Fujitsu LifeBook S7010 / S7020 Review (pics, specs)

by Tomatonose Reads (159,794)

TG Rating

Rating 1 to 10, top score 10.
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7.57

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Software & Support
    • 8
    • Upgrade Capabilities
    • 6
    • Usability
    • 10
    • Design
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Features
    • 7
    • Price/Value Rating
    • 6
    • Total Score:
    • 7.57
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

by Fern Lin, New Jersey USA

Since buying the LifeBook S7010 notebook in early June, Fujitsu has refreshed the line, and the S7010D has been replaced by the LifeBook S7020D. The overall design is still the same, though, so readers considering the S7020D should find this review relevant. Differences between the two versions are noted in bold.

Overview and Introduction

This review is based on a Fujitsu Lifebook S7010D with the following specs:

  • Intel Pentium M Processor 725 1.6GHz [S7020D: Processors now start at Pentium M 740 1.73MHz]
  • 768MB DDR RAM [S7020D: Uses DDR2 RAM]
  • 60GB (5400RPM) Hard Drive
  • 14.1″ CV XGA TFT Display 1024×768 pixels
  • Intel 855GME Extreme Graphics with integrated 32-bit 3D/2D gfx core
  • Modular Combo DVD & CDRW Drive [You can also put a second HD and a second battery in this slot. The drive is pretty easy to remove. The computer came with a weight-saver to put in the drive.]
  • 56K Global Modem
  • 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN
  • Atheros 802.11 a+b/g WiFi (Wireless LAN) WPA and CCX certified
  • Bluetooth Wireless
  • Silver Magnesium Encasing
  • 1 Year International Warranty (This is the standard, but I got an extra year by paying with American Express)
  • Windows XP Home
  • Dimensions: 12.4″ x 9.72″ x 1.29″; Approximately 3.85 lbs. with weight saver,
    4.3 lbs. with DVD/CD-RW combo drive

Reasons for Buying:

Unlike a lot of people who frequent computer sites, I’m not a gamer, nor someone who follows technology news. Like many people, over 95% of my time on a computer is spent surfing the net/handling email and doing stuff in Microsoft Office. Occasionally I use Photoshop to edit photos and Pagemaker and Illustrator to make brochures, cards, or flyers. It’s not important for me to have the latest greatest technology. The most important issue for me is reliability. When a computer breaks down, it’s the most frustrating, exasperating feeling, and fixing it sucks up so much time and energy and puts you in a bad mood. I was hoping for a computer that would never put me in this situation, but if there is a problem, the last thing I want is to be put on hold for an hour by customer support only to be told a non-answer.

I had originally planned to go with an IBM Thinkpad T42 without doing much research, as just about everyone told me that IBM was the most reliable brand and had good support. But when I went to the site to order one at the beginning of May, there was a message that the page was down, and to come back in a few days to buy a ThinkPad from the new Lenovo site. Two things made me uneasy about doing that. First, I was afraid that Lenovo would not keep up IBM’s quality and support availability, and, as a risk averse person, wasn’t willing to drop so much money on a question mark. Second, when I did go to the Lenovo site, I got the feeling that the company was in an understandably disorganized state. Many links didn’t work, and it seemed that you would have to wait a month or more for a computer. Even the best companies take at least a few months to recover from such a big transition, and I didn’t have that much time to wait. And despite the supposedly cost-cutting switch in management, there had been no price reduction.

Disappointed, I began researching other companies’ computers. I ruled out Dell because my sister bought an Inspiron a little less than 2 yeas ago and has been regretting it ever since. She’s had many problems with it, and the lack of helpful customer support made things worse. In addition, she had neglected to check the computer to make sure they had put in the specs she ordered. When I did this recently, we found out that Dell had sent her a 2.66GHz P4 with 256MB of RAM instead of the 2.4GHz and 512MB she had ordered. I was considering a Toshiba, as my father’s Toshiba has had no major problems in over two years. But I was told that the Toshiba quality had decreased recently, and I’m really annoyed with the constant overheating of his computer. I also considered Sony because I’ve had great luck with many Sony electronics, but reviews of their egregious customer support turned me away. Asus, though very favorably reviewed by just about everyone, was a bit out of my price range. I love the Apple Powerbooks, and would have bought one if Fujitsu’s didn’t exist, but the Powerbooks cost a little more, are not compatible with my printer, and would have required buying a whole new set of software.

Fujitsu was attractive for having the lowest percentage of computers needing repair, according to this survey from PC Magazine. (The fact that it’s still 1 out of every 8 computers says something about the overall quality of notebooks today.) I was originally deciding between the E8020D and the S7010D and went with the latter because it’s much more portable, despite not having the 15″ screen that I had wanted. As a pretty small person, carrying a ten-pound computer, even for a short distance, would be uncomfortable.

