- High quality metallic black paint
- Decent build quality
- Good performance
- Just over three hours of battery life
The LifeBook AH550 is a 15.6-inch desktop replacement notebook from Fujitsu. With a starting price of $749, the AH550 includes an Intel Core i3-330m processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Higher configurations with NVIDIA dedicated graphics are also offered, with a $200 price premium. In this review we see how well the LifeBook AH550 stacks up against other 15-inch desktop replacement systems and if it’s worthy of being your next purchase.
Our Fujitsu LifeBook AH550 Specifications:
- Processor: Intel Core i3-330M (2.13GHz, 3MB cache)
- OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
- Memory: 4GB Dual Channel DDR3 at 1066MHz
- Storage: 500GB 5400rpm HDD
- Graphics: Intel GMA HD integrated graphics
- Display: 15.6-inch (1366×768) LED-backlit display with built-in webcam
- Optical Drive: 8x Dual-Layer CD/DVD burner (DVD/-RW/R)
- Wireless: Wireless Network Card 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth
- Battery: 6-cell Lithium Ion battery (43 WHr)
- Dimensions: 14.65 x 10.25 x 1.49-2.00 inches
- Weight: 6.39 lb (starting)
- Starting price: $749
Build and Design
The Fujitsu LifeBook AH550 has a classy, metallic black finish inside and out with chrome accents. The screen cover features the Fujitsu logo front and center, as well as the company name and a smaller logo located on the top edge. Inside, the palmrest, keyboard trim and screen bezel share the same metallic black finish with chrome accents around the touchpad and along the front edge. If all the stickers were removed from the body of the notebook I think the LifeBook AH550 would be one of the slickest looking notebooks around.
Build quality is about average compared to other current-generation consumer and small business notebooks. Main panels, including the palmrest and screen cover, have some flex but nothing that stands out. On the palmrest, the section over the optical drive bay has some give. Gripping the notebook around that spot flexes it upward from the bottom as well as inside the open optical drive cavity. The paint quality is very good with the finish holding up admirably to scratches and scuffs. Everything from the palmrest down is matte plastic that goes very well with the glossier black finish and also helps to hide any day-to-day abuse. Like most Fujitsu notebooks, this model also offers the removable air filter on the bottom.
Fujitsu gives users easy access to the hard drive and system memory through two panels on the bottom of the notebook. One area that may be a future concern is the fashion in which the battery is mounted, using plastic spring clips instead of latches. If one of the clips ever broke off or lost tension the battery would no longer stay locked inside the system.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The LifeBook AH550 features a very comfortable business-grade keyboard that is easy to type on and gives excellent tactile feedback. Keyboard support is excellent even under the most strenuous typing with individual key mechanisms up to the task. Key wobble was barely present; larger keys had smooth travel despite offset presses which can sometimes cause hang-ups. The keyboard itself is both spill-resistent and full-sized with a numberpad. The layout was easy to get used to and unlike on some models, the numberpad doesn’t shrink the keys on the primary section of the keyboard.
For a multimedia notebook we were surprised to see no dedicated multimedia keys or repurposed function keys of any kind. The only auxiliary button on the notebook was a support key located beside the power button.
The touchpad included on the LifeBook AH550 is a mid-sized ALPS model with some multitouch capabilities. Sensitivity was excellent and we only found minimal lag in our extensive testing. During long click and drag movements the touchpad would sometimes unselect the item we were dragging and lock onto another icon and move it. Tweaking the settings seemed to improve this issue, but we’ve never had this problem with Synaptics touchpads. Supported gestures include pan scrolling, pinch zoom and pivot rotation. Along with standard up and down scroll, it also supports chiral (circular) scrolling action as an added option.
Screen and Speakers
The AH550 includes one resolution screen option for both integrated and dedicated graphics variants. Both systems include an LED-backlit panel with a 1366×768 WXGA resolution. These days I’m surprised when mid-range models don’t offer an HD-capable 1600×900 resolution display, especially if they’re multimedia-oriented. The panel itself rates average with good color and contrast. The glossy screen surface helped give colors the appearance of greater color saturation and also improved black levels. Screen brightness was fine for viewing in bright office conditions, but with a peak backlight level measured at 190 nits, it wasn’t bright enough for outdoor viewing.
The speakers on the AH550 are located above the keyboard and sound below-average compared to other multimedia-oriented notebooks. Bass and midrange were very weak with maximum volume levels inadequate for even small rooms. For listening to streaming music or talking to someone using VOIP software, they’ll work just fine; still, they left a lot to be desired. Headphones or digital audio over HDMI would be preferable for listening to music.
Ports and Features
The Fujitsu LifeBook AH550 offered a good selection of ports, including four USB 2.0 ports, VGA and HDMI-out, LAN and analog audio jacks. Expansion slots included an SDHC-compatible card reader and ExpressCard/54 slot. The port layout on the back was crowded with three USB 2.0 slots located right next to each other. This configuration might block other ports if you have a wide device to plug in.
Rear: LAN, HDMI-out, three USB 2.0, VGA-out, Kensington lock slot
Left: ExpressCard/54, optical drive
Right: Wireless on/off, SDHC-card reader, audio jacks, one USB 2.0, AC-power