Fujitsu Siemens Amilo M3438 / M4438 Review (pics, specs)

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by Cedric, Germany

Fujitsu Amilo M4438 / M3438 Review

note to readers, this laptop is a European only model!

Fujitsu Amilo M4438 (view larger image)

Fujitsu Amilo M4438 / M3438 Specs

  • Centrino Machine
  • Screen: 17″ WUXGA/WXGA+ Crystal View  
  • Processor: Pentium M 1.6 to 2.13 GHz (review unit config is 1.86GHz)
  • RAM: Up to 2GB DDR2 SO-DIMM (400/533 MHz)  (Review unit config is 512MB at purchase, but upgraded to 1536MB (1GB + 512MB) after purchase)
  • GPU: NVidia Geforce Go 6800 256 MB  
  • HDD: Up to 2 Serial-ATA HDDs (RAID 0/1 functionality)  
  • Network: 10/100 Ethernet  
  • WLAN: Intel PRO/Wireless 802.11b/g  
  • Modem: V.92 56K fax modem  
  • Optical Drive: DVD+-RW Dual Layer  
  • Media Drive: 4-in-1 card reader with SD/MS/MMC/MSPRO support  
    Connection Ports: 4xUSB 2.0, 1xS/PDIF out, 1xFireWire 400, 1xDVI-I, 1xS-Video out  
  • Expansion Slot: ExpressCard  
  • Speakers: 2.1 (stereo + subwoofer)  
  • Additional Features: Instant-On function and built-in remote control  
  • Dimensions: 408 X 289 X 38.1 mm  
  • Weight: 4.1 kg (with 2 disks) 
  • Battery Life: 2.5 hours 
  • Fujitsu Siemens Product Website for Amilo M3438 / M4438: http://www.fujitsu-siemens.com/products/mobile/notebooks/amilo_m_3438_4438.html

Introduction

I was looking for a laptop I could use at home, at my girlfriend’s place, and finally on my boat. As I needed it to be able to play games I wanted it to last a while before having to replace it, a desktop replacement style laptop with a fast processor (latest Pentium M with a 1.80GHz + processor speed) and good graphics card (NVidia 6800Go) seemed like the logical choice.

The others that could have competed in my buying choice were the Dell Precision M70 (a real beast, but the professional orientation and engineer target audience meant a higher price) and the Dell Inspiron 9300.

Since I live in Europe, I couldn’t get the awesome deals Americans can get on Dell Home, so the Fujitsu Amilo 3438 was a cheaper buying choice, and it offered a bright screen in WXGA format (not available on the Inspiron 9300) and the possibility for a SATA RAID hard drive.

I bought the laptop online in a German shop, getting it for 1450 Euros including the shipping, which was a pretty good deal considering the 1600 Euro to 1800 Euro prices they have just next door in France. The Fujitsu-Siemens warranty is 2-years and covers international repairs.

Impressions

This notebook’s screen is a 1440 x 900 17″ WXGA LCD with extra bright coating (like Sony’s XBrite, etc). The colors are just great, very bright and the contrast offered is excellent. The were no dead pixels found on the screen, I’m crossing my fingers I don’t find any as I didn’t take the optional “Dead Pixels” warranty available from Fujitsu-Siemens for the extra price of 29.90 Euros.

The speakers, which consists of two regular front speakers and one subwoofer, are good enough without being anything spectacular. Basically I can say they’re loud enough to watch a DVD with a small group of friends gathered in a room (well, except if they’re the loud type of friends if you know what I mean!)

The 1.87 GHz Intel Pentium M Sonoma class processor is great and can handle the most demanding games (Doom 3, Battlefield 2, etc) with ease, and even HDTV clips in 1080p.  I got the laptop configured with 512MB of RAM instead of 1GB.  As we all know, it is cheaper to upgrade the RAM yourself than having the retailer or manufacturer do it at the time of purchase. I plan to buy an additional 1GB.

