Fujitsu LifeBook S751 Review

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Pros: Good performance for the price; Comfortable keyboard; Modular drive bay; Strong mic for VoIP calls; Helpful pre-loaded software and utilities

Cons: Design a bit dated; Small touchpad and mouse buttons; Lackluster speakers; Bottom runs warm

Verdict: The Fujitsu LifeBook S751 delivers second-generation Core i5 performance to business users at an affordable price.

To create a compelling business notebook, you need to offer performance, durability, and security. But you also need to be mindful of today's tighter budgets. Priced competitively at $1,079, Fujistu's LifeBook S751 makes its case with a second-gen Core i5 processor and lots of features to protect your data. Plus, the S751 has practically every port under the sun, along with a modular bay that will let you swap in an extra battery. Does all of this add up to a system that can take on the best business machines Dell, HP, and Lenovo have to offer?

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Design

The LifeBook S751 makes a pretty good first impression. The black plastic lid has a nice ridged texture. It's a clean look and provides a sure grip for this 5.4-pound, 1.4-inch thick laptop. This color continues on the bottom, the display, bezel, and upper deck, but then silver and white take over for the keyboard and palm rest. We're not fans of this combination and wish Fujitsu had stuck with one or two colors.

From the sides, the S571 looks rather busy, with a port or drive squished into every available nook and cranny. We do appreciate the icons on the left side of the deck that show you which port is which.

Keyboard, Application Panel, and Touchpad

While more and more systems are opting for island-style keyboards, Fujitsu stuck with a traditional layout on the S751. The white keys weren't as springy as we would like, but they did provide good return and tactile feedback. We were able to reach our normal typing speed right away with few errors.

Above the keyboard on deck are the LifeBook's Application Panel buttons, which provide quick access to pre-programmed utilities and actions: Fujitsu support, the notebook's Battery Saving Mode, the Display Manager for presentations, and locking Windows. Users can change the actions behind these buttons in the Application Panel setup.

The S751's touchpad is relatively small--just 2.5 x 1.6 inches--and the touchpad buttons are much smaller than we'd prefer. This is due, in part, to the notebook's fingerprint reader sitting between them. The dotted surface on the touchpad ensures a friction-free experience, though the limited space did annoy us. The Synaptics touchpad provides a few two-finger multitouch gestures, but not two-finger scrolling. The scroll area as configured is too narrow, and widening it caused normal touchpad movements to be interpreted as scrolling gestures.

Business Features

The LifeBook S751 isn't rugged, per se, but it does offer some protection from the rigors of business travel. The keyboard is spill-resistant and includes an anti-microbial coating. A shock sensor protects the hard drive from jarring bumps but also detects when someone picks up and carries the computer around, automatically locking it. Users can tweak the sensitivity if they find that everyday use sets the utility off.

Fujitsu also includes a robust set of software and utilities for business users. Intel's My WiFi Technology allows the LifeBook to act as a hotspot, sharing its Internet connection with other approved devices. The utility takes security seriously. Not only can users see all connected devices, but the pre-set Wi-Fi password is 63 characters long. The utility allows for multiple profiles, so you can set the more complex password when out in public but use a simpler one in the office or at home.

On the security front, the LifeBook supports pre-boot authorization, a fingerprint reader, and Smart Card support. Plus, the handy one-touch lock button makes it easy to ensure no one accidentally takes a walk through your computer when you have to step away. Also included is embedded TCG 1.2-compliant Trusted Platform Module (TPM), Computrace BIOS Persistence Module, and BIOS password protection.

Display and Audio

The S751's 14-inch, 1366 x 768-pixel display is fairly bright, and its matte finish means you won't have to worry about annoying glare or reflections. However, viewing angles (both horizontal and vertical) were somewhat narrow. Two people can see the screen at once, but three would be a tight squeeze.

The speakers, placed prominently at the top right and left corners of the deck, produced loud but buzzy, flat audio. It's serviceable for a business system, but don't count on using the S751 to scratch your multimedia itch.

Ports and Webcam

The LifeBook S751's port spread is impressive, even if it makes the notebook look stuffed around the edges. VGA, DisplayPort, eSATA/USB combo, USB 3.0, ExpressCard, and Smart Card line the left. The right side houses a modem jack, two USB 2.0 ports (one with Anytime Charge), and optical drive. The Ethernet jack sits on the back edge next to the vent. A Memory Stick/SD card slot (which accepts SDXC) and headphone and mic jacks straddle the physical Wi-Fi on/off button on the front. Last but not least, the bottom houses a connector for the optional port replicator.

In CyberLink YouCam, the 1.3-megapixel webcam above the display showed green-tinged, muted images that made us look like we were inside an old newsreel. Skype video looked better, but the muted colors kept skin tones and clothing from looking accurate. Thankfully, the camera didn't show a lot of blur, even when we moved around. By contrast, the integrated microphone picked up clear, strong audio, even when we stood a few feet away from the notebook.

Heat

In our testing, the LifeBook S751 stayed relatively cool up top, but underneath temperatures got a little toasty. The touchpad measured 86 degrees and the space between the G and H keys reached just 90. The middle of the underside got up to 96 degrees, but the real heat came from the back area where the battery rests. This area registered 102 degrees; during usage, the notebook noticeably warmed our legs when we used it in our lap.

Performance

A second-generation 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5 2410M processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 320GB, 7,200-rpm CPU contributed to excellent performance scores for the Fujitsu LifeBook S751. On PCMark Vantage the notebook scored 7,983, almost 3,000 marks above the thin-and-light average (4,997).

