Fujitsu Siemens' LifeBook P series is a range of ultra-portable laptops equipped with mobile broadband and a webcam. It includes the P7230 and P1610 -- the latter a convertible tablet PC. The newest P-series model is the P8020, a well-featured 12.1-inch ultra-portable that costs around £1,700.
The P8020 is an improvement over the P7230 as far as styling goes. This is largely down to the casing design: Fujitsu Siemens has gone for a black chassis all round, with a shiny black outer lid that's reminiscent of some netbooks and consumer-grade laptops.
The lid seems quite resistant to fingermarks, but we were concerned that our review sample had a small scratch that was highly visible as a white scar against the black background. If you like to keep your laptop looking factory fresh, you'll need to take care of it.
The build quality is generally robust, although the lid section has a fair amount of flex. There's also no clasp holding the lid and base sections together, so you'll need to take care that nothing gets between the screen and keyboard when the system is in your travel bag.
The P8020 measures 280 by 37 by 210mm and weighs 1.3kg. It feels rather thick and chunky, but this is not unduly noticeable when the laptop is in use.
The screen measures 12.1 inches across the diagonal and has a native resolution of 1,280x800 pixels -- you can get a 1,920x1,200-pixel resolution with an external monitor if necessary. The display is LED-backlit and very bright and sharp. The glossy screen coating helps with clarity and increases viewing angles, particularly in the horizontal plane. But the screen is also reflective, which causes the usual problems when you work with a light source behind you.
Ultra-portable laptops can suffer from cramped keyboards, and the P8020's is indeed on the small side. If your hands are large, you may find touch typing a challenge. The keys themselves, however, are responsive, depress a fair way when pressed and give a light click when used. The return key is well sized and the function key row is almost full height. The small amount of flex in the keyboard should only affect the most heavy-handed of typists.
The wrist rest houses a wide-format touchpad. This lacks the horizontal and vertical scrolling capabilities we're used to seeing in touchpads these days, and their absence is a disappointment. Beneath the touchpad are two mouse buttons that are slightly unresponsive for our liking. Between them sits a fingerprint scanner.
Above the screen is a pair of speakers and a row of four small buttons. Their default settings can be changed, but, out of the box, one of these buttons accesses the login screen, where you can switch users. A second button opens Internet Explorer, while a third opens the Windows Mobility Center. A fourth button takes you into Fujitsu Siemens' Eco mode, which disables features such as the optical drive, reduces the display's brightness and generally lowers power consumption.
The P8020 has a 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 processor with 3MB of Level 2 cache and an 800MHz front-side bus. Our review sample had 2GB of RAM, and the laptop has a maximum capacity of 4GB. Graphics are handled by the GMA 4500MHD GPU integrated in Intel's GS45 Express chipset.
The P8020 is a particularly well-connected ultra-portable. Intel's WiFi Link 5300 takes care of Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g, draft n). Bluetooth is also integrated and Gigabit Ethernet is available for wired connectivity. The icing on the cake is integrated mobile broadband (HSDPA, with download speeds of up to 7.2Mbps).
The SIM card slot is located under the battery and Fujitsu Siemens includes Sierra Wireless' 3G Watcher software for managing connections. This allows you to connect to data networks and includes an SMS module. We had no trouble getting connected with our Vodafone mobile-broadband SIM.
Our review sample had a 160GB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm. Other options include a 320GB 5,400rpm or 160GB 7,200rpm hard drive, or a 64GB solid-state drive. A shock-protection system cushions the hard drive against knocks and bumps.
The optical drive is on the right side of the system, along with a Type II PC Card slot. At the back is a single USB 2.0 port.
On the left side are two further USB 2.0 ports, which are physically far enough apart that it should be possible to use both at the same time. Microphone and headphone jacks are also on this edge, plus a FireWire port, an Ethernet port, a VGA connector and the power input.
The front has a mechanical switch for the wireless radios, plus a slot for SD- compatible flash media. Sitting above the screen is a fixed-position 1.3-megapixel webcam.
The Windows Experience Index (WEI) score for the P8020 was a somewhat disappointing 3.2 out of 5.9. Only one sub-system score made it past the 5.0 mark, and generally the scores were almost identical to those achieved by Toshiba's Portege R600.
The lowest score, which corresponds to the overall WEI rating, went to graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero). The other graphics score, gaming graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance), was little better at 3.3. More impressive were processor (calculations per second) with 4.6, and RAM (memory operations per second) with 4.9. The top-scoring sub-system was primary hard disk (disk data-transfer rate) with 5.4.
Although you can't expect much in the way of graphics performance, the P8020 should handle mainstream workloads capably enough.
Fujitsu Siemens doesn't make a battery life claim for the P8020's 8,700mAh six-cell battery. We tested it by choosing the balanced power mode and asking the laptop to play a DVD movie for as long as it could manage. Under these conditions, it delivered 3 hours and 15 minutes of mobile playback, which is good going.
Clearly, this test pushes the battery. If you opt for the Eco mode setting and stay offline most of the time, you should get considerably longer battery life, and could even manage a working day's worth of computing away from mains power.
The built-in speakers aren't great. Even at top volume, we doubt you could share output readily around the table in a business meeting. And the sound quality is distinctly tinny.
Fujitsu Siemens' LifeBook P8020 is an impressive ultra-portable in terms of looks and usability. It's robustly built -- except for some flex in the lid section -- with an excellent screen and a good keyboard. Mobile-broadband support is a plus, as is the good battery life. The only downsides are the moderate graphics performance and the £1,700 price tag.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet