Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Xi1546 Review (pics, specs)

by rwyke Reads (55,096)

by Richard Wyke, England

Overview and Introduction

The Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi1546 is available with Intel Core Duo processors from 1.66GHz to 2.33GHz, RAM from 512MB to 2GB, an 80, 100 or 120GB Hard Disk and all have a 17″ widescreen monitor, either 1440×900 or 1920×1200. All models also come with Intel PRO/Wireless 3495ABG and Bluetooth.


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Reasons for Buying

I was looking for a laptop that I could take to university with me in the fall, but it was important that it would last a long time and be able to run Vista when that comes out – as well as running XGL in Linux, portability was less important as it is likely to spend most of the time on my desk so I didn’t have to worry so much about size or weight. Initially I was going to buy a Lenovo Z61m but the wait here was too long so I got impatient and ordered this, I’m confident that these specs will remain respectable for few years yet and the X1800 graphics card should have no problems at all with Vista and any games I may want to play.


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This is my first desktop replacement laptop, and it replaces a Toshiba Portege so I hope the increased performance is worth the move from a 12″ screen and 1.2kg to a 17″ screen and over 4kg.


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Where and when purchased

I ordered from Insight UK who were brilliant as ever.

These are the specifications:

  • Intel Core Duo T2400 (1.83GHz, 667MHz FSB, 2MB L2 cache)
  • 1GB DDR2 (553MHz) 2x 512MB
  • 17.0″ CrystalView WXGA+ (1440×900)
  • ATI Mobility Radeon X1800 (256MB GDDR3, HDTV ready with HDCP)
  • 80GB Fujitsu-Siemens 5,400rpm hard disk
  • 8x DVD-RW
  • 7.1 SPDIF, 2.1 internal speakers
  • 10/100/1000Mpbs LAN
  • Intel PRO/wireless 3945ABG
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • Ports: 1xIEEE1394 4 x USB 2.0 1 x DVI-I 1 x Modem 1 x LAN 1 x S-video out 1 x Express card slot (34/54mm) 1 x 4-in-1 card reader (SD, MS, MMC, MS Pro) 1 x headphone out / SPDIF 1 x Microphone= 1 x Line in
  • 8 cells 14.8v Battery

I ordered late on Friday and it arrived just before mid-day on Saturday which is pretty good service. The total cost was 943 GBP including Saturday delivery (about 1750 USD / 1350 EUR)

Build and Design

The first thing that strikes you about this laptop, and may stop you from wanting it is that it’s big. Very big. The 17″ screen means that it’s about 1.5 times as wide as a normal laptop, combined with the weight (4kg) means it’s not something you can carry anywhere, or use on your lap for long periods of time. The trade off is obviously portability against performance and screen real estate.


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The massive surface area behind the LCD means that firm pressure on the back of the screen causes ripples and it doesn’t resist twisting very well. The base of the laptop is much more solid – but very heavy, so that while picking it up from one corner isn’t easy it is well built enough to resist damage despite its weight. The silver plastic around the front looks prone to scratching if it was mistreated, but as a system that will spend most of its time on a desk and very little time being carried around there shouldn’t be any problems here.


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When compared to a T42 the difference in build quality is not as big as expected, the difference is due to the size of the laptop and because everything is bigger it is more susceptible to twisting or bending; overall the materials used are above average and it feels very solid when compared to my previous Toshiba Portege or Dell Latitude. I would doubt its ability to shrug off a 3 foot drop like the ThinkPad might but this is just due to the fact that it is so much wider and deeper if it was made as tough as a ThinkPad it would weigh several tonnes! So while flex is expected on something like this, the finish is very good and it’s an attractive design.


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Screen

The screen is easily the best feature of the laptop. It’s a 17″ Glossy 1440×900 LCD and has stunning quality and vibrant colours, the brightness is adjustable and while the lowest settings are a bit too dim, a bit from the highest is perfect for me and is easily viewable sitting outside. The widescreen aspect also makes using Word or Excel much easier because you can fit two documents next to each other or see more columns than in a regular 4:3 screen. Thankfully mine came with no dead pixels at all, and light leakage is minimal along the bottom of the screen but is only noticeable on the highest brightness settings and on an all black background.

Its brilliant to watch movies on and because of the size you can watch them from across the room if you prefer somewhere comfortable to sit. Together with the instant-on media software (which is very good, almost up to Front row and MCE standards for usability) and the included remote control it’s an amazing system for multimedia, and if you need extra storage space there is always room for another hard disk.

It’s difficult to do the screen justice in a few paragraphs, and the extra size makes me wonder how I coped with just a 12″ XGA screen beforehand.

The graphics card is the ATI Mobility Radeon X1800 which includes 256MB of dedicated GDDR3 Memory, which means you can run the latest games without turning down the quality. The card has a core clock speed of 400MHz, which is slightly under clocked from the standard 450MHz for this card and I assume this is because of heat and power reasons. It supports the latest DirectX 9 Shader Model 3.0, as well as ATI’s Avivo technology which provides accelerated MPEG/H.264 playback and encoding. It also comes with HDCP support so you can watch high definition media without the resolution being scaled back in the future.


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Speakers

As with most laptops the speakers are unlikely to replace your home hi-fi anytime soon, but the inbuilt 2.1 speakers are much better than you usually find in laptops and are more than up to the job of watching movies or listening to the occasional song, and with 7.1 surround output you can always hook it up to other speakers. The volume control feels a bit cheap though.

Processor and Performance

The dual core processor and 1GB ram mean that XP, Ubuntu & Vista are all very fast and very responsive on this laptop, and there is a huge difference in comparison to single core systems. The biggest gain however is the ability to run a resource hogging program but still have a responsive system, and as applications become smarter and are able to take advantage of the dual core architecture and more run processes more intelligently in the background things can only get better. The ATI Mobility X1800 graphics card also means that the latest software and games run great, although the Core is under clocked to 400MHz (from 450MHz on the ATI Specifications) presumably for heat reasons, it is definitely not a slow graphics card. Doom, UT2004 & C&C Generals all run at high quality brilliantly. And the 3DMark result shows just how able this graphics card is, and is unbeatable for the price. The biggest bottleneck in the system is the hard disk and while all the other components are high end the hard disk is pretty average — an upgrade to a 7,200rpm hard disk, or adding another disk in RAID0 would make a noticeable difference. The included disk isn’t slow, it’s just average which stands out in a system of otherwise top-end components.

Benchmarks

3DMark 2005 ~ 5711 3DMarks


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3DMark 2006 ~ 3077 3DMarks


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3DMark06 Comparison Results:

 

 

Notebook  3DMark 06 Results

Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Xi1546 (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1800)

3,077 3DMarks
Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,528 3DMarks

Dell Precison M90 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia Quadro FX 1500M)

3,926 3DMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800GTX) 4,085 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB) 4,744 3DMarks


PCMark 2005 ~ 4311 PCMarks


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Super Pi

The Core Duo processor is known to be fast at SuperPi, considerably faster than the previous Pentium M.

 

 

 

Notebook

Time

Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Xi1546 (1.83GHz Core Duo)

1m 17s

Asus W3H760DD (2.0 GHz Pentium M)

1m 33s

Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 16s

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 18s

Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo)

1m 18s

Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)

1m 29s

Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)

1m 41s

Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)

1m 53s

IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)

1m 45s

HDTune


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Heat and Noise

The palm rest and underside of the laptop get hot but never uncomfortably so and definitely nowhere in the league of Macbooks. There is also a whisper mode button above the keyboard which slows everything down so it’s as quiet as can be – does what it says on the tin, but even without this it’s very quiet; You cannot hear it from across a room, and never over the speakers during a game even when the fans are on full.

Keyboard & Touchpad


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The keyboard and touchpad take some getting used to. Instead of a standard notebook keyboard Fujitsu-Siemens have fitted a full size keyboard including number pad, but still mounted the touchpad in the middle of the letters section of the keypad – this leads you to sit slightly to the left of the laptop, as you centre yourself on the touchpad, and although initially a bit weird I got used to it quickly. The right hand side of the touchpad has a vertical scroll section which I now use all the time and it’s very handy to have and is comparable to a scroll wheel on a normal mouse.

The keyboard is nowhere near the quality of the ThinkPad’s (but then nothing is really) and while the travel is shallow it is very comfortable to use, flex is minimal and comparable to the Logitech DiNovo keyboard that I use for quality which is never a bad thing. One thing that is odd is because they have squeezed a full size keyboard in, the secondary keys around the arrow keys are 3/4 width which takes getting used to. It isn’t difficult to use at all, it’s just different.


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Above the keyboard are shortcut buttons for the Power Cinema software, Internet, E-Mail and the whisper mode.

Input and Output Ports


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Along the front is the IR receiver for the remote and the switch for the wireless, The right hand side has the express card slot which holds the mini remote, three USB2 ports, Firewire, Multicard reader and an Ethernet port. The back has S-Video, DVI-I and a phone socket for the integrated Modem. The left hand side has the power right at the back and the audio sockets at the front. These include the line-in, headphone/spdif microphone ports and a volume control dial.

The lack of a PCMCIA slot may be a problem if you have older cards that you use; luckily with integrated wireless and Bluetooth I have no need for my old PCMCIA cards.

Wireless

The standard 54Mbps wireless is included, as well as a switch on the front right of the laptop which disables it. The range is good and signal strength remained strong even when I was sitting in the garden and a long way from the access point. Bluetooth and IR also work as expected.

Battery

Battery life isn’t so great and that is to be expected from the massive LCD and high end graphics. Expect about an hour and a half if using it normally with a dimmed screen but with WIFI enabled, with everything set to lowest possible power consumption it will get about an hour and three quarters but you can’t hope for anything more with a screen like this to power.

The power pack is also big and heavy and if you dropped it on your foot you’d know about it.

Operating System & Software

Windows XP Home Edition

Mine came with Windows XP Home bundled, with very little bloatware which meant it didn’t get bogged down at all with unnecessary processes. A big bundle of rescue and recovery / driver / bundled software cd’s was included; the usual 60 day trial of Office 2003 was installed as well as a copy of Works, Nero Express, Norton Antivirus and Cyber link Power Cinema software. Basically the essentials and no rubbish.

Windows Vista Beta 2

To install vista you need to burn a CD with the Via Raid drivers on, without the text file that usually accompanies XP driver cd’s, with the file it doesn’t find the drivers but if you take the file out it works fine. Installation is long, about 45 minutes, but once installed Vista runs very fast and Aero is obviously fully supported and runs very smoothly. The difference between this PC and my desktop which has a Radeon 9600 128MB is obvious so I’m glad I didn’t settle for an integrated solution like the GMA950 which claims to fully support aero, while a lesser card will still run aero it won’t be as fluid as with the higher end cards – this may change when drivers and OS are finalised.

In the performance advisor the notebook scores a 3 overall, and the components break down like this:

CPU 4.8

Hard Disk 3.5

Memory 4.0

Graphics 5.9

Gaming Graphics 5.3

This shows the hard disk as a bottleneck again, sing two hard disks in Raid 0 may improve things, as would an upgrade to a 7,200rpm disk.

One piece of advice is to not install the recommended free Antivirus when prompted by Vista, if you find out, like I did, that you’d rather throw your new laptop in the pool than use this Antivirus, when you go to uninstall it goes out kamikaze style and takes all your network hardware drivers with it, which is a pain to fix.


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Customer Support

Ordering from insight meant I didn’t have to worry about the ordering or delivery process. Their customer service department is polite, knowledgeable and always willing to do whatever they can to help you – and most importantly the phones are answered almost instantly, it is worth staying loyal to a company like this if you hate being put on hold every time you ring someone.

I have had no need to contact Fujitsu-Siemens themselves yet, their website is informative though and the manuals and software that come with it are very comprehensive. They have of course gone straight into a drawer and will likely never be read, but had they not been included there would be complaints about a lack of documentation. There is a 1 Year warranty with the laptop (Two years if you live in Germany) which is pretty standard, and a year warranty on the battery.


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Conclusion

As a desktop replacement laptop it is nearly perfect and brilliant value for the performance you are getting. It is not portable but the wonderful screen, top-end components and media capabilities mean it will play all your movies and games.

You definitely get the feeling that Fujitsu-Siemens have tried their hardest to pack as much in as possible and have not tried to save money by using cheaper parts. This is the sort of feeling you want from a computer!

Alienware have also released a version of this laptop – the Alienware Area-51 m5750 — but are charging a premium for their name, so this may be one of the best value notebooks on the market at the moment.

Pros

  • Fantastic 17″ WXGA+ Monitor
  • Core Duo means better multitasking
  • 1GB RAM
  • Top quality performance components
  • Good build quality & attractive design
  • Great media capabilities
  • Possibility for RAID

Cons

  • Too heavy to carry frequently
  • Average hard disk
  • XP Home instead of Pro


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