Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fujitsu LifeBook A1110

The Fujitsu LifeBook A1110 notebook is a 15.4” desktop replacement which offers a user-customizable screen cover. With a spill resistant keyboard and durable design it fits in well with the college crowd -- who might not be overly kind to their computers. Prices start as low as $799; our review unit has a suggested retail price of $999 with some upgraded components. Read on to see if this notebook is worth the price and deserves a spot on your desk.

Our review unit of the Fujitsu LifeBook A1110 features the following specifications:

* Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P7350 (2GHz, 3MB L2 cache, 1066MHz FSB)
* Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit SP1
* 15.4" Crystal View WXGA display (glossy, 1280x800, replaceable lid)
* Integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X4500
* 4GB DDR2 800MHz Memory (2GB x 2)
* 320GB 5400RPM Fujitsu Hard Drive
* Intel Wireless Wi-Fi Link 5100AGN (802.11 a/b/g/n)
* Integrated Bluetooth Wireless
* Dual-Layer Multi-Format DVD Writer
* Spill Resistant Keyboard
* Main battery: Lithium ion (6-cell, 10.8v 4000 mAh, 43Whr)
* AC Adapter: 80w (19v, 4.22A)
* Size: 14.56"(w) x 10.43"(d) x 1.65”/1.85”(h)
* Weight: 6lbs 7.6oz (7lbs 6.7oz travel weight)
* One-year International Limited Warranty
* Configured Price: $999

Build and Design
The Fujitsu A1110 has a fairly large footprint and is thicker than most notebooks in its category. The body has a black and dark grey layout, not including the replaceable cover which gives a splash of color to the rather bland look. The trend continues inside the notebook, with the palmrest, trim, and keyboard all black. The sides of the notebook look very clean and uncluttered, with the downside being that few ports exist around the notebook. It is clear that much of the notebook smacks of unrealized potential, leaving out some desired features that would have cost very little to add.

The user-replaceable cover is the main attraction of this notebook and probably the best implementation of one that I have seen. Older designs used by Dell and others looked like something stuck onto the notebook and out of place. This cover snaps into position and looks as if the it were an integral part of the notebook. It is very tight fitting and the paint quality is very good. Removing the cover takes little effort as long as you grip in the correct place; you could also leave it off if you wanted. One side benefit is you’ll have a spare lunch tray with you at all times.

Build quality is average -- fairly durable plastic trim, although the chassis could have increased rigidity to reduce some flex. The palmrest and lower chassis flex inward with a light grip, almost as if the notebook has large sections of open space. The screen cover without the colored lid attached gives very mild protection for the LCD, but with a light grip you can still produce ripples on the screen. With the colored lid attached very little protection is added. Another point of concern is the notebook doesn’t include any sort of internal frame for added support, which may explain the copious amounts of flex.

One feature Fujitsu has offered on some notebooks that we think is strange is a removable dust filter for the processor which is normally large enough to keep coins from moving through the ductwork. This particular notebook lists the dust filter as a feature, but it appears to be just a flat cover. Since no other filter piece is included in the accessory box, one idea that this port might serve is better access for an air gun to blast dust away from the inside-out.

The WXGA glossy panel rates average with comfortable viewing angles and a bright backlight that works in a well lit office setting. Colors are vibrant and contrast is very nice with the glossy screen surface. The vertical viewing range offers a good sized sweet spot with accurate colors with 10 degrees forward and back before colors start to invert. Horizontal viewing angles are better, but at steeper angles the screen starts to dim and you start seeing reflected surfaces instead of the display. The screen brightness overcomes the lights in a bright office setting, but outside viewing would be limited with the reflective glossy screen.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is easy to type on with a full-size layout and comfortable key spacing. Individual key texture is smooth with a very mild matte finish that gives just enough traction to trigger keyswithout slipping when your fingers get sweaty. The keys’ action is smooth with a mild click when fully pressed. Typing is very audible with a springy surface that makes some of the noise echo off the notebook chassis. This notebook also includes a spill resistant keyboard which will contain water without letting it drip inside and short out components. After spilling a bowl of partially melted ice cream on my ThinkPad keyboard one time, I can easily say I will never buy another notebook that doesn’t offer a protected keyboard. It is usually much cheaper to replace the keyboard after an accident than try to replace a motherboard which could easily cost more than a new notebook.

The Alps-based touchpad is sensitive for accurate finger tracking, but does add mild lag to the cursor’s movement. The touchpad surface has a matte finish and is painted to match the keyboard bezel and palmrest. The touchpad buttons are large and easy to trigger with the side of your thumb without much effort. They have shallow feedback and click loudly when pressed.

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