Fujitsu Lifebook U747 review: A 14-inch business workhorse with good connections

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  • Editors' rating
    7.9 Very good

Pros

  • Plenty of interfaces, including VGA and Ethernet
  • SD card reader
  • Mobile broadband option
  • Removable battery

Cons

  • Disappointing battery life
  • Relatively bulky and heavy

Fujitsu's Lifebook U series Lifebooks are aimed at the business market, and designed for everyday computing in the office and on the move. The Lifebook U747 is a 14-inch model with legacy connectors like wired Ethernet and VGA, which should appeal to many organisations. It also has something that's a real blast from the past -- a removable battery.

If you're looking for understated design, then the Lifebook U747 is your sort of laptop. There's not a hint of bling about its black chassis, which is adorned only by the Fujitsu branding swirl on the lid.

There is a bit of flex in the lid, but it's tough enough to allow this laptop to travel without a sleeve; the lid also has a smooth-touch finish that seems to be quite scratch resistant. The weight might be a bit of a burden, though, as depending on configuration you'll need to carry at least 1.43kg. In exchange, you get access to a 14-inch touchscreen that arguably occupies the sweet-spot between portability and utility.

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The Lifebook U747 runs on 7th-generation Core i3, i5 or i7 processors with up to 32GB of RAM and SSD storage up to 512Gb capacity. The GPU is Intel's integrated HD Graphics 620 and the system weighs from 1.43kg.

Image: Fujitsu

The hinges take the screen far enough back to lie flat on a desk, but no further. The 1,920-by-1,080 resolution is only moderate, and the screen is anti-glare but not matte.

The keyboard incorporates a crimson band along its bottom edge. It's understated as a brand marker, and is much more pronounced when viewed from the left and right than from a typing position. There are two banks of LEDs, one by the power button that sits above the keyboard and another on the front edge of the chassis -- visible when the lid is down. This second bank indicates battery charge, wi-fi and power status.

The touchpad is nice and wide, easily moving the cursor right across the width of the screen in one sweep. One of the many 'old-fashioned' aspects of this laptop is that there are separate buttons: I'm not against the idea in principle, but they do reduce the touch-sensitive area, and the buttons themselves feel less robust and clicky than I'd like.

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The touchpad can be disabled with a Fn key, and there's also a setting that disables it automatically when an external mouse is connected. That's a nice feature, but I'd have liked an LED either on the pad itself or on the status bar, to remind me which mode I'd set. Occasionally I'd think the touchpad was malfunctioning when in fact I'd simply turned it off.

The right side of the wrist rest on my review unit had a PalmSecure sensor. This is a Fujitsu biometric technology based on palm vein pattern recognition. Unfortunately my review unit didn't have the appropriate software installed for me to test this feature. The laptop can also be configured with a more conventional fingerprint sensor.

There is a slight flex in the keyboard, but only the heaviest-handed typists are likely to notice it. There is quite a lot of key travel, and a fairly spongy response. It's a distinctive arrangement, but not difficult to live with and I had no trouble working at my normal touch-typing speed. The Enter key is double height and very wide, and welcome attention has been paid to the cursor keys, with additional depth allocated to the right side of the keyboard giving them space to breathe.

Fujitsu offers the Lifebook U747 in multiple configurations, so that corporate users can get the precise variant that suits them best. So there are options for Windows version, processor, SSD size, display (including a drop to 1,366 x 768), SIM support, SmartCard reader and the already noted PalmSecure module.

My £1,198 (ex. VAT) review sample was powered by an Intel Core i5-7300U processor with integrated HD Graphics 620, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, and ran Windows 10 Pro. It also had a touch-screen, 4G mobile broadband and the aforementioned PalmSecure reader.

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The Lifebook U747 has two USB 3.0 ports and one USB-C connector, plus DisplayPort and RJ-45 Ethernet. There's also a smartcard reader, an SD card slot and a biometric PalmSecure sensor.

Image: Fujitsu

Fujitsu doesn't scrimp when it comes to ports and slots on the Lifebook U747. The left edge has VGA, USB Type-C with DisplayPort and charging capability, and a USB 3.0 port as well as power connector and a SmartCard slot. The right edge has a second USB 3.0 port, a 3.5mm headset jack, a full-size DisplayPort and an RJ-45 Ethernet port. There's also an SD card reader on the front edge -- something sadly lacking on many of today's laptops.

Accommodating some of these interfaces -- notably the VGA and Ethernet ports -- means the chassis is slightly thicker than usual. So, while the footprint of 332.6mm wide by 234mm deep is not oversized for a 14-inch laptop, its thickness of 19mm for the non-touch version or 19.6mm for the touch version is on the high side. By way of comparison, the recently reviewed Lenovo Yoga 920 is just 13.95mm thick.

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Still, Fujitsu is smart about this, tapering the font edges well as the front half of both side edges to make the Lifebook U747 appear considerably thinner than it actually is.

It's surprising to find a removable battery in a laptop these days, but that's the case here. And just as well, because battery life is not the Lifebook U747's strong suit. With screen brightness at 50 percent, doing no more than my usual run of document creation, web browsing and a bit of streaming I reduced the battery from 100 percent to 10 percent in just over six hours. I would not expect to get a full day's work from this system away from mains power, even though Fujitsu claims a runtime of 'up to 10h' on its website.

Conclusions

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Image: Fujitsu

There is something of a 'back to basics' feel about Fujitsu's Lifebook U747, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Plenty of organisations still use VGA monitors and wired Ethernet, and connecting to these without a port replicator might be important. It's nice to see an SD card reader here, and the removable battery is also a plus point.

But if all day mobile working is a must, then the U747's slightly disappointing battery life will be a concern, even with the option to carry a spare battery or the mains adapter.

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