Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fujitsu LifeBook E8410 Penryn

Fujitsu has officially joined the Penryn party with multiple LifeBook models now available with Intel's newest generation of Core 2 Duo processors. We took a closer look at the LifeBook E8410 to show you exactly how much a new processor can improve overall system performance.

Our review notebook features the following specifications:

* Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 Processor (Penryn, 2.1GHz, 3MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB)
* Microsoft Genuine Windows Vista Business
* 15.4" Crystal View (Glossy) WXGA Display (1280x800)
* Integrated 1.3MP Webcam
* Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
* 2GB of DDR2 667MHz RAM
* Fujitsu 120GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
* Modular Dual-Layer Multi-format DVD Writer
* Modem, Intel 4965AGN (802.11a/b/g/n) WiFi, 10/100/1000 GigE LAN, Bluetooth
* 6-cell, 10.8V, 5200 mAh, 56.2 Whr Battery
* One year international warranty
* Price as configured: $1,589

Build and Design
At first glance the E8410's exterior looks rather plain with black matte plastic with some glossy highlights in the front edge. Granted, this business-oriented notebook isn't designed to attract consumers who are looking for the latest "eye candy" but the design isn't too professional looking either.

The interior of this laptop is mostly light-silver/gray with a white keyboard. The keyboard, palmrests and most of the other surfaces are all plastic. The speaker grills on either side of the keyboard are the only parts that stand out as having metal construction. Unlike most consumer laptops there are no LED status lights. Instead, Fujitsu uses a black/white LCD display that provides a range of information about the current status of the notebook without any annoying bright lights.

As shown in the picture below, the LCD "status display" shows symbols for power status, if the battery is charging or discharging, the remaining charge in the battery, optical or storage drive activity, wireless activity, and more. Overall, the status display is a great feature ... particularly since it doesn't have those annoying blue LEDs. However, it might not have been a bad idea for Fujitsu to have included an LED warning light for the low battery indicator.

Despite the fact that the E8410 is designed for business users the build quality isn't quite what we expected for a business laptop in this price range. Fujitsu has built some genuinely sturdy (almost rugged) business laptops in the past. While most of the notebook chassis has a solid feel the areas around the optical drive and RAM bay cover have some pretty obvious flex. Granted some amount of the flex is due to the modular optical drive bay ... which has to be built in a way that makes it removable. We were just a little surprised by the flex in the plastic.

The screen housing also suffers from similar plastic flex. I can twist the screen a little bit more than I should, but the screen does not distort when being flexed. Additionally, I can only produce ripples on the screen by pressing quite hard on the back surface. It would be very difficult to damage the LCD under normal usage and the notebook should survive regular travels in a backpack or shoulder bag.

As mentioned above, the optical drive is modular, meaning that any type of optical drive supported by Fujitsu can be placed in the E8410. Or, one could put the included weight saver plastic insert in the slot to reduce the weight of the laptop. Users can also insert a secondary battery instead of an optical drive to get a longer battery life ... a serious advantage for road warriors.

The one negative aspect of the modular optical drive is the position of the release. I accidentally ejected the drive several times while transporting it to and from the office. Yes, the modular drive is a great feature, but I would have liked to see a lock switch or button to prevent accidental release of the drive.

Screen and Speakers
The Fujitsu E8410 features a 15.4" wide-screen WXGA display with a resolution of 1280x800 pixels. This resolution is "acceptable" but still pretty low for a 15-inch notebook. Luckily, you can configure the E8410 with a display resolution as high as WSXGA+ (1680x1050 pixels), and the better screen only costs an additional $75 at the time of this writing.

The low-resolution screen in our review unit is bright enough for office and home use. In fact, it's bright enough that you can easily set the display at 50% screen brightness in average office lighting (which is great for battery life).

Unfortunately, the screen in our review unit has poor vertical and horizontal viewing angles. When you view the screen head-on it looks fabulous, but move a few degrees above and the color washes out. Move a few degrees below center and the colors become inverted. Move a few degrees left or right and colors will again appear distorted.

Keep in mind that these type of viewing angle issues might not be common to all versions of this notebook. The older version of the E8410 that we reviewed last year was praised for having excellent horizontal viewing angles.

There are two speakers located on each side of the keyboard when you open up the laptop. The speakers produce distortion-free sound at even the highest volumes. However, like most laptop speakers they do suffer from a little of the "tin can" speaker effect and lack bass. For business purposes the speakers are fine.

Processor and Performance
The E8410 features the latest in processor technology with the newest Intel Penryn CPU. Our review unit of the E8410is equipped with integrated Intel X3100 graphics but Fujitsu offers the Nvidia GeForce 8400M G dedicated graphics card as an option in other configurations. The benefit os integrated graphics is lower cost and slightly lower power consumption, and most business professionals don't need dedicated graphics.

All of the following synthetic benchmarks were performed with the laptop set into 'Performance' mode.

At 2.1GHz, the T8100 (Penryn) processor found in the review laptop does quite well in PCMark05 benchmarks. As shown below, it managed to pull a score of 4,211 PCMark points. That said, a previous version of the E8410 equipped with the older 2.2GHz T7500 (Merom) processor produced a score of 4,618 PCMark points.

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