Fujitsu's first 3D laptop, the LifeBook AH572, isn't designed for gamers. This $999 15-inch notebook is for multimedia mavens who want to add an extra dimension to watching movies, whether it's Blu-ray blockbusters or online content. The AH572 is also the first U.S. notebook to record 3D video, using dual cameras above the display. But just how good is the 3D experience, and is the AH572 well rounded enough to justify spending a grand?
The LifeBook AH572 sports a glossy black plastic chassis with a subtle fleck treatment that lends a bit of flair while minimizing smudges (at least somewhat). The chrome strip on the front lip of the notebook is a classy touch, but our eyes were first drawn to the odd touchpad configuration; alongside a rectangular touchpad is a smaller circular touchpad used just for scrolling, similar to that on the LifeBook S760. You'll also find two webcam lenses above the display for recording 3D video.
At 1.8 inches thick and 6.6 pounds, the LifeBook AH572 isn't a machine you'll want to carry around. In fact, it's more than a pound heavier than the 15-inch Toshiba Satellite L655, though it's certainly lighter than 15-inch gaming rigs such as the MSI GT680 (7.6 pounds).
Keyboard and Touchpad
Unlike a lot of other consumer notebooks, the LifeBook AH572 uses a traditional-style layout (with all the keys close together), as opposed to a chiclet-style keyboard where there's more space between the keys. The look is a little dated, but we have no complaints about the typing experience. While writing this review, we noted excellent return and tactile feedback, and were able to get up to our normal typing speed right away with few errors. Plus, the keyboard is spill-resistant and you get a dedicated number pad.
We're not fans of Fujitsu's dual touchpads on this laptop. The main Synaptics touchpad measures only 3 x 1.5 inches, which is fairly short for a mainstream notebook. Still, multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom worked smoothly.
The secondary touchpad is about an inch in diameter (perfect for a finger), and its sole purpose is scrolling. You're supposed to use a circular motion--clockwise to scroll down, counterclockwise to scroll up. Once we got used to this, the scrollpad worked just fine, but we'd prefer a two-finger scroll gesture on a larger, single touchpad. The two large dedicated touchpad buttons were easy to use.
Display and Audio
The 15.6-inch glossy display on the AH572 (400 nits) produced a very bright picture with rich colors and deep blacks. When we watched 2D content, including Glee on Hulu, horizontal viewing angles were wide enough for two people to see the on-screen action.
The narrow speaker bar on the LifeBook AH572's hinge pumped enough volume at 75 percent to fill a medium-size room. While listening to a range of rock, pop, rap, and classical music, we noted flat audio quality. The position of the speakers helps with clarity, and bass is present, but the sound wasn't well rounded and layers seemed squeezed together.
3D Video Playback
The 3D LCD on the AH572 uses the Xpol Circular Polarizer filter enabled by TriDef software, and the notebook comes with a set of passive 3D glasses similar to what you'd get in a movie theater. This 3D technology is what Lenovo offers on its IdeaPad Y560d. Unlike 3D offered from ATI or Nvidia, which involves active shutter glasses that communicate with the laptop remotely, passive shutter technology relies on software to create the 3D image on screen. The included glasses are much less expensive (about $19) than those that come with the ASUS G51J 3D or the HP Envy 17 3D, which can cost $99 or more.
CyberLink's PowerDVD 9 plays 3D Blu-ray discs and can upconvert 2D DVDs into 3D. Using the Tri-Def 3D Media Player, we were also able to view 2D photos and HD video clips in 3D. The 2D to 3D translation was fun but not as immersive as the Space Station 3D Blu-ray we put in the optical drive. The astronauts really popped off the screen, and there was a pleasing amount of depth.
Overall, the 3D only worked well when we sat in the sweet spot (for us, about 3 to 4 feet from the notebook, but this may vary). Otherwise, edges blurred. And even when we were able to stay in this spot, objects at the bottom edge of the screen still tended to look fuzzy or indistinct. The 3D playback here is good, but Nvidia's 3D Vision technology (with active shutter glasses) provides a better experience.
