With tiny, cheap netbooks the new flavour of the month, it's difficult to see much of a future for ultraportables. They tend to be slightly bigger, marginally better equipped and far more expensive. That isn't stopping Fujitsu Siemens, though. It's forging ahead with its ultraportable P series, the latest of which is the £1,495 LifeBook P8010.
It's designed for anyone who wants a lightweight, easy-to-use machine with a business focus. As such, it comes with a fingerprint reader, data protection features and an optional docking station.
The LifeBook P8010 is relatively compact. Not in an Eee PC sort of way, but in a "you can carry it without snapping a wrist" way. It weighs slightly more than 1.3kg, which is MacBook Air territory, and measures a relatively svelt 274 by 29 by 210mm.
In terms of actual looks, the LifeBook P8010 is inoffensive. It uses an attractive, if rather generic black, glossy lid, with a contrasting blue-grey interior section, which should please the majority of people. It's no supermodel, but at least it's not ugly.
Fujitsu Siemens has used the space well on the P8010, in most respects. Just above the keyboard is a glossy strip of buttons, lights and speakers. All the status LEDs live here, along with shortcut keys for one-touch locking of the PC, launching of the Windows Mobility Center (which lets you adjust various settings like screen brightness, volume, etc), a power saving mode, and one-touch automatic file backup. The strip is also home to the power button, an illuminated 'LifeBook' logo and a set of speakers.
Below the keyboard -- which is cramped, but not so cramped it's uncomfortable -- there's a large mouse trackpad. This lacks gesture-sensitive areas, which is a shame, but between the mouse selector buttons, there's a fingerprint reader. This should come in handy if you work for the government and are prone to losing laptops. Be warned, though: the glossy lid collects fingerprints. Sophisticated thieves won't find these hard to lift and use to log in without your permission.
Just beyond the mouse, towards the front of the laptop, there's an SD card reader and a switch to enable or disable the wireless features. Round the left side, there's a D-Sub video output port, Ethernet port, two USB ports, a 4-pin FireWire port, and audio ports for a mic and headphones. The left is home to one more USB port and an optical drive, although the P8010 is also available without this.
The P8010 has an optional port replicator -- sometimes called a docking station -- which provides a further four USB ports, plus a DVI port for anyone demanding digital video output.
Being an ultraportable laptop, the P8010 was never going to excite anyone with its specs. Like most machines of this ilk, it uses an ultra-low voltage Intel Core 2 Duo SL7100, clocked at 1.2GHz, 2GB of DDR2 667MHz memory and the Intel GS965 chipset.
Storage comes courtesy of a 160GB hard drive. This is a good amount of storage for an ultraportable -- MacBook Air owners have to tolerate a paltry 80GB in their machines. What's more, the P8010 packs an DVD rewriter drive -- something you could never cram into the Air or a netbook.
Data protection is always a primary concern for users with sensitive information and Fujitsu Siemens hasn't forgotten about this. The P8010 features a hard drive shock sensor, which temporarily parks the drive heads in the event of a bump or shake in order to ensure the drive isn't damaged. Also, the keyboard is spill proof, so any accidental splashes won't spell disaster.
The P8010's strongest point is arguably its wireless capabilities. It uses the Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN adaptor, which lets it connect to virtually any form of wireless network: a/b/g or high-speed n.
In addition, there's an integrated 3G adaptor that gives you HSDPA access to the Internet at up to 7.2Mbps, whether you're in a Wi-Fi hotspot or not. You also get Bluetooth, which is good news for anyone who wants to use a wireless Bluetooth mouse or synchronise their mobile phones without cables.
Bizarrely, the P8010 has a glossy screen. It might look good in
the shops and appeal to the magpie in all of us, but it renders the
laptop virtually useless outdoors or anywhere where the lighting isn't
perfectly diffuse. All you'll see is your own reflection. It's not
particularly great indoors either, thanks to the rather limited
horizontal and vertical viewing angles.
The LifeBook P8010 isn't going to win any awards for its performance, but don't let this put you off. Its CPU is optimised for good battery life and the 2GB of RAM ensures applications open without too much of a delay. It failed to return a score in our PCMark 2005 test, but we can tell from anecdotal testing that it's perfectly capable of performing basic everyday tasks without struggling.
Though it uses an ultra-low voltage CPU and a massive 8,700mAh battery, the P8010's battery life wasn't as impressive as we'd hoped. Fujitsu Siemens claims a maximum battery life of up to 6 hours, but in our BatteryEater Classic test, which stresses the laptop to the limit, it lasted a mere 2 hours 16 minutes. If you aren't pushing the CPU too hard, it'll last considerably longer. It stayed alive for 5 hours 18 minutes in our anecdotal light use tests.
It's difficult to recommend the LifeBook P8010. It ticks most of the boxes required to make a good ultraportable, but it's simply too expensive in comparison to things like the MacBook Air. Business users might find some of its features useful, but for the rest of us, something like the Eee PC 1000 will do just fine.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday