Fujitsu Siemens Lifebook P1510 review

Price when reviewed

Even for a standard sub-notebook, the all-new Lifebook is extremely small and light. When you add in the extra design complications of its tablet capabilities, the fact it weighs just a whisker over 1kg is remarkable. Only the Toshiba Libretto, p64) beats it as far as Intel-based featherweights are concerned. It’s not the first ultraportable convertible tablet – that accolade goes to the Dialogue Flybook – but the P1510 has miniaturised power that only a company the size of Fujitsu Siemens can pull off. Under the hood is a 1.2GHz ULV Pentium M, 512MB RAM and a 60GB hard disk. There’s even a fingerprint reader nestling in the bezel.

The lid mechanism uses a tab that can be pushed through either side depending on whether it’s closed or folded back in tablet mode. This doesn’t latch the lid, it simply stops it swivelling round; the screen itself relies on a catchless spring for closure, keeping things fiddle-free. Design innovations continue with the battery, which is mounted at the front of the unit. Swap the standard three-cell unit for the extended six-cell (the price above includes a six-cell unit) and you get a little more of a hand rest, plus it doesn’t try to fall backwards in the way that some notebooks can when they have the extended battery sticking out the back. Battery life is good rather than extraordinary, but over five hours’ light use for the extended battery (which still keeps the weight under 1.2kg) is plenty.

Sadly, the Lifebook doesn’t sport an integrated optical drive, which would have been ideal for mobile DVD watching on the 1,024 x 600 8.9in TFT screen. You do get an external USB DVD writer as standard, but it needs two USB connections – one for signal and one for power – making it unwieldy. The screen itself is good though; viewing angles are excellent and the only complaint is a little graininess, which is likely down to the touch-sensitive layer.

The Lifebook could be just the thing for digital photographers in the field: on one side of the chassis you’ll find a CompactFlash card reader; on the other, one for SD cards. There’s not much else; just modem, network, a USB port either side, audio and VGA ports, plus a welcome hardware switch for the 802.11a/b/g WLAN and Bluetooth. Also in the box is a simple but effective docking station, replicating two USB 2 ports, VGA out and Ethernet.

When it comes to using the P-Series as a tablet, limitations of the miniaturisation become clear. It has a passive touchscreen, so you’ll need to hover your hand awkwardly above the display to avoid touching it and confusing the sensor. The keyboard is a better bet, despite its tiny size and consequent two-finger operation.

The new Lifebook is an attractive proposition even if you’re not looking for a tablet PC, particularly when partnered with the docking station. If you need a notebook of near-PDA weight and proportions, the P1510 is a great choice.

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