11 May, 2009

Fujitsu LifeBook U820 Review

Fujitsu released the 2nd generation U820 at the end of 2008 with updated specs and a GPS. How does it look against the competition?

Fujitsu U820

With a starting price of $1,049 it's obviously priced out of the cheapie netbook category and instead joins the ranks of the higher end UMPCs and micro PCs with second generation Intel Atom processors, namely the the OQO model 02+ and Sony Vaio P. The Sony Vaio P is actually slightly lighter at 1.4 lbs. and is considerably thinner-- thin enough to slip into a back pocket but long enough at 9.65 inches that it sticks way out of that pocket. The Vaio P lacks a touch screen and tablet features so if those are important to you, that narrows the selection down to the OQO model 02 and Fujitsu U820. The U820's keyboard is very small, but it's still a traditionally designed keyboard unlike the OQO which has a BlackBerry-esque thumb board. The U820 also features unbeatable battery life thanks to the high capacity 5200 mAh Lithium Ion battery that gives the U a Quasimodo hump.

Compared to budget netbooks like the Aspire One and Eee PC, the Fujitsu offers a lot: incredible small size and half the weight, super battery life, a 1.3MP webcam, GPS (and a good one too) with Garmin Mobile, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, Atheros WiFi 802.11n (most netbooks only do 802.11b/g) and a higher resolution display.

In terms of looks, the U820 looks and feels well made and we like the black glossy top compared to the U810's plainer lid. We also like the all-black sides compared to the silver trim on the U810. The high capacity battery looks strange sticking out the back but it does make a great carry handle and it allows the machine to run for up to 7 hours! In all respects, the U820 looks like a teeny-tiny traditional convertible notebook. It has a clamshell design with a miniaturized notebook style keyboard, ports on the sides and front, a wireless slider switch and LED indicators for charging, wireless and hard disk activity. At 6.73 x 6 x 1.46 inches, it's quite small but thick.

Obviously, a 5.6" display miniature Windows PC is a niche item. If you need a Windows computer most everywhere you go, the Fujitsu U820's light weight and small size are easy on the back and it's so small it doesn't scream "steal me" like a full size notebook. the U820 is capable of MS Office work, email, web and all manner of lightweight tasks. Just don't expect desktop replacement performance-- in fact, don't expect to use it as a portable video player either. The market has changed since the U810 came out in 2007 and now the U820 faces stiff competition from the OQO model 02+ and the Sony Vaio P. It's no longer considerably cheaper than other makes and the OQO is even more portable while the Vaio P has a very usable touch-typeable keyboard, wider screen, integrated EVDO Rev. A and drop dead good looks. What the Fujitsu U820 does offer is extreme battery life (the Vaio P with an extended battery falls an hour short of the U820) and a familiar notebook PC design.

Pro: Incredibly portable! Fantastic battery life.

Con: High resolution on a 5.6" display means text is too tiny, even if you have good eyes. Digitizer doesn't want to recalibrate to a lower display resolution. Expensive and adding desirable options like 3G and an SSD drive really drive the price up. Not really touch-typeable unless you're thin-fingered and very coordinated.

Price: $1,049 for base model with 60 gig hard drive, $1,299 for the 120 gig hard drive model. Add $1,100 for a 64 gig SSD.


Display: 1280 x 800 pixel color touch display (passive, resistive). Screen size diagonally: 5.6". Intel GMA 500 integrated graphics using up to 224 megs shared memory.

Battery: 4 cell 5800 mAh 7.2v Lithium Ion rechargeable. 37.4 watts/hour, claimed runtime: up to 7.5 hours. Large power brick included (world charger 100-240v AC). Smaller 2 cell 2900 mAh battery available separately.

Performance: Intel Atom Z530 running at 1.6GHz processor. 1 gig DDR2 533MHz RAM. 60 or 120 gig 1.8" 4200rpm ATA hard drive (ours was a 120 gig Toshiba). 64 gig SSD is optional.

Size: 6.73” (W) x 6.14” (D) x 1.16-1.46” (H). weight: 1.56 pounds.

Camera: 1.3MP webcam.

GPS: Integrated GPS (made by Kyocera) with Garmin Mobile software bundled. Comes with external car antenna.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. RealTek ALC269 HD audio.

Networking: Atheros XSPAN WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n, wired 10/100 Ethernet via included dongle and Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR. AT&T HSUPA broadband is optional for $150 and requires purchase of the 120 gig hard drive model or the SSD model.

Software: Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Business available. Vista Business includes a downgrade to XP Tablet Edition when purchasing 25 or more U820 computers per year. MS Works 9.0, Microsoft Office One Note 2007, MS Office 2007 60 day trial. MS Origami for Vista, OmniPass fingerprint scanner security software, Adobe Reader 8, various Fujitsu utilities and ArcSoft WebCam Companion 2.

Ports and Expansion: 1 SD slot and 1 Compact Flash I/II card slot. 1 USB 2.0 port, 3.5mm stereo out and mic in ports, port for docking station/dongle adapter which has VGA and Ethernet ports.

Security: Integrated Fingerprint Sensor and embedded TPM. Boot Sector Write Prevention and BIOS passwording. AuthenTec fingerprint scanner and OmniPass software for Windows. BIOS support for Computrace/LoJack.

Web Site: www.computers.us.fujitsu.com

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