- Integrated 3G/HSDPA connectivity
- Built-in video conferencing camera
- Robust casing
- Excellent keyboard
- No fingerprint sensor
- Poorly designed mouse buttons
- Only three USB ports, two of which are stack
Fujitsu Siemens has introduced a new range of notebooks for professionals, called Esprimo Mobile. Initially this comprises three systems: the 15.4in., 2.5kg D9500; the 14.1in., 2.2kg M9400; and the 12.1in., 1.8kg U9200, reviewed here. All three models have integrated 3G connectivity.
The Esprimo Mobile U9200 is a somewhat chunky notebook considering its small 12.1in. screen. It weighs 1.8kg, plants a 30cm by 22.3cm footprint on the desktop and is 3.7cm thick. As such, it's not as 'ultraportable' as, for example, the remarkable 779g Toshiba Portege R500-10U, the 1.19kg Sony VAIO VGN-TZ11XN/B or Fujitsu Siemens’ own 1.25kg LifeBook P7230.
Nevertheless, the Esprimo Mobile U9200 is small and light enough to be carried around on a daily basis, and some of the weight can be put down to a reassuringly robust casing. For a notebook so obviously designed to be carried, it's a shame that the U9200 lacks a clasp to hold upper and lower sections together during transportation.
The wide-format display has a native resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels, and we had no difficulty working with two document windows open at the same time. The screen's matte finish makes it feasible to work with a light source behind you and the display is sharp and clear.
The keyboard doesn't quite use the full width available to it, but the QWERTY keys are adequately sized for fast touch typing. There is a sponginess to the keyboard that heavy-handed typists, in particular, may find noticeable. A row of full-sized number keys is topped by a row of smaller function keys.
Beneath the keyboard the touchpad is responsive enough, but the mouse buttons beneath it are disappointing. They are convex in shape rather than being flat and are slightly recessed. We found that this design made it difficult to hit them with the side of the thumb, which was a constant irritation.
Unlike recent models in the LifeBook range, the Esprimo Mobile U9200 does not have an 'Eco' mode designed to help with power conservation. However, it does have a digital camera built into the lid section, just above the screen. This, along with the integrated 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, should cater for those who need to do video conferencing while on the road.
Above the keyboard, next to the main power button, is a button that allows you to control Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the 3G module individually.
Our review sample of the Esprimo Mobile U9200 was powered by Intel's Core 2 Duo T7500 processor running at 2.2GHz, with 4MB of Level 2 cache and 2GB of RAM (expandable to a maximum of 4GB). Other models use the 2GHz T7250 (with 2MB of L2 cache) and the 2.4GHz T7700
The system is supplied with Windows Vista Business as standard, but Fujitsu Siemens also includes a Windows XP disc in the box. This is the first time we’ve reviewed a notebook offering an optional operating system 'downgrade'. This is an is an interesting move on Fujitsu Siemens’ part, and is a clear signal that Vista Business is not the OS of choice for all its customers. A preconfigured Windows XP Professional version might have been a more client-friendly option, though.
Wi-Fi is handled by Intel’s WiFi Link 4965AGN adapter, which supports not only the 802.11a, b and g standards but also Draft-N. Although there are concerns that Draft-N may not be fully compliant with the final N standard, you should have no problems with a, b or g connectivity. Bluetooth 2.0 is also present, while wired Gigabit Ethernet is provided by a Marvell Yukon controller.
Wide-area 3G/HSDPA connectivity, with data transfer rates of 384Kbps upload and 3.6Mbps download, is catered for by an integrated Option GlobeTrotter GTM378 module. The SIM fits into a slot underneath the battery.
There are three hard drive configurations for this notebook — 80GB, 120GB and 160GB. We've already noted the lid-mounted digital camera, which has a resolution of 1.3 megapixels. Audio is handled by a RealTek ALC262 chip, outputting to a pair of stereo speakers on the front edge of the system; as far as sound input is concerned, it's nice to note that there are dual microphones on either side of the screen.
Fujitsu Siemens has introduced a new line of port replicators for the Esprimo series. The notebook itself houses a DVD +/-RW dual-layer drive on the right-hand side, which can be replaced with a space saver if an optical drive is not required. This side also carries an ExpressCard slot — there's no PC Card support.
On the left side are microphone and headphone sockets, the Ethernet (RJ-45) port, a flash card reader supporting SD, xD and Memory Stick media, and two USB 2.0 ports. The latter are stacked one above the other with little clear space between them. Depending on the size of the connectors on your USB peripherals, it may be impossible to use both ports at the same time. There's only one other USB 2.0 port, which is on the back.
At the back, you'll find S-Video-out, VGA-out, and modem (RJ-11) ports, plus the power connector.
Microsoft's Windows Experience Index (WEI) reports an overall score of 3.4 (out of 5.9), which places the Esprimo Mobile U9200 well up our league table of Vista systems: only the HP Compaq 6910p GC021ET has done better to date.
The overall WEI score corresponds to the lowest component score, which goes to the Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero) subsystem — graphics are handled by the Intel GM965 chipset's integrated X3100 module. Top marks went to the Processor (calculations per second) rating of 5.1, with the Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) a close second on 4.9, followed by Memory (RAM) (Memory operations per second) with 4.4. Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) scores 3.5, underlining the fact that the graphics subsystem is this machine's weakest link.
Fujitsu Siemens quotes the Esprimo Mobile U9200's battery life at 6 hours with the standard 5,200MAh battery and up to 8 hours with an optional second 3,800mAh battery. We're not convinced you'll get a full day's work out of the notebook, though — especially with heavy 3G, Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth usage.
Finally, a word on ergonomics. Although the keyboard action is comfortable, we found the poorly designed mouse buttons a constant irritation.
If the U9200 is a guide, Fujitsu Siemens' new Esprimo notebooks deliver solid build quality and, despite the integrated 3G/HSDPA connectivity, slightly less functionality than the existing LifeBook range. Fujitsu Siemens will need to clearly differentiate the two ranges to avoid confusing its business customers.