by Alexander Britvin
01/16/2006 | 01:44 PM
The market of mobile computers today offers a wide model range for each user’s particular needs. On one end of the range there are large desktop-replacement machines with a screen diagonal of 14-15” which can accomplish almost any computing task. They are of course more mobile than desktop PCs, but you won’t want to move one about with your own hands unless in want of some physical exercise. Such notebooks boast an excellent performance but are severely limited in the time of autonomous operation; some desknotes come without a battery at all. Such “heavyweight” devices can thus be regarded as portable, but not quite mobile computers. PDAs are in the opposite market sector: they are easily transportable but their performance is limited to a very narrow scope of tasks and their ergonomics is poor. Somewhere in between these two extremes one can find a distinct category of compact devices with a rather small screen and low power consumption and weight, which are, however, sufficiently fast and ergonomic. These devices are meant for frequent voyages and are designed with long battery life in mind. They are called sub-notebooks.
On seeing a regular sub-notebook one might suspect it to be deficient in many respects, but this is not quite true. Today’s technology allows putting an advanced enough configuration into a really small case that would even fit into a lady’s handbag. Yes, it wouldn’t be comfortable to play a game on a computer with a 10” screen and an integrated graphics core and sub-notebooks are not generally positioned as gaming stations, but working in office applications and watching movies should be fun because most sub-notebooks have a widescreen display and a high resolution typical of larger notebooks.
Such models are offered by nearly every major notebook manufacturer and the German computer giant Fujitsu Siemens Computers is among them. It is the LIFEBOOK P7010 notebook from this company (the letter P denotes a professional solution) that is going to be the subject matter of this review. On a last-year press conference it was said to be the lightest (1.3kg) full-fledged professional notebook. So this model has been around for quite a while, but hasn’t yet become out-dated. The manufacturer claims the cutie to be made in Japan, but the label on its bottom reads “Made in Germany”, probably because the company’s headquarters are located in Augsburg, Bavaria.
The original configuration of the sub-notebook has changed a little over the time. It was at first equipped with a Banias-core Pentium M 718 Ultra Low Voltage (1.1GHz clock rate), but the sample that we are about to test has a Dothan-core 1.2GHz ULV processor that is a part of the first-generation Centrino platform on the Intel 855GME chipset. The original combo-drive has also been replaced with a DVD-burner.
The current configuration of the Fujitsu Siemens LIFEBOOK P7010 is similar to that of the Sony VAIO VGN-T2XRP/S that we have tested recently on our site. So besides describing the sub-notebook from Fujitsu Siemens I am going to compare its performance and battery life to those of Sony’s product.
The box with a LIFEBOOK P7010 is surprisingly large. One might think there is a normal-size notebook inside.
But this LIFEBOOK is really so small as to fit into a lady’s handbag even. The tiny light-gray case (261 x 199 x 35mm) is made of a magnesium alloy coated with a layer of plastic which may give a deceptive air of fragility. The manufacturer’s brand is in the center of the lid.
The bottom part stands out on top of the notebook near the screen hinges. In the center of this protrusion the first group of system indicators and the Power On button are located. They are made of chromium-plated plastic and are visible irrespective of the position of the sub-notebook’s lid; the Power On button is highlighted in blue. There is no lock on the lid, so you just apply some force and open the lid up at any desired angle, which can be even more than 180 degrees. I hope this fastening of the lid is not going to wear off too soon. The same color scheme is continued inside the sub-notebook, save for the screen bezel, which is gray, and the touchpad, which is silvery. The colors are all rather too light, so washing your hands is recommended before taking this computer in them or else it will soon lose its tidy appearance.
The first group of indicators includes:
Running a little ahead I want to say that the Fujitsu Siemens LIFEBOOK P7010 uses an AC’97 Intel 82801DB(M) ICH4(-M) audio controller which is nothing special as such, but the two rather powerful stereo speakers on either side of the first group of status indicators are worth mentioning. These are not the traditional tweeters you usually have in a sub-notebook, but normal stereo speakers that make themselves heard distinctly even from a distance of several meters.
