- Integrated 3G/HSDPA connectivity
- Built-in webcam
- Superb 15.4in. screen
- USB slots are awkwardly located
- Bluetooth is optional
- Webcam is fixed rather than swivel-mounted
- Second battery occupies the optical drive bay, making these an either/or choice
Fujitsu Siemens' E Series LifeBooks are designed to offer desktop-level functionality in a notebook format. The LifeBook E8410 comes in two variants, one with integrated graphics from Intel and the other with a more powerful discrete Nvidia graphics module. We examined the latter.
Although not ideal in terms of portability due to their size, the E Series LifeBooks offer integrated 3G connectivity and a webcam, so if you do need to take one of these notebooks on the road, you'll be able to stay in touch.
The E8410 is mostly black on the outside, and mixed black and silver on the inside. There's nothing revolutionary about the chassis design — if anything, we'd say it tends toward the bland.
Build quality is generally good, but there are two areas of concern. The lid section is pretty solid, although there is some give towards its centre, so take care to protect it when in transit. Also, the lid and keyboard sections are held together by a solid clasp but because the lid section is large and there's only one central clasp, its extreme ends are fairly easily prised away from the keyboard section. Foreign objects could enter in the resulting gap and cause damage. All in all, we'd suggest finding a good-quality case if you do intend to carry this notebook around.
Not that you're likely to carry this large notebook very far. At 35.7cm wide by 26cm deep by 3.6cm thick, and weighing 2.5kg, it's likely to spend most of its life deskbound. The reason for a large notebook, of course, is to support a big screen — in this case measuring 15.4in. from corner to corner. This delivers a native resolution of 1,680 by 1,050 pixels, which is sufficient to allow two working documents to be opened on-screen at once. It's also ideal for complex spreadsheet work. The screen has a matt finish that makes it feasible to work with a a light source such as a window to the rear, in constrast to other displays with highly reflective surfaces.
To the left and right of the keyboard are grilles covering the system's speakers. Between them these occupy over 60mm of width, and we can't help wondering whether, with a little tinkering, Fujutsu Siemens might have been able to integrate a near full-sized number pad to the right of the keyboard and relocate the speakers.
However, as it stands, the keyboard is fitted with large-sized keys that pose no usability problems. We found touch-typing comfortable, although the heavy handed may find the keyboard's flexibility a little disconcerting. A touchpad sits beneath the keyboard, with two mouse buttons beneath it. A block between these two buttons can be occupied by a fingerprint sensor, although that option was not present on our review sample. Above the touchpad sit a second pair of mouse buttons, designed to be used in conjunction with the pointing stick that sits between the G, H and B keys.
Fujitsu Siemens has implemented its customary suite of four buttons above the keyboard. These include one that locks the notebook down quickly; one that takes you to the 'mobility centre' for configuring the hard-drive shock protection and other aspects of the device; an 'E' button which turns on 'Eco' mode, and an 'R' button that accesses an on-demand backup utility. Eco mode allows a range of devices and functions to be turned off in order to save power; such devices include the optical drive, PC Card and flash-card readers, wireless LAN and FireWire. On our test system, all four buttons were configured to launch applications rather than perform these functions. However, it's easy to alter the configuration.
Our review sample was built around Intel's Core 2 Duo T7300 processor running at 2GHz. It had 1GB of RAM, although the system can accommodate up to 4GB. The operating system is Windows Vista Business. Our top-of-the-range review sample had a discrete graphics module, in the shape of an Nvidia GeForce Go 8400M with 128MB of dedicated video memory.
The LifeBook E8410 is well equipped for communications. Infrared and Wi-Fi are built in, although, oddly, Bluetooth is an optional extra and was not present on our review sample. There is a hardware button on the front of the casing that allows you to turn Wi-Fi on and off easily.
An option that was present on our review sample is a 3G/HSDPA module supporting wide-area wireless connectivity at speeds of up to 7.2Mbps. At the moment, you'll be lucky to find 7.2Mbps coverage in the wild, but at least this notebook offers a level of future-proofing on this front. The SIM card slot is underneath the battery, which fits into a slot on the bottom of the casing.
The Wi-Fi comes courtesy of Intel's Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN adapter and so includes Draft-N support; 3G is catered by for a Sierra Wireless HSDPA module. A software application manages connections and can be used to send and manage received text messages. Gigabit Ethernet is also present for wired networking.
To go with the 3G support, there's a small webcam fitted in the top of the lid section that can be used for video calling. As with other webcam-equipped Fujitsu Siemens notebooks we've seen recently, the lens is fixed rather than swivel-mounted.
For storage, our review sample had an 80GB hard drive, with 120GB and 160GB disks available as options. A user-configurable sensor protects the hard drive from mechanical shock.
The LifeBook E8410 has plenty ports and connectors. There are four USB 2.0 ports, two on the left side and two more on the back; both pairs are vertically stacked, and it may be difficult to use both at the same time if your USB peripherals have bulky connectors. Furthermore, the two ports on the left edge are adjacent to the modem (RJ-11) connector and it's possible that, when they are in use, access to this (admittedly now rarely used) connector could be blocked.
The left edge also houses a FireWire (IEEE 1394) connector, headphone and microphone jacks (awkwardly located right at the back) and, towards the front, a Type II PC Card/ExpressCard slot and a smartcard reader.
At the back you'll find Ethernet (RJ-45), S-Video out, VGA out and serial ports, and — most unusually these days — a parallel port. The right edge houses the optical drive, which can be removed and replaced with a second battery if required.
At the front, next to the Wi-Fi on/off switch, is a flash card reader that accepts SD and Memory Stick media. The infrared port is also here.
The LifeBook E8410 delivered an overall Windows Experience Index of 3.2 (out of 5.9). This equates to the lowest compnent score, which in this case was for Graphics (Desktop performance for Windows Aero).
Concentrating on the lowest score does this notebook a disservice, because every other component received a score higher than 4. Indeed, the Processor (Calculations per second) score was an impressive 4.9.
Between these came Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) at 4.8, Memory (RAM) (Memory operations per second) at 4.5 and Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) at 4.3.
Fujitsu Siemens claims that the main 8-cell 5,200mAh battery delivers up to 5 hours of life, extendable to 8 hours with a second 6-cell 3,800mAh unit in the modular optical drive bay. It should be possible to get some serious work done with this notebook away from mains power — although, for a machine that's likely to spend most of its time on the desk, extended battery life may not be a major priority for many buyers.
The LifeBook E8410 notebook delivered a positive user experience. Its screen is outstanding in terms of both resolution and image quality, and this alone makes it a viable desktop replacment system. The positioning of the USB ports will irritate those wanting to use all four at once, and a hub or port replicator may be the only answer to this problem.