by Brian Beeler, Ohio USA
Fujitsu P7120 (view larger)
Fujitsu has released another refresh to their popular ultra portable P series of notebooks. While the last update was largely chipset based, the LifeBook P7120 offers up an entirely new body design and several other updates like integrated Bluetooth, no CPU fan and support for a docking station. The end result is a well-built machine that's definitely worthy of consideration by ultra portable shoppers.
Fujitsu makes two models, the P7120 and P7120D. The only difference between the two is the wireless card. The D model comes with the Atheros Super AG wireless card. The other uses Intel's 2915 ABG card.
Form and Design
My favorite part of the P7120 is the new design. My old Fujitsu P7010 looks fat by comparison. The size difference isn't that great, but the total volume is noticeably less and the weight has been shaved down a little bit. While not as sleek as Sony's TX design, the P still holds it own. The entire body is black with the exception of a few gunmetal accents and trim pieces.
Top view (view larger)
The lid is magnesium alloy and very sturdy with hardly any flex; pressing hard on the lid results in no screen rippling. Fujitsu's branding on the whole machine is very minimalist. A small Lifebook logo in silver is the only external marker. The screen is secured with two metal hinges that are much improved over prior models. The hinges are secure allowing for no screen wobble. Between the hinges are the WiFi on/off button, battery, disk and lock LEDs, power management button and power button. The back of the unit is rounded, with embedded speakers in either corner. Between the speakers is the battery hump, in this case the 6-cell. The battery sits flush with the back of the unit though, so the larger battery really consumes no more space than the 4-cell. The biggest difference between the two is weight.
Front view (view larger)
The screen doesn't lock shut, but the hinges are sufficiently strong to keep it closed. In the middle of the lid there's a tiny lip on the lip to use as leverage to open it. The lever on the left side is the release for the PCMCIA card slot. The microphone in and audio out ports are on the front and pretty convenient for headphone access.
Left side (view larger)
Another great change from the prior models is Fujitsu abandoned all the port doors. The end result is easier to access ports without doors that break off or stop closing after a period of time. Along the left side is the Ethernet, VGA, S-Video, lock, modem, 2 USB 2.0, Firewire and PCMCIA ports. Fujitsu uses a plug for the PCMCIA port when it's not in use. A few models back they used a door to block the port, which is preferred.
Risght side (view larger)
The right side houses the flexible bay which can be used for an optical drive, second battery or weight saver plug. Since the bay has moved to the right from the left, accessories from earlier P models will no longer fit. The connectors still work, it's just the bezels that are a problem. For the battery, you just need to obtain a new bezel from Fujitsu, but optical drives aren't going to fit. Further down the right side is another USB 2.0 port, memory card reader and DC power jack.
Bottom view (view larger)
Since Fujitsu went fanless with the P7120, they've covered nearly the entire bottom in suede. The suede is not only soft to the touch, it also doesn't get hot like metal. Even the screws have suede covers, except the two I removed to upgrade the RAM and have not replaced. In the past Fujitsu only used the suede on the memory door. The other new feature is the docking station connector. This is a huge benefit. I had been using a port replicator from Targus on the P7010, but this is so much easier. Just plop the P7120 into the dock and that's it. It lifts straight out as well, so plugging in cords of any kind is no longer needed.
Fujitsu P7120 Screen (view larger)
The P7120 display is a 10.6" Crystal View wide screen with a resolution of 1280x768 pixels. The screen is extremely bright, I generally crank up the display to max brightness, but found that a notch or two down from the top was the best with this model. Brightness is adjusted with the Fn and F6 and F7 keys. It's well lit throughout with no noticeable dark spots or shadows. The light leakage is minimal and not noticeable outside of a black background.
Black background, almost no light leakage (view larger)
Processor and Performance
The ultra-low voltage (ULV) Pentium Mobile 1.2 GHz processor is used in the P7120. The processor is more than adequate to handle most tasks; definitely the standard office and productivity related ones. Some owners have even done pretty well with Photoshop, so don't let the speed rating fool you, it's quite capable. This machine has 1GB RAM, though I ran with only 512MB for several weeks. The difference is noticeable, largely do the resources Windows XP needs, but getting by on 512MB is fine. The RAM is DDR2, which is an improvement over prior models.
The one thing that really hurts from a performance perspective is the hard drive. Fujitsu moved to the 1.8" form factor, down from the 2.5" notebook standard. It's a double edged sword. They wanted a smaller package with less heat, but had to give up hard drive performance in exchange. When I initially heard about this change, I was upset. I thought the drop would be awful, but after being on this machine exclusively for a month now, I'm totally fine with it. For what I do, and what most buyers of this machine will do, it's really a non-issue. Sure, it takes longer to load Windows and more intense applications, but that's part of the trade off. The bottom line is I'm happy to give up the hard drive for the smaller size and silent operation due to the lack of fan.
We use the program Super Pi to get a benchmark of processor speed. The Super Pi program simply forces the processor to calculate Pi to a selected number of digits of accuracy. Calculating to 2 million digits is our benchmark. Below is a comparison chart of how the Fujitsu P7120 with it's 1.2 GHz ULV processor stacked up to other notebooks when running this calculation:
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|Fujitsu LifeBook P7120 (1.2 GHz ULV Pentium M)||2m 32s|
|Dell Latitude X1 (1.1 GHz ULV Pentium M)||2m 40s|
|IBM ThinkPad X41 (1.50 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||2m 02s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Banias Pentium M)||2m 23s|
|Compaq R3000T (Celeron 2.8GHz)||3m 3s|
|Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Dell Inspiron 8600 (1.7GHz Banias Pentium M)||2m 28s|
Now let's look at some more benchmarks pitting the P7120 against the competing Dell Latitude X1 notebook. The P7120 has a ultra low-voltage 1.2GHz processor and the X1 has an ultra-low-voltage 1.1GHz processor so it's not a very even match.
|Futuremark PCMark04 Scores|
|Dell Latitude X1 (1.1 GHz)||Fujitsu LifeBook P7120|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression||2.0 MB/s||2.06 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption||16.26 MB/s||17.4 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression||14.43 MB/s||15.29 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing||6.5 MPixels/s||6.87 MPixels/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning||1309.7 MB/s||1245.16 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check||1.79 KB/s||1.85 KB/s|
|File Decryption||32.66 MB/s||34.68 MB/s|
|Audio Conversion||1495.55 KB/s||1602.83 KB/s|
|Web Page Rendering||3.39 Pages/s||3.03 Pages/s|
|DivX Video Compression||32.9 FPS||34.81 FPS|
|Physics Calculation and 3D||65.05 FPS||66.71 FPS|
|Graphics Memory - 64 Lines||374.57 FPS||362.33 FPS|
Below are the results of running the program HDTune (www.hdtune.com) on the hard drive to gain benchmark results.
Minimum Transfer Rate
Maximum Transfer Rate
Average Transfer Rate
Keyboard layout (view larger)
The keyboard is 82-keys with 18 mm key pitch and 2 mm key stroke. The layout is actually slightly better than past P models. The arrows have dropped down a bit, giving a bunch more space to the right Shift key and the punctuation keys between M and Shift. They keyboard has almost no flex and is easy to type on. Of course the biggest complaint is still there, no dedicated home, end and paging keys, but that's a sacrifice with an ultra portable and since the arrow pad is done better, these functions are actually a little easier to use than before.
Touchpad, mouse and biometric scanner (view larger)
The touchpad is roughly 2" x 1.5", making it much smaller than earlier models. I was concerned about this at first, but it's actually more responsive, so the smaller size isn't an issue at all. The left and right buttons are also a little smaller, but more square and easy to use. The best part about the buttons is they're dead silent. The buttons on the P7010 click fairly loudly, but these don't. A minor issue, but I'm happy with the change.
Between the mouse buttons is the biometric scanner. We'll detail this more later, but it should be noted here that the scanner also acts as a scroll mechanism. So running your finger over the scanner either up or down, will scroll you up or down in a document or internet window.
I touched on this earlier, but it's an important feature and worth mentioning again. The flexible bay lets users add an optical drive, second battery or weight saver plug. This option is great, the only downer is accessories for earlier models either won't work or need new bezels since the bay is on the opposite side this time around. There's a small latch on the bottom of the machine that releases whatever is in the bay, letting it slide out easily. The flexible bay is hot swappable, so no need to reboot to swap out the optical drive or battery.
The sound on the P7120 is fine for what it is. The speakers aren't that loud and the bass is almost non-existent, but then again, you're not buying this machine for its integrated sub-woofer. You'll be fine listening to lecture notes and the occasional web cartoon. The headphone jack works well, the quality for movies and such is very respectable. There aren't any hardware buttons for adjusting volume, that change is done with the Fn key and F3, F8 and F9 for mute, volume up and volume down.
The P7120 also supports a dual array built-in microphone with noise cancelling. This is new and something that previously was only found in their Tablet PC line. For recording meetings or lectures, this microphone is going to perform extremely well. The microphones are embedded in the frame around the LCD panel, one on either side.
Thankfully the P7120 ships with a very thin software package, which means no need for a clean Windows install. Aside from Works 8.0 and a few trial packages, there's not a whole lot to talk about, with the exception of two things. The first is the Atheros WiFi manager that comes with the D version of this notebook. I think it's a terrible tool and remove it right away. Unless you rarely venture onto more than a couple wireless networks you're better without.
The other tool is a new one. It's a power saving utility that can be accessed via icon in the system tray or the ECO button next to the power button. Incidentally, you can remap the ECO button to do something else if you wish. Essentially the program lets you put the P7120 into power saving mode with the power settings you specify. The program lets the user specify LCD brightness, hard disk shutdown time and on/off for the optical drive and card slots.
The power saving tool is a nice option I suppose, though since I've owned the notebook I haven't had occasion to use it much. Any time I want more juice out of the machine, it's normally when I'm watching a DVD, which sort of flies in the face of the entire point of this feature. While all these functions could be done manually before, the utility makes it easy to enable with a click, so for those looking to milk every ounce of battery out of their machine, this is a nice feature.
As noted, the P7120 comes with either a 6-cell or 4-cell battery. The flexible bay can support an additional battery as well, for excellent battery life. There are two battery LED lights that show status for the main an optional flexible bar battery.
Using Battery Eater Pro I ran a few battery tests. The minimum effective life of the 6-cell battery is about three hours. I used their classic test with the screen on full brightness. If that's not enough, I left wireless on with Outlook open, continually syncing with Exchange, along with several other applications running in the system tray. Their idle test with the display at 5/8 killed the battery after 6.25 hours. I found the real world battery life to range between 4 and 5 hours. As already noted, if you want more battery life, you can slot a second battery in the flexible bay.
The P7120 comes with both integrated WiFi and Bluetooth. The D version ships with the Atheros card, the regular version with the Intel card. The Bluetooth is a great addition, a new feature in the P series. The wireless radios can be managed with the hardware switch. Turning it on or off will enable or disable both radios at the same time.
The WiFi reception with the Atheros card has been excellent. Bluetooth has worked well for the most part. Using the Toshiba stack to connect to my Microsoft mouse and keyboard went perfectly well, but connecting to my mobile phone has been a problem. Bluetooth connections are somewhat troublesome by definition, so my experience is about par for the course. I have not experimented with other stacks or phones though, so some may have a better time with it than I did.
Biometric scanners are becoming more popular in business and highly mobile machines. Fujitsu has offered this again in the latest P-series notebook. After enrolling fingers, the scanner can be used to log into Windows and log into websites. The OmniPass software is pretty good, though it still doesn't play with FireFox. It's also a little limiting, this version doesn't support BIOS level authentication, though it's my understanding the full version does if you want that level of security. Aside from the security features, the scanner can also be used to scroll up and down in things like Word files or browser windows.
I was really concerned that the slower speed hard drive was going to kill the performance of this machine. I'm so happy to report that I don't find it to be an issue and the resulting benefits of smaller size and reduced heat are worth it. The unit is in fact fanless, which means you'll only hear everyone else's machines. The fan on the P7010 frequently ran, so to me, this is a huge deal. There are very few fanless notebooks on the market, but Fujitsu has done a fantastic job engineering this one.
The LifeBook P7120 screams quality and stability all the way around. The new design is great, the display is crisp and vibrant, and the body is sturdy. Beyond all of this, Fujitsu has managed to add features like Bluetooth and docking station support. I love picking up my backpack, trying to remember if the notebook is actually in there because the pack is so light. I really never thought I could be as happy with this notebook as I have been; it's the best notebook I've ever bought.
For my money, the Fujitsu P7120 is the best ultra-portable on the market. There are plenty of competitors, but none offer the same blend of durability, screen quality, security, docking station support and near-silent operation as the P7120.
Pricing and Availability: LifeBook P7120
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