels (15:9 aspect ratio) and is very bright and crisp -- much improved over the earlier models. In fact, it's one of the sharpest, brightest and most responsive notebook screens we’ve ever seen -- only Sony with its 'x-black' screens matches it.
For such a small notebook, the P7010 carries an impressive array of ports and slots: the right-hand side houses VGA, S-Video out, 10/100 Ethernet, two USB 2.0 and one FireWire. All these ports are concealed behind flaps that feel a bit fragile -- the only part of the system’s design that does. Also on the right-hand side are the audio ports (headphones and microphone). On the left-hand side, there’s the power jack, a Type II PC Card slot, a CompactFlash slot and a (flap-protected) modem port. Tucked underneath the CompactFlash and PC Card slots is the 9mm-high CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive in a modular bay. Because of the tight space, the button to open the drive is tucked under the system, although it's still reachable. On the front, next to the switch that turns the 802.11b/g wireless networking on and off, there’s an SD card/Memory Stick slot.
There isn’t much in the way of included software, but it’s hard to carp about this given the fully featured hardware. The P7010 runs Windows XP Professional and comes with Acrobat Reader 6, Norton Ghost 2003, Nero 6 (CD/DVD burning) and InterVideo WinDVD 5 preloaded; a driver and utility CD adds F-Secure Antivirus and the user documentation.
Performance & battery life
With a MobileMark 2002 score of 146, the LifeBook P7010 is hardly on the bleeding edge of notebook performance (top-scoring systems currently achieve over 200). However, it packs enough power for everyday use, especially in the review configuration with 512MB of RAM. Full-motion video looks terrific on the superb screen, and the Pentium M processor --unlike the previous models’ Transmeta Crusoe -- is powerful enough to handle DVD playback without glitches.
MobileMark 2002 reported a battery life of 3 hours and 40 minutes in desktop mode with the CPU running at full power; this is good, and more conservative settings will improve on this quite a bit. Our review model had the standard 6-cell, 4,800mAh battery, but you can buy an optional second 3-cell, 2,300mAh unit to go in the modular bay (normally occupied by the optical drive), which should boost mains-free operation to well over 5 hours.
Service & support
The LifeBook P7010 comes with a three-year, worldwide collect-and-return warranty. Officially launched on 16 August, it will be available from the beginning of September from retailers such as Microwarehouse, CET, Empire Direct and Dabs.
Tags: Laptops Computers