Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 Review

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by Andrew Hake


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The N6420 is Fujitsu’s latest offering in its LifeBook N Series.  It is the newly updated version of the N6410, which it shares many similar components with, such as the case design.  Something that is very significant about this latest model however, is the amount of options available when buying and configuring.  This is the first in the N series line to be available with an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz processor as well as an ATi Radeon Mobility X1600 video card.  This gives the latest Lifebook N6000 quite a boost in performance over the earlier models, especially in the graphics department.  The inclusion of multiple choices of GPU’s has been something I have requested in my earlier reviews of this series and it is good to see Fujitsu decided to make these higher end options available.  Another significant feature of this notebook is the HD-DVD drive.  I will go into more detail on all of these things later, so let’s get to the specs:

Fujitsu Lifebook N6420 Specs

  • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T7200 (2 GHz, 4 MB L2 cache, 667 MHz FSB)
  • 17" Color-Enhanced Crystal View wide XGA+ display (1400×900)
  • ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics with 512 MB Hyper Memory (256 MB dedicated and 256 MB shared memory)
  • 1 GB DDR2 667 MHz SDRAM memory (1 GB x 1)
  • 200 GB S-ATA, 4200 rpm hard drive
  • High Definition HD DVD-ROM Drive also works as a Dual Layer DVD Writer
  • Integrated Fingerprint Sensor (also works as Scroll Button)
  • Remote Control for XP Media Center Edition
  • Multinational 56K V.90 modem and Gigabit Ethernet LAN
  • Integrated Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection (Tri-mode 802.11a/b/g)
  • 5 USB 2.0, IEEE 1394, Memory Stick /SD/xD slot, PC Card slot, Express Card slot
  • Main battery: Lithium ion (6-cell, 10.8V, 3200 mAh)

For a complete and detailed spec list, please visit the Fujitsu website.


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Reason for Purchase

This is a unit graciously sent for review by Fujitsu.  This, being my 3rd N6000 series to use and test, gives me quite a lot of experience with the notebook series (see Fujitsu N6410 review here, see Fujitsu N6210 review here).  I also have a lot of experience with many types of computers that I use for editing animation and film at my school. I use PC and Mac machines nearly everyday and have experience using many other types of laptops and desktops.

I personally own a two year old Fujitsu Lifebook N6210, which has been great for all of my work and school purposes, it is still going very strong.  I remain very happy with my original purchase.  I have also used Fujitsu’s tech support a few times, they have been quite helpful and knowledgeable during my interactions.

Packaging and Included Software

The N6420 was packaged just like all of the N Series notebooks I have received from Fujitsu — double boxed and tightly packed with cushioning, no chance of getting damaged in the shipping process.  It couldn’t hurt to borrow a page from Apple’s book and get a bit more creative with the packaging, but that’s coming from an art-minded person.

The included software with this model has always been quite good, without being over the top.  So many computers today ship with numerous useless software applications that most people end up removing, that’s not so much the case with a Fujitsu notebook.  The only software that is included that I’d rather just not have (or at least be on a disk and not pre-loaded) are Quicken 2006 and Norton Antivirus. Once again, as with the N6410, a good Application Panel control utility is in the Control Panel, as well as another utility to control functionality of the Fingerprint reader between the Touchpad buttons. Also included is Omnipass software to control Passwords using the Fingerprint reader, this is useful and very easy to setup.

Another great thing Fujitsu continues to do, while other manufacturers cheapen and skip, is including a full set of driver and software disks as well as an easy to use restore disk. I have tested the restore disk on each system I have used, all of them are very easy to understand and use.  Also included is an easy to understand startup guide and nicely printed user manual.  Since this notebook included Windows Media Center Edition it came with a Media Center remote control with receiver as well.

Build Quality and Design


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This is an area I feel Fujitsu has always been successful with, especially in regards to the N6000 Series.  The build quality is truly excellent; it is hard to find any faults in the construction of this machine.  This model shares the same chassis and design as the N6410, which is definitely a good thing.  It has a strong and sturdy case with a high quality feel. One thing to be aware of is that this model is still quite thick (about 2” with the screen closed) and somewhat heavy (about 10lbs).  While this is quite acceptable for this sized desktop replacement, it isn’t the type of computer people will be taking around with them all the time. Although the N6420 is still portable, it is quite common to see computers of this size be thinner and lighter.  But it seems Fujitsu has made a decision not to sacrifice strength of the chassis and amount of options for lighter weight, which makes sense for this type of notebook.  I don’t understand why more 17” notebooks don’t have the option of Dual HDD’s and a true full size keyboard.  Also, this type of case allows for very efficient cooling and sound deadening, as this model is very cool to the touch and very quiet as well.  Overall I must say that the build quality of all the Fujitsu notebooks I have used has been excellent.