The hard drive is a quite common 5400RPM 80GB one. I plan to buy one or two 7200RPM hard drives as this beast has a RAID controller! Having a RAID controller is a rather strange decision on a laptop though, you see that in servers usually.  Following are the results from the HDtach program when run agains this 5400RPM hard drive

HDtach results (http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTach)

  • Average read :18.2 ms
  • Random access :28.7 mb/s
  • Burst speed :83.5 mb/s

Now onto the real star of this laptop — the NVidia 6800Go graphics card, let’s see some of the benchmark results in some demanding games (Demos done at 1024×768 resolution, no overclocking was used):

  • FARCRY, high detail: 80 FPS
  • DOOM 3, high details : 58 FPS
  • 3DMARK05 : 3600 out of the box, 3800 with after doing a custom Windows XP install to clear out bloatware programs

These scores are in range for the graphic chipset and a bit better than on the Inspiron 9300, this is due to higher base frequencies on the 6800Go in the Amilo.

Below are the results I obtained running Super Pi to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy.

 Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Fujitsu Siemens M3438 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 46s
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 53s
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
1m 45s
Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M) 1m 48s
Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M) 1m 52s
Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M) 2m 10s
Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Pentium M) 1m 57s
Sony VAIO S170P (1.5 GHz Pentium M) 2m 07s
Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m

Gaming Conclusion: ANY current top game will run flawlessly, and you have some time before the new ones will put the graphic chipset on it’s knees 🙂

Design

For a 17″ screen desktop replacement laptop, the M3438 is quite thin (view larger image)

The first thing you’ll notice about this Fujitsu-Siemens laptop is that it is quite thin for a 17″ screen sized laptop (see the pictures).  The design is sober, all black and grey, with blue LEDs at the bottom of the screen and the nicely lit Power button.

Fujitsu Siemens M3438 Above view of keyboard (view larger image)

The usual black keyboard feels solid and is smooth and quiet. Unfortunately, there is no NumPad.  There are just enough multimedia buttons to be useful and yet keep a sober looking design — nothing over the top. 

The touchpad works well and offers a button to enable or disable it, this is useful for people to be able to easily disable the touchpad when typing so your palms or wrists don’t end up brushing the touchpad and moving the cursor around unintentionally.

Fujitsu Siemens M3438 Right view, back view, front view, left view (view larger image)

There is a handy small wheel on the left side, which controls speakers volume.  Finally, in that lower left corner, is the built-in microphone placed as far away from the keyboard and speakers as possible, to avoid noise.

Like several new generation laptops, the legacy ports have been left out, so you’ll get no parallel or COM ports. No PS/2 port either for that old mouse you might have sitting around.  You do of course get USB ports, these ports are split on both sides (3 to the right, 1 to the left) to take care of your personal preferences for mouse position.  Ethernet, phone and Firewire ports are present, and scattered around.  The usual PCMCIA “cache” is instead a remote control with multimedia controls, so you can use the 17” screen as a TV (a good thing!).  Finally, there is a 4-in-1 card built-in card reader on the right side.

General Observations

The laptop can generate quite a bit of heat during 3D games, which is to be expected, but it stays within reasonable bounds.  It has never frozen up, crashed or any such thing due to excessive heat generated when playing demanding games.  The laptop is relatively quiet, with only one fan.

A built-in Wireless G (54Mb) card and infrared port are included. Sadly, Bluetooth is missing, but it might be included in the M4438 model (with a WUXGA screen), due out later this summer.

The battery lasts around 2 hours and 30 minutes while watching a DVD and with wireless enabled. That’s really not too bad considering the screen size and power this machines wields.

I had no need for the customer support so far, and I hope it stays that way, so I can’t say much about it 😉

The included OS is a standard XP Home install. As I said, this laptop was purchased in Germany where I live and to be honest I didn’t get to check the software package out simply because I don’t understand German, so I reinstalled everything and used my native language for the settings in Windows.

Conclusion

Apart from the lack of Bluetooth, I’m still looking for things that should be improved.  This is a great desktop replacement 17″ screen laptop, and if you want a Dell Inspiron 9300 equivalent, with a nicer design and for less money — well here it is!

Pros

  • Good Price for the features you get
  • Great screen (glossy finish with bright colors and good contrast)
  • Awesome graphics power!

Cons

  • Lack of Bluetooth (very popular in Europe)
  • SATA interface means a 7200 RPM HD will cost more
  • I can’t find a reason for having RAID on a laptop — but in case you can it’s there.

 

 



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