Fujitsu LifeBook U820 Review

by NotebookReview Staff Reads (43,444)

by Kevin O’Brien

The Fujitsu LifeBook U820 is an ultra-mobile convertible notebook with a high resolution 5.6” display. Packing built-in GPS with Garmin navigation software, a passive touch screen, and a 4-cell battery claiming upwards of 7.5 hours of battery life this UMPC can handle almost any situation. In this review we cover all the reasons why spending above $1,000 on a U820 is worth it compared to $400 or $500 on a standard netbook.

The LifeBook U820 features the following technical specifications:

  • Intel Atom Processor Z530
  • Windows Vista Business 32-bit
  • 5.6″ WXGA Crystal View display with touch screen (glossy, 1280×800)
  • Integrated Webcam and Fingerprint Sensor
  • 1 GB DDR2 533 MHz SDRAM memory (Onboard memory)
  • 120 GB Toshiba 4200 rpm hard drive
  • Built-in GPS receiver and integrated Garmin Mobile PC
  • 10/100 Ethernet (through breakout cable)
  • Atheros XSPAN (802.11a/b/g/draft-n) and Integrated Bluetooth wireless
  • Main battery: Lithium ion (4-cell, 7.2V, 5800 mAh, 41Wh)
  • Weight: 1lb 8.3oz
  • Size: 6.73″(w) x 6.14″(d) x 1.16″/1.46″(h)
  • One-year International Limited Warranty

Build and Design

The Fujitsu LifeBook U820 sits somewhere between a cellphone and a netbook in terms of size, too big to use with one hand, but too small to type semi-normal with both hands. When closed it is small enough to fit inside a coat pocket or even a larger cargo pant pocket, negating the need for a backpack to lug around your work machine. The glossy black lid and gray pinstripe body go very well together, and since this is a business UMPC we didn’t expect it to be as extravagant as some popular netbook models.

After reviewing so many budget netbook models I have almost come to expect consumer grade components and somewhat flimsy feeling plastic shells. The Fujitsu U820 is a refreshing change, with a alloy chassis covered by a plastic shell, and a rugged feel that you would expect from a business computer. The pinstripe finish is dual purpose, looking good and also giving the chassis grip, with small ridges for extra traction. The rotating screen hinges feel pretty solid, and keep the screen planted in one position even while running around and using your thumbs to type on the keyboard.

Display

The 5.6” WXGA screen adds a new meaning to high resolution and Fujitsu should really include a magnifying glass with the U820. With netbooks the standard resolution across the board is 1024×600 on 9” and 10” models, and 800×480 on the original 7” models. The 5.6” display on this computer has a 1280×800 resolution and really makes me feel old as I squint to see what is currently being shown. Moving past the fine pixels the screen is gorgeous. Colors are bright and vibrant and the high contrast makes the screen very readable.

Viewing angles are *perfect*, with clear and accurate color all the way to the edges in both vertical and horizontal extremes. Indoors the screen doesn’t appear as bright as other notebooks, but it is still very usable outdoors. The touch-sensitive layer above the screen does increase glare and reflection, but tilting the screen slightly will fix that in most situations.

Tablet Features

The Fujitsu U820 offers a passive touchscreen display which is not that fun on a small high resolution screen. Trying to click icons or specific buttons can be a pain if the calibration is off just a fraction of an inch. For basic movements or using the Garmin GPS capabilities it is not as big of a problem since the targets are larger. Pen movement over the screen was almost rough at first, but got better as more oil from your hands built up on the surface. Under normal use I found the pointing stick to be the best form of input while on the go, and an external mouse if I was at work with plenty of desk space.

GPS Navigation

If you are familiar with Garmin GPS units, the Garmin MobilePC software is very similar. The interface looks just like what you would expect, and buttons are all large enough to tap with your fingertips instead of using the pen input. The internal GPS receiver works best NOT using the included external antenna and works well even indoors.

Keyboard and Pointing Stick

The keyboard is between the size of being easy to type on with your thumbs and comfortable to type on with two hands. The keys are very small and it takes quite a bit of effort to tap the correct keys without also pressing the neighboring keys by accident. I consider my fingertips to be on the slender side overall and I still had problems typing at any rate of speed accurately. Spellchecking is definitely your friend on this keyboard.
Fujitsu included a keyboard light assembly to shine over the keys in poorly lit areas, but we didn’t find it that useful in our testing. The screen itself turned out to illuminate the keys just as good, but if you are trying to find the center of the keyboard to get your fingers in position it does help a bit.

The pointing stick is design to be used when you are holding the U820 with both hands, with the pointing stick controlled by your right thumb and left/right buttons with your left thumb. With the sensitivity and speed adjusted it is quite easy to maneuver the pointer around the screen, but I also have experience using the touchpoint on various ThinkPad models.