Where and How Purchased:

I ordered this computer online from Portable One and got the computer nine business days later. As many people have mentioned, Portable One is truly special in terms of their customer service. The phone was picked up each time by a real person who patiently answered all my questions.

My experience with them had a few small hiccups. The company decided to change servers a few days after I ordered, and my login account was deleted by accident. This meant that I couldn’t view the status of my order online. The order still did go through without delay, however, so there were no significant consequences of the account deletion. I called the company to check on the order’s status, since I couldn’t view the information online, and they happily gave me all the information they had. When the computer left the Fujitsu plant in Osaka, Portable One emailed me the tracking number without me having to ask for it. The second glitch was that Fujitsu was supposed to send the computer to Portable One, where they would add another 256MB of RAM, but instead they accidentally sent it directly to me. I called up Portable One, and Victor, who handled my order, said that I could ship the computer to them for free, and they would add the RAM and ship it back to me the same day they receive it via FedEx 2-day; or they would mail me the stick and talk me through the process of adding the RAM. I chose the second option because it didn’t require going without the computer for a few days, and the RAM arrived about a week and a half later. Adding the RAM was surprisingly easy. You just unscrew the cover and slip it right in:

Despite these two problems, I still unconditionally recommend Portable One and wouldn’t hesitate to buy from them again. The people there are so accessible and willing to help. But most of all, I was impressed by their integrity. I called up and asked how big a performance difference I would see by upgrading from 1.6 to 1.8GHz. Rather than seeing an opportunity to make more money, they told me that it would amount to only about a 10% difference, and with the usage I described, it probably wouldn’t be worth the extra $150. They never tried to push anything else on me, like an extended warranty, accessories, or upgrades, unlike the big retailers (Best Buy, CompUSA, Circuit City, etc.).

My total came to $1529, with free shipping. NewEgg seems to have lower prices, but you don’t have the option of customizing; cannot return the computer, only exchange it for the same model if it’s defective; and must have at least 7 dead pixels to get a replacement. In addition, all the configurations available from NewEgg are on the low end.  An identically configured model on the Fujitsu website cost more than $100 more, and you cannot return custom-configured notebooks. Given these factors, and the excellent customer service, I’d say $1529 was a more than fair price.

Form & Design:

Fujitsu S7010 Above closed view (view larger image)

Fujitsu S7010 Underside view (view larger image)

The lid is made of silver-colored magnesium alloy, not the plastic of so many notebooks. The hinges feel very sturdy, but there is some lid flex. If you press down on the lid, it goes in a little because there’s a small gap between the lid and keyboard when closed. Despite the lid flex, there are absolutely no ripples on the screen when you open the lid again.

The keyboard is a very light gray color. The touchpad is slightly left of center. There is no palm rest flex at all. Above the keyboard are the speakers, power button, four programmable shortcut buttons, and the battery indicator. [S7020D: Rather than the four programmable buttons by the power button, the S7020D features buttons similar to those on the S6231.] On the right side is a slot where you can put the CD/DVD drive, a second hard drive, a second battery, or nothing except a weight saver. For detailed pictures of the sides, see the “Input and Output Ports” section below.

The bottom has some felt patches to prevent the notebook from slipping. I also think these felt pads provide a better feel for when the notebook is on your lap.

The thing that impresses me the most is how lightweight the notebook is. This is the lightest 14.1″ notebook that I have come across. The weight is also very well spread out. The lightness extends beyond the notebook to the battery and AC adapter, the latter of which weighs practically nothing. After switching from a 7+ pound computer to this, I don’t think I can ever go back to the heavier ones.

Screen:

The screen is a 14.1″, 1024×768 (XGA) CrystalView enhanced screen. You can choose a 1400 x 1050 SXGA+ screen, but I didn’t think it was worth the money since the smaller’ nature of higher resolutions hurts my eyes. There were no dead pixels on the screen.

The screen is very clear and crisp. It’s also extremely bright. I’ve seen screens that lose clarity when the brightness increases, but there was no such tradeoff here. I have one small gripe with the screen, and that’s that the bottom half inch or so is noticeably brighter than the rest of the screen on dark backgrounds, though it hasn’t interfered with any of the processes I’ve run. It’s not nearly as bad as the pictures suggest; the light colored rectangle near the bottom of the screen is actually the reflection of my camera. The light section I’m talking about is that cloudy stuff along the bottom edge. As you can see, the Toshiba has it a little as well.

