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Fujitsu P8010: Style and Usability

5 Featherweight Powerhouse Ultraportables
By , Barry Gerber

Style

Fujitsu helped to define the ultraportable notebook category several years ago. Its newest effort, the P8010, has been on the market a few months longer than the rest of the ultraportables in this review, so while Fujitsu has benefited from years of trying ultraportable designs, it hasn’t managed to perfect the art of tiny. The P8010 is the largest, thickest, and heaviest ultraportable in this roundup, at 2.9 pounds, and sloping between 1.1 and 1.4 inches thick (though it does include an optical drive),. The extra bit of weight isn’t very noticeable, but the thickness is.

Hey, I’m not calling the P8010 fat: it’s still an elegant machine. Its style is decidedly conservative, with a shiny lid that has a dimpled line to distinguish it, running through the meridian. The lid’s paint job has a speckled sparkle—like Formica—and manages to retain a lacquered look without attracting ugly fingerprints. Though all the plastic on the P8010 does give a little bit when pressed, it doesn’t depress nearly as much as the case built around the Toshiba R500. The screen does flex a bit, but not terribly much, and the lid holds itself shut with an emphatic and solid snap.

All the extra girth built into the P8010 does give the impression of sturdiness—it’s got a real exoskeleton. In fact, it may be the most rugged machine in this roundup, which makes it ideal for the accident-prone business traveler. A shock sensor for protecting the hard drive, and a spill-resistant keyboard contributes to this skill set, as does the broad Screen Damage Protection Plan that Fujitsu sells to buyers for three-year coverage. This type of utilitarian forgiveness, and drab but dignified design, makes the Fujitsu almost the opposite of the more rarified ultraportables like the Lenovo IdeaPad U110, Asus U2E and Sony TZ. It also makes it a more likely choice for IT buyers.

Ports

Fujitsu’s ultraportable isn’t missing any of the pieces that the other manufacturers include. On the left side, you’ll find the power jack, VGA port, gigabit Ethernet port, and two USB ports placed at different heights (useful for keeping rubbery plugs from nudging each other aside). There’s also a Firewire port and microphone and headphone jacks. On the front lip, the Fujitsu keeps its SD card (and other memory card) reader, and Wi-Fi on/off switch. There are fan vents here, too. On the right side are the optical drive and PC Card slot, joined together in the same plastic chassis, and just beyond them, another USB port and a modem port. There is nothing around back except another fan vent.

Style score: 3.5

Usability

Keyboard

Unlike the Toshiba R500, the P8010’s keyboard is compacted into a smaller-than-standard size. But like the Asus U2E, at least the keys are the right shape (traditionally chiseled and spaced). The keys are smooth, but not slick. For small hands this keyboard doesn’t pose any challenges, but larger hands might struggle to get their bearings. The entire keyboard flexes just a bit during a storm of furious typing, but not nearly as much as the Toshiba. Above the keyboard is a black strip filled with various controls.

On the far right and left are mesh-covered speakers; I’ve heard weaker ultraportable speakers, and with these you’d actually be able to watch a movie in your hotel room and hear the dialogue. In the center are six blue LEDs to indicate battery and keyboard function status. On the right are four buttons: the first opens tech support, the second brightens the screen, the third calls up display controls, and the fourth opens a browser. Any of these can be changed to other tasks, and to the right of them is the power button.

 
Trackpad and Buttons
 
The P8010’s chassis is standard biz-gray plastic, though the keyboard is a darker shade of gray. The wristpad is smooth and conventional. The trackpad is simply a rougher form of that same material, delineated by a hair-thin gap between the trackpad and the rest of the wristpad. The mouse buttons react easily to a very light touch, which requires some getting used to, but they are separated by a larger-than-necessary finger print scanner. Separating mouse buttons by more than a few millimeters is a pet peeve of mine: my fingers always expect the buttons to be flush against each other. I don’t see why the finger print scanner couldn’t have been placed on the right side of the chassis—there’s nothing there in the current design.

Display

 
This 12.1” screen seems somehow larger than Toshiba’s—it stretches to the absolute limits of the lid, leaving only about a quarter inch of plastic on each side. The screen is LED backlit, but has a matte finish. Fujitsu’s screen tech, which it calls CrystalView, seems to do a good job of preventing glare and shimmer. Though viewing angles aren’t better on this machine than any of the others in the roundup—a common problem on these thin little screens—when I look at the screen head on, its colors seem brighter and more varied than any other computer’s display in this group except the Sony Vaio’s (which is similar). The brightness, combined with the lack of glare and matte finish, made this the only ultraportable screen I could see with some degree of clarity in sunlight.

The only odd thing about this display is that Fujitsu has a built in webcam above the screen, but put it off-center to the left. Why? You have to put your face to the slight left of the computer to come across as centered during your Web chat.

 
Heat and Noise

The P8010 doesn’t get hot, and it doesn’t make the typical spinning-drive, whirring-parts noises typical of a machine chugging along. That makes sense given that its processor is not woefully unprepared, nor is its hard drive particularly slow—in fact, this machine does well with standard graphics-intensive and multimedia applications. But instead of the spinning and whirring sounds, this machine beeps. If I listened to it while I typed, I could hear a few electronic squeaky beeps. It wasn’t particularly distracting, but I did wonder what the machine was trying to tell me...

Usability score: 3.5

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