Hardware

Fujitsu lightens its corporate notebook

Although the slimmed-down E Series is an exceptionally light desktop replacement, it lacks the speed and the functionality of bulkier, three-spindle designs. But its security features, long warranty, and reasonable price may entice businesses.


By Stephanie Bruzzese

Fujitsu's corporate desktop replacement, the E Series, recently went on a diet, resulting in one of the lightest desktop replacements around. But the two-spindle E Series also lacks the fast performance and the ample features found in the heavier, three-spindle designs of many notebooks in this category. That said, the E Series' security features, solid support, and reasonable price may keep it in the running for some business buyers. Click here for the latest prices on the Fujitsu LifeBook E-7010.

Thin and trim
The new, leaner E Series weighs 5.5 pounds (add about a pound for the power supply) and measures 1.3 x 12 x 10.3 inches (see Figure A). But to get it down to this weight, Fujitsu sacrificed some features you'd normally expect in a desktop replacement. The system has a sharp, 14.1-inch, active-matrix screen with a default resolution of 1,024 x 768 pixels, rather than a 15-inch or larger display. And it comes with only a single bay for swappable drives or batteries, rather than the dual bays found in heftier desktop replacements such as the Gateway 600XL.

Figure A
The relatively small Fujitsu E Series offers a lightweight desktop replacement with novel security features, integrated wireless, and excellent service and support policies. CNET editors rated it a 7 out of 10.


The $2,549 E Series configuration we tested included a DVD/CD-RW combo drive, but other options include a 24X CD-ROM (subtract $150), an 8X DVD-ROM (subtract $100), or a second 10.8V/3.4Ah lithium-ion battery (subtract $199). An included external floppy drive attaches to the system via one of the notebook's two USB ports.

Also included are serial, parallel, PS/2, and IrDA ports, which will please enterprise customers with legacy peripherals. But the E Series features newer connectivity options as well, such as 802.11b (Wi-Fi), FireWire, and S-Video-out. The Wi-Fi receiver has a handy power switch that lets you conserve battery life when not using a wireless network. The FireWire port is less convenient, however, because it is located on the notebook's front edge, so the cable will point toward you while you type.

Fujitsu has switched the location of its trademark security-password buttons from the laptop's front edge to just above the keyboard—a sensible move since they also double as programmable quick-launch keys for your favorite applications. You can program a four-digit password that must be entered before the system will boot. Companies can also assign a secondary password for accessing the system. Other security features include a PC Card slot (one of two Type II slots) that can read smart cards using an optional $25 reader and a hard drive that is screwed into the case to make it more difficult to remove.

The keyboard is comfortable yet slightly noisy. The standard touchpad and two-mouse button configuration remains the same, although it's now joined by a useful new scroll bar that resembles a stick of gum.

So-so speed and battery life
The changes to the E Series are more than skin deep. It now offers some of the top mobile components available, including a 1.7-GHz Pentium 4-M processor, 512 MB of DDR SDRAM, and a 32 MB ATI Mobility Radeon graphics chip. Yet its performance in CNET Labs' tests was disappointing, largely (we suspect) because of its sluggish, 4,200 rpm, 40-GB hard drive. Its overall score on application performance fell far short of other 1.7-GHz P4-M desktop replacements such as the Gateway 600XL and the Toshiba Satellite 5105-S607, though the E Series did manage to keep pace on Internet content-creation applications.

And even though this is the sort of desktop replacement that can actually go places, its battery didn't fare too well in our drain tests; the E Series' 14.4V/3.8Ah cell conked out after 139 minutes. The Gateway 600XL's 11.1V/3.4Ah battery managed 169 minutes, while the weak 10.8V/3.6Ah battery in the Satellite 5105-S607 lasted a mere 90 minutes.

