Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 Review

by Andrew Reads (97,232)

The Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 is a 10.6” widescreen display ultraportable that packs a lot into a little space.  With a typically beautiful and blazingly bright Fujitsu CrystalView display and an integrated optical drive, this machine can serve as a nice little entertainment as well as work device when you’re on the go.  With a low voltage Core Solo processor it’s far from powerful performance wise, but it is a powerful business tool for doing work on the go.

The P7230 is a follow up to last year’s released LifeBook P7120.  The LifeBook P7000 series is known and loved by business people that need to take their work with them.  Fujitsu has updated the look with the latest offering, included a new OS in the form of Vista, updated the processor to a Core Solo and offer an integrated web camera option.  What stays the same is the 10.6” screen form factor, integrated multi-bay optical drive, surprisingly usable keyboard given the small size and quality build coupled with pretty looks.


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Fujitsu P7230 Specs as reviewed:

  • Processor: Intel Core Solo U1400 (Ultra Low Voltage 1.20GHz)
  • Memory: 1.0GB RAM (1-DIMM slot, 2GB Max)
  • Hard Drive: 60GB 4200RPM
  • Graphics: Intel GMA 940 (Integrated graphics)
  • Screen: 10.6” WXGA (1280 x 768) (External monitor support of up to 1600 x 1200)
  • Wireless:  802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi (Intel 3945), Bluetooth
  • Size:  10.74"(w) x 7.91"(d) x 1.07/1.18"(h) (272.9 mm x 200.9 mm x 27.1/29.9 mm)
  • Weight:  2.93lbs (1.33kg) (with optical drive and battery in)
  • Fingerprint Reader with optional scroll ability
  • Battery: 6-cell Li-Ion, optional 6-cell modular bay battery
  • Power Adapter: 60W

Design and Build

The Fujitsu P7230 is available in either all black or white, personally I like the all black look of the review model that I have.  Mostly because I believe it hides dirt better and looks somewhat more professional, but I like the fact Fujitsu has the choice as obviously we each have our reasons and preferences when it comes to color choice.


Top view of LifeBook P7230 (view large image)

Outside of color the look is great.  While there’s nothing ground-breaking regarding looks, the design is clean and the LED lights are nice and bright with no light bleeding going on.  There are no sharp edges, it’s curved and smoothed at the corners while having a slightly angular and upward sloped look at the back.

The build is commendable; it’s simply a very solid little machine with no flexing on the case whatsoever.  The case material is a mag-alloy construction.  You can tap the case to hear that it’s no cheap plastic build.


Bottom view of LifeBook P7230 (view large image)

The screen does not have any type of locking mechanism, but stays tightly closed nonetheless through use of a hinge that’s got just the right amount of tightness.  There’s certainly no wobble to the screen when in the open position but it isn’t overly hard to get open from the closed position.

One important thing to mention about the build is the fact this is a sub-sized notebook, and as such, the keyboard is a bit cramped and has to compromise to fit all the necessary buttons in.  Anyone buying this notebook is obviously looking for portability over other factors.  As a matter of fact, I’m typing this review while on a flight from London to New York and couldn’t be happier with how easy it is to carry and use this little guy in the very cramped quarters of a Virgin Atlantic Airlines Airbus A340-600 (there’s really no legroom in economy on this flight).


A size comparison of the P7230 to other objects (view large image)

The only negative thing regarding the look and build I find worth mentioning is that the lid is quite easily scuffed – I recommend using a fiber cloth for cleaning and a sleeve to protect.  It’s not shiny like the black MacBook lid, so it won’t show greasy fingerprints, but it does show the effects of being rubbed against other materials such as when pulled in and out of a bag.


The base of the P7230 is about the thickness of two CDs (view large image)

Screen

The P7230 has a 10.6” widescreen WXGA display (1280 x 768).  The screen is a glossy and astoundingly bright.  I find that having the brightness set to level six of eight is ample brightness, and eight of eight is just blazing.  But I much prefer having the option to crank brightness all the way up if I want to.  If you’re in the car or certain outdoor situations you can see the P7230 and see screen quite well when it’s set to full brightness.


A very bright and bold colored 10.6" screen! (view large image)

Horizontal viewing angles are good while vertical angles are okay as far as notebook screens go.  If you put brightness to high you can see more from higher angles, such as I’m doing now with the P7230 sitting low on an airplane tray.  There are no issues of backlight bleeding, the lighting is extremely even across the screen.

There is an option for a built-in 1.3MP camera to rest at the top middle area of the screen.  The specific review unit I have does not have a camera, it’s just a filled in space.  The fill-in isn’t ugly, but you can tell something might have gone there.

