Fujitsu LifeBook B3010D “Touchscreen Notebook” Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (6,975)

review by Ansel Herz, USA
– originally posted on our sister site NotebookReview.com

 

Fujitsu LifeBook B3010D



Overview

The Lifebook B3010D from Fujitsu is not your average ultraportable laptop. It’s very small, lightweight, with good performance specifications for basic productivity, but also it comes with a touch screen and stylus like what you might find on a Tablet PC. CNet describes the B3010D as “combining “the best of tablet PCs and ultralights, making it a great choice for users who can’t decide between the two.” I don’t have much experience with tablet PCs, so I don’t think of it that way. Rather, I would describe the B3010D as being an great ultraportable laptop with an excellent alternative interface to the touchpad. It’s very much like the critically-acclaimed Fujitsu P7010D, but without a built-in optical drive while having this unique and highly functional touch screen and stylus, which I think is fantastic.

Specifications on my B3010D machine are as follows:

  • Processor – Intel Pentium M Processor Ultra Low Voltage 733 (1.0 GHz, 2 MB L2 cache, 400 MHz FSB)
  • Hard Drive – 60 GB hard drive at 4200 rpm
  • Memory – 512MB SDRAM in one DIMM slot, expandable up to 1 GB
  • Screen – 10.4″ XGA display with passive digitizer (touch screen)
  • Wireless – Atheros Total 802.11 A/B/G Atheros internal wireless
  • Video – Intel 855GM video graphics chip with integrated 32-bit 3D/2D gfx core with AGP support
  • Ports – Compact Flash slot, two USB 2.0, external monitor, modem (RJ-11), Ethernet (RJ-45), headphone/microphone jacks, and docking port
  • Keyboard – 83-key full-size keyboard with 18 mm key pitch and 2 mm key stroke
  • Dimensions 10.5″ (w) x 8.86 “(d) x .94” – 1.52″(h).
  • Weight – 3.3 lbs.
  • Battery – 6-cell Lithium Ion high-capacity battery for 5-7.5 hours of battery life.
  • Bundled Software – LifeBook Application Panel, Adobe Reader , Microsoft Internet Explorer , TouchScreen Calibration Utility, MS Reader, Journal Viewer, Fujitsu HotKey Utility, Norton Antivirus 2004
  • Port replicator – Power, serial (RS-232C), external monitor, Ethernet (RJ-45) pass-thru, PS/2 port, parallel port, 2 USB (2.0), and speaker out

Reasons for Buying

Previously I owned a Dell Insprion 600m for two years which had to be repaired frequently. I didn’t like the computer too much in the first place because of its weight (about six pounds) and low battery life, and so when the whole computer crashed yet again several weeks ago I decided that enough was enough. I’m a college student living off-campus, and I travel around town with my computer often, using it for word processing, web surfing, image and graphics editing, and webpage design. I don’t play graphically-intensive PC games, but I do run some emulated Nintendo games, and I watch the occasional movie or anime on the computer as well. I wanted a lightweight ultraportable with comparable performance to the 600m but with signficantly longer battery life and an upgrade in RAM and wireless functionality (802.11b/g at minimum). Other models I considered include the Fujitsu P7010D, Dell Latitude X1, and Dell Inspirion 700m. I briefly owned a refurbished Dell Latitude X300 purchased through eBay for $1000, but was disappointed with its low battery life, wireless connectivity, keyboard, and somewhat flimsy exterior. I’ll refer to the 600m and X300 in making some comparisons throughout this review. Luckily I was able to secure a full refund for the X300, and just days later came across the Fujitsu Lifebook B3010D, which appeared to meet my needs perfectly.

Where and How Purchased

I found an awesome deal for this Fujitsu through the indispsensible Pricewatch.com. The total price was $905.06 including shipping. This was the last one that the online vendor had in stock – the salesman I spoke to over the phone said that they had sold hundreds of them in the previous few weeks. The computer’s retail price seems to be hovering around $1600, which is still an appropriate price for a laptop with this feature set. I was just lucky, again, to find such a great deal.

Build and Design 

 

This is not a super stylish notebook computer, nor does it look low-tech. The B3010D’s two-tone color scheme of navy blue and silver is attractive if very understated. It’s sleeker and smaller than most other notebooks, but not wafer thin or bright silver like the Dell X300. It feels sturdy and well-built, and not as fragile as the X300, which is a big plus for me because every day of the week I slip this laptop into my cloth bag and take it to school with me. There’s a large black metal strip running across the top of the screen on the outside. As with some other Fujitsu models, a nice touch is the covering of the RAM slot on the underside with suede to keep the base cool. The rubber pads on the base also haven’t fallen off after several weeks of use, unlike on both Dells I owned. This is a thoughtfully constructed business laptop. Of course, if the B3010D isn’t stylish on its face, you’re still sure to get people’s attention when you slip out the stylus and start tapping and pointing on the screen. 

