Fujitsu Lifebook

Notebooks have long been plagued with a series of tradeoffs that leave users short in at least one area. They’re a long way from the performance we expect from a personal computer, but the new Fujitsu Lifebook (based on an older model) is the closest a notebook has come to that performance yet.

It’s a fantastic size to operate and carry. At 1.5kg and about 27cm wide, it’s not the thinnest notebook but will feel like a large textbook in the carry satchel that comes included.

And it’s the depth that makes the difference. The tiny mouse buttons get some getting used to, but at only 17cm deep, it’s a likeable, comfortable size.

Where the dimensions really come into play is on the SXGA screen. The movie theatre-dimensions screen plays widescreen DVDs perfectly — no more letterbox strips at the top and bottom of the picture.

When you’re finished watching a DVD, play a CD or burn one — the drive is a DVD/CDRW Combo, and the whole unit can be removed to fit extra battery power.

And that’s a big plus with the type of people who’ll use the Lifebook — business travelers as a particular example. With the right combination of battery power in both slots, you’re said to get up to 12 hours of power in one session (the average on the standard Ion battery is 1-3 hours, depending on your usage.

The reason is the Transmeta Crusoe chip. At 933 MHz, it’s not the fastest processor in a computer (or even in a notebook), but it’s designed for use in mobile computing, engineered specifically for ultra-light models because of its low voltage and low power consumption. As such, there’s virtually no heat from the machine, even after several hours of use.

Everything else is what you’d expect even from a half-decent desktop system. The video card would support all but the heavy top-end gaming and graphics. 256Mb of RAM comes standard (but is expandable) along with a 30GB disk.

An internal modem is installed and there’s options for Bluetooth and WIFI, and the connectivity would make a late model desktop computer look shoddy. Phone jack, 10/100 Ethernet, 2 USB ports (a mouse would be a good investment unless you want a steep adaptation curve), audio out port, S-Video port, speakers and microphone ports all fit snugly around the unit.

The small size does make your typing fingers stumble if you’re used to producing fast written output — the space bar is tiny and the function keys are thin — but it’s perfect for two finger typists performing the average business function. A button beside the screen calls up your email client and two more underneath are programmable for your favourite functions.

Like cars, more computers nowadays are coming from factories all over southeast Asia where the fierce competition in the market has prompted manufacturers to cut plenty of corners — quality and strength being just a couple of them. But the Lifebook comes straight from Japan and the magnesium casing feels sturdy — it’s a tough, gutsy piece of equipment.

It comes preloaded with Windows XP and all the utilities you need to watch DVDs and get things up and running. Fujitsu have also installed a help application that can introduce you to all facets of mobile computing with them (like connecting to the net) if you’re a novice.

The Lifebook is a small, light, high performance machine that feels and works like it should be much more cumbersome than it is.

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