- Review Price: £1813.00
For me, thin and light laptops are where it’s at. I mean, I can appreciate the power of a chunky desktop replacement as much as the next man, but the appeal of mobile computing for me has always been exactly that, mobility. I want to be able to carry my laptop under my arm, work on the move and know that I’m not going to run out of batteries while I’m on a field trip. Unfortunately, mobile computers don’t get much more expensive than thin and light machines, but as you’ve probably guessed by now, I have expensive taste.
Of course, there’s no shortage of manufacturers out there willing to entice me into getting a second mortgage with their latest cutting edge, micro sized technology. IBM with its X40 for example (look out for the review later this week), and Sony with its gorgeous X505VP to name just two, but Fujitsu Siemens has been pushing its own models for just as long as the competition.
Strangely, the S Series is almost in a category of its own. In today’s market at just under 2kg it sneaks into the thin and light category by the skin of its teeth, but to compensate it comes equipped with a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive (unusual for a machine of this size) which can be swapped to house a second battery. It also features a 14.1in screen, which is something of a luxury, and Bluetooth. So it’s probably competing in the same market place as the IBM T41.
I have to admit, I am a fan of this mixed feature set. In fact, I actually own an S Series. It is three years old and also weighs less than 2kg, though it only has a 12in screen, and with the second battery still gives me in excess of 5 hours battery life. It has been a very happy marriage, but with a younger model on the scene in the shape of the S7010, my adulterous eye is starting to wander.
The latest incarnation of the S Series ups the stakes while still focusing firmly on the business user. At its core is Intel’s excellent Centrino technology, with a Pentium M 1.7GHz processor and integrated 802.11b/g wireless LAN. There is 512MB of 333MHz DDR RAM, a spacious 60GB 4,200rpm hard disk and – showing its business roots – Intel Integrated graphics based on the 855GME chipset.
In addition to the more unusual features, the 14.1in screen, Bluetooth and DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive (capable of 8x DVD read and 24x CD write and rewrite) I mentioned earlier, the S7010 also comes with the typical connectivity options, V.92/V.90 modem, 10/100Mbit/sec Ethernet, IrDA port, Cardbus Type II PC Card slot, microphone, line-in and headphone points, one serial port, one FireWire connector and three USB 2.0 ports. This is a good selection for a thin machine and it misses little in comparison with heavier laptops. A docking station can also be purchased separately which will replicate most of these ports and interestingly adds DVI-D for digital video output as well as D-SUB and parallel ports.
Further emphasising its business target market, the S7010 comes with an integrated security PIN (accessed using the quick launch keys positioned above the keyboard) which can be set to completely lock the machine down from unauthorised access, even disabling power on.
Looking past the specifications, I have to say the new S Series has lost none of the user friendliness that I have enjoyed for so long with my machine. The Centrino core means it is fast in operation, zipping through Windows applications without undue fuss and while the integrated graphics are not going to break any speed records, the chipset is perfectly acceptable for anything outside of a gaming environment. Operation is silent too, with the fan only starting up after prolonged periods of rigorous use, and I was pleasantly surprised by the speakers which have a surprisingly deep range to them – definitely a cut above the standard laptop audio fodder. Being able to link quickly to a Bluetooth device such as a mobile phone or PDA is also extremely useful when sharing contacts or files between devices on the move. And for those concerned that having wireless and Bluetooth on the same machine might get a little confusing, no fear, a single sliding switch at the front of the laptop toggles both on and off.
If I do have a complaint however, it is a measured one. Our review model came with a pre-production keyboard and while its layout is fine, I could not get along with its soft back. The reason I say measured, is because Fujitsu-Siemens confirmed to me it will be swapping this for a hard backed keyboard similar to those used by IBM for final production models. If I am being particularly picky I would also say I was a little disappointed that the resolution on the 14.1in screen does not go beyond 1,024 x 768, but in its favour the colours are extremely bright and the image is evenly lit right into the corners.
Now, thin and light notebooks, even one that crosses boundaries like the S7010, are not really designed to excel at benchmarks; but the S7010 still did a pretty good job. In PCMark 2004 it achieved a score of 2,726 overall. This is not outstanding, but certainly respectable, and its CPU, memory and HDD scores of 3,225, 2,361 and 2,111 respectively show the machine is going to let no one down when using general applications. Graphics tail off at just 536 but this is inline with most integrated graphics chipsets.
More importantly though, the S7010 performed admirably when it came to the real world benchmark, SYSmark 2002. The overall score of 172 is certainly not up there with the fastest laptops we’ve seen here at TrustedReviews, but for a thin and light machine it comfortably beats the 144 achieved by the Dell Inspiron 510m – a slightly heavier unit with almost identical specifications. Internet Content Creation was also marginally up 199 to 196, but the S7010 really pulled away in the final section for Office Productivity, where is battered the 510m with a score of 148 to 106.
Last was the all important battery life. Tests in MobileMark 2002 produced an overall performance score of 163 with the battery lasting 193 minutes. This is comparable with other Centrino based machines and good for a thin and light laptop. Perhaps most importantly, if you slot in an optional second battery (£88.12 inc VAT) you can look forward to nearly six and a half hours of real world use.
As always, all this portability comes at a price and £1,813 including VAT is not cheap. Against this you do get a three-year international collect and return warranty and selected resellers are throwing in a free Pocket LOOX 610 BT PDA (which retails at just under £300 including VAT) with all orders, which somewhat sugar coats what would otherwise be a rather bitter pill. Furthermore, as a current S Series owner, I can tell you that these machines are very well made. The only failure I have had in two years and eight months has been a left touchpad button in the last month which is still covered under warranty. I’ve dropped it, stood on it and rubbed nearly every vowel off the keyboard. So if you are a clumsy executive you will be happy to know that IBM is not the only company that makes machines that last.
But that is also the problem for Fujitsu-Siemens, it has to go up against the major brands like IBM. It is rather like Lexus trying to edge out Mercedes and BMW. You don’t have to just be better; you’ve got to be a lot better, although with the S7010 Fujitsu-Siemens is getting very close.
An excellent thin and light laptop from Fujitsu-Siemens that manages to be portable yet supports a large screen, built-in optical drive and Bluetooth. Business users that are content to switch from the industry’s traditional heavyweights will not be disappointed, but the disappointing keyboard on our early sample means that the S7010 misses out on a Recommended award.
Details of the free PDA currently included with S7010 laptops from selected resellers is as follows:
Pocket LOOX 610 BT PDA, Intel XScale PXA 255 400 MHz, 64/64 MB ROM/RAM, CF Type II – SD/MMC, Integrated Bluetooth, Windows Mobile 2003 Software. Dimensions: 7.8cm x 14.8cm x 1.9cm (WxDxH). Weight: 197g
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