 

The front side of the B3010D has a wireless radio on/off switch on the left side. The switch is useful for conserving battery power while you’re not using the Internet. I was glad to see that there’s also a screen latch, but it’s not necessary on this laptop. The hinges themselves are very stiff and resistant – much more so than on both Dell models that I owned. 

 

The left side, from front to back, has a Compact Flash slot, headphone and microphone jacks, some vents, and an external monitor output. A plastic card occupies the Compact Flash slot when it’s not in use. I’ve traveled with this laptop quite a bit already and haven’t had any problems, but the ease with which this plastic card slides right out is slightly worrisome. There’s also a plasticized rubber covering for the external monitor port which seems flimsy. A quiet whirring sound emanates from the location of those vents for a few seconds every time you boot the computer up. 

 

The right side contains the two USB 2.0 slots side-by-side, a vent, the modem and etherent ports under rubber coverings, and the power plug. On this side the rubber coverings aren’t as bendable, perhaps because they have less area to cover than on the other side. None of these coverings have popped open inadvertently in my experience. 

 

The backside of this laptop doesn’t have any ports – just the light silver battery and a small security lock.



Screen 

 

The screen is 10.4″ wide and reasonably bright. It doesn’t have a glossy finish like on the Dell 700m nor is it widescreen format like on the Fujitsu P7010D. This is not a screen that was specifically meant for watching movies or DVDs (remember that this computer has no optical-drive with it). That said, I’ve happily watched several movies on this computer already that I downloaded onto the hard drive. On all the brightness settings except for the very lowest one, the screen has been clear and visible. No dead pixels. Unlike the screens on both Dell laptops I owned, the B3010’s screen is set back in the housing so that it’s not marred when the laptop is closed, which is really nice.

With a built-in touch screen, this laptop is well-suited for productivity tasks. Does the touch screen work well, you ask? Yes, and I consider it an excellent alternative to the touchpad. By pushing the small slider to the right of the screen, the top part of the small plastic stylus pops out, making it easy to grab in your hand and hold like a pencil. Then, you simply point and tap directly on the screen where you want to click, as on a tablet PC. Want to close a window? Tap on the X. Dragging to make selections, moving, and dropping are all effortless operations with the stylus. Finally, you can draw as well with the stylus in graphics programs like Paint, GIMP, and Photoshop. The touch screen does everything you would find on a tablet PC, and does it just as well, except that there is no handwriting recognition. Someone suggested to me that I could probably install some software that would recognize my handwriting, though, if I wanted. The B3010D comes with a Fujitsu TouchPanel utility that is accessible through the Control Panel, and it allows you to configure settings like the timing of double-clicks. I’ve set this up so that holding the Ctrl button on the keyboard for the moment that I tap on the screen results in a right-click, and this too works quite well. I almost never use the touchpad any more – no more dragging the pointer from one side of the screen to the other. Rather, I pop out the stylus and start pointing exactly where I want to click, and when finished, I slide the stylus back into its pocket next to the screen. It’s especially efficient for browsing the Internet, graphics editing, and even word processing when I need to reposition the cursor. Taking the stlyus in and out isn’t awkward or difficult, and once set in its pocket, the stylus stays there securely. Fujitsu’s manual for this computer notes that you can use your fingers as well to point and click, but I find that this is less precise and leaves prints on the screen.

To sum up, I’ve found the screen, including the touch screen aspect and the use of the stylus, to be very well-designed and implemented. I was somewhat worried when I ordered this computer that the touch screen and stylus would be awkward or hit-and-miss, and that’s proved not to be the case at all. The touch screen is wonderful.

Speakers

The speakers on the B3010D are in the top of the base on both sides just above the keyboard. They can be quite loud but provide the low-quality sound that’s typical of ultraportable laptops, with little to no bass. I don’t really use them at all. When I’m at home I plug some speakers into the audio output jack on the left front side; when I’m on the road I used headphones – I have about ten gigabytes of music on the hard drive, and the sound quality is well and good this way.

Processor and Performance

1.0 Ghz Processor and 512 MB RAM may not sound too impressive by today’s standards, but the performance on this machine is just right for my needs. My general sense is that the Lifebook is actually faster than the Dell 600m and X300 that I owned, even though both of them had faster processors of the same kind. I don’t like Microsoft or Windows very much, so I’m running an extra shell called Litestep which revamps the desktop and taskbar. I’m also using OpenOffice and Gaim, both which run on Java-based platforms, and I do quite a bit of HTML coding and some graphics manipulation as well (using Adobe Photoshop). I often have several of these programs, and Mozilla Firefox of course, open all at once, and the B3010D handles all of this with ease. Not once has the system become bogged down or have I been forced to shut down a program manually. There’s only one memory slot on this computer, but it’s expandable up to 1 GB of RAM if for some reason you want even better performance. The hard drive, at 60 GB, is more than large enough for my needs. All I can say about games is that I can run emulated Nintento 64 games on this system at a consistent 60 frames per second (that means with fluid animations and no lag). I wouldn’t recommend too much intensive gaming on this computer – no Half Life 2. On the whole, I’m impressed that the performance on the B3010D is as good as it is, and that’s saying something.