Screen comparison of Fujitsu S7010 and Toshiba Satellite 2435 (view larger image)

To demonstrate the brightness of the screen, here is a comparison with a Toshiba Satellite 2435. The Fujitsu is on the left, the Toshiba on the right. In the first picture, both computers are set to maximum brightness. In the second picture, the Toshiba is set to maximum brightness, but the Fujitsu is set to half brightness. 

Screen comparison of Fujitsu S7010 and Toshiba Satellite 2435, Fujitsu at half brightness setting while Satellite is at full brightness (view larger image)

Speakers:

I have yet to see a single lightweight notebook described as having good speakers, and this one sure doesn’t break the trend.

Test 1: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto

Classical music is usually good music to use to test a sound system, and this piece includes a wide range of notes. Even at the hest volume, the sound still wasn’t loud. I didn’t get the problem with the low and high notes described in this review of the IBM T42, but the whole thing sounded distant (like it was being played far away) and tinny, especially the low notes.

Test 2: DVD of a show that shall remain unnamed because I’m embarrassed to admit that I like it! 

The tin can’ quality is more apparent with speech than with music. Once again, the sound was distant.’

Headphones or external speakers are a must if you want rich sound. This just comes with the territory of a lightweight notebook. I should mention that my ears grew accustomed to the sound pretty quickly, and I don’t find it a major annoyance anymore. 

Processor and Performance:

I tried everything I could think of short of reading or writing a CD to make this computer sound like it was working. I ran several processes at once while opening a large PDF file, unzipped a large file, ran a virus scan, even ran a surface scan of the hard drive. And unless I pressed my ear against the computer, I couldn’t hear a thing. The hard drive makes no noise when it spins, and the fans almost never come on. When the fans do come on, the noise is so soft that you really have to listen for it to detect it. My sister’s Dell and my father’s Toshiba could both be heard across the room, so this just amazed me.

The other thing that amazed me is the lack of heat. The aforementioned Toshiba heats up all the time, and the Dell would overheat occasionally too. With this Fujitsu, I can put it on my lap for five hours straight while running a bunch of processes and reading CD’s/DVD’s and gets it only warm, not at all hot.

Benchmarks:

Boot-up time for the S7010 was 37 seconds from the time I pressed the button to the loading of the list of users.

We use 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:

Comparison of notebooks using Super Pi to calculate Pi to 2 million digits (plugged in):

 Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Fujitsu LifeBook S7010D (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M) 2m 08s
IBM ThinkPad X41 (1.50 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 2m 02s
Dell Latitude X1 (1.1 GHz ULV Pentium M) 2m 40s
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 45s
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
HP nc6230 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 40s

HD Tune Benchmarks
 Minimum Transfer Rate 16.8 MB/sec
 Maximum Transfer Rate 30.2 MB/sec
 Average Transfer Rate 24.5 MB/sec
 Acess Time 17.9 ms
 Burst Rate 66.8 MB/sec
 CPU Usage 4.1%

Keyboard and Touchpad:

I’m very picky about keyboards, and I’m not enamored with this one. The keys are a bit slippery, and there is a lot of flex on the bottom row of letters. There is pretty much no flex above that, and the keys there are very quiet. But with the B, N, and especially M and space bar keys, I can sometimes feel the flex just in the course of normal typing.  (I bang very hard on the keys when typing.) When I press the M key and look from certain angles, I can see the whole area depress. In addition, these keys are at least four times louder than the keys above. The problem is much less noticeable when the computer is on a flat surface such as a desk rather than sitting on your lap. This problem doesn’t seem to be universal for this model, as other people do not report it at all. I called up Victor at Portable One, and he said that quite a few people experienced the same thing, and that I could send it in anytime, and they would fix the problem for free. Despite these gripes, there’s nothing functionally wrong with the keyboard, and it’s completely usable. And after a week, I’m definitely becoming comfortable with the feel.

Fujitsu does a few things right: Unlike in the Thinkpad T43, the Control button is on the far left, not second from left. And unlike Toshiba, Fujitsu realizes that it’s not a good idea to place the delete and insert buttons right next to the spacebar. I also like the fact that the tilde key is next to the 1 key, as on a desktop, and that the Fn keys conveniently double as volume and screen controls. Fujitsu also does something wrong though: There are no separate Home and End keys; you have to press Fn and then the PgUp and PgDn keys. To make matters worse, the Fn key is really narrow. If I need to use the Home and End keys a lot in the future, I’ll use KeyTweak or a similar program to map them onto the F1 and F2 keys.