Thanks to the dual-lens webcam above the display, LifeBook AH572 owners can record their own 3D videos. However, the still images and 3D video we took with the 1.3-MP cameras didn't look very good, especially in low light. Between the muted colors, pixelation, and slight blur, the videos and stills were less than enjoyable--in 3D or not. However, for those who wish to dabble in 3D creation, it's a fun feature to play around with.
Before we could use Cyberlink YouCam 3D Camera Viewer, we had to calibrate the lenses. The process was simple, but the 3D was only effective when we sat at a very specific distance from the notebook.
The LifeBook AH572 is well packed with ports. On the left: Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, two USB 2.0, and two USB 3.0. On the right: power, Blu-ray drive, one USB 2.0, headphone and mic. The 3-in-1 memory card reader sits under the front lip.
Overall, the LifeBook stayed relatively cool during our testing. After playing a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the touchpad and the space between the G and H keys only reached 85 and 86 degrees, respectively. The middle of the underside registered 87 degrees.
The LifeBook AH572's 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5 2410M CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive earned the system a score of 6,250 on PCMark Vantage, almost 1,000 marks above the mainstream average (5,177). The Acer Aspire 5745DG--a $999 3D system with a last-generation Core i5 CPU--scored a predictably lower 5,776. The ASUS K53E, a less expensive non-3D notebook with the same CPU and 6GB of RAM, scored 5,729 on the same test.
It took the LifeBook AH572 just 47 seconds to transcode a 114MB video from MPEG-4 to AVI using Oxelon Media Encoder, just a second slower than the ASUS K53 and considerably faster than the average mainstream notebook (1:15).
The 5,400-rpm hard drive completed the LAPTOP File Transfer Test in 4 minutes and 2 seconds for a transfer rate of 21 MBps, slower than the category average of 26.0. Still, the AH572 only took 58 seconds to boot into Windows 7 Home Premium, 8 seconds faster than most notebooks in this class.
Despite the inclusion of 3D, the LifeBook AH572 doesn't feature discrete graphics, just Intel's HD 3000 integrated chip. Nevertheless, the 3DMark06 score of 4,536 is almost 1,000 marks above average (3,583) and higher than the ASUS K53 (4,260). The Aspire 5745DG with Nvidia graphics didn't do as well (4,092).
Though the AH572 easily handled HD video, gameplay wasn't as satisfying. We only saw 40 frames per second in World of Warcraft with settings at Good and only 16 fps with them bumped to max.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
The LifeBook AH572's battery life of 4 hours and 57 minutes is 43 minutes above the mainstream average and almost an hour above the Aspire 5745DG (4:00). This is plenty of runtime for a notebook that's not likely to be used much away from an outlet.
We saw strong throughput from the Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 wireless radio. At 15 feet from the router we measured 43.4 Mbps and at 50 feet the notebook delivered 23.3 Mbps. Both scores exceed the mainstream laptop averages (35.5/21.9Mbps).
Software and Warranty
Aside from the 3D software, Fujitsu pre-loads the AH572 with some useful apps and utilities. For multimedia, the notebook comes pre-loaded with CyberLink MakeDisc, PowerDirector, Roxio Creator LJ, and Microsoft Silverlight. This notebook also supports Intel's Wireless Display 2.0 for streaming content to a larger screen, but you'll need to buy a receiver to take advantage of this feature. Intel's My WiFi Technology allows the LifeBook to act as a hotspot, sharing its Internet connection with other approved devices.
Fujitsu-branded utilities include Application Panel configuration (for the Quick Launch button on deck), Battery Utilities, Display Manager, and Shock Sensor panel. We found the Battery Utilities program very helpful; the information screen not only estimates how much time you have left on a charge, but also displays how many cycles the six-cell battery has been through. There's also a Battery Configuration option that gives users the choice to extend the part's lifespan by cutting how long it lasts on a charge by only using part of the battery.
Fujitsu covers the LifeBook AH572 with a one-year international limited warranty.
The $999 Fujitsu LifeBook AH572 offers solid performance, an ultra-bright display, and long battery life for a 15-inch laptop. It all comes down to how much you're willing to pay for a 3D display and video recording, as well as a Blu-ray drive. If you can do without these features, you can pick up a similarly configured ASUS K53 for about $244 less. Overall, the AH572 offers a pretty good 3D experience for the money, but we'd much prefer a single large touchpad to two smaller ones.