Fujitsu Lifebook S6510 - Wrap-Up

This will be the last entry that I will write specifically about my new Fujitsu Lifebook S6510. I have it completely set up and everything transferred from the Lifebook S2110, and port replicators installed both at home and in the office.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

This will be the last entry that I will write specifically about my new Fujitsu Lifebook S6510. I have it completely set up and everything transferred from the Lifebook S2110, and port replicators installed both at home and in the office. So starting today, it will be my "primary" PC. As I have said previously, I am very happy with the S6510. It continues to run without any significant problems, and most of the things that I had been struggling with have now been resolved.

I've had a couple of rather surprising "discoveries" as I have been using the S6510 more, and particularly using it in the port replicators with an external display. The built-in webcam, which is integrated in the center of the lid, near the latch, is very nice when I am traveling. It makes for one less thing that I have to carry along, and connect to the laptop when I am going to video chat with someone on SightSpeed. However, when I am working at my desk and the laptop is connected to the port replicator the lid is closed so the camera is pointing straight down. If I want to make a video call I have to either open the lid, which often isn't possible because of things on or around the laptop, or I have to have another USB webcam connected. That isn't a problem for me, because I have a few webcams on hand, but it is something to keep in mind if someone were going to buy such a laptop and expected the built-in to be their only webcam. Of course, if you are concerned with video quality you're going to want to use an external webcam anyway; the built-in webcam is nothing more than "adequate", and my Philips SPC900NC runs rings around it both in picture quality and low-light performance.

The same is true of the fingerprint scanner. After using the laptop for ten days while traveling, I was accustomed to logging in by just swiping my finger across the fingerprint scanner. But when the lid is closed, the fingerprint scanner is covered, so to log in I have to either open the lid, scan, and close the lid, or login with my password.

I expected to have the same problem with the built-in microphone, which is also integrated in the laptop lid, but I got a pleasant surprise on that one. My brother said that he could hear me just as well with the lid closed as with it open. Beats me why, but I'm pleased.

The built-in speakers were a sort of a compromise, they are not as clear or loud with the lid closed, but they are still useable if need be. They are not a problem for me anyway, as I use a Logitech Audio Hub for speakers when in the port replicator.

Fujitsu's decision to move all of the connections off the back of the laptop might be the single best thing they changed compared to the S2110 (and S6120). Not having to grope blindly around the back, or stand on my head on the desk to see the back, is really very nice. All of the connections on the sides and front are easily accessible, and I haven't had any problems yet with anything blocking something else. Likewise, being able to turn the WiFi adapter on and off with a switch on the front of the laptop, rather than the back, is much more convenient.

The main battery is positioned in the back of the S6510, where the connectors used to be, and I suspect that they were able to make it a bit larger (and thus stronger) there than in previous models. The S6510 battery is rated at 5800 mAh, whereas the S2110 is rated at 5200 mAh, and the S6120 was only 4000 mAh. Conversely, because the S6510 is so thin, the modular bay battery is thinner than in the previous models, and thus less powerful; 2300 mAh, compared to 3800 mAh in the S2110 and 3400 mAh in the S6120. All of this translates directly into noticeable differences in battery life. The S6510 runs much longer on its main battery than the previous Lifebooks did, but the modular bay battery seems to go down in no time at all. By the way, I like the indicator LEDs, mounted on the front edge of the laptop keyboard, better than the LED display in the previous models. It's possible that the older laptops gave a little more precise information with their graphic display of batteries, but you really had to go looking for them, whereas the colored battery status and charging LEDs are obvious at a glance.

The S6510 also still has one PCMCIA slot, another reason that I bought this particular model (the S7000 series has dropped the PCMCIA slot in favor of an ExpressCard slot). My Swisscom Unlimied Data Card (cellular data) is a PCMCIA card, and I can't travel without that. There is also an SD/xD/MS memory card slot, just below the PCMCIA slot, and when traveling being able to just pop the memory card from the camera into the computer is very nice.

The generous number of USB ports, on the laptop and the port replicator, is also very nice. There are three on the laptop and four on the port replicator, none of which get blocked, so there are seven available. The S2110 had three on the laptop and two on the port replicator, but one on the laptop was blocked when it was in the port replicator so there were only four available. The S6120 had two on the laptop and two on the port repliator, so it also had four available. Having three more USB ports makes a surprisingly large difference. I leave things like the trackball, printer, webcam and speakers always connected to the port replicator, so they are always ready when the laptop is docked, and I still have three USB ports available and easily accessible on the laptop for "temporary" things I want to connect, like USB disks and a barcode scanner.

One problem that I finally worked out was with the external displays, connected to the docking stations. Because the S6510 has a somewhat unusual display resolution (1280x800), and my external displays are rather old, none of them were able to match their resolution to the laptop display. What I have found is that the S6510 does a good job of managing (and remembering) different resolutions for the built-in and external displays, so I now have the external displays set for 1280x1024. As long as I don't try to use both the built-in and external display at the same time, this works just fine, and I never do that. I either use the laptop stand-alone, while traveling, so I am using the laptop display only, or I use it at the office or at home, in a docking station with its lid closed so I am using the external display only. I still have one small complaint about this; the S2110 did and amazingly good job of noticing when an external display was connected and/or the laptop lid was opened and closed, and almost always selected the "right" display automatically. I find that I have to use Fn-F10 to force the S6510 to put the display where I want it, or to turn off one that I don't want to be used. It is kind of interesting and informative, though, to toggle through the internal-external-both display sequence, and watch the resolution of one or the other display change as they are switched. With the external display I have connected right now in the office, the sequence is 1280x800 (internal only), 1280x1024 (external only), and 1024x768 (both simultaneously).

I had mentioned previously that I was struggling to get Wireless-N working, and then finally got it going with help from Fujitsu Support. Now it is paying off, and I am able to do something that I had wanted for quite some time. I have to use a wired connection with a fixed IP address when I am at the office, and a DHCP connection when I am at home. Changing the network adapter configuration each time gets tiresome very quickly, so I have always wanted to use wired in the office and wireless at home. Now, with Wireless-N speed, I can do that without worrying about it being "too slow".

Overall I would give the S6510 a rating of 9 out of 10. It is by far the best, nicest, laptop that I have ever owned. In fact, the only drawbacks, disadvantages and irritants I can think of about it actually have more to do with Vista than they do with the laptop itself. I am going to write a side-by-side comparison of Vista on the S6510 with XP Professional on the S2110 next. It will be interesting to see how that comes out - I don't even know yet, because I haven't thought about it that much yet. I can say, though, that at the beginning of last week, when I was still struggling with the display and network problems, I was seriously considering staying with the S2110 for my primary laptop, simply because of stability and convenience. In fact, since the S6510 came with a Microsoft "downgrade" certificate and XP Professional recovery disks, if it turns out that I run into serious problems with Vista again, as I did on the S2110, or I get irritated enough with the things that don't work (or don't work as well), I might just get a second SATA drive to swap out, and try loading XP on the S6510.

jw 7/1/2008

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