Good show of support
We applaud Fujitsu's support policy, which includes a three-year parts and labor warranty, as well as unlimited, 24/7, toll-free tech support for the life of the system. A satisfying Web site includes the company's Service Assistant application, which provides animated tutorials on using and troubleshooting your system, as well as the ability to conduct real-time chats with a Fujitsu service representative.

Ultimately, the E Series is tough to pigeonhole. It has the features of a thin-and-light system, but Fujitsu already has a true thin-and-light notebook in its lineup, the LifeBook S Series. On the other hand, the E Series is one of the lightest desktop replacements around, and with a combo DVD/CD-RW drive, you may never miss the second drive bay typically found on systems in this class. Combine this with unusual security features and great service and support, and the Fujitsu LifeBook E Series—however you decide to classify it—could be an intriguing solution for businesses.

CNET Labs performance
The LifeBook E Series carries plenty of fast components but has one Achilles' heel: its sluggish, 4,200 rpm, 40-GB hard drive, which dragged down the system's overall application performance in our tests (see Table A). Battery life wasn't much better, with the E Series' scores falling in the middle of the pack (see Table B).

Performance test

Table A
Longer bars indicate better performance. A score of 100 equals the performance of a test machine with a PIII-800, 128 MB of PC133 CL2 SDRAM, Creative Labs GeForce Annihilator 2 32MB, and Windows 2000 (Service Pack 1).


Battery life test

Table B
Longer bars indicate better performance. Time is measured in minutes.


Test System Configuration
Fujitsu LifeBook E Series: Windows XP Pro; Pentium 4-M 1,700MHz; 512MB DDR SDRAM; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; Toshiba MK4018GAP 40GB 4,200rpm.
Gateway Solo 600XL: Windows XP Pro; Pentium 4-M 1,700MHz; 512MB DDR (PC2100) SDRAM; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 64MB; IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm.
Toshiba Satellite 5005-S507: Windows XP Pro; Pentium 4-M 1,700MHz; 512MB RAM; Nvidia GeForce4 440Go 32MB; Toshiba MK4019GAX 40GB 5,400rpm.


Complete specs
Click here for the latest prices on the Fujitsu LifeBook E-7010. The specifications for the Fujitsu E Series are listed in Table C.
Table C
Product specifications
Processor
Processor manufacturer Intel
Processor type Pentium 4-M
Clock speed 1.7 GHz
Data bus speed / Chipset type 400 MHz
Memory
RAM installed 512 MB
Cache size 512 KB
Storage
Hard drive size 40 GB
Controller type IDE / EIDE
CD / DVD drive CD-RW / DVD-ROM
CD / DVD read speed 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD)
CD / DVD write speed 8x
Floppy drive 8x
Physical Characteristics
Weight 5.5 lbs
Width 12 in
Depth 10.3 in
Height 1.3 in
Input device(s) included Keyboard, touchpad
Display
Diagonal screen size 14.1"
Display technology TFT active matrix
Video / Audio
Video RAM installed 32 MB
Video output Graphics card - AGP 4x - ATI Mobility Radeon 7500
Expansion / Connectivity
Port(s) total (free) / Connector type 2 x USB, 1 x IrDA, 1 x Serial, 1 x FireWire, 1 x S-Video
Power
Mfr estimated battery life 2.5 hr
Software
OS provided Microsoft Windows XP
Warranty
Service / Support 3 year warranty
Disclaimers
Processor speed:
The unit "MHz" measures microprocessor internal clock speed, not application performance. Many factors affect application performance.
 
Hard disk:
The unit "GB" represents 1,000 million bytes of hard disk capacity.
 
Modem max. data rate:
56k modems are capable of receiving data at speeds up to 56 kbps. However, due to FCC rules that restrict power output, maximum download speeds are limited to about 53 kbps. Data transmitting speeds are limited to 33.6 kbps. Actual speeds depend on many factors and are often less than the maximum possible.
 
Speed of CD-ROM drive:
Data transfer rates and transfer speeds will vary, depending on a variety of factors.

This review was originally published by CNET on June 3, 2002.

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