Fujitsu LifeBook S

Verdict: Feature-packed -- and portable to boot -- Fujitsu's notebook tops our short list. StaffSeptember 1, 2002
Fujitsu Lifebook S

Bang for Buck: 8

Street Price: $1,899
Inside: 1 GHz Pentium III-M, 256 MB RAM, 40 GB HD, 8 MB AGP 2X graphics card, 8X DVD/CD-RW combo drive
Outside: 13.3 inch XGA display, touchpad pointing device, fullsized keyboard, external 3.5 inch floppy drive (USB)
Ports: USB, FireWire (IEEE 1394), PC Card slot (Type II) VGA
Communications: Integrated V.90 56K modem, integrated 10/100 Ethernet, integrated 802.11b wireless networking
Dimensions: 11.3 inches (W) x 9.3 inches (D) x 1.3 inches (H), 4.4 lbs

Skinny: Fujitsu’s been quietly putting out solid, notebooks for past several years. This entry in the Lifebook S series no exception.

Slightly larger footprint required to accommodate both internal optical drive and 13.3 inch display. Screen was a pleasure to use — except on Metro North. Truth is, while Lifebook’s quite light (4.4 pounds), it’s a perfect example of how seemingly small computers start to look real large when you hop on a train or a plane.

One for-instance: first time we took Lifebook S on 5:01 to, we sat in seat next to investment-banker type. Young gun pulled out gigantic Dell Inspiron computer. Not to be outdone, we grabbed the Lifebook. Mistake. The two of us sat there, jockeying for elbow room, trying to get our large-screened computers to somehow open past 90 degrees. Thought gun play might break out. Fortunately, conductor had some Pez in his change dispenser. That soothed us.

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Not overly wild about the keyboard layout on Lifebook, nor the period key, which is half-size. Wasn’t thrilled either with Page Up and Page Down keys — have to depress the function key to get them to work. Depressing. Loved the action of keyboard, however. Very springy. Reminded us of action of the Dell x200… Programmable buttons above the function key row allows you to launch a program with a single push. Nice touch. Another thoughtful feature: scroll button located between two mouse clickers.

Lifebook made it from Grand Central to New Haven — and then up the Connecticut shore — on one charge. That’s well over two hours. Good stuff, although we didn’t use any peripherals (like the external floppy) or the internal optical drive during the ride. That would have zapped power sooner. Still, one of the best batteries in the roundup.

Fujitsu uses monochrome LCDs for status indicators. Other notebooks use colored light to convey same information. It’s a strange world we live in… External USB 3.5 inch floppy worked flawlessly, but cord was too short… LifeBook did okay on MD test — about on par with most of notebooks in our review. DVD playback was quite good however, despite small amount of memory on video card.

One-year warranty not so hot… If you can live with a 20 gig hard drive and 128 megs of RAM, swell LifeBook S can be had for $1,499. A few years back, an ultralight with a 13.3 inch active matrix XGA screen, a 20 GB hard drive, and 1 GB processor would have come in north of $2,000 — and we mean way north. Sled dog kind of north…

Good sign: more we used LifeBook, more we liked it. If you don’t need to take your computer out of the office a whole lot — or your commuter line is more spacious than Metro North — this is probably the best bet in the buyer’s guide.

(Editor’s Note: Thin is in for notebook computers, but how about the computer makers themselves — how much cash do they keep on hand? See for yourself with the CFO PeerMetrix interactive scorecards.)