Fujitsu E8010D Detailed Review
1.7ghz Dothan processor
756mb Memory (soon to go to 1.5ghz)
60gb 5400 RPM Fujitsu hard drive
15” SXGA screen
DVD-+RW Optical Drive
Gigabit Ethernet, Atheros A/B/G WLAN, Internal Bluetooth Adapter
4 USB 2.0, Serial, Parallel, Firewire, SXGA, S-Video, PS/2, SD Memory Card, Modem, Audio I/O, Infrared, 2 PCMCIA and keylock slot.
A brief note regarding my presales and purchase experience with Fujitsu: I called a salesperson to ask them some questions prior to purchase. The salesperson was knowledgeable and very helpful. He even went so far as to get an E series to look at to help answer my questions. This level of customer service was a pivotal factor for my decision to purchase the system.
System design and implementation – The design of a notebook computer is, in my opinion, the most important factor to the overall functional success of the system. While implementation and performance are also of great importance I rate design as the number one factor overall. Of course, that having been said, the design is difficult, if not impossible, to discuss without discussing the implementation. I will try to address these items in order of experience and importance as much as possible.
1. Size, weight and overall construction – Weighing in at approximately 7 lbs., with battery and optical drive, this laptop is definitely not the lightest in its class. However, considering the comparable models from other vendors (HP NC8000, IBM R50 and Dell Latitude D505), which all weigh in at around 6 ½ lbs. with 15” screen, comparable battery and optical drive, it is not significantly obese. As far as the actual size and case design there is not much wasted space. The border around the screen is a little wider than is perhaps most efficient. However, I appreciate the extra space at the top of the screen as I sometimes use a small USB powered clip-on light to type in relative darkness. The dimensions overall are fairly standard for this class of notebook although it is a little slimmer than the IBM or HP offerings.
Overall construction is excellent. The machine feels very sturdy in every respect. The chassis is not quite as rigid as the Dell Latitude line or my wife’s older Fujitsu C series but is very close and easily beats the IBM T series hands-down. The case lid is the most solid of any laptop I have seen. Regardless of the amount of pressure applied, it is impossible to see any distortion in the screen. However, one major design flaw is the way the case lid interacts with the main body of the laptop. There are four rubber bumpers on the top front of the screen bezel which rest (or are supposed to rest) against the front edge of the chassis when you close the lid. Unfortunately, for some reason, only the two rubber pads closest to the center actually make contact when the lid is closed. It seems like an odd design at best. Rubber stops all the way around combined with a deeply recessed case lid would provide a much more secure feeling design and it seems like this would help to reduce the amount of dust and gunk on the screen as well. Dell Latitudes incorporate just such a design and, while their implementation is not perfect, it is certainly a much better design. One last point to the case lid design. The hinges are extremely solid with just the right amount of resistance.
2. Human interface – The keyboard is superior to every notebook I have had the opportunity to extensively type on, other than the IBM ThinkPad offerings which are clearly superior in terms of key travel and tactile feedback. However, unlike the IBM, the Fujitsu does have the windows key which I personally use quite a bit. Key placement is otherwise okay although it would be nice if the home and end keys did not require the use of the secondary function key to operate. The use of the secondary function key to perform basic functions like adjusting screen brightness and speaker volume could certainly be done better. Looking at Dell Latitudes keys and special buttons for those same functions on their systems provides proof that a better design choice was possible. One last note about the keyboard. I really do prefer the light grey keys with black type as opposed to the typical black keys with white type. Not only can I see the keys much better in lower light, but I also am convinced they hold up a little longer as far as the markings go.
The Synaptics touchpad is excellent and easily rivals or exceeds the touchpad design for other laptops I have experience with. The touchpad buttons are well placed and operate well. The center scroll button is somewhat poorly designed in terms of the scroll travel per click, and button design, in that it is not easy or intuitive to find and use quickly. The “touch-stick” in the center of the keyboard is great and offers a very precise way to manipulate the cursor depending on the particular activity and the way you are using the laptop (position of laptop in relationship to your posture). Although the “touch-stick” does not have its own dedicated set of left and right click buttons, it does allow you to tap-to-click on it, and does so much better than Dell or IBM which both seem to need quite a hard tap to select an object on screen.
3. I/O Port and device choice and placement – The first thing that struck me upon my initial examination of this laptop was the location of almost all of the I/O ports in the back of the system. This includes the gigabit Ethernet, modem, 9 pin serial, 25 pin parallel, SVGA, PS/2, 3 USB 2.0 ports and keylock slot. On the left-hand side are the power, s-video, firewire 1394, SD memory card, DVD-+RW drive and a fourth USB 2.0 connector. The only I/O device on the right side of the system are the PCMCIA slots. In the front of the chassis just left of center are the audio input and output jacks as well as the infrared and an on/off switch for the wireless functions (WLAN and Bluetooth). It would be nice if there were at least one of the USB connectors on the right hand side to eliminate clutter and just so multiple devices would not possibly interfere with one another. On me Dell I enjoy plugging my memory stick device in on the left as that is conveniently out of the way, it is be nice to not have to fumble around the back of the system to attach a mouse. I also would not mind having the Ethernet on the side for a faster way of attaching it directly to the network. The audio jack in the front is also somewhat problematic for me since my fat gut will for sure be in the way of my headphone plug when I get to the point of seriously playing a game or two on this machine. Overall, I must say I am happy just to have a laptop that has pretty much any type of connector you could want. This is especially nice since I do actually use all of those ports for one activity or another.
