We've been looking forward to testing Fujitsu Siemens' first foray into the netbook arena. The Amilo Mini Ui 3520 comes with replaceable snap-on covers, weighs less than most of its rivals and is relatively cheap at around just £250. It's available to buy from the usual online netbook outlets.
Our anticipation of reviewing the 3520 turned to trepidation shortly after the netbook stork dumped it on our doorstep. The problem isn't its looks -- it holds its own against all netbooks with its stylish black and white design, and inherent cuteness. It isn't the replaceable clip-on covers that let you change the lid colour at a whim, either -- we quite like that idea. Nor is it because the 3520 lacks portability -- it tips the scales at a svelte 1kg. The problem is its unnecessarily verbose name. Most netbooks have names like 'Eee', 'Wind' or 'Aspire' -- surely someone in the marketing department could have come up with a better name than Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Mini Ui 3520?
Our next beef is with the keyboard. By opting for chassis measuring just 232 by 175 by 29mm, Fujitsu Siemens has been forced to fit a keyboard that's too tiny for serious typing. During our time with the machine, typing mistakes were commonplace, and even attempts to correct those mistakes led to more errors, as the backspace key is just as small as the others. The mouse trackpad is a pain in the backside, too. Not only does it rival a couple of postage stamps for size, but the selector buttons are located to the far left and right of the pad -- not below, as is normally the case.
Connectivity on the 3520 is slightly less impressive than is the case with most netbooks in its class. It has a VGA D-Sub video output port, a 4-in-1 memory card reader that gives you easy access to your digital images, and a USB port on either side of the device for connecting pretty much anything you can think of. Unusually, the 3520 also includes an ExpressCard/34 slot. This is an odd inclusion, as there are relatively few devices that use this type of connection. A third USB port would have been more welcome.
If we had a pound for every time someone made a netbook out of an Intel Atom N270 CPU, the Intel 945GSE chipset and 1GB of RAM, we'd have about £57 by now -- £58 if you count the 3520. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but, if you're wondering what this device has in common with its rivals, the answer is: 'Nearly everything.'
The 3520 is one of the tiniest netbooks on the market, and uses a small 8.9-inch display. Thankfully, it has the same 1,024x600-pixel native resolution as larger 10-inch netbooks like the Asus Eee PC 1000HE. Text and graphics look smaller as a result, but Web pages fit just fine, and users won't have to contend with high reflectivity, thanks to the matte screen coating.
Storage comes courtesy of a 60GB hard drive with a rather slow spin speed of 4,200rpm. It's not a huge problem, but the drive's noticeably slower than the 5,200rpm drives you get with many rival netbooks. Additional storage can be added thanks to a SD/SDHC card slot, which also reads Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro and MMC cards.
Wireless is par for the course. The 3520's wireless card is compatible with 802.11b/g networks, so it can be hooked up to the vast majority of Wi-Fi hotspots -- whether in a coffee shop, airport or your own home. Bluetooth 2.1 is also included, although there's no high-speed wireless n, and no integrated 3G modem, so you can't go online outside of a wireless hotspot unless you connect a third-party USB or ExpressCard modem.