Fujitsu Siemens LifeBook P8020 review

3 Apr 2009

Fantastic battery life and a transflective screen aren't enough to justify a price tag this high.

Price when reviewed 
1,520
3

Ultraportables have had a tough time of it in recent months, with a veritable herd of cheap netbooks trampling all over their previously pristine territory. And when you can buy a 10in or 12in laptop that's perfectly usable for writing email and browsing the internet and has a 3G modem built in for under £500, why spend any more?

Most manufacturers have responding by paring down their offering of smaller, what could be seen as 'traditional' ultraportables, in favour of more powerful laptops with larger, higher-resolution screens. So it's hard to see where this compact offering from Fujitsu Siemens fits in.

The P8020 is a truly old-school ultraportable business laptop. It boasts a 12.1in screen, which brings it squarely into line with the latest breed of netbook, but the 1,280 x 800 resolution is no higher than its ultra-cheap siblings despite the huge price premium.

The other problem is its power. Like the Lenovo X300 and Macbook Air before it, in order to provide decent battery life from its six-cell 8,700mAh battery, the P8020 features one of Intel's low voltage processors - a 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo SU9400 backed up by 2GB of 1,066MHz DDR2 RAM.

But though this is significantly more powerful than a netbook, its score of 0.73 in our application-based benchmarks doesn't offer enough of a performance boost to push it up to the next level, where serious multitasking and the use of processor intensive applications is possible. Compared to a score of 1.14 from Lenovo's equally compact 12.1in X200, for example, this LifeBook P8020 is a real lightweight, and its Intel integrated graphics fail to add ballast.

Another area where ultraportables normally attempt to differentiate themselves is in weight, ergonomics and design. Lenovo's X-series of laptops, for example, boast superb keyboards and rock solid build quality; Toshiba's R600 is almost unfeasibly insubstantial; Apple's Macbook Air is fantastically slim and drop deap gorgeous.

The Fujitsu Siemens has none of these advantages. Despite a positive key action, its keyboard feels cramped and fiddly; we much prefer the keyboard on the Lenovo X200. It weighs 1.34kg, which is not much lighter than the larger 13.3in Lenovo X300 and, save for slightly sparkly, sculpted lid, it's not exactly the last word in technological bling. We didn't much take to the build quality either: the metal screen hinges feel durable enough, but the lid plastics feel cheap and over-flexible and the rest of the chassis, clad in matte black, isn't much better.

So, is there anything about this laptop that beats the competition. Well, the screen, while low on resolution, is extremely bright and punchy. It's also able to boast the considerable advantage of being transflective. From working in sun-lit train carriages to browsing the internet on a summer's day, you'll be able to see web pages and documents crisp and clear instead of having to squint or turn the brightness all the way up.

Its business credentials are second to none: there's a built-in HSDPA modem - a must in a laptop at this price - plus dual band draft-n WiFi courtesy of Intel's WiFi Link 5300 chipset, a fingerprint reader and some useful manufacturer-installed utilities. Plus, there's a DVD-writer built-in, a feature no netbook we've reviewed can lay claim to.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,322
Price inc VAT £1,520
Overall rating 3
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 2
Performance 3

Warranty

Warranty 2yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 274 x 210 x 28mm (WDH)
Weight 1.340kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR3

Screen and video

Screen size 12.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,280
Resolution screen vertical 800
Resolution 1280 x 800
Graphics chipset Intel 4500MHD
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 160GB
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter yes

Other Features

ExpressCard34 slots 0
PC Card slots 1
USB ports (downstream) 3
FireWire ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 458
Battery life, heavy use 159
Overall application benchmark score 0.74
Office application benchmark score 0.78
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.86
Encoding application benchmark score 0.68
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.65
3D performance (crysis) low settings Fail
3D performance setting N/A

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows Vista Business
OS family Windows Vista