With so much engineering going into cramming high-powered components into ever-smaller packages, a byproduct of this effort is that ultraportable laptops generally get extra design attention. Consequently, they're among the most attractive laptops available. Fujitsu's new LifeBook P7230 is sure to be a status symbol in airports and coffee shops, with its compact angular design and matte-white finish. Using an Intel Core Solo CPU, it won't win any speed races, but for basic Web surfing and office work, this reasonably priced $1,899 (configurations start at $1,699) Vista Business system will do the job and turn heads at the same time.
Measuring 10.8 inches wide, 7.9 inches deep, and 1.2 inches high, the Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 is tiny even for an ultraportable laptop. It weighs 2.9 pounds (3.7 pounds with the AC adapter), which is perfect or throwing in a shoulder bag or carry-on luggage. It's small enough to carry around all day; we never grew tired of toting it around during the course of this review. It's also worth noting that this is one of the smallest ultraportable systems to include an optical drive.
The 10.6-inch LCD display is among the smallest we've seen (most ultraportable laptops offer a 12.1-inch screen), and its resolution is slightly lower, at 1,280x768, than the 1,280x800 resolution found on most 12.1-inch laptops. You'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference, however, and the display is crisp and bright. Fujitsu calls its screen technology Crystal View, but it's acually an LED-backlit display. Our one complaint about the display is the unusually thick screen bezel surrounding it. We're used to ultraportable screens that extend nearly to the edge of the lid, such as the Sony VAIO TXN17, and anything that falls short looks dated.
The smallish keyboard and touch pad are comfortable to use, although the left and right mouse buttons are too tiny to hit reliably. Two quick-launch buttons sit above the keyboard: one launches a Web browser, but the other is unusual in that it will switch you into the system's Eco mode, instantly resetting several system options to cut power consumption and extend battery life. It's clever, but make sure before you press it that you don't need any of the devices (FireWire port, media card reader, optical drive) that are automatically disabled in this mode.
The system has a standard set of connections, including two USB 2.0 jacks, a mini FireWire jack, one Type I/II PCMCIA slot, headphone and mic jacks, a media card reader, and a VGA output for hooking up an external monitor, especially useful given the small screen. Unless you have a lot of USB devices, the two USB ports should be sufficient. Networking connections include a modem and Gigabit Ethernet jacks, and integrated 802.11a/b/g wireless. Bluetooth is available for an additional $30, and a built-in Webcam adds an extra $30. If you need either one, these are reasonably priced upgrades.
Components in our review unit include a 1.2GHz Intel Core Solo U1400 CPU, 1GB of RAM, integrated Intel 950 graphics, a DVD burner, and a 60GB 4,200rpm hard drive. Business-friendly extras include TPM (Trusted Platform Module), a fingerprint reader, and a shock sensor to stop the hard drive in case of a fall or sudden shock. Jumping up to the most expensive $2,179 configuration, you keep the same low-powered CPU, but add a second gigabyte of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, and the Bluetooth and built-in Webcam options. The system is available in two colors, Leather White and Leather Black, but the white costs an extra $50, an unfair tax on fans of the Mac-style white-laptop look. Ironically, Apple charges extra for the black MacBook.
The LifeBook P7230's Core Solo U1400 processor is far from the top of the CPU food chain, and although in most cases the differences were not huge, the system fell behind both Sony's handheld Sony VAIO UX390, which has a slightly faster Core Solo U1500 processor, and the Gateway NX270S, with an older 1.73GHz Intel Celeron M43, in CNET Labs' Multitasking, iTunes encoding, and Microsoft Office productivity tests.
Demonstrating the performance hit that the first generation of Windows Vista systems has taken, last year's Fujitsu Lifebook P1610, an ultraportable tablet with the same CPU but running Windows XP, was significantly faster on our Microsoft Office productivity and Photoshop CS2 tests. We didn't experience any major slowdowns using the system for Web surfing or media playback, however, and it should be fine for anything short of heavy-duty media authoring or 3D gaming, tasks that typically require a larger, more powerful laptop.
The LifeBook P7230 ran for 2 hours, 33 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. That's acceptable but not impressive, especially given the low-power CPU specifically designed to improve battery life. The DVD battery drain test is demanding, and you can expect longer battery life if you're just surfing the Web or working on office documents. We saw similar battery life on recent, smaller laptops, such as the Fujitsu Lifebook P1610 and the Gateway NX270S.
Fujitsu backs the system with an industry standard, one-year parts-and-labor warranty. Upgrading to three years costs $179, and adding on-site service for three years is an additional $149 (on top of the $179). Fujitsu provides 24-7, toll-free phone support for the life of your warranty, and a support Web site offers live chat with a technician, along with the expected FAQs, driver downloads, and product manuals.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)