Fujitsu LifeBook A3110
Fujitsu's new LifeBook A3110 has one trait that's particularly rare in the world of mobile computing: It's white. Outside of Apple's MacBook line, most laptops still hew to the gray/black end of the color spectrum (and even the MacBook also comes in black). Aside from its pearl-white finish, the $1,399 ($1,249 after mail-in rebate for purchases before December 31, 2006) LifeBook A3110 is notable for its unique hard-drive-protecting shock sensor. While we like the overall design and appreciate the added security for the hard drive, a poor showing on our battery drain test proves that a four-cell battery is too small for a system that features an AMD Turion 64 X2 dual-core processor and a 15.4-inch wide-screen display. Unless you're crazy about the unique look or are an ardent AMD partisan, it's hard not to suggest a similarly priced Intel Core 2 Duo, like the Compaq Presario V6000T, which is highly configurable and provides more power for less.
Unlike the glossy, bright white of the MacBook, the LifeBook A3110 has a pearl-white finish. The lid, keyboard, and touchpad are all white, but there are some silver accents on the front edge, and the system's bottom is traditional gray. Measuring 14 inches wide, 10.5 inches deep, and 1.5 inches thick, the system falls firmly into the mainstream laptop category. Weighing 6 pounds (6.9 pounds with the A/C adaptor), it's a little lighter than some other 15-inch laptops we've seen, such as the HP Compaq Presario V6000T and the Acer Ferrari 5005WLMi. Still, like any 15-inch laptop, it's a bit bulky for carrying around on a daily basis.
Battery, power, and hard drive icons on the front edge are a nice touch, although the stereo speakers sit along the same edge and can be blocked by your hands as you're typing or using the touch pad. One feature we liked was the shock sensor utility, which stops the hard drive in response to a sudden jolt. You can launch a widget-like interface that keeps track of vibrations on a seismograph-like meter, and you can set the sensitivity of the shock utility in case you're a heavy-handed typist. Bear in mind this isn't a rugged laptop, and we wouldn't suggest knocking it off your desk just to test out this feature.
The 15.4-inch display has a native resolution of 1280x800 pixels, standard for a display this size. Fujitsu calls its screen treatment Crystal View, which basically means the screen has a glossy coating. This makes for rich, bright images, especially when watching video files, but some users prefer a glare-free matte finish (not an option on this model) for heavy office use or when working in brightly-lit rooms.
The full-size keyboard is comfortable, and the touch pad has the standard two mouse buttons below it--separated by a fingerprint reader. Above the keyboard, you'll find volume control buttons and two quick-launch keys, set by default to Google and the Fujitsu home page. The LifeBook A3110 has three USB 2.0 ports, a mini FireWire connection, S-video and VGA outputs, a media card reader, a PC card slot and an ExpressCard slot, which is enough for most users' expansion needs. Standard connectivity options include Gigabit Ethernet and modem jacks and integrated 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth.
The Fujitsu LifeBook A3110 is a mostly fixed-configuration system. You can choose XP Professional or Media Center Edition and add a few accessories, like a Media Center remote, but you're stuck with the basic specs, which include an AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-56 CPU, 2 GB of RAM, and a 120GB hard drive spinning at a pokey 4,200 revolutions per minute. Those components will suffice for most users, although Intel's Core 2 Duo CPUs are the current laptop (and desktop) leaders, thanks to their speed, competitive price, and low power consumption. In CNET Labs' multimedia tests, the A3110 fell way behind the HP Compaq Presario V6000T, which features a 1.83GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5600 CPU. The LifeBook A3110 also trailed the iBuyPower Z92T, which uses the identical AMD CPU but has a fast 7200rpm hard drive. On the iTunes encoding and Photoshop CS2 tests, which are less hard-drive-intense, the A3110 and iBuyPower Z92T had comparable scores. With no graphics upgrade options, you're stuck with the integrated ATI Radeon Xpress 1150 GPU--fine for casual and older games but not for the latest 3D titles.
One of the reasons Intel's Core 2 Duo CPUs are so popular is their lower power consumption, which in turn leads to longer battery life. This superiority was evident when compared to the LifeBook A3110's battery life, which was a mere 91 minutes. Even with an AMD CPU, we would expect at least two hours of battery life from a non-desktop-replacement system. This was with the included four-cell battery. A six-cell battery upgrade is available for an additional $30, but we doubt you'd see a serious improvement with the larger battery (and it would stick out from the back of the system).
Fujitsu covers the system with a one-year warranty. Support is available through a 24/7 toll-free phone line, and technicians can connect to your computer over the Internet to diagnose problems. Standard FAQs and driver downloads are also available. Adding an extra year of service costs $99, and upgrading to next-business-day onsite service is an additional $50 per year.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)