In comparison to similar business notebooks, the S751 comes out near the top of the curve. The Toshiba Tecra R840 (Intel Core i5 2520M CPU, same RAM and hard drive) scored 7,728; the Lenovo ThinkPad L420 (Intel Core i5 2520M CPU, 2GB RAM, 250GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive) scored 7,354; but the Dell Latitude E6420 (Intel Core i5 2540M, same RAM and hard drive) scored a whopping 8,242, almost 300 marks higher.

The 7,200-rpm drive fared well on our File Transfer test, taking just 2 minutes and 42 seconds to copy 4.97GB of mixed media files. The rate of 31.4 MBps is faster than average (24.6MBps) but lags behind the Latitude E6420 (34.6 MBps). The S751 booted in a brisk 50 seconds.

In our video transcoding test, the LifeBook S751 took only 42 seconds to convert a 114MB MP4 file to AVI format using Oxelon Media Encoder, faster than the 1:01 average. Converting an HD video to iPod format with Cyberlink Media Espresso took just 26 seconds, way under the 2:17 average.

Graphics

With Intel's newest integrated HD 3000 graphics on board, the LifeBook S751's 3DMark06 score (4,809) soared above the thin-and-light average (3,328). The laptop finished slightly behind the Latitude E6420 (5,060) but beat the ThinkPad L420 (3,779), both with the same GPU. The Tecra R840, which has AMD Radeon HD 6450M graphics, trailed the S751 with a score of 4,369.

You can get away with playing mainstream games on the S751. We saw 40 frames per second in World of Warcraft with graphics settings at Good. The notebook also delivered smooth frame rates when playing the lightning-fast "Too Fast, Too Much" 720p clip on Vimeo.

Battery and Wireless

The LifeBook S751's six-cell battery lasted 4 hours and 57 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, just a bit under the average thin-and-light notebook (5:02). However, for a system of this size for the business market, we like to see 6 hours or more, as with the Toshiba Tecra R480 (6:34) and the Lenovo ThinkPad L420 (6:14). Those longing for extra endurance will want to spring for the modular bay battery ($138).

The Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 wireless radio inside the S751 delivered a solid 32.4 Mbps 15 feet from the router. At 50 feet this dropped to 18.5 Mbps, below what we expect from similar notebooks. It came in behind the Tecra R480 (33.9/19.8Mbps) but proved stronger than the Latitude E6420 (26.9/15.4 Mbps).

Configurations

Our review unit is one of two pre-configured models in the LifeBook S751 line. A less expensive version is available for $999 with a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5 2410M processor, no fingerprint reader, no Intel vPro, and no Bluetooth. Customers can also customize the notebook to their liking (base price: $1,342). Options include upping the CPU to a 2.7-GHz Intel Core i7 2620M, pre-loading 2-8GB of RAM, hard drives ranging from 160 up to 500GB, a 128GB SSD, plus full disk encryption. You can also a trackpoint to the keyboard, pass on the optical drive, upgrade the six-cell battery to a higher-capacity model, or add a modular bay battery.

Software and Warranty

Aside from business-centric software, the S751 comes with some additional apps. For backups, Fujitsu included My Recovery alongside the basic Windows utility. Users can create recovery images on the D drive or backups to physical media using CyberLink MakeDisc or Roxio Creator IJ.

We found the battery utility helpful; the information screen only estimates how much time you have left on a charge, but also how many cycles the six-cell 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's gives users fine control over the Power Saving Utility, which disables radios and ports and cuts down brightness at the touch of a button. There's a configuration panel where you can choose which services or ports you need even when you're saving maximum battery life.

For multimedia, the S751 comes pre-loaded with CyberLink PowerDVD, PowerDirector, and YouCam plus Microsoft Silverlight. This notebook also supports Intel's Wireless Display for streaming content to a larger screen, but you'll need to buy a receiver to take advantage of this feature. A 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security rounds out the offerings.

Fujitsu covers the S751 with a three-year international limited warranty and 24/7 technical support.

Verdict

For $1,079, the Fujitsu LifeBook S751 offers great performance and plenty of business perks. We wish this notebook had a bit more style, but overall it's a good value. For about $300 more, you can splurge on the Dell Latitude E6420, which offers better performance and battery life in a more attractive package. But if you're keeping an eye on the bottom line, the LifeBook S751 is a solid choice.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5-2410M
Operating System MS Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)
RAM 4GB
RAM Upgradable to 8GB
Hard Drive Size 320GB
Hard Drive Speed 7,200rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 14
Native Resolution 1366x768
Optical Drive DVD /-RW DL
Optical Drive Speed 8X
Graphics Card Intel HD 3000 Graphics
Video Memory Shared
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Wi-Fi Model Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 AGN
Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.1
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 2.5 x 1.6 inches
Ports (excluding USB) Lock Slot
Ports (excluding USB) eSATA/USB
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
Ports (excluding USB) ExpressCard/54
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) Smart Card Reader
Ports (excluding USB) Docking Connector
Ports (excluding USB) Modem
Ports (excluding USB) DisplayPort
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
USB Ports 3
Card Slots 3-1 card reader
Warranty/Support Three-year International Limited Warranty; 24/7 technical support.
Size 13.4 x 9.7 x 1.4 inches
Weight 5.4 pounds
Company Website http://solutions.us.fujitsu.com/