Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (50,411)

by Dustin Sklavos, California USA

Overview and Introduction

The Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D is a widescreen, desktop replacement notebook. The configurations for this machine start at $1100; as reviewed it’s priced at $1,649, and is configured as follows:

  • Processor: Intel Pentium M 760 (2 GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 533 MHz Front Side Bus, Dothan Core)
  • Chipset: Intel 915GM
  • Memory: 512MB DDR2-533 PC4200 (one DIMM, one slot free)
  • Hard Disk: Fujitsu 80 GB, 5400 rpm, S-ATA
  • Optical Drive: Modular Dual-Layer Multi-Format DVD-RAM (WRITE SPEEDS: 2.4x DVD+R DL, 8x DVD+R, 4x DVD+RW, 8x DVD-R, 4x DVD-RW, 5x DVD-RAM, 24x CD-R, 10x CD-RW) (READ SPEEDS: 8x DVD-ROM, 24x CD-ROM)
  • Screen: 15.4″ WXGA (1280×800) Matte
  • Video Controller: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900
  • Audio Controller: Azalia Codec ALC260 High-Definition
  • Wireless: Atheros Super AG Wireless LAN (802.11a/b/g), Bluetooth
  • Wired: 56K Modem, 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet
  • Ports: 4x USB 2.0, Infrared, Serial, Parallel, VGA, S-Video Out, Modem (RJ-11), Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45), IEEE 1394 FireWire (4-pin), SD Card Slot, Docking Port, Headphone/Line-Out, Microphone/Line-In, Type I/II PCMCIA, ExpressCard
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • Dimensions: 14.17″ (W) x 10.7″ (L) x 1.52″ (H)
  • Weight: 6.4lbs

Fujitsu has been around making notebooks for a few years now.  They established themselves early as a comparably stylish but more solid alternative to the more expensive Sony notebooks.  Fujitsu also stays on the cutting edge by offering innovative Tablet PCs, touchscreen notebooks and cool featured ultraportables. The brand is marked by a characteristically solid build quality and gorgeous CrystalView screens, and has generally been very well-received and highly regarded.


Build and Design

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
Fujitsu C1320D (view larger)

The C1320D notebook offers a midnight blue shell with a silver hood and sides, all made of hard plastic. It features a light grey keyboard and is remarkably thin and light for a full-fledged desktop replacement.

The modular bay is an excellent design choice that I wish more manufacturers would incorporate, as the optical drive is very easy to remove and an extended battery can be installed.

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
LCD panel (view larger)

Above the keyboard are the usual media buttons along with a very unusual decision: instead of the typical LEDs used to indicate hard disk access, key locks, running on the mains, battery life, and all that jazz, there’s a small LCD panel. This seems like a good idea and indeed, is very cool in theory, but in practice it doesn’t work out so well.

The panel is thin and recessed, and you need to sort of peer over the keyboard to get a good look at it. The icons on it are small and in low light conditions the panel is hard to read, this has been a complaint across the LifeBook line that we wish they’d fix by putting a backlight on the LCD display. Because the LCD replaces LED lights, there’s no external LED light to tell you the notebook has gone into standby when it’s closed — it simply emits a series of beeps when it goes into standby, and then you just don’t have a clue as to the state it resides in.

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
A gap of 3mm or more is experienced when pressure is placed on the lid (view larger)

Unfortunately the overall construction and build quality of the notebook leaves something to be desired. The lid definitely has some flex to it and in the front under the screen there’s enough flexing that occurs to fit a CD — or three into. And because the lid is plastic, it bends easily. Honestly, anyone who buys this machine needs to be very careful with it. Mild pressure on the back of the screen makes ripples and tweaking it from the left and right leads to severe rippling and distortion. By way of example, the center of the lid depresses three millimeters with little pressure.