Input and Output Ports, Buttons

Given the small size you can only fit so much stuff into this notebook, but the essentials are there.  Below is a list of what you get:

  • 2 USB 2.0 ports (one on the left, one on the right that is vertically oriented)
  • IEEE 1394 (FireWire) (left side)
  • PCMCIA Slot (left side with button release on front)
  • Monitor out port (left side)
  • Headphone and Microphone jack (left side)
  • Power jack (right side)
  • Modem port (back-right side)
  • Ethernet LAN port (back-left side)
  • SD / MemoryStick / XD card slot (front-side)
  • Fingerprint reader (below touchpad)
  • 1.3MP web camera (optional, top of screen)


Front side (view large image)


Left side (view large image)


Back side (view large image)


Right side (view large image)

I can’t complain about anything in terms of ports, everything you need is there for when you’re on the go.  When you’re at your home or office you can use the docking station for a few extra USB ports and to make it quick and easy to connect to a monitor and external keyboard.  The docking slot is on the underside of the notebook.


Back of optional docking station (view large image)


Top view of optional docking station (view large image)

The P7230 has a set of 3-buttons at the top of the keyboard.  One is the power button, illuminated by a cool blue LED backlight.  Next to that is an “ECO” button, when you push this the notebook turns off the optical drive and certain ports plus dims the screen to give you the ultimate battery life, but less utility obviously.  Finally at the top is an “A” button, by default it opens Explorer, but you can change the behavior of the button using a program Fujitsu provides.

On the top left side of the keyboard is a hardware button to turn the wireless radio on or off.  On the front side there’s a slider button used to eject any device in the PCMCIA slot.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the P7230 is obviously not full sized, there’s simply not enough room.  The keys are smaller than an average keyboard, so it takes about a day of getting used to the shorter finger reach you’ll need.  But once you are used to using the smaller keyboard it’s great to use and a very solid keyboard.  There’s no flex whatsoever and the key travel is great.


Fujitsu P7230 keyboard view (view large image)

Buttons such as the PgUp, PgDn, Home and End keys require use of the arrow keys with the Fn button.  This is annoying and something that will slow you down if you use those keys a lot.  But at least the Enter and Shift keys are just about full size, so that’s a positive.

One complaint about the keyboard I’ve seen in the past is that keys get dirty easily.  I’m already seeing this same issue with the P7230.  The “Q” key lettering is much more white than the more commonly used “E” key where you can see the white lettering already picking up more dirt with my limited usage.  It’s kind of gross to see white letters becoming more of a brown dirt color.

The touchpad is small but really usable and has good response.  It has a textured feel which is great.  The mouse buttons are small and stiff, I think Fujitsu could have done better here.  One nice extra feature is that there’s a fingerprint reader for security and it can also be used for scrolling.

Audio

There are two speakers on the P7230, located on each top side of the keyboard area.  As you would expect, sound quality is poor and volume is low from these speakers.  They’ll work in a pinch to listen to music or a movie, but headphones or a pair of travel speakers will be better if you really want quality audio while on the go.  The headphone jack is located on the left side, which I think is the best placement, it’s better than the front where many manufacturers seem to think is all of a sudden better (a very annoying spot when you want to plug in external speakers).

Heat and Noise

First for the good news.  Often times with ultraportable notebooks you find they get very warm simply because you’ve got so much crammed into a small space, making it hard to cool.  Some ultraportables try to use fanless passive cooling which sometimes work and sometimes doesn’t.   The P7230 uses a fan on the left side and a heat vent on the bottom to keep things cool.  And it does keep cool.  I’ve had no issues with the P7230 overheating or even getting more than slightly warm.  Even the underside never gets more than warmish, and there’s felt padding there to make things more comfortable if you do use this in the lap.

Now for the bad news.  If you’re in a quiet room this fan is going to get noticed, it’s not quiet and has to constantly be working to keep the notebook cool.  Soon after bootup it kicks in and never really seems to turn off if the notebook is in use.  I wouldn’t recommend using this notebook in a lecture hall, you’ll definitely get looks from people around you.  If you’re in a room with other ambient noise though, the fan noise won’t be a big deal or even noticeable.

Take your pick, would you rather have a cool notebook with a constant fan noise or a hot notebook with little fan action.  In this case you have the former.

Processor and Performance

When speaking of performance of an ultraportable you always have to remember the end goal of the designer is to create a machine that’s sufficiently powered to run the necessary software, yet sufficiently under powered enough to provide long battery life and keep things cool.  It’s a tough balance to strike.

That said, the P7230 can definitely be called sluggish in terms of performance due to the Core Solo 1.2GHz Ultra Low Voltage processor and slow 1.8” 4200RPM hard drive.  Windows Vista Business can also be partly to blame, the 1GB of memory on board gets swallowed up by the OS, 2GB of RAM (the max allowed) would help with performance.  Boot up time is painfully slow (2 minutes or more) and multi-tasking is not recommended – stick to doing one thing at a time otherwise things can really bog down.  Whenever the system has to read or write to the hard drive a lot within a program you might end up twiddling your thumbs a bit.


Yes, Aero works on the P7230 (view large image)

However, if you’re using the P7230 for typical business functions such as using Word, Email, web surfing or chat then performance is just fine.  You don’t need a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo to do those things.  The Aero feature of Windows Vista works just fine, all that worrying about whether Aero would work on low end performance machines seems to have been worry for nothing.

