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Fujitsu LifeBook P1620 review: Fujitsu LifeBook P1620

Fujitsu LifeBook P1620

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
4 min read

The Fujitsu LifeBook P1620 sits somewhere between the ultraportable and UMPC camps, combining a 9-inch convertible tablet display (which rotates both ways--a tablet rarity) with a decent-size keyboard and business-friendly security features, including an embedded TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip. Naturally, there are compromises to be found in such a specialized laptop, the loss of a touch pad in favor of an old ThinkPad-style pointing stick being first among them. But the LifeBook 1620 improves significantly over last year's original version, the LifeBook P1610, by adding a dual-core CPU (the 1610 has an Intel Core Solo chip).


Fujitsu LifeBook P1620

The Good

Extremely portable; bidirectional screen hinge enhances tablet functionality.

The Bad

Lacks a touch pad; unimpressive battery life; slower ultralow voltage CPU keeps a lid on performance.

The Bottom Line

The Fujitsu LifeBook P1620 makes a few notable improvements on its predecessor, but a new breed of cheaper mini-laptops are on the horizon, making this ideal only for heavy tablet users, who may prefer a full-size tablet.

Still, we can't help but wonder if high-end, pocket-size laptops are an idea whose time has come and gone--if it was ever here at all. We have yet to see a UMPC or similar under-11-inch system that truly impressed us, and there's a trend right now toward small-screen, low-price devices, as evidenced by the growing buzz of laptops such as Asus' Eee PC, Intel's Classmate and NetBook, and HP's upcoming 2133 mini-notebook, which are much closer to $500 than the LifeBook 1620's price of $2,224. If you need to combine a subnotebook with tablet functionality, Fujitsu's own LifeBook U810 is a similar, if smaller, device that costs less than $1,000.

Price as reviewed / Starting price $2,224 / $1,749
Processor 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600
Memory 1GB, 533MHz DDR2
Hard drive 80GB 4,200rpm
Chipset Intel GM945
Graphics Mobile Intel Express 945GM
Operating System Windows XP Pro
Dimensions (WDH) 7.3 x 9.1 x 1.4 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 8.9 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 2.6 / 3.3 pounds
Category Ultraportable

Despite its small size (roughly the size of a trade paperback), the LifeBook 1620 weighs more than other small laptops, such as the 1.7-pound Toshiba Portege R500, and nearly as much as the 3-pound 13-inch MacBook Air. But the silver-and-black case feels sturdily constructed, and we'd feel confident tossing it in a shoulder bag.

Of course, with a case this small, you'll make some sacrifices--typing at length on the tablet's tiny keys wouldn't be our preferred input method, but Fujitsu does a good job of making the most of limited space, with flat-topped keys that expand nearly to the edge of the chassis. The tablet's textured, gray pointing stick, coupled with two mouse buttons and the middle scroll button, were adequate, but we'd much prefer a tiny touch pad, such as the ones found on the HTC Shift or the Vulcan FlipStart.

The 8.9-inch widescreen LCD display offers a 1,280x768 native resolution, which is perfectly acceptable for a screen this size, providing for text and icons that are highly readable. The touch screen works with both your fingers and the included passive stylus (or any similar pointing device), but we found the stylus to be a little flimsy and had to press down harder on the screen than we expected. Using a finger, however, worked well and felt responsive and accurate. Buttons along the bottom edge of the display offer quick-launch, page-up and page-down, and screen orientation functionality. Perhaps the display's best feature is the full 360-degree hinge, which means you can rotate the screen either left or right to flip it around--most tablets go only one way. We'd love to see that become standard across all tablet makers.

  Fujitsu LifeBook 1620 Average for category (ultraportable)
Video VGA-out VGA-out
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Headphone/microphone jacks
Data Two USB 2.0, SD card reader Two USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD or multiformat memory card reader
Expansion PC Card slot Type I/II PC Card or ExpressCard
Networking Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN
Optical drive None None, or DVD burner

A small on-the-go system like this would really benefit from a wireless broadband option, but it'll be up to you to add an after-market PC Card or a USB antenna if you want that. An optional external floppy drive (yes, you read that right) is a $30 option, but no optical drive is offered.

A handful of configuration options are available, although the 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600 is your only CPU choice. Our review unit was the high-end $2,224 model, but for $2,024, you can lose the Bluetooth and knock the hard drive down to 60GB from 80GB. At its most stripped down, the $1,749 version has only 512MB of RAM and a tiny three-cell battery. To its credit, Fujitsu requires you to have at least 1GB of RAM to upgrade to Windows Vista (XP is the default).

While we've never been big fans of Intel's ultralow-voltage processors--the marginal gains in battery life never seem to offset the sacrifice made in performance--the P1620 at least has the current dual-core version of the chip. Last year's P1610 had only a 1.2GHz Intel Core Solo U1400 processor, and at the time we called it a "slowpoke." The 1620 performed comparably to other ULV systems and can handle basic Web surfing and office productivity tasks, albeit with occasional slowdown. By way of comparison, Apple's MacBook Air, which is the first laptop to use a new slimmed-down version of the standard Intel Core 2 Duo laptop CPU, was faster in each of CNET Labs' benchmark tests.

Despite a six-cell battery that sticks out from the front of the system, the P1620 lasted only 3 hours, 45 minutes on our battery drain test. That's almost an hour longer than last year's P1610, but we're still waiting until ultramobile PCs can run close to a full work day (Fujitsu's own <="" cnet:link=""> comes much closer).

Fujitsu backs the LifeBook P1620 with a one-year warranty. You can extend Fujitsu's warranty to three years for an additional $180, and you can add three years of on-site service for $150. 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, as well as the usual FAQs, driver downloads, and product manuals.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Fujitsu LifeBook P1620

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Fujitsu LifeBook P1620

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Fujitsu LifeBook P1620

Video battery-drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Fujitsu LifeBook P1620

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Fujitsu LifeBook P1620
Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Ultra Low Voltage U7600; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 945GMS Express; 80GB Toshiba 4200rpm

Toshiba Portege R500-S5003
Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Ultra Low Voltage U7600; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 224MB Mobile Intel 945GM Express; 64GB Samsung Solid State Drive

Apple MacBook Air - 1.6GHz / 13.3 inch
OS X 10.5.1 Leopard; Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6GHz; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 144MB Intel GMA X3100; 80GB Samsung 4,200rpm

Lenovo Thinkpad X300
Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SL7100; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 348MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 64GB Samsung Solid State Drive


Fujitsu LifeBook P1620

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 6Battery 6Support 5