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Fujitsu Siemens Lifebook E8210 review

Verdict

The flexible 3G implemetation is tempting, but the poor battery life and screen quality lessen the appeal

Review Date: 21 Jul 2006

Reviewed By: Clive Webster

Price when reviewed: (£1,526 inc VAT)

On paper, there's a lot to tempt the mobile business user to this latest Lifebook E8210. Not least because, like Acer's Aspire 5652WLMi, it comes with a 3G card slot and aerial integrated into the chassis.

In this case, however, it's fully unlocked, so you can use any 3G SIM - the normal restrictions and tariffs will apply. And, like the Acer, this hardware can also revert to EDGE or GPRS if 3G isn't available. That's on top of the 802.11b/g WLAN and Bluetooth, the latter of which will enable you to make voice calls over 3G using a headset.

There's also the flexibility of the hot-swap bay on the right-hand side. This comes supplied with a DVD writer, but release a lever and it can be replaced with a weight-saver module (£13) or a second battery (£105). You're likely to need that as, even with the screen on half brightness, we saw a fairly poor 2 hrs 46 mins of light use, with the extra battery adding less than two hours.

The Lifebook's security credentials are a better story. The fingerprint reader can be used to ensure a secure logon, as well as act as a substitute for web-based passwords. You can securely encrypt files, so that only a registered fingerprint can open them, and there's a SmartCard reader giving you token-based security. TPM hardware is an option, but not included as standard at this price.

We'd expect a notebook designed for life on the road to reasonably rugged, particularly as people tend to be less careful with company property than with their own. While the three-year collect-and-return warranty is reassuring, the main chassis of our Lifebook flexed a little too easily and a firm push makes the whole TFT panel ripple worryingly; however, we were testing a pre-production sample, and we expect build quality to be improved with the finished batch of Lifebooks.

On the plus side, the Lifebook features a spill-proof keyboard and an accelerometer, which parks the hard disk's head to prevent mechanical damage from sudden knocks.

The Lifebook comes with increasingly rare legacy parallel and serial ports (the former is on the left-hand side of the chassis, the latter is on the rear), making it attractive for certain vertical applications. Modern peripherals are looked after by four USB 2 ports and mini-FireWire, and there's also a Type I/II PC Card slot as well as a D-SUB output. There's also an ExpressCard slot to cater for more cutting-edge upgrades. If the E8210 is going to act as your principal PC, a port replicator is available for £75, adding a DVI-D port.

There's easily enough power on board for more desktop-based applications when needed, with the 2GHz Core Duo processor and 1GB of 667MHz RAM. Our review sample had a 2.16GHz Core Duo and 2GB of RAM, so expect around 10% less performance than the scores quoted below.

ATi's Radeon Mobility X1400 graphics processor is more of a marketing choice than strictly practical, as it doesn't offer much more muscle than Intel's cheaper, more power-efficient chip. It will provide a decent amount of acceleration in older games, though, so don't entirely write off the Lifebook for after-hours entertainment. Plus, it ensures that the Lifebook will be able to run Vista's Aero Glass interface in all its glory.

Storage space is acceptable at 80GB, but hardly generous considering the price. Some of the drive is devoted to a hidden recovery partition, which will restore a factory image in case of Windows-based disasters. The optical drive supports dual-layer DVD writing should you need to clear space or back up crucial data.

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