The Fujitsu LifeBook A6010's muted gray case looks so conservative that on first glance we mistook it for the business-friendly Dell Latitude D520. Despite its staid appearance, however, the LifeBook A6010 is no business machine; it runs on Windows XP Media Center Edition and, starting at $1,099 (our review unit is priced a bit higher), is competitively priced for the home user. The LifeBook A6010 does exhibit a few flaws--most notably, an undersize battery that can't power the system much beyond two hours--but its solid construction, gorgeous screen, and strong performance make it a decent, if not overly flashy, choice for consumers who want an inexpensive laptop for basic use inside their homes.
Measuring 14 inches wide, 10.4 inches deep, and 1.5 inches thick, the Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 is nearly identical to the Dell Inspiron E1505 and a bit smaller than the PC Club Enpower ENP680. At an even 6 pounds, the LifeBook A6010 is definitely the lightest of the three; with its modest AC adapter, the LifeBook hits the road at a manageable 6.9 pounds.
Like most 15.4-inch wide-screen displays, the one on the Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 features a 1,280x800 native resolution. The screen is remarkably bright (271 cd/m2), and its finish (Fujitsu calls it Crystal View) makes colors pop. Even better, Crystal View is not as reflective as the glossy screens found on competitors' models, such as the Enpower ENP680--a big plus if you intend to use your laptop in a variety of lighting environments. Video chatters should note that, while the ENP680 and the Dell Inspiron E1505 both incorporate Webcams into the display bezel, the LifeBook A6010 lacks a built-in camera.
Usually the keyboards on budget-friendly midsize laptops are flimsy and flexible, but the keyboard on the Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 feels solid and is one of the most comfortable ones we've used in a while. The LifeBook's track pad and mouse buttons are amply sized, and we rarely experienced the frustration that comes from accidentally grazing the track pad while typing. We love that the laptop's fingerprint reader, which rests between the two mouse buttons, doubles as a scroll. Above the keyboard sit four buttons: volume up, volume down, and two programmable application-launch keys. We were surprised, given the LifeBook A6010's Media Center operating system, that there weren't more onboard media controls. The laptop does come with a media remote, but its external receiver is quite large and requires you to sacrifice a USB port to plug it in. We were also disappointed in the LifeBook A6010's speakers, whose tinny sound could not do justice to music or movies.
As expected for such a low-price system, the LifeBook A6010 keeps it simple when it comes to ports and connections. Despite the laptop's Media Center operating system, you'll find only the standard video and audio jacks (VGA, S-Video, headphone, and microphone) common to almost every laptop on the market today. You'll also get a mini-FireWire port and three USB 2.0 ports--two of which are stacked, making it more difficult to use them at the same time--plus slots for Type II PC Cards, ExpressCards, and flash memory cards. Networking options include Ethernet, modem, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. A double-layer DVD burner rounds out the somewhat basic feature set.
Though the LifeBook A6010 has a starting price of $1,099, our review unit included a number of upgrades that brought the price to a still-reasonable $1,369. This configuration features an entry-level 1.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5500 processor, 2GB of swift 667MHz RAM, a large 120GB hard drive spinning at a sluggish 4,200rpm, and an integrated Intel graphics card that shares up to 128MB of system memory. It was no surprise that the LifeBook A6010 trailed systems with higher-end Core 2 Duo GPUs on CNET Labs' processor-intensive iTunes encoding test. We were more impressed with the LifeBook's performance on our multitasking benchmark, where it bested the Dell Inspiron E1505, and on our Photoshop test, where it matched the performance of the far more expensive Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV660. In short, if you need a lot of processing muscle (for video encoding, for example), you should look to other laptops with higher-end processors; otherwise, the LifeBook A6010 should provide strong performance for most home users' needs.
Unfortunately Fujitsu equips the LifeBook A6010 with a puny 27WHr battery that lasted a mere 2 hours, 7 minutes in our battery-drain tests. Even the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV660--a desktop replacement with a larger, 17-inch display--outlasted the Fujitsu by 35 minutes. Those who want to spend much time away from a power outlet should purchase Fujitsu's optional high-capacity battery, which adds $98 to the tab.
Fujitsu includes a one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the LifeBook A6010--the industry standard for consumer systems; upgrading the warranty to three years is a bit expensive ($180). Support is available through a 24/7 toll-free phone line and, if you're in the United States, technicians can connect to your computer over the Internet to diagnose problems. Repairs can be made at carry-in locations and at a mail-in depot.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)