The Meaning Of LifeBook C From Fujitsu

By Eric Grevstad | Posted February 27, 2003

The notebook and Tablet PC vendor's mainstream desktop replacement doesn't attract stares for sleek or elegant design, though its front-edge CD player is attractive — at 8.2 pounds, it's a hefty slab, okay for occasional commutes but too bulky for daily travel. And its 2.0GHz mobile Pentium 4 places it merely in the top half of today's portable performers.

No, what raises eyebrows is the LifeBook C's price: In addition to the 2.0GHz processor, the laptop comes with 512MB of DDR266 memory, a big 60GB hard disk, a 15.0- instead of 14.1-inch XGA display, and built-in 802.11b wireless networking as well as Ethernet, modem, USB 2.0, and IEEE 1394 FireWire connections — oh, yeah, and a DVD-RW drive, still rare among notebook PCs. So what would you guess? $2,500, maybe a little lower? Try $1,799 with Windows XP Home Edition ($1,899 as tested with Win XP Pro).

That's a value that easily outweighs the inconvenience of carrying an extra pound or so (and besides, some folks still like having a 1.44MB floppy drive). Our only quibble is that the Fujitsu's performance, especially that of its office-application-oriented ATI Mobility Radeon IGP 340M graphics controller, isn't quite up to the video-editing jobs you'd expect of a DVD-mastering system. On the other hand, that means you can configure a LifeBook C with a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive and saving even more.

Middle of the Road
For the record, the LifeBook C's performance numbers are by no means bad, though slightly behind those of the last 2.0GHz mobile Pentium 4, DVD-burning laptop we tested (Sony's Vaio GRX670). It posted an overall score of 156 on BAPCo's SysMark 2002, with an Internet Content Creation rating of 225 and Office Productivity result of 108. The numbers from Futuremark Corp.'s PCMark 2002 were 4,614 for CPU; 2,973 for memory; and 523 for hard disk.

As we said, however, ATI's economical, shared-system-memory Mobility Radeon IGP 340M will never be confused with its speedy Mobility Radeon 7500 or 9000 graphics accelerators. The Fujitsu's 15.0-inch, 1,024 by 768-pixel display is clear and bright, but its 3DMark 2001 SE Pro benchmark score of 1,581 is firmly in humble-integrated-chipset territory; the system plays Quake III Arena at a barely acceptable 32 frames per second in High Quality 1,024 by 768 mode.

This is fine for an everyday e-mail and Excel system, or for traveling PowerPoint presentations, but sort of undercuts the inclusion of a Toshiba SD-R6012 DVD-RW drive for working with digital video (not to mention that the drive's 1X DVD write and rewrite speed mean it makes discs in hours, not minutes; it's also an 8X DVD-ROM and 16/10/24X CD-RW device). Again, if you're content saving no more than 700MB of stuff on a disc, you can trim $150 from the price by getting the LifeBook with a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive.

No Shrinking Violet
Considering the laptop's oomph, it delivered slightly better battery life than we expected — with the WiFi radio switched off, we averaged two hours and five minutes' work, including considerable hard-disk and audio access, before the system beeped a warning and switched itself to standby mode.

Normally, even when the computer's off, an LED light glows on a selector button on the lower front edge (if you're packing the PC for travel, holding the button down for a few seconds turns it off). This toggles the four buttons to the right of the front-edge LCD strip between customizable program-launching and audio CD-playing (stop/eject, play, previous and next track) modes.

The latter mode works — booting Windows and a small CD-player utility — even while the lid (screen) is shut, though the stereo speakers are small and tinny. By contrast, the bundled InterVideo WinDVD Creator and playback software offers above-average Dolby Headphone sound effects for private listening.

The headphone and microphone ports — the former doubling as an SPDIF jack — are on the system's right edge, along with the floppy and DVD-RW drives, USB 2.0 and infrared ports, and power switch for the Intersil Prism WiFi adapter. Three more USB ports join parallel, serial, VGA, and 10/100Mbpa Ethernet ports at the rear, while modem and S-Video jacks are on the left side — along with two PC Card slots, an IEEE 1394 port, and a Secure Digital/Memory Stick slot for flash cards. A little plastic bracket covering the flash slot fell off three times before one of its pins finally snapped.

The lithium-ion battery is removable from the bottom of the case, but there's no user access to the Fujitsu MHS2060AT 4,200-rpm 60GB hard disk — and since one 256MB memory module is fixed, the system ceiling is 768MB rather than 1GB of PC2100 DDR. On the flip side, the keyboard is full-sized and comfortable; the Delete key is one key west of the top-right-corner location we first reach for when using a notebook, but there are dedicated cursor-control keys and a nice up-down scroll rocker between the touchpad's mouse buttons.

Like other 15-inch or larger-screened laptops, the Fujitsu is on the bulky side — too bulky for some cases' notebook compartments, at 11.2 by 12.9 by 2.2 inches, and its 8.2 pounds, while less of a handful than the few 9-pound-plus leviathans in this category, is too much to comfortably carry one-handed. (The AC adapter adds another pound to your luggage allotment.)

Its economizing shows in the software bundle, too — Microsoft Works 7.0 and Quicken 2003 New User Edition instead of a full-fledged office suite, though McAfee.com's online virus service and PowerQuest's DriveImage SE for factory-fresh disaster recovery are included.

Is it just us, or is it getting harder and harder to sell a notebook PC for over $2,000 nowadays? The LifeBook C makes some smart choices — providing up-to-date wireless networking and plenty of connection ports; sticking with 1,024 by 768 instead of higher-priced higher resolution for its plus-sized screen — and one questionable one — tempting home video editors with a FireWire port and DVD burner, yet sticking with a low-rent graphics controller. But overall, it's an appealing yet still affordable step up from entry-level ($1,000 to $1,200) desktop-replacement portables.

Adapted from HardwareCentral.

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