Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Li 1718 review
This Tesco exclusive doesn't offer any whiz-bang features, but what you do get is perfectly specified.
Once you start dipping below £500, it's much harder to scout out the right notebook for your needs - at this price, it's almost inevitable that something has to give. And while the Amilo isn't the cheapest notebook we've ever seen, it's not far off - remarkable given some of the treats inside.
On first impressions, the Amilo chassis is one of the most outwardly basic to come through our doors. The design is unapologetically plain, with only the silver-finish lid providing any sort of decorative flourish. The rest of the exterior is also conspicuously bare - aside from the 56K modem and 10/100 Ethernet ports, you'll find just four USB ports and a VGA out. There's no serial or parallel, no PC Card slot or FireWire, and certainly nothing as forward-looking as an ExpressCard slot or media card reader.
That isn't to say it feels cheap, as the chassis is perfectly solid in all the key areas, with the palmrests and lid being particularly robust. But its appearance is in stark contrast to slightly costlier models such as Samsung's Q70 (see p48), and there's little pretence of metal highlights or sleek lines.
The keyboard is generously sized with a perfectly reasonable layout, but it isn't as solid as we'd like, leading to an unpredictable action and the occasional missed key. That's in contrast to the excellent trackpad, with its widescreen aspect and rock-solid mouse buttons fitting the bill perfectly. Surrounding it are some handy shortcut buttons for launching applications and switching the wireless on and off.
The screen, too, is at the entry-level end of the market, with a modest resolution of 1,280 x 800 spread across the 15.4in-wide diagonal. Thankfully, it's also of reasonable quality, with pleasingly vivid colour and viewing angles - although hardly exceptional - adequate for individual viewing. As is all too common with notebooks aimed squarely at retail, though, it "benefits" from a glossy screen that makes it look alluringly shiny, but also gathers distracting reflections from all round.
It's when we turn to what's inside this Amilo that we see where the money's gone. We'd be happy enough to have a Core 2 Duo T5300 at this price, but there's also a luxurious 2GB of RAM. That will keep Windows Vista Home Premium happy even if you push it with multiple apps. Elsewhere, the components diverge from Intel's Centrino platform (not a bad thing in itself) and, although the Atheros wireless card doesn't go as far as offering the draft 802.11n of the latest Santa Rosa version (web ID: 113175), you do get 802.11b/g. The omission of Bluetooth is hardly a deal-breaker for most people, either.
Far more importantly, the hard disk is a generous 120GB SATA model, and the optical drive is also at the higher end of the scale, writing to all formats of DVD including dual-layer and DVD-RAM.
Fujitsu Siemens does scale back on the graphics side, with the discrete card just a small step up from an integrated option. The ATi Radeon Xpress 200M card won't curry much favour with gamers - we saw an average frame rate of just 5fps in our lowest Call of Duty 2 benchmark settings - but it should manage older titles. Non-gamers should also be happy, as the Xpress 200M handles Aero duties in Vista with ease.
There are areas that feel downright budget, the Amilo's mobile credentials being chief among them. The 4,400mAh battery is physically tiny and lasted barely over an hour in our intensive rundown test. Reverting to light use increased that to a bearable 2hrs 31mins, but at 2.6kg this was never going to be a good traveller anyway.