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Fujitsu Siemens LifeBook P8020 review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 3 Apr 2009

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £1,322 (£1,520 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
3 stars out of 6

Features & Design
3 stars out of 6

Value for Money
2 stars out of 6

Performance
3 stars out of 6

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.

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