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
Ripples appear on the LCD with light pressure on the back of the lid (view larger)

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
Three CDs fit between the LCD and frame to show the gapping (view larger)

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
With a little effort the panel pulls away (view larger)

The rest of the shell is for the most part okay; there is a little bit of flex in places, but part of that is due to necessary design of the modular bay and just how thin the notebook really is.

So, while clearly built and designed for some carrying around, the notebook as a whole just does not feel as solid or durable as other portable machines from Fujitsu.

Screen

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
The screen is a WXGA matte (
view larger)

Fujitsu opted for a matte WXGA display in the 15.4″ widescreen form factor. I was disappointed they didn’t opt to include or even offer as an option their famous CrystalView display. I can get over the decision to use the matte display, but what I can’t get over is the quality. At full brightness it’s a step or two short of where a machine of this brand should be.  The viewing angles on it aren’t very good; even head on, the corners often seemed shadowy. There’s also higher than moderate spill at the bottom of the panel. We’ve seen so many great displays come out of Fujitsu, this one’s a real downer.

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
Light leakage from the bottom (view larger)

Speakers

By now you should’ve read enough laptop reviews to know what to expect here: no bass, tinny sound. That’s par for the course with any laptop speakers and it’s true here. However, I found the sound output at the higher volume to be impressive and remarkably clear on this notebook. Designers tend to pick odd places to put the speakers – usually wherever they’ll fit – but on this notebook they’re actually directly below the screen, which is an excellent place for them.

At even the highest volume setting, sound tends to remain crisp, clear and distortion free, and it’s surprisingly loud. It lacks that bottom end that just about every notebook speaker lacks, but the sound quality is very livable.

Processor and Performance Benchmarks

The C1320D was an opportunity for me to experiment with and experience a high-performance Pentium M. The Pentium M 760 in this notebook is the second best of the readily available ones clocked at 2 GHz with a 533 MHz Front Side Bus. A Pentium M 780 exists at 2.26 GHz, but it’s somewhat rare.

I’ll give you the benchmarks first and then offer my thoughts.

3DMark2005 Results

 Notebook (graphics card)  3DMark05 Result
 Fujitsu C1320 (Intel integrated graphics)  410 3D Marks
 Gateway 7510GX (ATI Mobility Radeon X600 128MB)  1664 3D Marks
 IBM ThinkPad T43 (ATI Mobility Radeon X300 64MB)  727 3D Marks
 HP L2000 LiveStrong (ATI Radeon XPress 200M)  467 3DMarks

Below are the HDTune benchmark results for the Fujitsu C1320 and alongside are results from a Gateway 7510GX notebook for the sake of comparison.

HD Tune Benchmarks Gateway 7510GX (Fujitsu 4200 PATA RPM, 100GB) Fujitsu C1320 (Fujitsu SATA 5400 RPM, 80GB)
 Minimum Transfer Rate 15.5 MB/sec 14.0 MB/sec
 Maximum Transfer Rate 30.6 MB/sec 34.5 MB/sec
 Average Transfer Rate 24.8 MB/sec 27.3 MB/sec
 Acess Time 20.1 ms 18.3 ms
 Burst Rate 58.6 MB/sec 67.2 MB/sec
 CPU Usage 5.6% 5.0%

Using Super PI to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy resulted in 1m 43s:

Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Fujitsu C1320 (2.0GHz Pentium M Sonoma) 1m 43s
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M Sonoma) 1m 53s
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M Sonoma)
1m 45s
Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M Sonoma) 1m 48s
Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M Sonoma) 1m 52s
Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M Dothan) 2m 10s
Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Pentium M Sonoma) 1m 57s
Sony VAIO S170P (1.5 GHz Pentium M Dothan) 2m 07s
Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M Sonoma) 1m 42s

In my opinion, an excellent test of a processor’s prowess is a CPU-intensive multimedia task. In the film I recently completed, I used Adobe After Effects for several complex composite shots. Think of it as running twenty different video files simultaneously, on top of one another, while telling the computer that you only want certain parts of them to show and you’d like it to antialias the edges. You can understand how trying to render something like that would be very taxing on the hardware.

