note to readers: this Fujitsu Siemens Amilo A1630 model is available in Europe only
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo A1630
The Fujitsu Siemens Amilo A1630 is a powerful desktop replacement notebook with a widescreen display, 64-bit AMD procesor and dedicated ATi graphics. It was released as Fujitsu Siemens' flagship laptop series in mid-2004. It is based on the Uniwill 258KA0 chassis.
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo A1630 (view larger image)
Reason for buying:
My old IBM ThinkPad T20 was starting to show its age, and I wanted a new desktop replacement laptop that would provide power and good value for money. I had £500 to spend, plus how much I sold my T20 for ( £250), so that was a total of £750. The main features I was looking for was a fast AMD Athlon 64 processor and a dedicated video card. I originally was looking at the Acer Aspire 1522LMi which had an Athlon 64 3000+ processor and 64mb Geforce FX Go5700 graphics for just over £700. But then I saw the Amilo A1630 with a more powerful processor and graphics card (but 20GB less hard drive space) and decided to get it.
I paid £750 for the laptop. Fujitsu Siemens laptops have good specifications for good prices. I purchased it from Laptops Direct and it was delivered in 4 days. I think it was a great deal because it offered an excellent specification for a good price. I would plan to upgrade to a bigger faster hard drive and more RAM at a later date.
Build & Design:
When I first opened the box, the laptop was quite a bit bigger and heavier than my old ThinkPad. It has a 15.4" widescreen display and weighs 3.6kg, compared to a 14" display and 2kg. The design is fairly simple, grey main structure with silver edging and a black base. Logos are small and the lights are simple green circles. The keyboard is black with white letters, which do get dirty after a bit of use. The screen is fairly solid; there are no ripples on the display when pushing on the back. It does not creak when opened, but wobbles very slightly. The laptop is constructed from plastic, but fairly solidly built. It is not as heavy as some DTRs and surprisingly thin, so can easily be put into a bag and carried around for a bit. But, it is designed to stay on a desk most of the time. It does feel sturdy, although compared to a ThinkPad, it is not up to the IBM standards. But, it costs about a third of the price.
Front side view (view larger image)
Right side of laptop (view larger image)
Left side of laptop (view larger image)
Back side view (view larger image)
Insides of Fujitsu Amilo A1630 (view larger image)
The screen is a 15.4" widescreen, running at 1280 x 800. It is not a glossy type (which would have been nice), but I am not too bothered about this. It is nice and bright, evenly lit and produces a nice sharp picture. There were no dead pixels on the screen and there is no light leakage. You do not get any reflections of light on it either. You can have two pages of text side by side open and it offers more width than a standard XGA display. The viewing angle is also good; it remains clear and readable from all positions. The only minor issue is that there is no little LED light above the screen like ThinkPads for working in darker conditions. If only more manufacturers started incorporating this feature.
There are two stereo speakers below the screen. Like most laptop speakers, they are quiet and have no bass. They are adequate for general bleeps and noises, but for music they are too quiet. I use Sennheiser in ear headphones when away and Logitech X-230 2.1 speakers when it is at my desk (which is most of the time). There are 3 audio ports- headphone, line in and microphone. The AC97 audio configuration lets you use 5.1 surround speakers by changing the line in to rear speakers and microphone for centre/sub. You can also connect digitally because there is an S/PDIF output.
Processor & Performance & Benchmarks:
I purchased the AMD Athlon 64 3200+ (2.0GHz) processor model (it is available also in 3000+, 3400+ and 3700+ models). It is a powerful 64 bit CPU, so I would be able to run 64 bit applications and operating systems in the future. It seems adequate for my needs, and can cope with media encoding and gaming fine.
The laptop takes 43 seconds to start up and 13 seconds to shut down. It hibernates in 11 seconds and restores back in 19 seconds.
I can encode a 90 min AVI movie into DVD MPEG2 in around 3 hours, and import an 80 minute audio CD in around 7 minutes using iTunes.
Using SuperPi to calculate the processor performance, it can work out 1 million digits in 45 secs, and 2 million digits in 1min 45 sec. This is a good figure, because AMD Athlon 64 processors do more work per clock cycle than Intel Pentium 4's, so run at a lower speed. The 3200+ runs at 2.0GHz, which would be similar to a Pentium 4 at 3.2GHz.
PCMark04 shows overall performance of the system. On mains power, it scores 3701, and on battery it scores 1436 (because the processor throttles down to 800MHz to maximise battery life).
PCMark04 results (view larger image)
HD Tune benchmarks the hard drive. The average transfer rate is 22.1mb/s, which is a bit low but it is a basic hard drive.
HDTune Benchmarks (view larger image)
HDTune Info results (view larger image)
Graphical performance is very good for the price, as this notebook had the best graphics card in my price range. Although the 128mb ATi Mobility Radeon 9700 is a fairly good card, it is starting to show its age now. I get an average of 40fps in Need for Speed Underground 2 (at medium detail 1024x768. There is no widescreen mode). It does still look good on the widescreen display, crisp, sharp and no visible ghosting.
Half Life 2 runs OK at 1280x800 in medium detail settings. I tested the start of the first stage of the game, and the frame rate ranges from 20fps to 80fps, but average is 40-50fps. There are large jumps in frame rate (sometimes stuttering and pausing for a second) and constant hard disk access. I attempted to run at high detail, but it took a long time doing something then warned that I was running low on memory. I think an upgrade of RAM (and possibly hard drive) is essential for gaming.
