While some laptops are too big to lug around and others too small to accomodate adult hands, the Fujitsu Siemens Lifebook P7010 balances on the ridge between extremes: the keyboard doesn't feel cramped, even though it's a compact machine. Nor does the processor seem underpowered for intensive office tasks -- even basic video editing is not beyond this svelte laptop.
Disappointingly, a highly reflective screen thwarts the Lifebook's clever chassis design. This proves very distracting under even moderate lighting conditions. It seems that this may be an established trend for laptop manufacturers -- it's becoming increasing difficult to find new laptops that don't use glossy screens and it may be months or even years before this irritating fad dies out. If you can live with this, the Lifebook makes a very desirable compact workhorse.
The lid on the Lifebook is a glossy black plastic, while the base is a hodgepodge of stickers, screws and, strangest of all, a felt pad that covers the hard disk panel. It's a shame that the elegance of the rest of the chassis couldn't have been extended to the base. The Lifebook is thin, at 34mm thick (including rubber feet). It's lucky that the Lifebook weighs just 1.3kg, because the glossy chassis is the least grippy we've ever travelled with. The extremely polished surface collects grease like a sloppy mechanic, and you'll definitely need a bag to lug this around in. Carry it with bare hands and it'll slip through your fingers and shatter into lots of expensive pieces.
The DVD drive on the Lifebook is hot-swappable -- you can switch it for an extra battery to supplement the Lifebook's cell. This offers significantly more battery life and is presumably the reason why this laptop got its name.
The keyboard on the Lifebook is neatly designed, with space saved by slightly compacting the width of some keys, but not all of these are the less-used ones. The comma and full-stop keys in particular may cause problems for touch-typists initially -- they are three quarters the size of other keys -- but a few weeks of use should mean most errors disappear as you adapt to this layout. There is always a compromise to be made when fitting keyboards into smaller chassis, and Fujitsu's efforts are impressive, considering that space is not on its side. The Lifebook is infinitely more practical than novelty laptops like the Toshiba Libretto, while retaining most of the size advantage.
The left-hand side of the Lifebook includes an Ethernet port for external network connections, a PC Card slot and a Compact Flash slot. Depending on whether you're using the DVD drive or a battery, these dock into this side of the Lifebook too. On the right-hand side there's a VGA port, another USB port, FireWire, Ethernet, two USB ports, and microphone and headphone sockets. Fujitsu haven't made the common mistake of providing flimsy rubber inserts for these ports -- instead there are sturdy plastic flaps, which stay attached to the laptop on flexible hinges. This means it's impossible to lose the covers when you plug peripherals into the laptop.
The battery bundled with the Lifebook slots in just below the screen hinge, on the rear of the laptop. This battery runs three quarters of the length of the Lifebook and is easy to unclip if you need to change batteries during travel. Because the Lifebook can be used with two batteries simultaneously, it's possible to swap one of the batteries on the fly, providing almost indefinite uptime as long as you have spare batteries available -- you won't even need to power down the computer.
Consistent with what we've been seeing from some other manufacturers, the Lifebook has no screen catch. Resistance on the hinge holds down the lid. Athough this means there's no catch to snap off, it also means that the laptop is vulnerable when carried in a bag or rucksack with other items. There's the risk that objects such as keys may slip between the unsecured screen and the keyboard, causing damage.