capsule review

Fujitsu LifeBook N6420

At a Glance
  • Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 Notebook (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Mobile T7200, 1GB DDR2, 200GB, HD/DVDRW, Windows XP Media Center, 17

    PCWorld Rating

As prices on big-screen notebooks continue to drop, good desktop replacements like the Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 are becoming as affordable as many mainstream laptops. This well-designed model comes with some nice features, but if decent battery life is on your list of must-haves, it can't deliver.

Our $2499 (as of 1/17/07) review unit came with a 2-GHz Core 2 Duo T7200 processor and 1GB of DDR2-667 SDRAM. It earned a WorldBench 5 score of 104, which put it well within the top 15 percent of laptops we've tested for speed. Battery life, however, was another story at a mere 1 hour, 20 minutes. The company offers no high-capacity replacement option for the main six-cell battery, which means you'll always have to lug around the heavy power adapter, which weighs 2 pounds by itself. It's a lot of weight given that the N6420 is among the chunkiest notebooks around; our test model measured 2 inches thick and weighed 10 pounds.

But poor battery life is the only major fault of the N6420, a good-looking machine with glossy piano-black trim and otherwise solid features. Our unit was equipped with Windows Media Center Edition, a luxurious 17-inch wide-aspect screen, a standard dual-layer DVD writer, and a 200GB hard drive. (Bumping up the storage to a total of 400GB, over two 200GB hard drives, is a $270 option.) Good speakers with a subwoofer pump up entertainment with great sound. For watching the evening news on your laptop, you can order this notebook with a built-in TV tuner for another $270. Our test unit came with an HD DVD drive (also a dual-layer DVD writer), which you can upgrade to a multiformat dual-layer DVD writer for another $460.

The media panel located above the keyboard is a mixed bag. It provides a seemingly superfluous button for the Visual Optimizer, which is basically a display filter that adds instant contrast to brighten and enhance colors. It's an interesting feature for photo editors if no one else, but the garish hues it produced on our test unit looked too doctored. Elsewhere on the panel, a seesaw-shaped volume rocker has a fun design, but the rocker doesn't work with Media Center applications. For a notebook with such good speakers, having an instant-play button for directly accessing entertainment--like that on many multimedia laptops--would have been nice. Finally, a hitch for some Bluetooth fans: You must add short-range wireless communications via an adapter card.

The 17-inch XGA+ screen (with 1440 by 900 resolution) is superb for working in mainstream applications without eyestrain, and it will satisfy many photo editors as well. Three types of slots--three-in-one, ExpressCard, and PC Card--let you exchange data with other devices, such as digital cameras.

The notebook's design is graceful for the most part, including a scored optical-drive eject button and user-friendly battery releases that let you pluck out the pack with one hand. The port layout is good except for the dearth of side-mounted USB connections; three of the four are located inconveniently on the back of the notebook. The comfy keyboard is big enough to offer two extras: a numerical keypad for easy data entry and a fingerprint sensor that doubles as a page-scroll device.

The LifeBook N6420 might not be perfect, but it could make some home-office workers yearning for a big-screen notebook happy. Just don't forget the AC adapter.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The feature-laden N6420 has a beautiful screen and can handle a second hard drive, but it's bulky and has poor battery life.

    Pros

    • Dazzling screen
    • Fingerprint reader is also scroll button

    Cons

    • Bulky
    • Awful battery life
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