For older games, I can run at full settings with 60fps+, but newer games need to be turned down to medium or low settings, which is fine for me. I am not a hardcore gamer and just like to play a few hours a week. If I was, then I would have custom built a desktop.
Below are some benchmarks gained from running the programming Super Pi that forces the processor to calculate the number Pi to a selected number of digits of accuracy, we use 2 million digits of accuracy:
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi (2M)|
|Fujitsu Siemens Amilo A1630 (AMD Athlon 64 3200+)||1m 45s|
|Dell Inspiron 9300 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 39s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|Asus Z70A (1.6GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||1m 52s|
|Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Pentium M)||1m 57s|
|HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)||1m 53s|
|Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|Benchmark||Mains Power||Battery Power|
|Super Pi (1 million)||45s||-|
|Super Pi (2 million)||1m 45s||-|
The main bottlenecks in the system are the RAM (512mb) and hard drive (40GB, 4200rpm, 2mb cache). The system does slow down at times when there are many processes running but comes up to speed after a few seconds. I am planning to upgrade the RAM soon by replacing one of the 256mb modules with 1024mb. I will upgrade the hard drive to a 7200rpm one at a later date because I have a firewire/USB2 200GB external hard drive at the moment, which is adequate.
Keyboard & Touchpad:
Being used to a TrackPoint on my old ThinkPad, I did find the touchpad a little difficult to use at first, but now it is fine. It is the same aspect ratio as the screen, which is good. Generally, it is fairly responsive and has a scroll bar integrated on the right hand side which is useful for browsing long websites. The buttons are good and there is an additional scroll rocker between the left and right buttons. I do find it less accurate than a TrackPoint and it is easy to accidentally move your cursor across the screen, especially when typing. A touchpad on/off switch would be useful here.
Keyboard and touchpad view (view larger image)
The keyboard is nice and solid, with good depth and spacing and adequately sized keys. There is no noticeable flexing or clicking, but in my opinion the keyboard on my old ThinkPad was better and more comfortable. The layout of the keys are a bit different than the ThinkPad because there is no ctrl' key on the right hand side of the space bar and there are Windows keys (which you do not get on ThinkPads). Also, some of the keys such as delete and page up/down are in different locations which take some getting used to.
Input & Output Ports:
There are many I/O ports in the laptop: PC card, 4 pin firewire, SD/MMC/Memory stick card reader, 10/100 ethernet, modem, 3x USB 2.0 ports, s-video, infrared, VGA, parallel and a Kensington Lock space. There is also a dual layer DVD +/- RW drive. For audio, there is a headphone/SPDIF digital output, line in and microphone. The audio ports can be configured for 5.1 surround speakers by changing the headphone to front speakers, line in to rear speakers and microphone for centre/sub.
There is a Ralink RT2500 wireless 802.11G 54mbps card built in. I have not used this much because I use ethernet to connect to my ADSL box. But, when I took it to a friend's house, it found his wireless router it was able to easily connect to the internet by typing in the security key. There were no drop outs and it was quite fast. I will be getting a wireless router soon, so will be able to benefit from it.
There is an infrared port, which can be used to connect to other laptops, printers, PDAs, phones etc. It detected my Nokia 7110 and I was able to send ring tones etc to it with no problems.
The battery supplied is an 8 cell 4400mAh lithium ion pack. It slots into the right side of the notebook. I purchased this laptop as a desktop replacement, so battery life was not a major issue as it would be almost constantly plugged into the mains. I remove the battery when running on mains constantly to prevent damage to it.
When it is on battery, the processor throttles down from 2000MHz to 800MHz and the screen dims slightly.
|Task||Screen Brightness||Wireless||Battery Life|
|Watching DVD||Full||On||75 min|
|Playing MP3s||Lowest||Off||120 min|
|Browsing Internet||Lowest||On||150 mins|
Operating System & Software:
The laptop came with Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition with Service Pack 2, with a restore disk. There is also a disk with drivers for graphics card, wireless, sound etc.
There is also some various other software included which is quite useful. Microsoft Works Suite, including Word, Money, Autoroute, Encarta, Photo Premium and Works 8 is included on a DVD. There are also other CDs with Nero Express 6 and WinDVD 5.0. This is quite a good suite of software.
When I purchase a new laptop, I usually format the hard drive and install a fresh copy of the operating system from the restore CD for optimum performance.
I have installed Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition on my laptop (which I have purchased separately); because I have a digital TV tuner PCMCIA card and it would make the most of it and enhanced TV features.
When the laptop was delivered (very quickly in 4 days), I noticed that the PCMCIA card slot did not work. I contacted Fujitsu Siemens, who collected the laptop the next day to inspect. They confirmed the fault and I was given a replacement laptop from Laptops Direct a few days later. The service was excellent and fast from the manufacturer and retailer.
I do not have any major complaints with the laptop. One minor issue is the keys on the keyboard, which has white matt letters on black keys. The white gets dirty very quickly which is annoying. My old ThinkPad had glossy letters that did not get dirty. The power adapter is very large, measuring 18 x 7 x 4.5cm (7 x 3 x 2 inches) and gets very hot after a few hours. The laptop fans do constantly run and the palm rest above the hard drive does get a bit hot after a few hours, but this is to be expected from a powerful DTR.
The best thing about this laptop is the value for money. It has a powerful processor and a good dedicated graphics card for £750 (which I think is around $1335). The 5.1 surround sound is a bonus feature and the laptop is thinner than expected.
Overall this is a great value desktop replacement notebook. With a few simple upgrades of RAM and hard drive, it would be perfect and last me a good few years (especially with the 64 bit processor).
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