This brings me to another confusing point about this notebook, to match the high-end processor Fujitsu should have thought about providing more memory than the 512MB since this is the highest end and priciest configuration available.  Also, instead of single channel memory, it would be better to provide dual channel.  Furthermore, not having a dedicated graphics processor coupled with a fast processor still means you can’t play demanding games or high end multimedia apps – the Pentium M 760 and Intel 915GM chipset clearly doesn’t excel at multimedia tasks without help from a graphics card.  I recommend upgrading to 1GB of dual channel RAM, but for the price of this machine it’d be nice to get that anyway. It’s completely baffling that Fujitsu doesn’t offer dedicated video options though, a nearly inexcusable mistake.

With that said, the notebook’s overall performance for everyday applications is snappy, due in no small part to the 5400rpm Serial ATA hard disk, but the processor seems like overkill because the subsystem surrounding it just can’t support that kind of horsepower. Minimal RAM and no dedicated GPU really hamstring what could’ve been a very potent, well-rounded notebook.

In terms of heat output, the keyboard gets fairly warm, but the low hard disk temperature – a very impressive 32C – keeps things cooler than similar notebooks. The system as a whole stays remarkably frosty, though the underside gets a bit warm, as notebook undersides are prone to doing.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
C1320D Keyboard (view larger)

The keyboard is a little awkward to use: you’ll notice the very-skinny Fn key and the lack of an extra row of keys on the right side. The Function key pairs with several others to complete functions like managing the brightness and sound levels. There’s some flex in the center of the keyboard but it’s not that bad, better than industry average. Fujitsu had more space though, I don’t understand why in a notebook of this size they couldn’t give dedicated home and end keys. Overall the keyboard is a plus for the system, but a couple more dedicated keys and a Fn key you can hit with a finger instead of a toothpick would be nice.

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
C1320D Touchpad (view larger) 

The touchpad is about 2.5 x 1.75″, which makes it a little small. It’s responsive though and easy to use. The mouse buttons are clicky and responsive enough, and the middle scroll button is a very nice feature that other manufacturers would do well to include. I find it vastly preferable to the typical scroll area found on most notebooks.

Input and Output Ports

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
Left side (view larger)

The C1320D sports a very impressive array of ports and they’re smartly positioned all around the notebook’s body. On the left side are the mic and headphone jacks along with the wireless switch – a little out of the way, but at least dedicated.

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
Back (view larger)

On the rear are three USB 2.0 ports, the modem and ethernet jacks, the external monitor port, and – get this – a parallel and serial port.

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
Right side (view larger)

Finally, the right side sports one more USB 2.0 port, a 4-pin FireWire port, an S-Video port, an SD card reader, an ExpressCard reader, and a PCMCIA slot.

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
Front (view larger)

There are no ports on the front, though there is a latch to secure the lid when closed.

Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D
Bottom (view larger)

The bottom has a port for the docking station and access to remove the battery and flexible bay option. Fujitsu also places suede over hto spots to keep the notebook cool on the lap.

I’m incredibly impressed with the amount of connectivity this unit sports, lending it to being a very well-rounded multipurpose notebook.

Wireless

The C1320D sports Bluetooth in addition to wireless a/b/g in the form of Atheros Super AG Wireless. I found connectivity to be responsive and stable. The Bluetotoh stack works well, I easily paired with my phone, keyboard and mouse.

What did bother me was the Atheros software that takes over Windows XP managing your wireless settings. The Atheros software is needlessly complicated and makes wireless networking – already a confusing subject for the vast majority of users – a chore. You can avoid using it and switch to XP just managing it, but I question its inclusion to begin with.  Again though, the card performance and wireless is good — that’s not an issue, it’s the wireless management software you should make sure you revert to Windows managing for you. A simple un-install of the Atheros package gets the wireless where it needs to be.

