Fujitsu Siemens LifeBook P8020

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • Solid chassis
  • Integrated mobile broadband
  • Good screen and keyboard
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Slightly chunky hardware design
  • Moderate graphics performance

Fujitsu Siemens' LifeBook P series is a range of mobile broadband and webcam-equipped ultraportables that includes the P7230 and P1610 — the latter a convertible Tablet PC. The newest P-series model is the P8020, which is a well-featured 12.1in. ultraportable costing £1,507 (ex. VAT).

The LifeBook P8020 is a 12.1in. ultraportable weighing 1.3kg. It comes with mobile broadband built in and costs £1,507 (ex. VAT).

Design
The LifeBook P8020 is an improvement over the P7230 as far as styling goes. This is largely down to the casing design: Fujitsu Siemens has gone for a black chassis all round, with a shiny black 'piano-lacquer' outer lid that's reminiscent of some netbooks and consumer-grade notebooks.

The lid seems quite resistant to fingermarks, but we were concerned that our review sample had a small scratch which was highly visible as a white scar against the black background. If you like to keep your notebook looking 'factory fresh' you'll need to take care of it.

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The P8020 has a shiny black 'piano-lacquer' finish to the outer lid. The system is 3.7cm thick at the back, tapering to 2.8cm at the front.

The build quality is generally robust, although the lid section has a fair amount of flex. There's also no clasp holding lid and base sections together, so you'll need to take care that nothing gets between screen and keyboard when the system is in your travel bag.

The ultraportable LifeBook P8020 measures 28cm wide by 21cm deep by 2.8-3.7cm thick and weighs 1.3kg. It is feels a little thick and chunky, but this is not unduly noticeable when the notebook is in use.

The screen measures 12.1in. across the diagonal and has a native resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels (you can send 1,920 by 1,200 to an external monitor if necessary). The display is LED backlit and is very bright and sharp. The glossy screen coating helps with clarity and increases viewing angles, particularly in the horizontal plane. However the screen is also reflective, which causes the usual 'mirroring' problems when you work with a light source behind you.

Ultraportable notebooks can suffer from cramped keyboards, and the P8020's is indeed a little small. If your hands are of the large side you may find touch typing a challenge. However, the keys themselves are responsive, depress a fair way when pressed and give a light click when used. The return key is well sized and the function key row is almost full height. The small amount of flex in the keyboard should only affect the most heavy-handed typists.

The wrist rest houses a wide-format touchpad. This lacks the horizontal and vertical scrolling capabilities we're used to seeing in touchpads these days, and their absence is a disappointment. Beneath the touchpad are two mouse buttons that are a little unresponsive for our liking. Between them sits a fingerprint scanner.

Above the screen is a pair of speakers and a row of four small buttons. Their default settings can be changed, but out of the box one of these buttons locks out to the login screen, where you can switch users. A second button opens Internet Explorer, while the third opens the Windows Mobility Center. The fourth button takes you into Fujitsu Siemens' ECO mode, which disables features such as the optical drive, reduces the display brightness and generally lowers power consumption.

Features
The LifeBook P8020 has a 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 processor with 3MB of Level 2 cache and an 800MHz frontside bus. Our review sample had 2GB of RAM, and the notebook has a maximum capacity of 4GB. Graphics are handled by the GMA 4500MHD GPU integrated in Intel's GS45 Express chipset.

The P8020 is a particularly well connected ultraportable. Intel's WiFi Link 5300 takes care of Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g, Draft-N). Bluetooth is also integrated and Gigabit Ethernet is available for wired connectivity. The icing on the cake is integrated mobile broadband (HSDPA, with download speeds of up to 7.2Mbps). The SIM card slot is located under the battery and Fujitsu Siemens includes its 3G Watcher software for managing connections. This allows you to connect to data networks and includes an SMS module. We had no trouble getting connected with our Vodafone mobile broadband SIM.

Sierra Wireless's 3G Watcher software complements the integrated mobile broadband (HSDPA) module.

Our review sample had a 160GB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm. Other options include a 320GB/5,400rpm or a 160GB/7,200rpm hard drive, or a 64GB solid-state drive. A shock protection system cushions the hard drive against knocks and bumps.

The optical drive is on the right side of the system, along with a Type II PC Card slot and, at the back, a single USB 2.0 port.

On the left side are two further USB 2.0 ports, which are physically far enough apart that it should be possible to use both at the same time. Microphone and headphone jacks are also on this edge, plus a FireWire (IEEE 1394) port, an Ethernet (RJ-45) port, a VGA connector and the power input.

The LifeBook P8020 has a fixed-position 1.3-megapixel webcam.

The front has a mechanical switch for the wireless radios, plus a slot for SD- compatible flash media. Sitting above the screen is a fixed-position 1.3-megapixel webcam.

Performance
The Windows Experience Index (WEI) for the LifeBook P8020 was a somewhat disappointing 3.2 (out of 5.9). Only one subsystem score made it past the 5.0 mark, and generally scores are almost identical to those achieved by Toshiba's Portégé R600.

The lowest score, which corresponds to the overall WEI rating, went to Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero); the other graphics score, Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance), was little better at 3.3. More impressive were Processor (calculations per second) with 4.6 and RAM (Memory operations per second) with 4.9. The top-scoring subsystem was Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) with 5.4.

Although you can't expect much in the way of graphics performance, the LifeBook P8020 should handle mainstream business workloads capably enough.

Fujitsu Siemens does not make a battery life claim for the P8020's 8,700mAh, 62Wh, 6-cell battery. We tested it by choosing the Balanced power mode and asking the notebook to play a DVD movie for as long as it could manage. Under these conditions it delivered 3 hours 15 minutes of mobile playback, which is good going.

Clearly this test pushes the battery somewhat. If you opt for the ECO mode setting and stay offline most of the time, you should get considerably longer life — and could even manage a working day's worth of computing away from mains power.

The built-in speakers, incidentally, are not great. Even at top volume we doubt you could share output readily round the table in a business meeting. And the sound quality is distinctly tinny.

Conclusion
Fujitsu Siemens' LifeBook P8020 is an impressive ultraportable in terms of looks and usability. It's robustly built (except for some flex in the lid section), with an excellent screen and a good keyboard. Mobile broadband support is a plus, as is the battery life. The only downsides are the moderate graphics performance and the £1,500 price tag.

 

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