Some people just want to surf the Web, check e-mail, and watch movies, occasionally shuttling their laptop to another room in the house. For these buyers, the Fujitsu LifeBook A6120, a large but well-performing 15.4-inch notebook, may be just right. If your needs are basic, you'll get good performance for the $799 price tag.
Thick But Attractive Design
At 1.6 inches thick and 6.6 pounds, the LifeBook A6120 is bulky for the screen size, but it looks a bit more modern than some other budget notebooks. The dark gray lid matches the matte black keyboard and bezel, and the arc-like cutouts to the left and right of the keyboard help to make the chassis look less boxy. We also like how the design tapers in toward the front, where you'll find the two silver speakers.
Above the keyboard are controls for Fujitsu's support site, volume, Web search, your home page of choice, and two other programmable keys. The launch buttons are labeled in a large, sans serif font and the keyboard characters are a dingy beige.
Keyboard and Touchpad Quality
One welcome feature, especially at this price, is that the LifeBook's A6120 is spill-resistant. The layout itself is roomy, but we observed more flex than we like while typing. The touchpad is wide, without too much friction, and the mouse buttons were responsive and relatively quiet. Between the buttons lies a small scroll button.
Built to Last
The LifeBook A6120 boasts some durability features you'd be hard-pressed to find in other budget notebooks: In addition to the spill-resistant keyboard is a 200GB hard drive that's shock-mounted and protected by a 3D accelerometer with adjustable sensitivity. We also like that the lid locks firmly into the latch; it feels more stable than notebooks without a latch.
Ports and Webcam
The LifeBook A6120 has a whopping five USB ports, but we were displeased to see that all but one are on the back side. In addition, the notebook has a FireWire, an S-Video, and an Ethernet port; a PC Card slot; an ExpressCard/54 slot; and a 4-in-1 memory card reader. The 1.3-megapixel camera offered dull colors and lighting, but movement looked fluid. On the front side, you'll find the Wi-Fi switch.
LifeBook A6120 Display and Sound
The 1280 x 800 display is endowed with Fujitsu's Crystal View technology, which offered a bright and vibrant picture, but the reflective finish made for limited viewing angles, particularly from the sides. Moreover, when we watched Match Point, we noticed some motion blur (slow-moving tennis balls, for example). The speakers produced a decent amount of volume, fine for watching movies or listening to music in a small room or office.
LifeBook A6120 Performance
The 1.83-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5550 processor scored 135 on MobileMark 2007, which tests both performance and battery life. That's only seven points short of the category average, and it's also right in line with other budget notebooks: The 14.1-inchGateway T-6828,which also costs $799 and has the same processor and an extra gigabyte of RAM, notched a 138.
Our anecdotal tests proved the LifeBook A6120 to be a capable performer. Out of the box, it booted in 50 seconds, which is slightly faster than normal for a Vista machine. Multitasking, too, was easy: We were able to download iTunes, install Vista updates, and surf the Web, all with a DVD playing smoothly in the background. Through it all, the chassis stayed cool.
The LifeBook A6120's 3DMark03 score of 1,720 is almost 300 points below the category average. But even mainstream systems with higher 3DMark03 scores don't purport to be gaming machines, and the budget A6120 certainly doesn't.
Wireless and Battery Life
Despite having only an 802.11a/b/g wireless radio, the LifeBook A6120 delivered strong throughput of 17.2 Mbps and 14.6 Mbps at 15 and 50 feet, respectively. Its six-cell battery lasted 2 hours and 27 minutes with Wi-Fi off, which is about 45 minutes short of the category average. Nevertheless, we imagine that you're not likely to walk around with this notebook unplugged much, anyway.
Fujitsu LifeBook A6120 Verdict
There's much to like about the Fujitsu LifeBook A6120. It offers good speed for the price, strong Wi-Fi performance, a spacious hard drive, and more durability features than you'd find on most budget notebooks. For the same price, though, the 14.1-inch Gateway T-6828 offers a slimmer, more stylish design, a larger hard drive, 802.11n wireless, and comparable performance, though you'll give up some screen real estate. If you want a larger screen, the A6120 is a strong contender.
Editor's note: Notebook depicted in photos is Fujitsu LifeBook A6110. The LifeBook A6120 has a scroll button in place of the fingerprint reader.