4. Heat and weight distribution – Okay, here is where I have a couple of major issues with this system. The weight distribution is nice with the battery and internal components placed well so that the system is neither front nor back heavy making it very easy to carry from point A to point B. The heat dissipation system is another matter. The fan comes on briefly when you first start the system. However, unless it is incredibly quiet during normal functioning so that I can not hear it at all ever, it has not ever come on during normal use. Even after using the system for some time the fan never runs. This causes the laptop to become quite warm on the underside, even unbearably so. I can’t use it on my lap for extended periods of time as it becomes quite uncomfortable regardless of the power scheme setting. There appears to be passive cooling system elements on each side of the system so I assume the lack of fan response may be normal. My guess is they opted for more passive cooling to reduce noise and have the fan set to only come on at extremely high temperatures. This prompted me to make my first service call as I am not thrilled with the amount of heat from the underside of the system. My overall support experience was just okay. I started by using their online chat which was pretty fast and the techs were somewhat knowledgeable. I then spoke to someone in person who I did not have to wait a long time to get to. They said they were not sure at exactly what temp the fan was supposed to come on and that there was no way to change the behavior of the fan. I followed up by speaking to a local service technician to see if there is some way to force the fan to come on more readily. The local service tech suggested it could be a bad component on the motherboard. He said they had not seen this issue before but that they would be happy to replace the motherboard under the existing case number I had already generated. I opted to give it a few more days to see if this was something I could live with. The heat levels on all other parts of the system are negligible even after extended use. It is only the bottom center of the system that becomes excessively warm. My main concern is for the life of the various system components.
5. Screen Quality – Okay, I have another major problem with this screen. The
viewing angles on this 15” SXGA screen are horrible. It is a huge disappointment, since the sharpness and brightness are fantastic. But, the viewing angles are so bad that whether I am sitting at a desk or with the laptop on my lap I can not get the upper part and the lower part of the screen to look decent. No matter how much I play with the brightness, color, contrast and brightness it still looks awful. The screen is also very unevenly backlit with the edges, particularly at the bottom, looking very washed out. I created another support call on the screen which they did not have any good advice on whatsoever. They finally suggested I take it to the local service people to have the screen replaced.
Well, the screen issue was the last straw, plus now the fan was starting to try to run more often (although it sounded funny like bad bearings or something). It also seemed to be running hotter than ever. I called the sales department back to discuss my options. They normally do not accept returns on systems that you have had them customize. This is a pretty awful policy in the first place since the “recommended configurations” of all of their laptop systems are not configured with the faster hard drive choices. Anyway, to make a long story as short as possible; in light of the fact that after only a few days of having the system their technical support wanted to replace the mainboard and the screen, they offered to just go ahead and accept a return. In fact, I got a great sales customer service rep that made the return very simple. She e-mailed me the RMA information and they even gave me an account number to charge the shipping to so I did not have to pay for return shipping.
Overall, I have to say my experience with Fujitsu was a mixed bag. The customer service was among the best I have experienced, rivaling or even possibly surpassing IBM. Unfortunately, I can not say the same for their technical support. Their response time was good but they were not very knowledgeable. In fact, I was considerably more knowledgeable than their technicians regarding the issues I was experiencing. The laptop itself was fairly well designed but clearly the screen was an inferior component and the heat dissipation was poorly implemented. I find it difficult to understand the lack of testing and poor quality control, especially since this should be the flagship of their laptop line. Overall, I was impressed with Fujitsu as a company but not with this particular product. I suppose if you wanted an ultraportable or thin and light their P and S series systems might be worth a try but the E series definitely needs some major improvements. Oh well, back to the drawing board for me. I think I am headed for a widescreen boutique model next. It seems like the widescreen screens are the best quality for right now, and some of the boutique systems seem to give the best bang for the buck in terms of cutting edge components and pricing.
Sorry for the lack of pics but there was a big gap between my writing this and getting around to posting it. By the time I got through palying with it and wrangling with tech support and getting the RMA, taking pics never really got to be a priority.
Update! I have gone ahead ands placed an order for a Sager 3790 with the 1.7ghz Dothan, 1gb RAM, 80gb 5400 RPM drive, DVD+-RW with DL write, 128mg ATI 9700 gpu, WSXGA screen and 12 cell battery. I will kick in my two cents on that one once I get a chance to play with it. Should be a couple of weeks.