- Solid build quality
- Integrated HSDPA
- Optical drive in a modular bay
- 12.1in WXGA screen is a little small
- Bulky and weighty for an ultraportable
Fujitsu Siemens' Esprimo Mobile U range of notebooks is designed for business users who need both portability and power. Classed by Fujitsu Siemens as an ultraportable, it's a robust and well featured 12.1in. notebook weighing 1.95kg. The entry-level model costs £726 (ex. VAT), while the range tops out at £988 (ex. VAT).
This is a well constructed notebook with a chassis that's solid to the point of being over-chunky. Still, it should withstand the rigours of the road. There's no clasp to hold upper and lower sections together, which is a shame on such an otherwise robust system. For an 'ultraportable', the U9210 packs a relatively hefty 1.95kg. Its measurements are reasonably trim, though: 30cm wide by 22.9cm deep by 3.65cm high.
The ESPRIMO U9210 is a relatively hefty (but still sub-2kg) HSDPA-equipped 12.1in. ultraportable, starting at £726 (ex. VAT).
The 12.1in. screen has a native resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels. We generally prefer at least 900 pixels of height on a wide-screen display so that two documents can be viewed side by side. There is quite a thick frame around the U9210's screen, and Fujitsu Siemens could perhaps have squeezed in a 13in. display. We like the screen's matte finish, though, which allows you to work on business documents untroubled by reflected light. Reflection is often a problem with shiny, consumer-orientated displays that are optimised for video playback.
The spill-proof keyboard has a fair amount of flex, which will be more noticeable to heavy-handed typists than those with a lighter touch. The number row is topped by a row of half-height function keys, above which is a bank of buttons comprising the on/off switch and five shortcut buttons.
Five programmable shortcut buttons give access by default to Lock Workstation, Mobility Center, Launch Center, Eco and wireless features.
One shortcut button brings up the login screen, allowing you to quickly lock the system down if you need to move away from the computer. A second opens the Windows Mobility Center, where you can adjust things like display brightness, power scheme and volume. The third button opens the Fujitsu Siemens Launch Center, which tells you about using the notebook, accesses the full manual (which is online rather than stored locally) and the bundled software. The fourth invokes Fujitsu Siemens’ Eco mode, which allows various notebook functions to be switched off to conserve battery power, while the fifth button accesses wireless features. You can configure all of these buttons to perform other functions if you prefer.
Beneath the keyboard is a two-button touchpad (an optional fingerprint sensor resides between the mouse buttons, but this was not included in our review sample). Our review sample also had an optional pointing stick, in the usual location between the G, H and B keys. This lacks its own mouse buttons (usually located between touchpad and keyboard), and it's a fair stretch to reach the touchpad's buttons. Unusually, there is no vertical or horizontal scrolling built into the touchpad.
The Esprimo Mobile U9210 is available with no fewer than five processor options. Our review sample had a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600; other options include 2.8GHz T9600, 2.53GHz T9400, 2.26GHz P8400 and even a Celeron 585 running at 2.16GHz. Our system came with an adequate 2GB of RAM for the installed Windows Vista Business operating system. A DVD is also supplied so you can downgrade to Windows XP Professional if you wish. The notebook's graphics are handled by the GMA 4500M HD module integrated in the GM45 Express chipset.
The U9210 may be on the bulky side for an ultraportable, but it does include a DVD Super Multi drive in a modular bay.
The hard drive is 160GB SATA unit spinning at 5,400rpm: an equal-capacity but faster 7,200rpm drive and 5,400rpm 120GB and 320GB drives are also available, all with anti-shock protection. There's room for an optical drive, too: this sits in a modular bay that can also accommodate a second battery, a second hard disk, an ExpressCard slot or a weight saver.
Mobile broadband (7.2Mbps download, 2.0Mbps upload) is available as an option on the U9210: the SIM slots in beneath the battery.
Bluetooth (2.1) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) are integrated as standard, and our review sample also had the optional mobile broadband module (Option GTM 382). The usual wired options — Ethernet (Intel 82567LF) and modem (V.92) — are present.
You can configure the notebook with a 1.3-megapixel webcam, which is complemented by ArcSoft's Webcam Companion software. With this, you can use the camera for image and video capture, motion detection (with automatic record) and videoconferencing. For videoconferncing, you're offered automated installation of Skype, AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger.
Most of the U0210's ports and connectors are at the back, as the right-hand side is taken up by the modular optical drive bay.
The front of the notebook has a flash card reader that accepts SD and Memory Stick formats, a pair of audio jacks and an on/off switch for the wireless radios. On the left edge is a single USB port and an ExpressCard slot. The right edge is fully occupied by the modular optical drive bay, which means that, unusually, it's the back that houses most of the ports and connectors. These comprise modem (RJ-11) and Ethernet (RJ-45) connectors, a VGA-out port, a second USB port and a combined USB/e-SATA port.
Performance & battery life
The Esprimo Mobile U9210 posted an overall Windows Experience Index (WEI) rating of 3.7 (out of 5.9), which is on the low side. The WEI rating corresponds to the lowest component score — which, thanks to the system's integrated graphics, was Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance); the other graphics score, Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero), was 3.9.
The remaining subsystems all scored highly: Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) and Processor (calculations per second) with 5.3 and RAM (Memory operations per second) with 5.6.
Fujitsu Siemens says the provided 6-cell, 5,200mAh Li-ion battery is good for up to 6 hours' life. This can be raised to 10 hours, says Fujitsu Siemens, if you use the second 6-cell, 3,800mAh battery, which fits into the modular bay.
We set the power scheme to the 'Eco' setting, turned on Wi-Fi and hooked up to our wireless network, and then worked with a music CD playing continuously in the background. Under this regime we got 2 hours 35 minutes. Clearly, in real-world situations, you're likely to need that second battery if you want anywhere near a full day's work (8 hours) on battery power.
Fujitsu Siemens' Esprimo Mobile U9210 is a solidly built ultraportable that should cope well with life on the road. However, it's a little chunky, relatively heavy and its battery life could be better. While we're at it, we'd prefer a larger, high-resolution screen and more USB ports.