Laptop Review - Fujitsu Lifebook S6510

I have been using this new laptop for about a week now, and I am very pleased with it. There have been a couple of minor irritants, as is always the case with a new computer, but overall I don't think it could have been much better.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

I have been using this new laptop for about a week now, and I am very pleased with it. There have been a couple of minor irritants, as is always the case with a new computer, but overall I don't think it could have been much better. While it looks and feels similar to my two previous Lifebook laptops (S2110 and S6120), the difference is enormous.

First, here is the configuration:

- Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, 2.2 GHz - 2 GB memory - 1 GB Intel Turbo Memory (flash) - 120 GB Serial ATA disk - 14.1" display, Intel X3100 graphic controller - Intel Wireless WiFi 4965AGN - Integrated 1.3 MPixel webcam (Logitech) - Integrated microphone and speakers - Integrated 56k modem - Integrated 10/100/1000 Ethernet - Integrated Fingerprint Reader - Windows Vista Business 32-bit

There's a lot more, of course, but those are the high points.

Although the system came preloaded with Windows Vista Business, the recovery media included both Vista and XP Pro disks, and there was a page included titled "Downgrade Rights for Microsoft Windows Vista Business" which states that the owner has the right to downgrade from Vista to XP Pro or XP Tablet PC. I think that is a rather sad commentary on the state of Windows Vista in the market today. Although I did choose to go back to XP on my other Lifebook, so far I have not wanted or needed to do so on this one. The combination of much more processing power and newer Vista-compatible components and peripherals (such as the Realtek audio system instead of the SigmaTel audio), seem to make it much more pleasant and stable.

The Windows Experience Index is 3.4, which is quite good, especially for a laptop. Not only is this important for running the Vista Aero user interface, but some other software and peripherals, such as the latest Logitech Webcams, require WEI of at least 3.0.

I've read a couple of times that Fujitsu "squeezed" in a 14.1" display instead of the 13.3" in previous S-series models, but in comparing the size of this new laptop to my S2110 and S6120, the case is about an inch wider. The frame of the lid around the screen in this one is also about half the width that it was in the older models, so I guess they "squeezed" in the larger display by making the case slightly larger and the frame slightly smaller. In any case, the display is gorgeous, and the 1200x800 resolution, instead of the 1024x768 in the prevous models, is very nice.

The keyboard and touchpad are the same that I have become used to in my previous Lifebook S-series laptops, with perhaps a bit more textured surface than before. So far the touchpad has been one of the few problem areas for me - I can't figure out how to disable "tapping" on the touchpad, and I hate that, it drives me crazy by reading mouse taps when I don't want it to! I've just been on with Fujitsu Support Chat, and they confirmed that there is no way to disable tapping on this model. Grrr. I'm going to have to start carrying a laptop mouse with me. Sigh.

Wait! After a lot more digging around, downloading an updated driver from the Synaptics web page, and still not being able to disable tapping, I finally stumbled across the solution. In the touchpad properties, window, on the "Device Settings" tab, click the "Settings" button, then a new "Properties for Synaptics Touchpad" window comes up, then on the left side of that click "Tapping", and you finally get to "Disable Tapping". Whew! I wonder if they could have made that a little more obscure...

The fingerprint reader is a wonderful addition. I've never used one before, so I was a bit concerned that I would have trouble getting it set up and working, but it was really simple. The OmniPass software included with the Lifebook walked me through activating the fingerprint reader with my Windows account, and registering two fingers to control it. Now, whenever I boot, resume, or otherwise need to log in, I just swipe my finger on it, and I'm in. I have been working in the security business for many years, and I know that getting fingerprint scanning right, reliable and consistent is not easy. They seem to have done a good job of it - I'm getting about a 90% accurate read rate. I'm a little disappointed that you have to give up the mouse scroll buttons to get the fingerprint reader, but if I have to choose, I would now choose the fingerprint every time.

I have been through the usual cycle of looking for driver updates, first from Fujitsu and then from the suppliers of the individual components. The trick is that especially with laptops, the components and their drivers may have been modified by the computer manufacturer, so the "generic" drivers from the individual suppliers might not work properly, or might omit some features or capabilities that Fujitsu added. I was able to update the Intel WiFi, Realtek Audio and Synaptics Touchpad drivers, but the Logitech webcam and Intel 965 chipset drivers would not install.

The first applications I loaded were SightSpeed and the Gizmo project (I also tried to load Skype, but it failed miserably, as is often the case). The integrated speakers, microphone and webcam work very well with those programs - so well that I might have to reconsider my policy of advising using a headset/microphone rather than laptop built-in devices. The headset is still superior, of course, but the difference is not so great with this laptop, so if you are traveling and want to keep the bulk and weight that you are dragging along down, you could probably get by with the built-ins on this laptop.

So I am now running on the new S6510, with mostly current drivers, and the minimum applications and utilities that I need. I will be using this as my primary computer now, and I'll get the rest of my software loaded over the next few days. I'll write more about the laptop, the operating system, and loading and using the software soon.

jw 27/12/2007

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