capsule review

Fujitsu Lifebook MH380: Stylish and Sexy, but Performance Is Mediocre

At a Glance
  • Fujitsu LifeBook MH380

    PCWorld Rating

    This portable's high-resolution screen overpowers its netbook CPU and graphics processor.

Fujitsu LifeBook MH380 netbook
There's no denying that the Fujitsu LifeBook MH380 ($449 as of March 24, 2010) is a stylish little devil. Dressed in deep red and black, it also has a considerably more pronounced curvature to its front edges than your average netbook. And when you open the system, it looks--okay, I really can't come up with a better word than stylish. Unfortunately, the MH380 is only a decent performer, and its 7-hour, 22-minute battery life--while good for a 1GB netbook with a 250GB hard drive--falls short of the best of its rivals. Also, though the 1366-by-768-pixel, 10.1-inch display is impressive at first, it creates some ergonomic and performance issues.

The LifeBook MH380's higher screen resolution theoretically makes for sharper video. But in attempting to drive the 1366-by-768 display, the system's Intel N450/3150 CPU/GPU combo acts like a mule burdened by one sack too many. Dragging windows leaves trails, and I was unable to get 720p video to play smoothly--even the QuickTime version of Microsoft's WMV HD Fighter Pilot video, which will usually play fine, stuttered. Additionally, users with vision issues might need to increase the text size before they're comfortable with it.

Another minor ergonomic issue is the keyboard. Apparently the designers at Fujitsu spend more time with the scroll keys than typing, as they cut down the oft-used comma and period keys to about two-thirds their normal width to accommodate the cursor keys. That may sound trivial, but try touch-typing on the unit before you buy it (or before your return period has expired).

The touchpad on the LifeBook MH380 is a bit on the small side, but the response is fine. A large circular dimple to its right serves as an unusual but effective scroll wheel. Two separate buttons sit immediately below the touchpad; however, while they work okay, both seem to flex when you press just one, which is a tad worrisome. This behavior is sometimes indicative of a cheap mechanism and a failure point.

The LifeBook MH380 has three USB ports: two on the left side near the front and one on the right near the front. Unlike many netbooks, the MH380 has its audio input/output jacks mounted in front next to the SDHC slot, by far the handiest location for all three. The AC, ethernet, and VGA ports are on the left side of the machine, though for some reason the last port is upside down. Giving the entire unit an ergonomic typing angle is the battery, which hangs down roughly three-quarters of an inch from the back of the unit. Of course, said obtrusive battery makes sliding the netbook into a bag or backpack a bit more difficult, and might create an uncomfortable lump as well.

Tipping the scales at just under 3 pounds, the LifeBook MH380 is slightly heavier than the average netbook, partly due to the battery and partly owing to the rugged construction. Other than the touchpad buttons, the unit does have a solid feel.

Fujitsu ships the MH380 with Microsoft Works, the My Recovery backup imaging program, and CyberLink's YouCam software. The first gives you the ability to perform basic office tasks, and the last is kind of cool if you like to muck about while you're Skype-ing. YouCam allows you to apply a number of effects to the video, such as cartoon bubbles, embossing, and particle effects. Regrettably, CyberLink is merciless about getting you to register the software--only editing the Registry will remove the nag.

While the LifeBook MH380 earned an above-average mark of 36 on our standard WorldBench 6 tests, it didn't impress us with its video performance, as noted above. And though no netbook feels particularly snappy with Windows 7 Starter as its operating system, this unit seemed particularly sluggish in my hands-on tests.

Audio was a mixed bag. Through the speakers, volume was more than sufficient but suffered a distinct spike in the midrange, which quickly grew irritating. Most of this disappeared through headphones--but you might want to play with the EQ on your playback software a little to avoid ear fatigue.

In the end, Fujitsu is perhaps a tad guilty of putting specs over real-world concerns with the LifeBook MH380--the Intel N450/3150 combination simply doesn't have the horsepower to drive higher-resolution displays satisfactorily. You might want to opt for something with fewer pixels and snappier performance.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This portable's high-resolution screen overpowers its netbook CPU and graphics processor.

    Pros

    • 1366 by 768 display
    • Stylish design

    Cons

    • Scrunched comma and period keys
    • Intel CPU and GPU not up to handling the display
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.