Review: Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 Ultralight Notebook - InformationWeek

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Review: Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 Ultralight Notebook

You can squeeze a lot of performance out of this 2.6-pound notebook because Fujitsu has squeezed a lot of features into it.

There must be a word for it: The cuteness of small things that are tiny versions of big things. Like babies, and puppies. Whatever it is, Fujitsu has tapped into it. The LifeBook P7230 is a Muppet Baby of a notebook PC.

It is just cuddly-cute. It's a tiny 10.74 x 7.91 x 1.06 inches and weighs 2.63 pounds with its 6-cell battery installed. It has a dazzling backlit LCD widescreen that's 10.6 inches on the diagonal. In fact, it looks like a miniature ThinkPad.



Fujitsu LifeBook P7230
(Click image to enlarge.)


And that's something else Fujitsu has tapped into. The styling, usability, and performance of the ThinkPad line has set a high mark for notebooks, and the Fujitsu designers have obviously studied the masters so closely that the P7230 is in some ways the computer that the ThinkPad X60 should be but isn't. (The notebook is also available in a white case that's obviously intended to evoke associations with MacBooks.) The screen is small -- you'll find yourself setting the font size up in order to read documents and spreadsheets -- but it's very bright. The display's 1280-by-768 native resolution makes it slightly narrower than the 1366-by-768 standard for WXGA.)

The P7230 makes room for an optical drive that reads and writes DVDs and CDs, which makes it useful for both business and pleasure -- although there's not much pleasure to be had from its tiny built-in speakers. You'll need earphones if you're going to play music or watch video. (One interesting feature: The P7230 has a built-in microphone, so while the speakers may be tinny, you can make Skype calls with no additional hardware.)

Its battery life is a definite plus. Officially the P7230 will run for "up to six hours" on its 6-cell battery, and 9.75 hours if you pop out the optical drive and slide the optional 6-cell outrider battery into the bay. In actual use, of course, your mileage will vary -- mostly downward. But even so, the P7230 should give you somewhere up to four hours of use on its main battery alone.

It does this by being very stingy with power, and the stinginess begins with the Intel low-power U1400 1.2GHz processor and 945GMS Express chipset. As a result, the notebook is no barn-burner, but it's got enough horsepower to run Windows Vista's Aero graphics and feel responsive in use.

Product Info
LifeBook P7230
Fujitsu Computer Systems Corp.
www.fujitsu.com
Price: $1650 and up
Summary: The P7230 is just about the smallest package you can squeeze a full-sized PC into, from a 1280x768 screen to an optical drive, and has enough processing power to run your favorite desktop apps.
The computer used for this review came with Windows Vista Business installed, 1GB of RAM, a 60GB hard drive, and built-in WiFi. Various options are available, including Vista Home Basic, other hard drives, optical drives, and more memory -- a 2GB module is also available for the machine's single DIMM slot (although the extra gigabyte is a pricey $450 option). Other useful -- and less costly -- options include Bluetooth support ($30), a built-in Webcam ($30) and a port replicator ($120).

If you're looking for security features to meet business requirements, the P7230 includes the Trusted Platform Module 1.1, and has a built-in fingerprint reader.

The P7230's 82-key keyboard at is, at ten inches wide, an inch narrower than a standard desktop keyboard, not at all bad for a computer this small, and the slightly dished key tops help with finger positioning. As with most ultra-small computers, the number pad is mapped onto function keys, so if you use an application that depends on the number pad be forewarned -- and look for a USB add-on.

Cursor control is done with a touchpad that's only slightly larger than a 35mm negative. It's very small. And the right and left buttons are equally small and recessed below the computer's surface, which is sometimes a challenge.

The P7230 provides a full complement of connectors and ports: a PC Card slot, RJ-11 for the built-in modem, RJ-45 Ethernet, two USB (you'll probably want to carry a small USB hub with you), four-pin FireWire, headphones, microphone, video, and a built-in memory card reader for Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, XD and Secure Digital (SD/MMC) cards.

In all of these things the P7230 strongly resembles the Sony VIAO VGN TXN15P, another nifty little notebook included in a recent roundup of ultralights. The P7230, like the Sony, has an optical drive, a bright wide-format screen, and good hardware connectivity. The P7230's keyboard is better than the Sony's chrome flat-topped keys -- in that regard it was more like the Fujitsu in the roundup, the Lifebook Q 2010.

In fact, the P7230 is obviously a sibling of the Lifebook in both design and features. It's smaller (a 10.6-inch screen vs. a 12.1-inch screen) but slightly heavier and slightly thicker, which gives it an advantage: More edge real estate means more room for connectors.

The thing that's not small about the P7230 may be the price: List prices on the Fujitsu Web site begin at $1,650. Add a bigger hard drive, extra memory, Bluetooth, and a Web cam, and prices quickly rise to more than $2,500.

This is definitely not a desktop replacement, but it's definitely a PC, not a hypertrophied personal organizer. It's about the smallest PC you can carry that will let you not only check e-mail, but actually display Web sites the way the designer intended (which means with all the Flash and Java intact and working on a screen that doesn't cut the page in half). When it comes to complex document formatting and graphics work you'll probably want something bigger, but for light-duty work on the go with the apps you know and love from your desktop environment, the LifeBook P 7230 is a tiny marvel.

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