Power switch and Application Panel (view large image)

The design and color scheme is also shared with the earlier N6410 model, although a few improvements have been made, such as the “re-addition” of the volume control buttons next to the wireless LAN switch, as well as a Visual Optimizer button that controls screen color modes, which I will speak more on later.  I definitely like the very professional looking design of the N6420. The silver and black color scheme works very well, not too much, not too little.  It’s a style I think a lot of people will find agreeable. 

The N6420 has easy to see LEDs for power, battery, HDD access, NumLock, Caps Lock, and new mail indicator. All are right below the main panel and above the keyboard, so it is easy to see.  Some may think this placement would cause it to get annoying, but it is very subtle and non-intrusive.  I do like the mirror looking DVD control panel/Application launch panel, it looks great and works well.  Another thing I am glad to always see is the black bezel around the screen, having black around a screen does make a difference in how the screen looks.


New Application Panel with Visual Optimizer Button and Application/DVD control Panel (view large image)

Input and Output Ports

The layout of ports is identical to the N6410, which again is a good thing I believe.  The only difference is that the DVD drive is replaced by a HD-DVD drive in this particular model.  The only other thing on the left side is the power adapter plug towards the back, which is good placement. If you get the integrated TV tuner option you also get an S-Video input, Composite Video input and Antenna Mini Jack on the left side.


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On the right you have both ExpressCard and PCMIA card slots, above that a multi-card reader, to the right of that a 4-pin FireWire plug, then the audio out and in ports, and towards the back a USB 2.0 port. 


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On the back of the notebook is an S-Video out port, a LAN port, 4 USB 2.0 ports, VGA out, Modem port, and a Lock slot.  Overall a great layout, but it really is unfortunate to not see a DVI out or HDMI output on a media desktop replacement notebook.  In my own experience, I would like a DVI output to allow a high-resolution external display for video editing and animation.

 


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The Toshiba HD DVD ROM drive, not too loud and performs well (view large image)

This new model has the same venting layout as the N6410 which is much improved over my N6210 that only had one rear vent and one fan. The N6420 has two well designed rear vents and two separate fans, I believe one on the CPU and one on the GPU, with intakes for each one on the bottom of the unit.  This allows the computer to run quite cool, as well as very quiet. The only time I have even heard the fan running is when they are on at full speed and running benchmarks, etc.  The only part of the computer that gets slightly warm is the Application panel area and on the bottom surface of the notebook, but even with it sitting on your lap (which most people won’t be doing with this notebook), it only gets slightly warm.

The Power brick is reasonably sized, it is larger than the N6210’s, but it also must supply more power to the X1600.  Not the best for portability, but not a major problem for this type of computer.

The Display


Fujitsu N6420 screen (view large image)

After being able to see and use what I think are some of the best screens available on any notebook computer, I was very excited to see what Fujitsu has done with their latest model.  The first thing I was interested in trying out was the “Visual Optimizer” button Fujitsu has added to the Application Panel.  Pressing this button switches the display from PC and Video mode, which basically seems like 2 separate color/brightness/contrast settings.  This is a good idea, but I believe without the ability to customize settings it is a little incomplete.  It would be great if there was a small application that let you control and adjust each setting, as some people may not find them to be the best settings.


Horizontal viewing angles are very adequate (view large image)


The Vertical viewing angles are nice also (view large image)

The screen is very bright and looks quite good; however, I was very surprised to see that the screen has a somewhat grainy look to it overall.  I remember reading about this happening to some Asus notebooks with the X1600, and it being fixed with a BIOS update, maybe this is the same case with the N6420. This won’t bother the majority of people I think, but for someone like me doing graphics work or film editing it is an issue.  While watching a video or DVD this is not noticed at all, and the screen really looks truly excellent.  Like the N6410 screen, the color balance looks great while watching a video.  I have to confess that I prefer the N6410 and N6210 screens to this one, as I believe the Visual Optimizer control could be better implemented, and the graininess is pretty unacceptable to me.

The Horizontal viewing angles are very good; a few people could be looking at the screen without a problem.  Vertical viewing angles are similar to most other notebook display panels, which are adequate, and vertical viewing angles aren’t really an issue with most computer screens.

The lid is very strong, it protects the display very well, but it is also quite thick, which again adds to the thickness of the unit overall.

The only other thing I would like to say is that while the XGA+ resolution is perfectly adequate for this size of screen, some people would like to be able to choose a larger resolution such as a 1680×1050 resolution. So the native resolution is fine, but for those that do want a higher resolution on an external, a DVI is a must I think.  That is one thing I have always liked about Apple notebooks, they all include some type of DVI out port to allow for large resolution external displays.

View Page 2 >> (Keyboard and Touchpad, Sound, Performance & Benchmarks, Heat, Battery, Conclusion)


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