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Fujitsu LifeBook PH530 review: Fujitsu LifeBook PH530

The Fujitsu LifeBook PH530 is an 11.6-inch laptop that awkwardly tries to straddle the consumer and business worlds, but doesn't quite work for either audience.

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Niall Magennis
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Niall Magennis

Reviewer

Niall has been writing about technology for over 10 years, working for the UK's most prestigious newspapers, magazines and websites in the process. What he doesn't know about TVs and laptops isn't worth worrying about. It's a little known fact that if you stacked all the TVs and laptops he has ever reviewed on top of each other, the pile would reach all the way to the moon and back four times.

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With its petite, 11.6-inch screen and compact design, the LifeBook PH530 from Fujitsu looks all the world like a low-cost netbook, but it's actually an ultra-portable that packs some serious punch thanks to an Intel Core i3 processor.

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7.5

Fujitsu LifeBook PH530

The Good

Long battery life; Good keyboard; Lightweight; Low price tag.

The Bad

Reflective screen; Below-par connectivity.

The Bottom Line

The Fujitsu LifeBook PH530 is an 11.6-inch laptop that awkwardly tries to straddle the consumer and business worlds, but doesn't quite work for either audience.

Business and pleasure

The PH530 is so small -- measuring a mere 285 by 209mm -- that at first glance, it's very easy to mistake it for a netbook. Although the laptop is targeted at business users, it's got the look and feel of a consumer machine and reminds us of netbook models like the Samsung NC10, thanks to its glossy black lid. Once you open it up, however, you're met with a higher-end graphite-style finish that looks quite classy. Because it lacks the DVD writer that's built in to Fujitsu's P770, it's also very slim at a mere 25mm. What's more, it's incredibly light at just 1.4kg, which will be welcomed by weary travellers who want to lighten their load.

The consumer feel of the PH530 is carried over to the screen. Unlike most matte business laptops, the LifeBook's display has a glossy finish. The shiny coating does make colours look more vibrant, but you pay the price for this quality in the super-reflective nature of the screen. The reflections are especially noticeable if you use the laptop under bright lights or outdoors.


Identity crisis: The PH530 has the glossy sheen of a consumer netbook and the operating system of a business laptop.

As you would expect from an ultra-portable, the screen is small at 11.6 inches, but at least the resolution of 1366x768 makes text and pictures look sharp. Fujitsu has added a 1.3-megapixel webcam above the screen, and this, combined with the built-in microphone, means you can use the laptop to make video calls on software like Skype without having to hook up any external kit.

On any ultra-portable this size, the keyboard is always a compromise. The one used here doesn't fair too badly as the keys, although not full-size, are still reasonably large and the layout is practical. If you're a touch-typist, it does take a bit of getting used to before you're able to tap away at full speed. Given the laptop's diminutive dimensions, we like that the trackpad is suitably large and has two responsive buttons.

Pedestrian performance

As the PH530 is primarily aimed at business users, it runs Windows 7 Professional rather than Home Premium. Keeping this ticking over nicely is a dual-core Intel i3-330UM processor running at 1.2GHz and supported by 2GB of RAM. The 330UM is an ultra-low-voltage processor, so we were expecting it to be kind on the battery life. This certainly proved to be the case -- the laptop managed to keep running for a mammoth 2 hours and 38 minutes in our Battery Eater test.

This test is extremely intensive, so you're likely to get at least twice as long out of the battery under real-world conditions. It's easy to increase battery life by sacrificing performance, as Intel's Atom processor shows. While the 330UM certainly isn't the fastest of Intel's low-voltage processors, it's still got plenty of oomph.

In the PCMark05 benchmark test it scored 3,346, which means it will cope with heavy multitasking without breaking under the strain. As a business-oriented laptop, we didn't expect much in the way of 3D-gaming performance. The PH530 definitely didn't defy those expectations. In the 3DMark06 benchmark test it scored just 1,176. This score is pretty low and confirms the LifeBook hasn't got the graphical nous to deal with advanced 3D technology.


Retrieve data from other computers' optical disk drives via WLAN.

On the connectivity front, the laptop is merely average. It has three USB ports as well as VGA and HDMI sockets for connecting it to an external display or projector. There's also a 4-in-1 memory card reader, however it lacks the Express Card slot you'll find on Fujitsu's own P770. It doesn't have on-board mobile broadband support, either, although this is available as an optional extra. Nevertheless, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet are all included, as expected.

Conclusion

The Fujitsu LifeBook PH530 impresses with its long battery life and reasonably fast performance. On the flip side, its consumer-focused design and reflective glossy screen seem somewhat at odds with its target market of business users. If you wish to mix business with pleasure it may be a good option, but serious road warriors should look elsewhere.

Edited by Emma Bayly