Fujitsu doesn't always succeed with its small-format notebooks: we weren't overly impressed with the recent Lifebook T580, for example — a 10.1in. convertible Tablet PC that we found too small and too expensive. The £681 (ex. VAT) Lifebook P701 is a different kettle of fish, though: it's small like the T580, but sticks to the notebook format and, if our late pre-production sample is anything to go by, is a rather impressive system.
With a 12.1in. screen, the P701 gives you much more physical screen space than the T580, and this alone is enough to convince us of its utility as an everyday computer.
The 12.1in. Lifebook P701 weighs 1.5kg and costs from £681 (ex. VAT)
However, the native resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels is a little narrower than we're used to seeing in a notebook — 1,366 by 768 is the usual aspect ratio for this screen size. The difference might sound slight, but it could preclude having a pair of documents open on-screen side by side. We did manage a text document and a web page (with web pages rather constricted), but if you need to work on a spreadsheet and a text document at the same time you may be out of luck.
On the plus side, the screen has a matte finish, making it easy to read in all lighting conditions; the viewing angles are also excellent, especially in the horizontal plane.
The spill-resistant keyboard has an old-fashioned contiguous-keys design that we found very comfortable to use. People with large hands may find it a little cramped, but the keys have a good depth of return. The enlarged Enter key is welcome, and the slightly detached set of cursor keys in the bottom right corner have secondary embedded PgUp, PgDn, Home and End functions.
The number keys are full height, and a row of slightly reduced Fn keys sits above this. There are two very small speaker vents in the section above the keyboard area, which also contains the status LEDs, power switch and a row of five small buttons.
These buttons provide access to various features. You can turn wireless networking on and off, for example, and access the Fujitsu Launch Centre that delivers online services like manuals and support as well as local services like backup and system diagnostics. One button takes you to Fujistu's power-saving settings, while another opens the Windows Mobility Centre — a collection of services offered by Windows 7 and by Fujitsu. The fifth button locks the Lifebook P701 down to the login screen.
Beneath the keyboard is a trackpad that's identified by a dimpling of the wrist-rest area rather than being recessed. Underneath this are two very responsive buttons and, between them, a fingerprint sensor (some models replace this with a scroll button).
To the right of the trackpad is an indented circle around whose circumference you can run a finger for vertical scrolling. Fujitsu calls it the ScrollWheel. It worked smoothly for us, and is an interesting take on the scroll zones which are embedded into many touchpads these days.
The Lifebook P701 is very readily visually identified as a Fujtisu Lifebook notebook. With the lid open, the creamy white keyboard is surrounded by silver and black framing. The black lid displays Fujitsu's name and logo prominently.
Build quality is pretty solid. There's a small amount of flex in the lid, but nothing that concerns us from a screen protection point of view. The base is extremely tough, yet the overall weight is just 1.5kg. On the desk the Lifebook P701 roccupies 28.2cm by 22cm, while the notebook is 0.33cm thick.
The Lifebook P701 runs a Sandy Bridge processor, a dual-core 2.1GHz Intel Core i3-2310M, with integrated HD Graphics and 2GB of RAM
The Fujitsu Lifebook P701 runs a dual-core 2.1GHz Intel Core i3-2310M processor — one of the new Sandy Bridge CPUs. There is 2GB of DDR3 RAM, expandable to 8GB. As is usual with Fujitsu, other processors and RAM allocations can be specified if you are buying in volumes for particular sectors.
The hard drive is a 320GB unit spinning at 7,200rpm, although other capacities can be specified. The hard drive benefits from shock protection. By default the Lifebook P701 comes with Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, but you can downgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit or Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit.
For connectivity there's Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth (3.0). Mobile broadband (Sierra Wireless Gobi 3000; 14.4Mbps down, 5.76Mbps up) is not built in as standard, but is available as an optional upgrade.
There's a webcam above the screen, backed up by the CyberLink YouCam software. The latter is a little too consumer-focused for our liking, with its array of flashes, frames and fun avatars, and its capability to upload to the likes of YouTube and Facebook. It will capture stills and video, though, and you can use it for VoIP.
Fujitsu has not found room inside the chassis for an optical drive, which is a little irritating. However, there are three USB 2.0 ports, so there should always be scope for adding an external optical drive as required. The USB ports on the left edge of the chassis will charge peripherals, while the two on the right edge are fairly well separated, so you should be able to access both at once unless you're using older peripherals with larger connectors.
Elsehwhere there's a 34mm ExpressCard slot, a DisplayPort connector, microphone and headphone jacks and VGA out on the right edge. On the left is a slot that accepts SD- and Memory Stick-compatible cards, a SmartCard slot and and Ethernet port. There's also a slider for turning Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on and off on the front edge.
Performance & battery life
We were not able to record a valid Windows Experience Index (WEI) for this pre-production notebook, and hope to provide an update when we receive a shipping sample.
Fujitsu supplies a 6-cell battery with the Lifebook P701. We weren't able to test this due to the nature of our review sample, and Fujitsu has not provided an estimate of battery life. Again, we hope to update this in due course.
Obviously, with no solid benchmarking data, we can't say how well the Fujitsu Lifebook P701 is likely to stand up in the real world. But we do like what we've seen so far with our pre-production sample.
The build looks solid, storage is plentiful, the keyboard and screen are both a pleasure to use (despite some flexing in the former, which should be fixed in shipping units, says Fujitsu). We're happy with the quirky ScrollWheel and only really feel let down by the slightly below-par screen resolution.
The price is attractive for such a serviceable notebook, although you'll have to add in the extra cost of an external optical drive if you're likely to need one of those.