- Excellent performance
- ‘legacy’ serial and parallel connectors
- built-in support for smartcard-based authentication (card and software optional)
- second battery for optical drive bay (optional)
- Screen has standard rather than widescreen aspect ratio
- poorly located USB ports
Fujitsu Siemens has been relatively quick off the mark with a notebook based around Intel’s dual core Centrino Duo (Napa) mobile computing platform. Slotting into its desktop replacement E Series line, the LifeBook E8110 is an excellent performer with a flexible modular bay and decent battery life.
The LifeBook E8110 is not one of Fujitsu Siemens' most attractive products: E Series range is more about functionality than looks, and the E8110's black exterior and mostly silver interior certainly won't turn any heads.
This is a relatively bulky system measuring 32.6cm wide by 27cm deep by 3.5cm. Nevertheless, it weighs in at a reasonable 2.4kg, and could easily be carried between locations if necessary. The screen is a 15in.TFT with a native resolution of 1,400 by 1,050 pixels; on an external monitor, the maximum resolution is 1,600 by 1,200.
The more we see and use widescreen-format notebooks, the more compelling we find them, and it's something of a come-down to revert to a display with a standard 4:3 aspect ratio. That said, the quality of the display is exemplary.
The 86-key keyboard is pleasant to use. We like the reassuring ‘click’ that the full-sized keys deliver, although others may find the keyboard a little spongy. Those who need to type a lot of unusual characters will appreciate the keyboard, as it's peppered with them -- including letters such as ü and ß, fractions (½, ¼ and ¾), other symbols such as © and, of course, €. It makes for rather a cluttered look, but may prove invaluable to some.
Fujitsu Siemens has integrated both a pointing stick -- nestled between the G, H and B keys -- and a touchpad, each with its own set of left and right mouse buttons. Below the touchpad is a scroll button, which we found unresponsive and rather awkward to use.
Above the keyboard, integrated into a black strip, are the stereo speakers, the power button and a set of four extra buttons. Two of the latter are dedicated to rapid application-launching, while the other two are marked ‘R’ and ‘E’: the former launches backup services that were not installed on our review system, while the latter puts the system into 'Eco' mode. Eco mode switches off some parts of the system to conserve energy and extend battery life.
There are connectors on all four edges of the system. On the right there's a bay for the optical drive, which in our review model was an NEC dual layer multiformat DVD rewriter. This drive can be removed and replaced with an optional second battery if mains-free uptime is your priority. The right-hand side also houses the RJ-11 modem connector and, towards the back, a serial port and a USB 2.0 port. The USB port is oriented vertically and is very close to the serial connector, so you may find it difficult to use both at the same time.
Fortunately, there are three further USB 2.0 connectors at the back, but these too are vertically oriented and very close together, so using them all at once may prove a challenge. There's also an RJ-45 Ethernet connector and an S-Video port at the back.
On the left-hand side there's an analogue external monitor connector, and -- unusually these days -- a parallel port. A Type II PC Card slot, an Express Card slot, and a smartcard reader are located towards the front of the left side The smartcard reader, when used in conjunction with an optional smartcard and software, provides for system boot security.
The front edge houses an IEEE 1394 (FireWire) connector, microphone and headphone connectors with SP/DIF support, and a flash memory reader that accepts Memory Stick, SD and MultiMedia Card media. There's also an on/off switch for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, allowing you to quickly disable or enable wireless connectivity.
The LifeBook E8110 reviewed here is powered by the fastest of Intel’s new Core Duo processors, the T2600. This runs at 2.16GHz and features a 667MHz frontside bus, along with 2GB of Level 2 cache (shared between the two CPU cores).
Other E8110 models will use the T2500 (2GHz), T2400 (1.83GHz) and T2300 (1.66GHz) versions of the Core Duo; there's also a Core Solo T1300 (1.66GHz) system with a single CPU core. Fujitsu Siemens informs us that the T2600 system reviewed here will not be available immediately; the £1,905 (ex. VAT) price quoted here is for the T2500-based model (identical in all other respects), which is on sale now.
The Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG module handles 802.11a, b and g wireless LAN connections, while short-range wireless services available over Bluetooth 2.0 and infrared (IrDA 1.1); wired network connectivity comes courtesy of a Marvell Yukon 88E8055 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet controller. Graphics are managed by the GMA 950 module integrated into Intel's 945GM chipset.
Our review system came with a generous 2GB of RAM, and the LifeBook E8110 can accommodate up to 4GB in its pair of DIMM slots. The 5,400rpm hard drive in our review unit provided 120GB of storage capacity; 40GB, 60GB and 80GB drives are also available. A gyro sensor provides anti-shock protection for the hard disk.
Fujitsu Siemens’ software bundle includes its Odyssey client for managing wireless connections, plus Norton Ghost and F-Secure AntiVirus.
Performance & battery life
Following our first test of a Core Duo notebook (the 2GHz T2500-based Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi), we were confident that the slightly higher-clocked T2600-based LifeBook E8110 would deliver impressive performance. Using the standard MobileMark 2002 test, which runs nine real-world programs (Microsoft Word 2002, Excel 2002, PowerPoint 2002, Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, WinZip 8, Macromedia Flash 5 and Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1), the Fujitsu Siemens notebook delivered a score of 249 with the standard battery and 281 with the optional second battery fitted in the media bay. The latter score equals the record set by Acer's dual-core system.
The LifeBook E8110 beats the Acer TravelMate on battery life with the standard 5,200mAh battery fitted, lasting for 3 hours 45 minutes compared to 3 hours 34 minutes. With a second 3,800mAh battery in the media bay, the LifeBook lasted for 5 hours 36 minutes. As ever, stricter power management settings will extend these figures considerably (we tested in Desktop mode with middling screen brightness).
The LifeBook E8110 is a solid desktop replacement system that delivers excellent performance and decent battery life. Features like Trusted Platform Module support, the built-in smartcard reader and the option to add in fingerprint recognition should appeal to IT managers charged with data security, while the legacy connectors (serial and parallel) will appeal to those with ageing but trusty equipment -- mainly printers – that they wish to connect. Our main complaint is the somewhat awkward layout of the four USB ports, which are unlikely to all be usable at any one time.