capsule review

Fujitsu LifeBook P7120

At a Glance
  • Fujitsu LifeBook P7120 Notebook

    PCWorld Rating

Fujitsu LifeBook P7120
Artwork: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

If you liked the LifeBook P7000, Fujitsu's stylish 3-pound laptop, you'll likely be equally enamored of the new and improved LifeBook P7120. This highly desirable and cleverly designed little black and charcoal machine has a handy two-battery option and a good keyboard.

It isn't any cheaper at $2149 (as of 2/16/06), but consider its improvements over its predecessor: The 60GB hard drive, sealed before, is now user-replaceable so you don't have to leave your notebook at the repair shop. The optical drive has been moved from the left side of the case to the right, which should suit most users, and which I personally prefer. Gone is the LCD status window with hard-to-read pale-green icons, replaced by a row of standard LEDs in the screen hinge.

There are a few minor drawbacks. The dedicated CompactFlash slot has been ditched, leaving the notebook equipped with only a three-in-one SD Card/Memory Stick/xD-Picture Card reader. Another small setback is that one of the memory slots is now inaccessible, relocated beneath the keyboard. Also, none of the connections or jacks has a protective cover now.

But that's it for the bad news. The speakers, previously in the screen hinge, now stylishly flank the rear-mounted battery, so they--and all the buttons and status lights in the screen hinge--remain exposed when you close the lid. Some users might find the Wi-Fi switch's new location in the screen hinge more convenient than on the front of the notebook, too.

With its high-capacity six-cell battery (6800 mAh), our test P7120 unit lasted 6 hours, 26 minutes, the longest period among our current ultraportables. (The four-cell battery costs $50 less.) With two batteries, including a $115 second six-cell battery in the modular bay instead of the optical drive, your estimated operation time could be almost 13 hours. The new Eco button saves battery life by switching to lower power settings. Before the system makes the switch, you get a nice on-screen reminder of what will change (the display will darken, Wi-Fi will stop working, and so on).

The P7120 performs in line with the ultra-low-voltage processor it uses, a 1.2-GHz Pentium M ULV 753. With 512MB of RAM, it earned a WorldBench 5 score of 60, which is the slowest speed among current ultraportables we've tested. I wouldn't rely on any low-voltage ultraportable, including this one, for heavy-duty work or multimedia, as such systems are still about 30 percent slower than a standard notebook equipped with a top-of-the-line, full-voltage Pentium M chip.

The 10.6-inch wide-aspect screen and keyboard are small but not cumbersome. If you tire of the small icons at the native resolution of 1280 by 760 pixels, either of the two lower resolutions, 1024 by 768 or 800 by 600, looks great with no jaggies. The keyboard's touchpad and mouse buttons crowd close to the front edge, but they're comfortable to use because they sit flush with the case. For $50 more, you can order the notebook with a fingerprint reader instead of the scroll button that normally sits between the mouse buttons. My only serious beef with the keyboard is that combination keystrokes are required to page up and page down.

The bottom of the notebook is covered in a smooth felt material, and includes removable screw covers. For cable management, Fujitsu sells a simple bottom snap-on port replicator for $134.

Round it all out with an excellent manual, and you have a pretty attractive candidate for your ultraportable dollars.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Cleverly designed, stylish laptop makes a fine ultraportable package. A high price is its only significant drawback.

    Pros

    • Two-battery option
    • Power-savings button

    Cons

    • Small screen
    • Slow CPU and hard drive
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