With the exception of Sony, no company has mastered the art of ultraportable laptop design like Fujitsu. The compact LifeBook P7230 is one of the most lightweight systems on the market, and it's one of the sexiest, with your choice of two colors: black or white (an extra $50). The fact that this system has an integrated optical drive makes it all the more impressive. The LifeBook P7230comes somewhat more modestly configured than several competitive models, but at $1,899, it's worth a look if every ounce counts.
Measuring 10.7 x 7.9 x 1.1 inches, the attractive and solidly built LifeBook P7230 (see photo gallery) is slight enough to tuck into the smallest carry-on, and at three pounds, it's light enough to carry all day. With such diminutive dimensions, however, come sacrifices: The keyboard is cramped and may fatigue your fingers during extended typing stints, particularly if you have big hands. Likewise, the touchpad is tiny, and the petite mouse buttons offer insufficient tactile feedback; you'll definitely want to use an external mouse hooked up to one of the LifeBook P7230's three USB ports.
The 10.6-inch widescreen display, with its average 1280 x 768 (WXGA) native resolution, delivers adequate screen real estate, though text looks considerably smaller than what you'll see on even a 12- or 13-inch display with comparable resolution. That said, the LifeBook P7230's display is crisp and bright enough for productivity tasks and is the perfect size for watching DVDs on a plane or train.
Placed above the keyboard, the LifeBook P7230's two stereo speakers deliver the weak, tinny audio common to ultraportable laptops. There isn't much in the way of dedicated multimedia controls, though there is one programmable quick-launch button that you can set to open your most often-used application or folder.
The LifeBook P7230's notable features include an "Eco" button that toggles on a special battery-saving mode, reducing screen brightness, switching off the optical drive and wireless connection, and disabling peripherals. Also, like many other modern laptops, the LifeBook P7230's shock-mounted hard drive will better absorb the impact of a drop; however, we found Fujitsu's intelligent shock-sensor technology a bit overly sensitive; the laptop needlessly retracted the hard drive a few times during our testing. Security features include a Trusted Platform Module and an integrated fingerprint sensor, which doubles as a vertical scroll button for quickly navigating through documents and Web pages.
In addition to a DVD burner, you get one FireWire and three USB 2.0 jacks that are well distributed around the case; a VGA output, for connecting to an external display; microphone and headphone jacks; one Type I/II PC Card slot; and a 3-in-1 media card reader. Although some fairly standard business-class features such as an ExpressCard slot and S-Video output are absent, Fujitsu offers a more complete configuration that includes an integrated webcam, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, and a port replicator for $2,179. The webcam option alone costs only $30, an upgrade we recommend.
Built-in networking features include Ethernet and modem jacks as well as 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi (plus an external Wi-Fi on/off switch). The LifeBook P7230's throughput of 17.8 Mbps at 15 feet and 14.2 Mbps at 50 feet signifies extremely robust connectivity. This system, however, lacks integrated mobile broadband, a feature found on a growing number of comparable ultraportables.
Our LifeBook P7230 test unit came with Windows Vista Business (you can also configure it with Vista Home Basic or XP Professional), a solid collection of multimedia and productivity software, but a wispy array of components, the centerpiece of which was a 1.2-GHz Intel Core Solo U1400 ultra-low-voltage processor. Also on board is Intel's integrated GMA 950 graphics engine, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, and a modest 60GB hard drive, which spun at a deficient 4,200 rpm (an 80GB drive is also available for an extra $100).
Unsurprisingly, these components made an unspectacular showing on our PCMark05 benchmark test, notching a relatively low score of 1,191; the laptop can handle most productivity tasks but lacks the processing muscle to elegantly manage numerous applications simultaneously. The LifeBook P7230's score of 726 on our 3DMark03 benchmark is below average for an ultraportable.
The LifeBook P7230's standard six-cell battery lasted a decent three hours and one minute on our DVD drain test. This means you should get closer to five hours of runtime when performing regular productivity tasks. Fujitsu sells another six-cell battery that fits in the system's modular bay (which costs an additional $116) that should give you another three or four hours of life.
One of the lightest notebooks on the market with an integrated optical drive, the LifeBook P7230 delivers extreme portability for a very reasonable price. We'd prefer a little more performance and the option of mobile broadband, but otherwise this mini notebook satisfies.
View:Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 Photo Gallery.
NOTE: Read our updated review of the Limited Edition Pink LifeBook P7230.
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