Battery

This is another area where the C1320D really shines. Battery life playing a DVD was 2:45, and this is at full brightness with wireless enabled. In average use I honestly wasn’t able to really run it down – it pushed past four hours at average brightness with the wireless being turned on and off and still could’ve gone another hour.

This makes the modular bay even more amazing: you can install an additional battery into the bay and likely bring the life up to the neighborhood of eight hours.

I’ll never totally understand how it is that battery life can vary so wildly between notebooks, but kudos to Fujitsu for making this machine as mobile as it is.

Operating System and Software

The C1320D I reviewed came with Windows XP Professional along with the following software:

  • Norton AntiVirus (90 Day Trial)
  • Adobe Reader 6.0
  • Quicken 2005 New User Edition
  • InterVideo WinDVD
  • Microsoft Works
  • Google Toolbar

You may say it’s slim pickings, but that’s how I like it – free of any excess garbage software, limited to just the useful stuff (barring the slightly obnoxious Google Toolbar – your preference may vary). It’s certainly a far cry from the junk that clogs up Sony, Dell and HP notebooks. Just remove the items you don’t want, no need for a clean install of Windows.

Where Fujitsu goes the extra mile – and I really like this – is in their driver update software (which is gracious enough not to run in the background), in the small CD player app they include, and in their prominent on-screen display.

I don’t like it when manufacturers that just spit notebooks out onto the market that don’t have on-screen displays for sound and brightness, and Fujitsu includes them. It seems like a small thing, but it’s a convenience that you really begin to miss when you don’t have it anymore.

Complaints

Unfortunately, I have many issues with the notebook. The first is the lackluster build quality relative to other Fujitsu notebooks, and particularly of the display panel and lid. Just about anything screen-related earns my ire with this notebook and I can’t understand having a screen-related issue with Fujitsu, of all brands. The matte screen is a bit dull (the lack of Fujitsu’s glorious glossy really exacerbating it) and the spill at the bottom is unpleasant.

I wonder why they put a Pentium M 760 in this notebook and then proceed to hamstring it with only 512MB of RAM – in single-channel – and the GMA 900 graphics. It’s frustrating because build issues aside, this could’ve been a solid multimedia jack-of-all-trades notebook, and that GMA 900 in particular threatens to bring the whole thing down. And at $1,699, I find it really puzzling to not include a full gigabyte of RAM.

What’s ultimately upsetting is that a paltry 64MB Mobility Radeon X300 and an extra 512MB stick could’ve made this a really solid deal.

Praises

The modular bay is a godsend and is phenomenally easy to use, and the ridiculous amount of connectivity the notebook has is a plus. Even better, it’s remarkably thin and light for a full-fledged desktop replacement notebook.

Maybe the strongest point and biggest standout feature for this notebook is its battery life, which is stellar. I’m pretty certain you could get up to 3:30 of DVD on the battery, and if you were particularly frugal about your power usage of the notebook, I don’t see why it couldn’t push five hours on regular use.

Fujitsu also did really well on the software in the system itself, making sure it wasn’t too bogged down, with the only pock mark being the user-unfriendly Atheros software.

I really do like the sheer mobility of the notebook, and it does make up for my qualms with build quality when I note how light it really is.

Conclusion

I’m ultimately disappointed that I have to label the Fujitsu C1320D as a mixed bag. The build quality is below par and for the price, there are just better options from HP, Dell, Toshiba, and Fujitsu themselves. I’m just not sure who this is for. Even the most barebones version of this notebook is $1,099 but only comes with 256MB of RAM, 40 GB hard disk, and that same irritatingly poor matte screen. Other manufacturers are doing better at this price point.

Unfortunately, I can’t really recommend the C1320D, especially in light of the other notebooks Fujitsu produces and what we know they can produce. The Fujitsu LifeBook N3520, for example, is much more in line with what this notebook could and should be, and is at the same price point.

Pricing and Availability: Fujitsu LifeBook C1320D



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