With the hype surrounding the new Macbook Air still fresh, it’s hard not to compare it to other ultra-light notebooks that come to market. So when Fujitsu released another of their successful Lifebook ultra-mobile tablet PCs, we naturally reviewed it with an eye toward Apple’s offering.
To be fair, the Lifebook has been around for a lot longer than the Macbook Air. The well praised previous model - the P1610 - has been around since 2006, and even then it weighed notably less than today’s Macbook Air. The new P1620 is more powerful than its predecessor in almost every way, and remains more than 25% lighter than Apple’s new portable star.
Of course, Fujitsu’s P1600 series of Lifebooks offers some unique features that really distance them from the standard fare. The most notable capability is the touch-sensitive tablet screen, including its somewhat unique ability to rotate in any direction. This makes P1600 series notebooks suitable for certain tablet-PC type roles that standard laptops won’t be able to fill.
However, we still find it interesting to compare specifications, so let’s look at the details of the new Fujitsu Lifebook P1620, the previous P1610 model and the Macbook Air:
|Fujitsu P1620||Fujitsu P1610||Macbook Air|
|CPU||1.2GHz U7600 Core 2 Duo||1.2GHz Core Solo||1.6GHz or 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo|
|RAM||512 MB to 2 GB||512 MB to 2 GB||2 GB|
|HDD||60 GB to 100 GB (or 32 GB solid state)||60 GB to 80 GB||80 GB (or 64 GB solid state)|
|Display||8.9” touch screen, 1280x768||8.9” touch screen, 1280x768||13.3” LCD, 1280x800|
|Dimensions||9.13” x 7.32” x 1.36”||9.13" x 7.32" x 1.36"||12.8" x 8.94" x 0.76"|
|Weight||2.2 lbs (2.5 lbs w/6 cell battery)||2.2 lbs (2.5 lbs w/6 cell battery)||3.0 lbs|
|OS||Windows XP/Vista||Windows XP||Mac OSX|
|Connectivity||Gigabit Ethernet LAN, 802.11a/b/g||Gigabit Ethernet LAN, 802.11a/b/g||802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth + EDR|
|Ports||2x USB 2.0, 1x PCMCIA, 1x SDcard||2x USB 2.0, 1x PCMCIA, 1x SDcard||1x USB 2.0|
The first and most notable upgrade that the P6120 offers that its predecessor does not is the extra CPU core; while the older model sported a Core Solo at 1.2 GHz, the P6120 has a Core 2 Duo. While the clock speed hasn’t changed, the extra CPU core certainly helps a lot when multitasking or running multi-threaded applications. Of course, this category is where the Apple appears to shine. The base model Macbook Air - that costs slightly more than the Lifebook P1620 - sports a 1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo, which is 400 MHz faster than the Fujitsu CPU. While this wouldn’t offer a notable real-world speed increase, there is an optional 1.8 GHz processor available for the Mac, although it greatly increases the price tag to well over $3,000.
Although the Lifebook comes with a standard 512 MB of RAM, you’ll avoid a lot of gnashing of teeth by simply upgrading to 1 GB, which is a good minimum for a Windows XP-based machine if you’d like to avoid waiting for the swap file. If you opt for the Windows Vista operating system, 2 GB would be preferable. Notably, the Macbook Air comes with 2 GB as standard equipment, but it’s neither upgradeable nor down gradable.
In the hard drive arena, things start to look better for the Fujitsu, which is upgradeable to a 100 GB standard hard disk, or a 32 GB solid-state drive. A hard drive size of 100 GB is large for such a small laptop, although the solid-state drive option might be a little small for real-world use. By comparison, the Macbook Air comes with an 80-GB drive, but this is the largest drive available; the only other option is a 64 GB solid state drive, which is a decent size for s solid-state unit.
Speaking of size, let’s talk about the displays: While the Macbook Air has a large 13.3” 1280x800 display, the Fujitsu’s display is much smaller at 8.9”. However, the Lifebook’s resolution is almost identical to the Mac’s at 1280x768, giving it an exceptional resolution for its size. In addition, the Lifebook’s display is much more flexible than the Air’s, since it is able to swivel and offers touch-screen functionality.
The Macbook’s most touted feature is its incredibly thin profile at 0.76 inches thick. While the Lifebook is almost twice as thick as the Macbook Air, it’s smaller in both length and width. More importantly, the Lifebook is more than 25% lighter than the Macbook. Even with the optional six-cell battery that gives the Lifebook five hours of real-world battery life, the Lifebook is half a pound lighter than the Macbook Air.
In this light, the Macbook Air design seems to be more aesthetically driven that utilitarian. Yes, the Fujitsu Lifebook P1620 is too thick to fit in a manila envelope. Still, it’s lighter, smaller, and arguably easier to pack and stow than the Macbook Air.
The operating system differences are somewhat obvious, as the Macbook Air will have OSX. The Lifebook comes with either Windows XP Tablet edition, or Windows Vista Business edition. As we’ve mentioned before, if you’re going to opt for Vista, you really need at least 2 GB of RAM.
As far as connectivity is concerned, the Lifebook P1620 comes with the standard laptop fare of wireless 802.11g and a speedy gigabit Ethernet port. The Macbook Air has no Ethernet port, but comes with 802.11n wireless capability in addition to Bluetooth.
The Fujitsu comes with two USB 2.0 ports, a PCMCIA card slot and an SDcard reader. The Macbook Air is comparatively Spartan in this regard with only a single USB 2.0 port for expansion connectivity.
One final built-in peripheral of note is the Lifebook’s fingerprint sensor, which is a nice addition on any mobile PC as they are somewhat vulnerable to being lost or stolen. Any feature that adds some security and data protection is a welcome one.