Now that we've all generally accepted the 14-inch laptop as the new mainstream standard-- replacing the just slightly too bulky 15-inch model--it's time for PC makers to concentrate on refining these systems, squeezing better designs out of the 14-inch design. Fujitsu takes a step in the right direction, slimming its new 14-inch LifeBook down to a mere 4 pounds, which is lighter than Dell's 14-inch Inspiron 1420 and even Apple's smaller, 13-inch MacBook.
Starting at $1,529 (our review unit was $2,039), the Fujitsu LifeBook S6510 is more expensive than both Dell and Apple laptops, but if weight is a primary concern, this LifeBook offers a good mix of components, lots of screen real estate per pound, and business-friendly extras including TPM (Trusted Platform Module). Looking at its price and weight, it's more of an ultraportable than thin-and-light. Think of it as carrying the price premium of an ultraportable with an extra 2 inches of display; it's sure to appeal to frequent travelers looking for the largest screen and lightest weight. If it's going to spend the majority of the time on your desk or kitchen table, however, it's hard to justify paying the premium.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$2,039 / $1,529|
|Processor||2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700|
|Memory||2GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||120GB 5,400rpm|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Business|
|Dimensions (WDH)||12.4 x 9.3 x 1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.1 / 5.1 pounds|
The black lid's contrast against the basic business gray interior is about as exciting as the LifeBook S6510's design gets. Still, with its magnesium chassis, steel hinges, spill-resistant keyboard, and shock-mounted hard drive, the S6510 is solid and well suited to handle the rigors of everyday business travel. The real star here, however, is the weight. At a mere 4 pounds, this is the lightest 14-inch laptop we've seen. Laptops with 14-inch widescreens typically weigh 5 to 6 pounds, such as the Toshiba Tecra M9 and the Sony VAIO CR120 on the lower-end of that scale to Dell's Inspiron 1420 that clocks in at an even 6 pounds. The LifeBook S6510's light weight may just let this system slip in under the line for frequent travelers who usually refuse to carry anything bigger than a 12-inch laptop.
The powder-finish-feeling keyboard--Fujitsu's standard--is an acquired taste but one we like. Like Toshiba, Fujitsu always tries to make room for those very useful page-up and page-down keys, which are usually the first things to get cut or double-mapped on a laptop keyboard. Being a business-oriented system, you won't find a row of media control buttons, but you do get four programmable quick-launch buttons above the keyboard, a pair of surprisingly loud (but shrill) speakers, a Webcam, and a card reader that can read SD, xD, and Memory Stick formats. An optional fingerprint reader is available; Fujitsu currently offers three customizable models. You can also opt for Window XP Pro instead of the default Vista Business.
The 14.1-inch wide-screen display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size and provides for text and icons that are highly readable. The display uses LED backlights, which allow Fujitsu to trim a little weight and extend the life of the battery. The display is glossier than the matte displays we usually see on business laptops, and Fujitsu calls its screen finish Crystal View. Fortunately, it's not as glossy as many entertainment laptops, which often suffer from distracting reflections and glare in brightly lit rooms.
|Fujitsu LifeBook S6510||Average for mainstream category|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, mulitformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, mulitformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||PC Card slot||PC Card slot|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The LifeBook S6510 doesn't offer anything out of the ordinary in terms of ports and connections. Unlike Fujitsu's 15-inch LifeBook E8410, which has legacy serial and parallel port, you're out of luck should you need to connect to an older peripheral that you might have lying around. We were, however, pleased to see the inclusion of 802.11N Wi-Fi, which is rapidly becoming standard in laptops of all sizes, even if most people don't yet have N-level wireless routers. Business users will not find any cellular modem options, however, an increasingly popular option found on ultraportables built for frequent business travelers.
For a little more than $2,000, we got an Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 CPU, 2GB of RAM, and a 120GB hard drive, but cheaper options are available. Knocking the system down to its $1,529 base price gives us a T7250 CPU, 1GB of RAM, and an 80GB hard drive, and you also lose the DVD burner (for a DVD/CD-RW Combo Drive) and Bluetooth, making it a less appealing system (and not a great deal for $1,500).
Our current favorite 14-inch laptop, the Dell Inspiron 1420, finished neck and neck with the LifeBook S6510 on CNET Labs' benchmarks, despite having a slightly slower Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 CPU. The Fujitsu's business security features, most notably the embedded TPM chip, have been known to drag on performance a bit, but in real-world terms, you're unlikely to notice any difference in Web surfing or productivity tasks. In anecdotal testing, the system felt fast and responsive, with no slowdown or stuttering, much as we'd expect from any modern T7000-series laptop.
The LifeBook S6510 ran for an impressive 2 hours and 48 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the included 6-cell battery. Our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use, and we got closer to 4 hours of use in the field.
Fujitsu covers the system with a one-year warranty; an upgrade to a three-year warranty costs a reasonable $180 if you buy directly from Fujitsu. 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.