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Mobile connectivity is something that has become vital to the modern workforce; a fact that Intel capitalised on brilliantly with the introduction of its Centrino platform. But even with the staggering amount of WiFi hotspots that have appeared over the past couple of years, they still can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to get online absolutely anywhere. For me, the answer to that problem has been a 3G data card, like the Vodafone Mobile Connect or Orange Mobile Office Card – in fact I rarely travel anywhere without a 3G data card in my bag.
The problem with a data card is that it’s something else to carry around with you, and because it sticks out of the side of your notebook, you can’t really keep it inserted all the time. Also, I often have to plug in an external antenna to my data card in order to ensure 3G rather than GPRS performance. So, wouldn’t it be great if you could get a notebook that had 3G data capabilities built into it, as well as the obligatory WiFi and Bluetooth connections? Well now you can.
In the past couple of months a lot of notebook manufacturers have announced models with integrated 3G capability. Dell, Acer and Lenovo have all shown off new notebook ranges with integrated 3G, but it’s Fujitsu-Siemens that has managed to get a working sample into the TrustedReviews lab first. The LifeBook E8210 represents the top of Fujitsu-Siemens’ notebook range, and it’s easy to see why. It’s been almost two years since we’ve had a LifeBook E series notebook in the TrustedReviews lab, but back then the LifeBook E8010 did walk away with a Recommended award, so the new E8210 has something to live up to.
Let’s cover this machine’s party piece first, the integrated 3G connectivity. Hiding in one side of the battery compartment is a SIM slot, just like the one you’d find in your mobile phone. The SIM slot is spring loaded so pushing the SIM in will secure it, while pushing it again will release it. There’s also a sliding clip to ensure that the card doesn’t eject accidentally. I tried a variety of 3G SIMs in the E8210 and every one of them worked without incident, meaning that if you already have a 3G phone or data card, you can simply use the SIM from that if you buy an E8210. I should qualify the compatibility by stating that 3G SIMs on the Three network will not work, but that’s to do with Three’s insistence on enforcing a “walled garden” when it comes to data use on its network. You also might want to check on the data charges for your contract before you just decide to whip the SIM out of your 3G phone.