The second group of system indicators is located on the right, below the keyboard, and you can’t help covering them with your right hand at work. This group includes:
The LIFEBOOK P7010 has an ordinary touchpad, although it might have been made wider to match the widescreen display. The touch-sensitive area is sunken below the level of the top panel. Beneath it, at the very edge of the notebook, there are two buttons that serve instead of the mouse’s ones and one swing button for vertical scrolling.
The 82-key keyboard of the LIFEBOOK P7010 is painted a light gray, almost white, color and takes up the entire width of the case. It is quite comfortable at work. A few keys in the right part have a reduced size. The cursor-controlling keys are on the same level with the keyboard’s bottom line, which is not quite appropriate as accidental presses may occur. The arrow keys are combined with PgUp, Home, PgDn and End (accessed through the Fn key). The left Ctrl is in the corner, while Fn is shifted a little to the right to avoid errors at using such shortcuts as “Ctrl+C” and “Ctrl+V” and at ordinary touch-typing. The Context Menu button is located in the bottom row, one key over to the right of the spacebar. The functional buttons are smaller than the others (press and hold Fn to access the additional functions of some of the functional keys); Num Lock, Insert, Delete and Pause are placed in the same row. Numeric buttons and a special Windows button are available, too. The Enter key has its normal size and shape. The symbols on the keys are made in a dark gray color.
The LIFEBOOK P7010 is equipped with a widescreen 10.6” WXGA display (1280x768 maximum resolution, 16x10 aspect ratio). The viewing angles are sufficiently wide, so the only noticeable drawback is that the screen reflects light much like a mirror and you have to avoid bright sunlight unless you want to look at a reflection of your own face. The wideness of the screen and the high resolution typical of large notebooks may be somewhat discomforting at first, but you’ll soon find out the advantages of working with this highly informative, even though physically small, screen.
I measured the brightness and contrast of the screen using a Pantone ColorVision Spyder with OptiCAL version 3.7.8 software. These parameters don’t depend much on the power source as you can see:
The LIFEBOOK P7010 offers you an abundance of I/O interfaces which are conveniently placed around the case. On the left of the front panel you will find a Wi-Fi switch and a card-reader’s slot (for Secure Digital, MultiMedia Card, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro formats). The On/Off status of the Wi-Fi connection is indicated in a very simple manner: when you shift the slider into the On position, it reveals a red background which signals that the wireless unit has become active.
The following components can be found on the sub-notebook’s left panel:
A special feature of the LIFEBOOK P7010 is that the optical drive is located in a special modular bay and can be easily replaced with an auxiliary 2300mAh battery for a longer battery life. The manufacturer says the sub-notebook can last as long as 10 hours and a half with the two batteries, but this total time must have been measured under a very low load.
The LIFEBOOK P7010 has the following on its right panel:
The modem port on the left and the LAN, FireWire, S-Video and D-Sub connectors on the right panel can be hidden under special panels. They are useful on travels and give the notebook’s case a look of wholeness and solidity.
A Kensington lock and a battery on latches are the only things you will find at the sub-notebook’s back.
There’s only one thing I want to mention specifically. The hot air from the sub-notebook’s case is exhausted through the meshed vent opening in the back panel, near the Kensington lock. It is virtually impossible to block it whether you put the computer on your laps or on a desk and that’s just one more plus of the LIFEBOOK P7010.
The sub-notebook’s bottom panel has a number of labels and only one accessible memory compartment under a cloth cover. On removing this cover you see two memory slots, one of which is vacant and the other is occupied with a 512MB module. It means you can increase the memory amount with your own hands and this is in fact the single upgrade opportunity here. The bottom panel must be removed to access the other components and this is better done in an authorized service center.
Besides the Fujitsu Siemens LIFEBOOK P7010 sub-notebook, the package contains: a battery, external power adapter, phone cable, black cloth pouch with a zipper and a manufacturer logo in a corner, documentation and warranty, discs with software (Nero 6, WinDVD 5, Norton Ghost 2003, Mobile Manageability LITEBOOK) and two system restore discs (Drivers & Utilities for LITEBOOK and Fujitsu Siemens Product Recovery CD-ROM with Windows XP Professional-SP2).
