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Laptops in Fujitsu Siemens' LifeBook S series are designed to deliver low weight, high-end performance and good connectivity. To that end, features like integrated 3G and a built-in webcam complement an up-to-the-minute Centrino Pro platform.
But this is a crowded field. What makes the £1,350 LifeBook S6410 stand out from other sub-2kg ultraportables?
If design is a big consideration when you're buying a laptop, then the LifeBook S6410 earns points immediately. Its slate-grey outer casing and silver, white and grey innards are distinctive and -- by laptop standards -- quite attractive.
This 1.75kg system won't go unnoticed in your travel bag. But when you do carry it around, the solid clasp that keeps the clamshell unit together will be welcome, as will the zipped pouch that Fujitsu Siemens provides to help protect it.
Build quality is good, but there is the odd problem area. The thin lid section is quite flexible, which is not unusual for a laptop, but there's also a slight give in the wrist-rest area. It's conceivable that heavy pressure here when the laptop is opened could damage internal components.
The 13.3-inch wide-format screen has a native resolution of 1,280x800 pixels and incorporates Fujitsu Siemens' CrystalView layer. The display itself is sharp and clear, but the CrystalView anti-glare coating makes it very reflective. Working with a light source to the rear is not always easy.
The keyboard, as usual with Fujitsu Siemens laptops, has a positive action and is responsive to use. There's a fair amount of give in the keyboard, which won't suit everyone. Heavy-handed typists, in particular, may find it a little uncomfortable. A row of full-sized number keys and another of near-full-sized function keys sit above the main ban of Qwerty keys.
The touchpad, which is slightly recessed into the wrist-rest area, has two large mouse buttons, with a relatively small fingerprint scanner sitting between them.
Between the keyboard and the screen is a bank of four buttons giving quick access to some additional features. Those marked 'E' and 'R' will be familiar to users of Fujitsu Siemens laptops. The E button turns on what the company calls its 'Eco' mode.
Hit the button and an information box tells you that various functions will be switched off to conserve power: these include the optical drive, PC Card and flash card readers, wireless LAN and FireWire. Screen brightness is minimised too. To cancel this setting, you simply press the E button again. Meanwhile, the R button gives you access to on-demand file backup services.
One of the other buttons opens a quick settings area for screen brightness, power management, display properties, hard drive shock protection and so on. The final button provides a useful quick sign-off and shut-down procedure.
Our review sample of the LifeBook S6410 was powered by Intel's 2GHz Core 2 Duo T7300. Other configurations use the 1.8GHz T7100, 2.2GHz T7500 and 2.4GHz T7700. The T7300 has 4MB of L2 cache and an 800MHz frontside bus. The chipset is Intel's GM965 Express, with X3100 integrated graphics. The system comes with Windows Vista Business and has 1GB of RAM as standard, expandable to 4GB via a pair of DIMM slots.
Infrared, Wi-Fi (802.11a,b,g and Draft-N), Bluetooth (2.0) and 3G (HSDPA/HSUPA) are all built in, 3G connectivity being handled by a Sierra Wireless adapter with the SIM slot located beneath the battery. Wired Ethernet is also present, of course, courtesy of a Marvell Yukon PCI Gigabit controller.
Fujtisu Siemens has fitted its 1.3 megapixel ConfCamera above the screen. The lens is exceptionally small and is in a fixed location. This can make positioning yourself conveniently in relation to the laptop somewhat challenging. It's also impossible to show video callers anything that's behind the laptop.
We prefer webcams to be swivel mounted for greater flexibility. The automatic face tracking works well, though, keeping your face in the centre of the picture and zooming in and out appropriately. The camera also auto-adjusts brightness successfully, even in a dull room with a bright window to the rear.
The camera will shoot stills at 320x240 pixels, 640x480 pixels and 1,280x960 pixels, and video at the two lower resolutions.
The LifeBook S6410 comes with an 80GB, 120GB or 160GB hard drive, all spinning at 5,400rpm. Our review sample had the 80GB model. The hard drive is shock-protected, with sensor that causes the drive head to be retracted if movement is detected. You can set the sensor's sensitivity so that head-parking doesn't happen constantly when you're computing on a train or plane, for example.
There are just three USB 2.0 ports, and two of these are vertically stacked towards the front of the right-hand side. If your peripherals have chunkier connectors it will be difficult to use both ports at the same time. The third USB port is at the back of the right edge, behind the optical drive. The modem connector is also on this side.
On the left edge is the Ethernet connector, the infrared port, a PC Card slot and a memory card slot supporting SD/MMC, Memory Stick and xD media. Also, behind a protective plastic cover, is the VGA-out port. The front is home to a FireWire port plus the microphone and headphone mini-jacks.
We enjoyed using the LifeBook S6410. The keyboard is responsive and the system is neatly and ergonomically designed. Our only gripe -- and it's a common one with today's laptops -- is the difficulty of using all three USB ports at the same time.
Fujitsu Siemens claims up to eight hours battery life for this laptop using the primary 6-cell, 5,200mAh Li-ion battery. We suspect you'd have to be tough on your use of Eco mode to approach this goal, although we did manage more than 2.5 hours continuous graphics-intensive activity in one working session. If necessary, you can fit an optional second 6-cell 2,300mAh battery in place of the optical drive. Fujitsu Siemens claims a total of a little more than 11 hours' life for this configuration.
The LifeBook S6410 is a good all-round ultraportable laptop. We like the integrated 3G connectivity and the webcam, although there are also one or two let-downs. In particular, the webcam should be swivel-mounted rather than fixed, the USB ports more thoughtfully arranged, and the wrist-rest area strengthened.
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday