- Review Price: £1200.00
This is a double first for Fujitsu-Siemens – not only is it the first widescreen notebook that the company has sent us, but it’s also the first Athlon 64 based machine. The Amilo A1630 is a notebook that should appeal to power users – with a mobile Athlon 64 3400+ processor, 512MB of PC2700 DDR SDRAM and a 128MB Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics card this is a seriously punchy laptop.
The high-end specification doesn’t stop there as Fujitsu-Siemens has also managed to squeeze in an 80GB hard drive and a 4x/2.4x DVD+R/RW drive. As you would expect from a modern notebook there is support for wireless networking, although I have never come across the manufacturer of the 802.11g chipset in the Amilo A1630 before, a company called Ralink.
If you intend to use your laptop for watching movies, the Amilo A1630 is ideal with its 15.4in widescreen TFT display with a 1,280 x 800 resolution. This resolution isn’t as high as some widescreen notebooks we’ve come across but it still offers a reasonable amount of desktop real estate. Unusually the Amilo A1630 features a Realtek ALC655 audio codec, which allows for 5.1-channel sound. Fujtisu-Siemens has taken advantage of this by making the front audio connectors reconfigurable, so that you can hook up 5.1-channel speakers – a neat feature that you won’t see on many notebooks.
The Amilo A1630 uses an SiS 755 chipset, rather than the more common VIA chipset that tends to be fitted to Athlon 64 notebooks. The SiS chipset offers similar features to a VIA solution and Fujitsu-Siemens has also used the integrated SiS 900 10/100Mbit Ethernet, rather than a third party solution. Other features includes a built-in 56k V.92 modem, IrDA, FireWire and USB 2.0.
Taking a look around the chassis you’ll find a single Type II PC Card slot, a four-pin FireWire port, a memory card reader that accepts SD, MMC and MemoryStick, the Ethernet and modem connectors, and two USB 2.0 ports all on the left side. Around the back is an S-Video out connector, another USB 2.0 port, the IrDA port, a D-SUB and a parallel port. Moving onto the right hand side you’ll find the power connector and the DVD writer. At the front are three audio connectors – in standard configuration these provide optical S/PDIF output, line out and microphone input, with the optical S/PDIF doubling as headphone socket. The labelling could be clearer here as there is no way of knowing that the S/PDIF socket can be used for headphones, nor is it very clear that all of these ports can be configured in the audio settings to allow for 5.1-channel output.
The keyboard is comfortable to type on with most keys where you would expect them to be. Unfortunately, the Fn key has yet again swapped places with the Ctrl key, which can be a little bit frustrating if you’re used to having it at the end of the keyboard. But to be fair most notebook manufacturers fall foul of this problem. The Insert and Delete keys have also been moved and find themselves at the bottom of the keyboard, although it doesn’t take long to get used to this. Both Shift keys and the Return and Backspace keys are full size, which is always good to see.
The touchpad has a scroll section, although this has not been separated from the rest of the touchpad as seen on HP notebooks. The result is that you sometimes scroll by accident. There is also a scroll button between the two selector buttons, which makes you wonder why there is a scroll surface on the touchpad in the first place. Above the keyboard is the power switch, a button for enabling the wireless antenna and two shortcut buttons to launch your Internet browser and email client.
Fujitsu-Siemens has also included a decent software bundle with a copy of Microsoft Works Suite 2004 on DVD, Norman AntiVirus, Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 and Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0.
The Amilo A1630 also impressed in terms of performance, although the processor seems to have been clock throttling – the SYSmark 2002 score was a little lower than expected. The PCMark 2004 numbers were better and the 3D benchmarks were very good. In terms of battery life the Amilo A1630 managed two hours and 23 minutes, which is ok from something that is meant to be a desktop replacement machine.
Looking at the specifications of the Amilo A1630 you’d be forgiven for thinking that it is a very expensive laptop, but Fujitsu-Siemens has given it a price tag of only £1,199.99. This is a competitive price even compared to a desktop system with similar specifications. The only minor gripe here is the one year collect and return warranty.
The Amilo A1630 is a very good notebook, as long as you can live with its weight and size. Overall specification is solid, but the processor didn’t quite perform as well as we expected it to – we suspect that the CPU was clock throttling when it got hot. As well as taking office applications in its stride, the A1630 doubles as a convincing mobile gaming platform. So, if you’re after an affordable power laptop that can turn its hand to anything, you could do a lot worse than the Amilo A1630.
Although not quite the performance machine it was expected to be, the Amilo A1630 is still a great notebook – it’s well featured, can handle anything you throw at it and won’t break the bank.
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