Benchmarks

Keep in mind that throughout these test Windows, Litestep, and several other custom service processes were running that may have affected performance.

Time to calculate Pi to 2 million Digits:

 Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Fujitsu LifeBook B3010D (1.0 GHz ULV Pentium M) 3m 39s
Dell Latitude X1 (1.1 GHz ULV Pentium M) 2m 40s
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 45s
Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 48s
IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Banias Pentium M) 2m 23s
Compaq R3000T (Celeron 2.8GHz) 3m 3s
Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M) 2m 10s
Dell Inspiron 8600 (1.7GHz Banias Pentium M) 2m 28s

HD Tune Benchmark results output:

 

Keyboard and Touchpad 

 

I’m quite satisfied with the keyboard on the B3010D. I like the black-on-white finish and large primary keys, and the travel and soft-clicking sound of the keys is fine. It’s a bit louder than the Dell keyboards but enough to be disturbing. There’s absolutely no flex in the keyboard. Having used the truly full-size keyboard of my old Dell 600m, however, the keybaord layout does take some getting used to – here it has been compressed into a much smaller space, and that’s true of any ultraportable laptop (except perhaps the ThinkPad X1). The period and comma keys are thinner than on a regular-size keyboard, but they’re still usable and I adjusted to that quickly. My only substantial complaint about this keyboard is the lack of dedicated Home and End keys. Dell managed to fit those in even on the X300. Here, the Home and End funcitons require two hands: left to press the function (Fn) key and right to press either the left or right arrow keys at the same time. Not everybody does, but I use the Home and End keys often and this setup still feels unnatural for me. To sum up, the keyboard is well constructed and designed for an ultraportable, but since this is a business laptop for productivity tasks I would liked real Home and End keys. 

 

Just above the keyboard is a LCD strip, which has indicators for power, battery life, and hard drive usage – this does a find job of indicating the B3010D’s basic status. I prefer flashing LEDs like on the Dells, but that’s a minor point. To the right of that are four small circular buttons labeled 1-4, an “Enter” button, and the power button. You can use the numbered buttons to add an extra security password to your machine by selecting a code from thousands and thousands of possible combinations. I don’t have any top-secret files on this computer so I haven’t tried out a password yet. But once the computer is booted up and you’re running Windows, these buttons can also be configured as shortcut keys for programs. I’ve mapped them to my text editor, Internet browser, IM client, and music program. These little buttons are another unique and highly useful feature not often found on an ultraportable laptop – thanks Fujitsu!

The touchpad is good. It’s large, precise and the ridged buttons make soft, short clicks. I don’t use it too much because I prefer using the stylus, but if you wanted you could ignore the touch screen and stylus and happily use the touchpad all the time like you would on a normal laptop without any issues.

Input and Output Ports 

 

It’s unfortunate there’s not a Firewire port on the B3010D, because that would have made the port selection perfect. Most everything else the typical user needs is here: two USB 2.0, ethernet and modem ports are easily accessible on the right side of the notebook; PC card, Compact Flash, headphone, microphone, and external monitor ports are easily accessible on the left. The B3010D also came with a small (and somewhat cheap looking) port replicator. It essentially adds PS/2, parallel, and two more USB 2.0 ports for any external keyboards or mice, printers, or other devices you might want to connect. Actually, I can’t imagine anyone going to the trouble of using a traditional PC mouse when you’ve got the touch screen and stylus right here. Anyway, the included port replicator is definitely a nice addition to the whole package.

Wireless

The Atheros Total 802.11a/b/g wireless functionality has been excellent. Reception is good, and I find that the Atheros network profile management utility is much better for selecting and connecting to networks than the default wireless manager in Windows. I haven’t had a chance to try connecting to any 802.11a protocol networks quite yet, but I don’t have any reason think that the Atheros card wouldn’t work as usual. It’s nice to sit down in class or at a cafe with this very small and light laptop, boot up, touch the screen a few times, and start surfing the Internet at 54 Mbps with the stylus (the stylus, I might add, is very useful for going through one’s e-mail). The wireless radio on/off switch on the front side of the B3010D is helpful too, as I mentioned before. It activates and deactivates the wireless card very quickly and helps conserve battery life – not that you need to be too concerned about battery life in the first place.

