capsule review

Fujitsu LifeBook P5020

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Fujitsu LifeBook P5020D Notebook

Fujitsu LifeBook P5020
Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

The Fujitsu LifeBook P5020 is to ultraportables what the Swiss army knife is to pocket knives. It weighs just 3.9 pounds and includes not only a built-in DVD-ROM/CD-RW combination drive but also many of the standard connections found on a full-size notebook: modem and network jacks, basic audio ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, and (located conveniently on the front) an S-Video-out port. (A $99 USB port replicator adds parallel and serial ports.) The VGA port, however, needs a short adapter cable--something easily forgotten when you're packing for travel. The P5020 also comes with CompactFlash and SD (Secure Digital) slots on opposite sides of the case for sharing data with your digital camera or PDA.

The P5020 is snazzy-looking, too, with a flashy silver case. DVD movies play full screen on the 10.6-inch WXGA (1280 by 768) display; the wide screen would also be useful for reading spreadsheets. Though the audio sounds flat and tinny, the P5020 has two speakers, one more than most in this class, and the volume is loud enough for you to listen without headphones. The P5020's solid construction includes protective covers for most of the connections. The speakers, 802.11b-wireless switch, power button, and status LCD all sit in the hinge, where they remain visible when you close the lid. The hard drive can be removed from the large bottom compartment it shares with the wireless card.

Now for the knocks. The screen is big enough for mainstream work, but the native resolution of 1280 by 768 makes Windows icons so small you'll have to squint to see them. Lowering resolution to 1024 by 768 makes items a little bigger but also stretches and blurs them. The screen's frame is a bit smaller than the notebook's base, so grasping the screen's edge to open the notebook is somewhat difficult. But the keyboard could be the biggest drawback for most users. We didn't mind the touchpad and scrolling dial's front-edge location, and we could get used to the Chiclet-size keys. However, the half-size punctuation keys are too hard to press--to type the question mark (instead of accidentally hitting the Shift key), we had to stop and watch our hands.

The P5020 performed admirably in our speed and battery tests with its standard configuration of Intel's new 1-GHz/600-MHz ultra-low voltage Pentium M processor for lightweight notebooks and 256MB of RAM. It delivered a PC WorldBench 4 score of 107--about average for today's ultraportables, but still at the lower end of the performance range of notebooks in general. The P5020 lasted 4.25 hours on one battery charge, not as long as the 5- or 6-hour times some full-size Pentium M-equipped notebooks have turned in, but impressive nonetheless. You can swap the optical drive for a secondary $116 power pack to get battery life up to 11 hours, according to Fujitsu (we didn't test it).

Load up on as much memory as you can afford at purchase--there's just one memory slot, located beneath the keyboard. If you upgrade later you won't be able to use the RAM you already have. Ordering the P5020 with 512MB costs $100 more than with 256MB; a 1GB module is $800 extra.

The Fujitsu LifeBook P5020's wide screen and modular bay make it an especially nice package for the road, but its keyboard takes some getting used to.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Fujitsu LifeBook P5020D Notebook

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