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, the Fujitsu Siemens LIFEBOOK P7010 is configured much alike to the Sony VAIO VGN-T2XRP/S (for details see our article called Small but Stylish: SONY VAIO VGN-T2XRP-S Notebook Review ). The P7010 is not the case when the manufacturer tries to reduce the cost by simplifying the design and configuration of a product. Fujitsu Siemens positions this sub-notebook as a top-end product and all the components pass strict testing to make up a highly reliable machine.
The LIFEBOOK P7010 is equipped with a Pentium M 753 Ultra Low Voltage, a Dothan-core processor with a typical power dissipation of 5W and a clock rate of 1.2GHz (the earlier revision of this sub-notebook came with a Banias-core 1.1GHz ULV processor with the model number 718). This CPU is made on 90nm tech process with strained silicon technology, has 2MB L2 cache and 400MHz Front Side Bus. It also features Enhanced Intel SpeedStep technology, so the software and BIOS can control the CPU frequency multiplier and reduce it when the CPU load is low.
The Pentium M processor comes as a part of the first-generation Centrino platform. The LIFEBOOK P7010 uses the Intel 855GME chipset with the graphics core Extreme Graphics 2 integrated into the North Bridge. The chipset’s South Bridge is a mobile modification of the ICH4 chip that supports ATA/100, six USB 2.0 ports, PCI bus and AC’97 interface.
The disk subsystem of the sub-notebook consists of a 2.5” Fujitsu MHT2080AH hard disk drive (5400rpm, 80GB).
The optical drive is similar to the one employed in the Sony VAIO VGN-T2XRP/S – the difference is a single letter in the model name. It is Matshita DVD±R/RW UJ-822S with the following speed characteristics:
The LIFEBOOK P7010 has two memory slots, one of which is occupied with a 512MB module. The maximum supported amount of memory is 1 gigabyte and you can upgrade the memory subsystem yourself by removing the memory compartment cover on the sub-notebook’s bottom panel.
The P7010 is almost completely silent at work, but I felt rather too much heat under my right hand. I measured the temperature of the hottest spots on the sub-notebook’s surfaces with an infrared thermometer after it had worked for half an hour in the Classic test mode of Battery Eater Pro 2.60 (the ambient temperature remained at 22°C during this test) and got the following numbers:
The next table summarizes the technical characteristics of the Fujitsu Siemens LIFEBOOK P7010 and compares them to those of the Sony VAIO VGN-T2XRP/S.
The sub-notebook’s hard drive was formatted in NTFS before the tests. Then I installed Microsoft Windows XP Professional with DirectX 9.0c, the system drivers included with the sub-notebook and Windows Media Encoder 9.0 with Windows Media Player 9.0. The power-saving and network services and the audio subsystem were all disabled for the duration of the tests. The notebook was tested at the maximum brightness and maximum resolution (1280x768) of the screen.
I set the Windows Taskbar to hide automatically and also chose the following settings: “Classic” Desktop theme, no background image, no screensaver.
Two power modes were used. First, I selected the Always On power mode for the maximum performance and the shortest battery life. Then, I switched to the Max Battery mode for the maximum battery run-down time.
There are three test modes in Battery Eater:
In my tests I used the first two modes as they are in Battery Eater, but in the Idle mode (when the test utility doesn’t put any load of its own on the notebook) I played a DVD movie. DVD playback is one of the hardest operational modes for a notebook’s battery as the high power consumption of the optical drive is combined with a high brightness of the screen and a very high sound volume. DVD playback is quite a popular task for a computer today, so it’s going to be interesting to see how long the LIFEBOOK P7010 can last under such a load.
As usual, I will first run the synthetic benchmarks SiSoftware Sandra 2004 and PCMark 2004. The former benchmark measures the overall performance of the system as well as that of each of its subsystems, while PCMark 2004 measures the performance of the computer in office and multimedia applications and also produces performance scores for the main subsystems (CPU, memory, graphical, and disk subsystem).