Battery

Battery life was very important to me; an ultraportable isn’t really too portable if you can’t take it on the road with you and have it last. I wanted to take my laptop to classes with me at the beginning of the day and be able to use it until I come home in the early evening. The Pentium M ULEV processor and 6-cell Lithium Ion battery specifications are what first caught my eye when I came across the B3010D, and they appear to work well together – I get about 5-6 hours battery life over the course of intermittent wireless usage and word processing on the medium brightness setting. The B3010D lasts throughout all my classes and still has charge leftover for me to do some studying. A friend of mine has a Dell 700m, a model I considered, and he always has this big extra battery sticking awkwardly out the back of it. No such extra battery is necessary here (the B3010D still outlasts it, too). The Latitude X300 I owned for a few days only lasted about two hours on its regular battery. The B3010D remains sleek and light at 3.3 lbs, and has long battery life with its standard battery – that’s what I consider ultraportable. The charger unit is also very small and light. If I know I’m going to be gone the entire day I usually throw it in my bag.

Heat and Noise

This laptop stays cool at the expense of being a tad bit noisy. The soft suede covering over the RAM on the base prevents that from becoming warm at all, and the right palmrest can be barely lukewarm sometimes. But the fan in the upper-left corner of the keyboard inside those vents makes some weird noises sometimes. When you boot the computer up, it hums smoothly for just a second before the screen comes to life. Then, seemingly at random, it will click softly and drone a bit louder than initially perhaps once an hour throughout the day. I haven’t noticed any correlation between the activation of the fan and what I’m working on. It’s really not that loud, either, but compared to the Dell models I owned it seems odd to hear the fan working like that. I sat next to a girl with a big Gateway laptop in class last week, and what seemed like a continuous whooshing noise from her computer completely drowned out the occasional whirring of my own.

Operating System and Software

I appreciated that there wasn’t a lot of ‘crapware’ on this computer. No free AOL trials, no mediocre firewall or spyware programs, etc.. The B3010D just came with Windows XP Pro and the utilities I mentioned above – the Atheros Wireless Client, the TouchPad configurer, and an Application Panel to configure the numbered shortcut keys. Norton AntiVirus 2004 was there as well, which is allright. The original time to boot Windows was about twenty seconds (it now takes a bit longer for me because I’ve opted to install Litestep over Windows). The drivers for the touch screen and other Fujitsu programs also came on a CD, which is kind of funny because the B3010D ships with no CD-ROM drive. I’ve checked and these drivers are also available for download from Fujitsu’s website.

Customer Support

As in most of the other reviews on this site, I’ve had no experience with the customer support for this Fujitsu model. This computer slipped off a chair once while inside my bag, and to my relief nothing has malfunctioned at all. I’ve had no use for the 90 day parts and labor warranty that came with the B3010D.

Conclusion

I really like the B3010D because of its special features on top of rock-solid ultraportable performance. But before I go on to sing its praises, let me be clear: You probably should not purchase this computer if you want to watch a lot of movies, DVDs, or play PC games. This is not a multimedia laptop and it doesn’t try to be one at all – it comes with no CD or DVD drive, internal or external. The screen is relatively small and not terribly bright, and the speakers don’t deliver very good sound. That said…

This laptop is exceptionally good for just getting things done wherever you are. I’ve never liked the touchpad setup to begin with; on my old computer I tried to configure all my programs with extra keyboard shortcuts. The touch screen and stylus found on the B3010D constitue the perfect alternative, being both ultra-efficient and super-easy to use – tap and click right on the screen. I’ve observed a noticeable increase in my productivity on the B3010D, because virtually every application becomes quicker with the touch screen. If there’s ever a rare situation in which I’d rather not use the stylus, I simply let it sit in its pocket next to the screen and work on the touchpad instead like I would on any other computer. Performance is terrific, the keyboard is good, battery life is great, all with the weight and size kept to a minimum. The unique extras, like solid build-quality (better than Dell’s, in my opinion), the suede RAM covering, port replicator, and the security/shortcut keys, seal the deal. This is a wonderful little computer. Fully recommended.

Pros:

  • Excellent touch screen and stylus for efficient (and fun) computing
  • Long battery life
  • Small and light, even for its class
  • Solid construction and design – very mobile
  • Above-average performance
  • Great Atheros a/b/g wireless card and client
  • Unique extras: security/shorcut keys, for example
  • Minimal crapware
  • Price? (if you can get a good deal like I did)

Cons:

  • (No integrated optical drive)
  • Keyboard layout (lack of dedicated Home and End buttons)
  • Missing a Firewire port
  • Another RAM slot would have been nice
  • Just a little noisy
  • Screen might be too small for some, but not me

Pricing and Availability: Lifebook B3010D from Fujitsu

Note:

Fujitsu appears to have updated this model to a B6000D, which has larger screen (still with the passive digitizer) and slightly greater performance specifications. My guess is that it’s only an improvement upon the B3010D reviewed here.


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