The 12-inch Esprimo Mobile U9210 ultra-portable laptop won't win any awards for design or affordability, but it offers speedy performance and excellent wireless capabilities, including an integrated 3G module. If you can overlook its faults, this lightweight laptop is worth considering
The Fujitsu Siemens Esprimo Mobile U9210 laptop is aimed squarely at business travellers. It's lightweight, has an integrated 3G module for go-anywhere Internet access, and promises excellent battery life of up to 5 hours, according to the Fujitsu Siemens Web site.
The U9210 is available to buy now for around £960.
The U9210 is a dreary-looking machine. Its uninspiring grey chassis looks as if it's deliberately been designed to match the attire of your typical city banker, and to physically repulse anyone that might want to steal it from them. We're not exactly fashion snobs -- we turn up to work in T-shirts and jeans -- but we'd honestly be embarrassed to be seen using a U9210 in public.
If you can ignore the questionable aesthetics, the U9210 has plenty going for it in terms of design. Our favourite feature is the array of shortcut keys situated above the keyboard.
The first of these keys instantly locks the computer, should you want to step away from your desk, while the second starts up Windows Mobility Center, which lets you adjust crucial laptop settings. This is arguably the most useful feature on the laptop, since it gives you instant access to brightness, volume and wireless settings, and just about everything else linked to preserving battery life and maintaining performance.
The 'info' button opens the Fujitsu Siemens Launch Center, which lets you reassign the function of each shortcut key. The 'eco' button switches off non-essential components like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and dims the screen to preserve battery life. The wireless button, the last in the group, is perhaps the most pointless, since the laptop also comes with a hardware wireless switch on the front edge.
Mic and headphone ports are also located on the front edge, along with an SD card reader that supports the Sony Memory Stick Pro and MultiMediaCard formats. You also get three USB ports -- one on the left side, and two (one of which doubles as an eSATA port) on the rear. We'd much rather have a USB port on the right of the machine, alongside the DVD rewriter drive, since this would make connecting a USB mouse more convenient -- but lefties probably won't be complaining too much.
On the subject of mice, the U9210 comes with both a trackpad and a trackpoint 'nipple'-style controller. The latter feels unresponsive and seems to be recessed too deeply between the g, b and h keys, making it difficult to access. Worse still, it doesn't have its own dedicated selector buttons. It does have a double-tap function, but we personally wouldn't bother with it.
The U9210 is an ultra-portable, but that doesn't seem to have stopped Fujitsu Siemens fitting a high-performance Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 CPU and 2GB of RAM inside it. The chip runs at a heady 2.4GHz, which is great for those who require high performance, but battery life suffers as a result.
The U9210's 2GB of RAM is ample enough, considering the system also utilises the business edition of the notoriously RAM-hungry Windows Vista. Graphics performance is very limited -- the laptop relies on the Intel 945-series chipset -- but the U9210 is powerful enough to handle Vista's Flip 3D application switching and Aero effects.
Storage comes in the form of a 160GB hard drive, which isn't much by today's standards, especially in a laptop retailing for just shy of £1,000. Fortunately, users have the option of installing a second hard drive in the modular drive bay on the laptop's right-hand side. By default this houses a DVD rewriter drive, but it can be hot-swapped for a second hard drive or even a second battery, should the need arise.
The U9210 has excellent wireless capabilities. Its wireless adaptors allows 802.11b/g and Draft-N Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 and, more impressively, 3G mobile broadband. To use this, you simply have to install a SIM card in the compartment beneath the battery, boot the operating system and launch the accompanying GlobeTrotter software. You can then surf the Web wherever there's a 3G mobile signal.
Fujitsu Siemens has designed the U9210 for use just about anywhere, whether you're on the road or in an office. We believe its 12.1-inch display is too small to use comfortably all day, but we like the fact it doesn't have a glossy, reflective coating, as this would have rendered it almost unusable in environments that don't have diffuse lighting. Its viewing angle is slightly limited, and there's some light bleed at the bottom of the 1,280x800-pixel screen but, on the whole, it's fairly good.
The P8600 CPU in the U9210 is a very fast performer. It helped propel the laptop to a PCMark05 score of 5,132, which, in our opinion, is overkill for office use. Had we designed the laptop, we'd have gone for a slightly slower CPU in order to prolong battery life, but performance enthusiasts definitely won't grumble.
Battery life is less impressive. It lasted a mere 1 hour and 33 minutes in the Battery Eater Classic test, which runs the CPU at full speed until the battery is exhausted. Better battery life can be achieved with more frugal use, but, however you look at it, the U9210 lags behind machines such as the Asus Eee PC 1000HE in this department.
The Fujitsu Siemens Esprimo Mobile U9210 has too many downsides for us to recommend it. It's hideously unattractive, has relatively poor battery life and has a specification that doesn't -- in our eyes -- reflect its high price. Have a look at something like a Toshiba Portege R500 or Apple MacBook instead.
Edited by Charles Kloet