Fujitsu’s LifeBook P8020 (3.5G) sits at the premium end of the lightweight notebook market and is aimed at anyone who works while travelling. It’s a 12.1in model that weighs 1.4kg, yet it packs a DVD burner, an Intel Core 2 DUO CPU, 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. Most importantly, it ships with a 3G (UMTS) module that will work with mobile broadband plans from any carrier.
Its spring-loading SIM card reader is situated in the battery compartment, so you have to plug in the SIM card before you start using the laptop. An application called 3G Watcher is located on the desktop and it gives you the option of connecting to your mobile broadband provider after you insert your SIM card. The laptop's integrated modem can work at speeds up to 7.2Mbps, but its speed will depend on your ISP's connection speeds, as well as your location. The laptop picked up all the networks in our area (Vodafone, Hutchison, Telstra Next G and Optus), but we used Vodafone in our tests.
From our office located on Sydney's north shore, the connection was not stable, but when it worked, PC World's Broadband Speed Test gave us a download result of 515Kbps and an upload result of 328Kbps. This was more than adequate for typical Web browsing, viewing online galleries and for uploading pictures to Web sites.
Because the 3.5G modem will let you use the mobile carrier of your choice, it makes the Fujitsu LifeBook P8020 (3.5G) a versatile laptop and one that is perfect to use as a mobile office, especially if you frequently travel around the country. The benefits of having the 3.5G modem integrated in the laptop are that you won't have any dangly bits on the side of the laptop, and also that the antennas will be located high up in the monitor, rather than down at the base of the unit.
In our battery test, in which we loop a DVD movie with maximum screen brightness and the wireless connection enabled, lasted 2hr 24min, which is a shorter time than we expected when compared to the Toshiba Portege R600, for example. It will last longer if you employ a power management strategy.
The LifeBook P8020 (3.5G) notebook feels sturdy enough to take on the road, yet it's also very light. Its chassis is made out of magnesium alloy, which helps to keep the laptop weight down while adding strength to the base and palm rest areas. Its lid is thin, yet it feels strong when you open and close it. It's a latch-less lid and it can be easily opened with one hand when the laptop is stationed flat on a desk.
The LifeBook P8020 (3.5G)notebook's configuration consists of an Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 CPU, which runs at 1.4GHz and is an ultra-low voltage CPU. This means it's not as powerful as a regular Core 2 Duo, but it's still adequate for office tasks and multitasking. The CPU is surrounded by 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM, a 250GB, 5400rpm hard drive, and Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics.
In our benchmark tests the LifeBook P8020 (3.5) notebook offered solid performance results; it recorded a score of 61 in WorldBench 6, which means it can run all the office applications you throw at it, but it will be slow when it comes to video editing and rendering, for example. The Blender 3D test, which tests CPU speed, recorded a time of 2min 12sec, which is five seconds slower than the competing Toshiba Portege R600 (the Toshiba laptop has 3GB of RAM and a solid state drive, however).
You won't get too much in the way of graphics performance, as the integrated graphics are not suitable for anything more than running the 1280x800-resoluton screen. It scored 444 in 3DMark06, which is a poor result; it means that you won't be able to smoothly run any programs that require real-time 3D rendering, such as games.
We love the screen on the Fujisu LifeBook P8020 (3.5G). Its backlight-based, LED screen produces good colours and is very bright. Even though it’s a glossy screen, it doesn’t suffer much from reflection. Its bezel is only 5mm wide on the left and right edges. The top is 2cm wide, but that is because houses the webcam as well as the wireless networking, 3G, and Bluetooth antennas.
Indeed, the connectivity of the LifeBook P8020 (3.5G) notebook is excellent. In addition to the aforementioned 3.5G (UMTS) modem, you get 802.11n wireless networking, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, D-Sub, FireWire, and three USB 2.0 ports. There is also a built-in DVD burner, a fingerprint reader, an SD memory card slot, and a PC Card (type II) slot for expansion. We would have preferred an ExpressCard slot, but in any case, this notebook has pretty much all that you would need already installed in its base.
The LifeBook P8020 (3.5G)'s keyboard feels a little cramped to type on, and this is because its keys are 16mm wide — approximately 2mm narrower than a regular laptop’s keys. Nevertheless, the keyboard is rock solid and the keys produce adequate bounce-back when typing. The keyboard is resistant to accidental liquid spills, but you’ll have to tip the laptop upside down to drain it. The unit's touchpad is 7cm wide and 4cm deep and is responsive, but it sometimes feels a little 'sticky'.
Fujitsu supplies utilities to manage the performance, noise and power consumption of the LifeBook P8020 (3.5G), so you can customise the laptop depending on whether you're at home or out and about. The power saving utility can be used in conjunction with your power profiles in the Windows Vista Control Panel to disable the laptop's devices when you select the 'power saving' mode. You can elect to disable the DVD burner, PC Card slot, LAN and FireWire ports, as well as tone down the brightness and the screen's refresh rate. It's easy to forget that you've enabled this utility, which means you might also forget why your DVD burner isn't working one day and find yourself calling tech support for guidance.
The silent utility can be used to slow down the CPU fan and minimise the noise of the laptop. It will slow down the CPU as well, so you shouldn't use this utility if you still require top performance from the laptop. The audible difference when the silent utility is enabled versus when it is disabled is negligible, as the fan will still be audible and spin fast at times when it is in silent mode.
All up, the Fujitsu LifeBook P8020 (3.5G) is a good looking, lightweight and feature-rich laptop that is best suited to users who work frequently while travelling. At $3999, it's slightly better value than the Toshiba Portege R600, but we think the Fujitsu would be improved by a solid state drive and wider keys.