Battery

The included battery is a 6-cell variety and in general usage with wireless on and doing Office related work or web browsing with screen brightness at 6 out of 8 I got around 3.5 – 4 hours of life.  I also used the notebook with the optional battery in the multi-bay and achieved all day performance of 8 hours.  It outlasted the use I gave of an hour during the day and then 6 hours on a flight.  Impressive, and very nice.


The power adapter is about as thick as the notebook itself (view large image)

Benchmarks:

SuperPi:

Super Pi tests the speed of the processor by forcing it to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy:

Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 (Core Solo CPU U1400, 1.20GHz) 2m 07s
Dell Latitude D420 (Core Solo ULV 1.06GHz) 2m 11s
Dell Latitude X1 (1.1 GHz ULV Pentium M) 2m 40s
Dell Latitude D410 (2.00 GHz Pentium M) 1m 36s
Fujitsu LifeBook P7120 (1.2 GHz ULV Pentium M) 2m 32s
Lenovo ThinkPad X60s (1.66 GHz LV Core Duo) 1m 23s
IBM ThinkPad X41 (1.50 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 2m 02s
Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M) 2m 10s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s

 

PCMark05

PCMark05 measures overall system performance:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 (Core Solo CPU U1400, 1.20GHz, Integrated graphics) 1,152 PCMarks
Toshiba Satellite U200 (1.73GHz Core Duo, Intel Integrated graphics) 3,113 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1600) 4,621 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus Z84Jp (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Go 7600) 4,739 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400) 3,646 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks

 

Below is the Windows index score:


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HDTune

You can see from the HDTune benchmark that tests hard drive performance that this drive is quite slow:


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Software

The P7320 comes with Windows Vista, there’s no option for Windows XP for all those of you that want to stick with the tried and familiar Windows OS.  Fujitsu does a nice job of including all restore and drive backup disks which is great, most manufacturers long ago stopped supplying such disks. 

The pre-installed software is slightly less than a typical consumer notebook, but there’s still some there you might find annoying and rather not have.   Here’s a list of all the pre-loaded software: Adobe Reader, CyberLink PowerDVD, CyberLink PowerProducer (on select models), Roxio Easy Media Creator (on select models), EverNote, Fujitsu Driver Update utility, Fujitsu HotKey, Google Desktop, Google Tool Bar, LifeBook Application Panel, Microsoft Works 8.5 Trial Edition (on select models), OmniPass Fingerprint Recognition Utility, Symantec Norton Internet Security 2007 (90-day free trial)

Overall that’s not a bad list and there’s not too much bloatware, certainly not half as much as HP and Dell start you out with.

Multi-Bay Optical Drive

The excellent news is that the P7230 comes with an optical drive, something often sacrificed in a notebook of this size.  If you want to watch a DVD while on the go it’s easy to do, and you can of course get a burner so you can record data while on the go as well.  Personally I really hate not having a built-in optical drive, you never know when you might need one.

So what if you don’t want the optical drive sometimes and just want lighter weight?  No problem, you can remove the optical drive and put a plastic piece in there as a weight saver.  It’s simple to remove the drive with a release button.  Furthermore, if you really need long battery life then you can swap out the optical drive for a secondary battery.  Sure it adds a bit of weight, but it will give you 7 – 8 hours of total battery life – fantastic for those long flights or all day work on the go.

Conclusion

I’ve really enjoyed using the P7230 for its real purpose – being a great notebook to throw in your bag when on the go and easily use in tight spaces.  I used it while at an exposition in Germany called CeBIT and it was easy to pull the P7230 out and hold it with one hand while typing with the other to quickly check email or the web.  Try doing that with anything bigger than a 14” screen notebook.  You don’t sacrifice much with the small size either, you still get an optical drive and a good selection of ports.  Sure the keyboard is smaller and the screen won’t fit as much as a larger one, but anyone buying the P7230 realizes that.

The real standout features of this notebook are the awesome screen, great looks, excellent build, superb port selection  features for the size, great battery life and multi-bay optical drive being included in such a small package.  The downsides to this notebook would be the noisy and constantly running fan, slow performance and under-sized keyboard (which can’t be helped given the size).  I also wish Fujitsu had given users the option of integrated WWAN for internet access anywhere, but at least there’s a PCMCIA slot so you can use a card for that.

The Fujitsu LifeBook  P7230 is certainly recommended for those people that need a small notebook for on the go.  It’s a great little machine, whether you want it as a business tool or spinning a DVD to watch on the go.

Pros

  • Optical drive included in this size notebook is amazing
  • Fantastic screen, very bright and just superb color depth
  • Good selection of ports for such a small sized notebook
  • Light weight, about 3lbs
  • Great battery life, especially with the optional extra battery in the multi-bay
  • Solid build and good looks

Cons

  • Fan is quite loud and runs persistently
  • Keyboard keys pick up dirt easily, letters become discolored
  • Lid tends to show scuff marks
  • Slow performance due to processor, hard drive and resource hungry Vista
  • No integrated WWAN (cellular communication) option


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