You can get a TrackPoint in addition to the touchpad for no extra cost, but I opted for only the touchpad because I’ve always found Trackpoints hard to use and didn’t want to accidentally hit it while typing. There are no problems with the touchpad’s responsiveness.

I’m used to exerting a tiny amount of pressure to click the buttons, and that isn’t the case here. The buttons are noticeably stiffer than the buttons on previous computers. I find this a little annoying, but some people may actually prefer the stiff buttons. The stiffness really becomes a problem with the scroll button, which is totally unusable because it takes more effort to press down on the button, and the button’s design is an ergonomic monstrosity.

Input and Output Ports:

Fujitsu S7010 Left Side (view larger image)

Fujitsu S7010 Right Side (view larger image)

Fujitsu S7010 Front Side (view larger image)
 
You can see the input and output ports in the pictures above. The external monitor port is hidden behind a plastic covering. On the bottom right corner of the media drive is the lever that you pull to remove whatever’s in the slot. If the computer is on, you have to eject it on the task panel first.

As shown in the pictures above, there is one USB port on the very right of the right side, and two on the back very close to the right side. Since I use a mouse with my left hand, I would have much preferred to have at least one USB port on or near the left side. The cord on my Microsoft travel mouse is long enough to be usable on the left side, but it doesn’t give me as much freedom of movement as I would have liked. If you don’t plan on hooking up a travel mouse and using your left hand for it, then the USB placements shouldn’t pose problems.

Wireless:

The laptop came with an Atheros 802.11 a+b/g wireless card. (This, by the way, is the only difference between the S7010D and the S7010. The S7010 has an Intel 802.11 a+b/g  wireless card.) The card detected my wireless network right away and hasn’t given me any problems at all. There’s a really small on/off switch for the wireless card located on the left side of the front panel.

The computer also came with Bluetooth and an infrared port, but I haven’t used either of them.

Battery:

Fujitsu LifeBook S7010 Battery (view larger image)

The battery is much lighter than those on the Toshiba and Dell laptops I’ve used. The battery runs along the top edge of the back, making the weight balance better. The test at Battery Eater Pro 2.60 yielded a minimum time of 107 minutes. Keep in mind that this tests the battery under maximum usage and stress. In reality, you’ll never actually use the computer in that way. While on battery power, I’ve been able to continuously use the computer for 3.5 hours or more.

Operating System and Software:

I opted to save money and get XP Home rather than Professional.

The following software came with the notebook: Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 (Note: Do NOT use this program! Version 6.0 was notorious for freezing, and it did that many times when I tried to open something in Firefox. Do yourself a favor and download 7.0 right away); Microsoft Internet Explorer; MS Works 8.0; 2003 SBE; Intuit Quicken 2005 New User Edition; Norton AntiVirus 2004 (90 day subscription); HotKey Utility; LifeBook Application Panel; Security Application Panel; InterVideo WinDVD; Sonic RecordNow! DX; Fujitsu Driver Update Utility

The following CD’s were included in the package:

  • Restore Disc
  • Drivers and Applications Restore CD
  • Trusted Platform Module Drivers and Applications CD
  • Record Now 7
  • Bluetooth Driver CD
  • Microsoft Works 8.0

Customer Support:

[the following comments apply only to the US and Canada]
I haven’t had any major problems with this computer (knock on wood!), but I decided to call up to ask about the keyboard flex problem just to see how the support was. I called the Fujitsu 24 hour customer service line around 7pm EST on a weekday. I immediately got someone at the other end who spoke perfect English and was very friendly. I described the problem, and she gave me the telephone numbers and addresses of four authorized service centers within an hour’s drive and said that I could also mail it to a service center. Even though it’s not a crucial problem, the service would be covered under the warranty.

I’m not sure how they would have handled a serious problem and hope I never have to find out, but I’m encouraged by what I’ve experienced so far. Fujitsu also has a 24 hour support chat room that I haven’t tried. But if your computer is fried, it’d be just a tad difficult to go online and have a chat with someone….

Complaints: 

  • Flexing of B, N, M, and space bar keys
  • no separate Home and End keys
  • stiff touchpad buttons and unusable scroll button
  • tin-can speakers that sound distant.’

Praises: 

  • Very lightweight
  • Sturdy hinges
  • Generates little heat
  • Operates extremely quietly
  • Accessible customer support
  • Easy to upgrade memory

Conclusion:

The S7010D allows you to enjoy the convenience and light weight of an ultra-portable without having to settle for a small screen and keyboard. This isn’t a notebook for gamers or for those looking for a workhorse computer. But if you spend the vast majority of time surfing the net or working with MS Office, then you’ll find lots to like.


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