The Fujitsu Lifebook S6520 is a decent refresh with Centrino 2 parts, but there are cheaper alternatives if portability is of utmost importance.
Last year, the S series chassis was functional, but a little dull. As this year's model is identical, there's very little we can add about it. It's a gun metal/black colour with a flare of piano black.
The notebook features a 14.1-inch LCD screen with a 1280 x 800 resolution, but what's striking about it is the SlimEdge design which gives you a lot of screen real estate and a very thin bezel. The screen is also LED backlit.
On the palmtop you get a full-sized keyboard with a comfortable action, atopped with dedicated media buttons. At the bottom of the base you get a medium-sized trackpad and mousing buttons split by the fingerprint reader.
Fujitsu is proud of the fact that it — like Toshiba — is one of the few manufacturers who still make their products in Japan. However, as companies like Sony have found, words such as "Made in Taiwan" no longer have the negative connotations they may have once had. While build quality is quite good, higher labour costs mean that you also pay for it, and countries such as Malaysia, China and Taiwan are equally capable of putting together a strong notebook for a fraction of the price.
The notebook boasts the latest Centrino 2 specification with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 2.53Ghz processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 320GB drive.
Onboard graphics are a little lacklustre for a device of this price, with an Intel GMA 4500MHD. Competitors such as Apple, on the other hand, are using the speedier GeForce 9400M. But with speed comes heat and therefore weight, so Fujitsu probably had to make a trade-off here, considering the device's diminutive 1.7kg proportions.
The optical drive is a dual-layer DVD Super Drive and, like many Fujitsu portables before it, is able to be easily ejected from underneath the device to save weight. Not that you'll ever be worried about breaking your back with the laptop as it is.
The number of ports provided is decent for a device of this kind with three USBs, a VGA out, mini-FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, dial-up modem, and even a mini-jack Video out. What's a little disappointing is that there's still a PC Card slot onboard, despite being replaced by ExpressCard five years ago.
Rounding out the features list is a 1.3 megapixel camera, Bluetooth V2.1, and the Windows Vista Business operating system.
In terms of performance and general use, the Fujitsu keeps up its end decently. The screen is bright and reasonably clear and the touchpad and keyboard are fine, but is "decent" enough when competitors such as Dell, Sony and Apple are so good?
The laptop is helped along in performance terms by the up-to-date specification and put in a good turn in our synthetic benchmarks. In the PCMark05 test the S6520 put in a very good score of 5501 marks. This puts it well above its competitors for the price. Despite its modest graphics adaptor, the Fujitsu could be used to play the occasional game, and its 3DMark06 score of 1027 is testament to this.
Battery life was quite good, with the Fujitsu able to put up with the self-indulgent King Kong for 2 hours and 11 minutes. This is a good result for a 6-cell battery, and it certainly outshines last year's model which only did a little better on the more pedestrian BatteryEater Pro reader test.
In this day and age, three grand is a lot to pay for a portable notebook — especially as it doesn't even have looks on its side. The sudden, explosive popularity of netbooks has shown that portability no longer has to mean "expensive". Yet, the tradeoff is performance, and at least the Fujitsu demonstrates that performance isn't the exclusive domain of desktop replacements.
It all comes down to whether you need a portable capable of outperforming a desktop PC. If the answer is yes then this may be worth a look, but if looks and price are more important to you there are plenty of better options out there.