When connected to the electricity mains, the Fujitsu Siemens LIFEBOOK P7010 delivers about the same performance as the Sony VAIO VGN-T2XRP/S, but leaves it behind in some particular tests just because the P7010 has a faster hard drive and a higher memory frequency. We’ve got roughly the same picture when the notebooks work on the batteries, except that they suffer an almost twofold performance hit due to Intel’s Enhanced SpeedStep technology and to the automatic reduction of the CPU frequency to 0.6GHz in Max Battery mode.
The Business Winstone 2004 test runs scripts of the following real-life office applications, several scripts at a time: Internet Explorer, Outlook, Word, Excel, Access, Project, PowerPoint, FrontPage, WinZip, and Norton AntiVirus Professional Edition.
The Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004 test determines the performance of a computer in the following multimedia applications: Windows Media Encoder, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, NewTek LightWave 3D, Steinberg WaveLab, Dreamweaver MX, and Director MX.
The results of these two tests are tabled and diagrammed below:
The LIFEBOOK P7010 is again one step ahead of its opponent due to the above-mentioned reasons (a faster hard drive and a higher memory frequency). The performance of the sub-notebooks is almost two times lower when they are powered by the batteries as the CPU frequency is reduced in this mode to save power.
It wouldn’t do to run 3DMark03 to test the graphical performance of these sub-notebooks as they are both equipped with rather weak Extreme Graphics 2 cores. I’m going to launch the older 3DMark 2001 SE benchmark instead. Its test scenes help to evaluate every performance-related aspect of the graphics subsystem of a computer.
And like in the previous tests, and due to the same reasons, the Fujitsu Siemens LIFEBOOK P7010 is ahead. The manufacturer is right in positioning this model as a business sub-notebook for office applications since it can hardly do as a gaming computer. The sub-notebooks can’t even launch some of the sub-tests like Game 4, Environment Bump Mapping, Pixel Shader 2.0, and Advanced Pixel Shader.
Next, I tested the sub-notebook in Quake 3 , in two modes:
The Fujitsu Siemens LIFEBOOK P7010 is a little faster, most likely due to the higher memory frequency, yet this doesn’t make it suitable for playing games anyway.
The results of Unreal Tournament 2003 are most extraordinary. The sub-notebook from Fujitsu Siemens is head above its opponent regardless their almost identical configurations. I rechecked this in every possible way, but to the same outcome. Can this difference be due to the different system drivers?
A sub-notebook is expected to be a digital companion on travels, so it should combine a low weight with a long time of autonomous operation. Let’s check if it’s true for the LIFEBOOK P7010.
The test was performed at the maximum screen brightness in the following modes:
The hard drive of the Fujitsu Siemens LIFEBOOK P7010 has two times the power consumption of the Sony notebook’s drive, but this difference is negligible in this case. It is the difference in the battery capacity that explains why the LIFEBOOK performs worse here (4800mAh against the Sony’s 7650mAh). Well, I should remind you about the auxiliary 2300mAh battery that can be installed into the LIFEBOOK’s modular bay for a longer total battery life, but it is clear that the promised 10.5 hours of autonomous operation are unachievable unless you reduce the screen brightness to the minimum and tweak some power-management settings. On the other hand, the sub-notebook can last as long as 3 hours in the Classic and DVD modes and as long as 4 hours in the Reader’s mode on its main battery alone which is quite an impressive result indeed.
The LIFEBOOK P7010 sub-notebook from Fujitsu Siemens is over one year old, yet it can still beat some of its “younger” opponents. This product is a lucky combination of an advanced configuration that delivers a sufficiently high performance and an abundance of input/output ports like in normal-size notebooks. It is ergonomic, light (1.3kg), small and truly portable. The price is the only downside here, but as I said above, the manufacturer emphasized quality and functionality above cost. The Fujitsu Siemens LIFEBOOK P7010 is a top-end product and is going to make a worthy digital companion for a person who values his/her time.