Performance

The Intel Atom Z530 and Intel GMA 500 integrated graphics are better known for their low power capabilities over performance attributes. Most applications opened smoothly without much lag, but if they needed to load lots of data from the hard drive the 1.8” drive did make things sluggish. The GMA 500 graphics with the 1280×800 resolution display did feel as if it was being pushed to the limits while scrolling through image intensive web pages. Most don’t really expect the latest performance from super small computers so the lag is not as big of a problem as it might be with say a 12” business notebook.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Fujitsu LifeBook U820 (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 123.679 seconds
HP Mini 1000 (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 125.788 seconds
ASUS N10 (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 126.047 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 1000HA (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 117.577 seconds
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 127.172 seconds
Acer Aspire One (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz)  125.812 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 901 (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 123.437 seconds
MSI Wind (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 124.656 seconds  
ASUS Eee PC 900 (Intel Celeron M ULV @ 900MHz) 203.734 seconds
HP 2133 Mini-Note (Via CV7-M ULV @ 1.6GHz) 168.697 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 4G (Intel Celeron M ULV @ 630MHz) 289.156 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 4G (Intel Celeron M ULV @ 900MHz) 200.968 seconds
Everex CloudBook (VIA C7-M ULV @ 1.2GHz) 248.705 seconds
Fujitsu U810 Tablet PC (Intel A110 @ 800MHz) 209.980 seconds
Sony VAIO VGN-G11XN/B (Core Solo U1500 @ 1.33GHz) 124.581 seconds
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.2GHz) 76.240 seconds
Dell Inspiron 2650 (Pentium 4 Mobile @ 1.6GHz) 231.714 seconds

 

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Fujitsu LifeBook U820 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 500) 1,038 PCMarks
ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 1,531 PCMarks
ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, NVIDIA 9300M 256MB) 1,851 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1000HA (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 1,527 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 1,446 PCMarks
Acer Aspire One (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950)  1,555 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 901 (1.60GHz Intel Atom)  746 PCMarks
MSI Wind (1.60GHz Intel Atom)  N/A
ASUS Eee PC 900 (900MHz Intel Celeron M ULV) 1,172 PCMarks
HP 2133 Mini-Note (1.6GHz VIA C7-M ULV) 801 PCMarks
HTC Shift (800MHz Intel A110) 891 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 4G (630MHz Intel Celeron M ULV) 908 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 4G (900MHz Intel Celeron M ULV) 1,132 PCMarks
Everex CloudBook (1.2GHz VIA C7-M ULV) 612 PCMarks
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600) 2,446 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 (1.2GHz Intel Core Solo U1400) 1,152 PCMarks
Sony VAIO VGN-G11XN/B (1.33GHz Core Solo U1500) 1,554 PCMarks
Toshiba Portege R500 (1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600) 1,839 PCMarks

 

 

3DMark06 comparison results:

 

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Fujitsu LifeBook U820 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 500) 87 3DMarks
HP Mini 1000 (1.6GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 88 3DMarks
ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 73 3DMarks
ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, NVIDIA 9300M 256MB) 1,417 3DMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1000HA (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 95 3DMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) N/A
Acer Aspire One (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 122 3DMarks
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 122 3DMarks
HP dv2500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,055 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks

 

HDTune hard drive performance results:

 

Speaker and Audio

The mono speaker is definitely not something you would write home about, with very weak midrange, sounding not unlike an earbud cranked to max volume. There is no hint of bass or really any midrange, leaving just the very high notes if you are playing music through it. If you were trying to use it for a Skype phone call you would need to find a quiet room without much ambient noise.

Headphone performance was much better and should be a required accessory if you plan on using the U820 to play movies or music. Volume and audio limits are only defined by the headphones you are using and with my Sennheiser HD80’s everything sounded great and peak volume levels were above comfortable listening range.

Ports and Features

Port selection was very limited with one USB port and a breakout connector for LAN and VGA. One surprising aspect is the dual card readers, which include the standard SD-reader and a CF-slot. I would have preferred an additional USB port over the CF-slot since the capacity and speed of SDHC cards has pushed compact flash away in the mobile market for storage expansion.


Front: VGA and LAN breakout connector


Rear: Battery


Left: Mic/Headphone, SD-Reader, 1 USB, Kensington lock slot, Volume adjustment


Right: Wireless On/Off, CF Slot, Power On/Off, AC Power

Battery

Time on battery was probably the best feature hands down of this little tablet. Fujitsu claims 7.5 hours using the 4-cell battery, which we easily broke in our testing. With the screen brightness set to about 60%, wireless active, GPS disable, and Vista using the “Balanced” power profile we managed 8 hours and 8 minutes. Early on the notebook was estimating over 9 and a half hours of time, which got sucked up somewhere during the middle of the test when Vista started to index the hard drive. Average power draw during the test was 4.5 watts, which is easily a new record for any computer we have tested in our office.

Heat and Noise

With such a small body heat did build up beyond what most netbooks usually see, but never to levels that were uncomfortable. Under normal use after being powered on for a few hours the body stabilized in the mid 90’s. Noise was minimal, with the small fan kicking in at various times under load. With the exhaust streaming out from the center of the bottom, it didn’t cause any burnt fingers when you were holding it on your hands.

Conclusion

The Fujitsu LifeBook U820 is a pricey ultraportable, but is the smallest and most feature packed mini tablet we have reviewed. It offers optional GPS, WWAN, a 5.6” WXGA display, SD and CF slots, passive touchscreen, and the Intel Atom platform for a starting price of $999. While it does cost almost twice average netbook price it has incredible battery life and a high resolution screen, which not few netbooks offer. Build quality is excellent, but that is expected given the price. My main complaint is heart-stopping price of upgrades that Fujitsu offers, including an almost $1,000 bump for a solid state drive and no ability to upgrade the amount of ram. Overall the U820 is an impressive little machine with a lot to offer for someone who is always on the go.


Pros:

  • Great Screen
  • WXGA resolution on a 5.6″ display
  • Builtin GPS with Garmin MobilePC software
  • Over 8 hours of battery life

Cons:

  • One USB port
  • Power efficient Intel Atom platform and GMA 500 graphics feels sluggish at times
  • Keyboard is very small


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