The Fujitsu Lifebook P1620: Windows Air?

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.

fujitsu lifebook p1620

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:

Comparison of specifications
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.

fujitsu lifebook p1620

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.

fujitsu lifebook p1620

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.

fujitsu lifebook p1620

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.

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  • Anonymous
    You could have compared SOMETHING between the two notebooks besides the specs (i.e. battery life, word processing, image editting, etc). They don't use the same software, and you may not think that is a very good control, but ultimately, you should be trying to contrast the two experiences using the task the user is performing as the control. So, person A wants to open a 2 MB spreadsheet. How fast is it on the Air w/ Mac Office vs. on the Lifebook w/ Win Office? Person B wants to edit a 6MB photo. How fast is it to open with photoshop on the lifebook vs. photoshop on the mac? Ultimately, the software you are comparing is different, so it may not seem very scientific, but you can compare the overall experience between the two notebooks, which is ultimately what users care about.
  • abqaussie
    I agree, a task based comparison would have been interesting, but the whole point of Apple's drive for the Air was the hardware right?

    Lightest? Thinnest? Sacrificing functionality for those two goals? Apple pretty much assumes users DON'T care about the user experience there and only care about shoving the Air in an envelope. Since the cheaper Macbook smokes the air for functionality, even in an Apples to Apples comparison. Sorry for the pun.

    Want to connect 2 USB devices simulataneously without a hub? Sorry Air. Want to read an SD card? Sorry Air. Need a hardline network connection for some reason? Sorry Air. Those could be fairly user-experience related bits of hardware.

    I actually would care more how it performed relative to a couple of known non-tiny Windows laptops for the same OS and apps. To see what the performance sacrifice is vs. the benefit of having a freakishly tiny touch-screen laptop is.
  • Anonymous
    Actually, a much more reasonable competitor to the MacBook Air is the Fujitsu LifeBook P8010, which I reviewed here:
  • MadMinstrel
    Not a word about the tablet installed. Why?
  • russki
    MadMinstrel, this is my problem with the review as well. For pete's sakes, this is a tablet, and one of the best at that. This targets it squarely at a different audience. And it has Wacom tablet screen and one of the best battery lives among the tablets. And I think it is bezelless, which is important to some users...

    Bottom line, this is a review by somebody who does not understand tablets and the fact that they're more than a notebook in so many ways...
  • Anonymous
    it would be really cool if you guys could add to your usual tests the compilation of the linux kernel for example.
    Lets face it ... many (if not most) of the people that ready these reviews are developers or something similar. Of course there is a large gang of gamers but they will end up getting the microbe of programming sooner or later.
    all the other tests are fine but the compilation time would give an overall rating (hdd,cpu,memory) that none of the other tests could give. And it would really help to figure out which one would be really good for a developer. I suppose it is not that much to ask since you have specialized tests for multimedia artists.
    And this would be really useful.
  • Anonymous
    I think this is really interesting. Cool =]
  • Anonymous
    Not surprised. At least 60% of "Tom's" related reviews are quite sub-par in my opinion. They didn't give us much real world comparison for this that anyone else couldn't have found comparing specs between apple and fuji's websites. And if you think this review is sub-par you should check out the joke they are doing on CPU coolers on tom's hardware....
  • Anonymous
    Is this meant to be a review?
    It looks like a couple of photos and a ton of benchmarks to me!

    These days Tom's seem to think that having pages and pages of benchmark results makes up for having almost zero written content.
  • defl8ed
    Why not just load windows on the Air? I was under the impression that you could do that on all of the Intel macs via bootcamp. Is this no longer the case with the Macbook Air?
  • Anonymous
    Air Book owners are most likely iPhone owners. If they have a mouse, it's the BT Mighty Mouse. Also they (most likely) have WiFi/BT digital cameras (or they can certainly buy them if they haven't already). That leaves the only USB port to be used for... a memory stick. When they travel, they are not usually in the desert and most airports/airplanes/trains provide power outlets.
    The *only* thing missing in the AirBook is the blue ray drive.

    NOTE: when you say you simply CAN'T compare performance because the Lifebook uses Windows and the Air uses OSX... you are joking, right?
  • Anonymous
    This has got to be the dumbest review ever. I like the typos on the first page, WTF is a P6120?