Fujitsu, best known in the notebook space for its business tablets, is showing the consumer crowd a little love with the $1,499 LifeBook N7010, which is being billed by the Japanese electronics company as an “Ultimate Multimedia Notebook”—and it is indeed a performer when it comes to high-definition movie playback and audio and video editing tasks. However, the system’s highlight is the 4-inch “Touch Zone” display mounted directly above its keyboard, which acts as a fully functional touch-sensitive secondary monitor. Practical innovation or mere novelty? Click the next page to find out.
Features and Design
There’s no doubt; the N7010 looks like a consumer notebook. With its piano black case, matching keyboard frame, and glossy 16-inch 16:9 LCD, there’s no mistaking that this machine is meant to look more play-station than workstation. And, of course, the 4-inch secondary display above the keyboard is bound to earn some envious stares (more on it in a moment).
Its dimensions, however, are a bit unusual for a 16-inch laptop. Typically, the depth of a notebook in this category is more or less equal to the height of its screen (give or take half an inch for the display bezel), but the N7010 has a thick bar of black plastic under its display that houses its stereo speakers, which makes the book a bit deeper than most of its competitors. The end result is a 16-inch machine that feels closer to a 17-inch in size—it measures 15.2-by-10.9-by-2.2 inches—as well as weight (it tips the scales at a not-very-feathery 7.7 pounds).
A gesture-enabled touchpad that keeps the mouse pointer moving for an inch or two after quick swipes took a little getting used to, but it grew on us as we realized that it reduced the need for a series of rapid finger swooshes to make the pointer travel across the screen.
The keyboard is well positioned and offers comfortable resistance, but number crunchers will be disappointed by the omission of a dedicated keypad. The chassis appears wide enough to easily accommodate four additional columns of keys, but Fujitsu’s design engineers opted instead to place big black swathes of plastic on either side of the board.
Touch Zone touch display
The secondary screen essentially acts like an additional monitor in a multi-display setup. You can slide any open app onto it and continue working with the data using the keyboard and touchpad. Of course, the screen is so small and its resolution so meager (relative to the main display) that it can be difficult to make out standard text.
In our testing it was best used as a dedicated video messaging window. We booted up Windows Live Messenger and tried working on full-screen documents, surfing the net, and even playing games, all the while with a colleague’s face smiling up from below.
The display’s value declines if you don’t happen to be down with video messaging, but it can still be useful. When its tiny confines aren’t filled with your friends’ mugs it acts as an application launch center containing up to 15 programs just waiting to be executed at the tap of a finger. It’s far from essential, but it is a handy perk.
There’s also a custom slideshow viewer for the display, though given the screen’s diminutive size it probably won’t see much more use than the slideshow gadget in your Windows Vista sidebar.
With its multimedia designation, one would expect to see better than average performance from the N7010, and its innards are indeed a cut above those of many less expensive notebooks.
A P8400 Intel Core 2 Duo Processor running at 2.26 GHz with a speedy 1066 MHz FSB makes this LifeBook a multitasking powerhouse. Meanwhile, 4 GB of DDR3 1066 MHz dual channel RAM helps keep large picture and video files from gumming up the works (what’s more, it runs on the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium, which means that fourth gig is actually being put to some use).
These components are more than enough to deliver stutter-free Blu-ray movie playback, though it’s worth noting that the display, which maxes out at a disappointing 1366×768, doesn’t take full advantage of the format’s resolution capabilities. The hardware is also sufficient to deliver a solid Windows Media Center experience. Alas, you’ll have to shell out extra for a WMC remote and TV tuner card.
A mediocre graphics controller—ATI’s Mobility Radeon HD 3470, which sports just 256 MB of dedicated video memory—keeps the N7010 from being a serious gaming machine. However, we tried installing the hardware-hungry Call of Duty: World at War and were able to eke out playable performance on a mixture of (mostly) low and medium settings.
Ports, Cards, and Connectivity
The N7010’s jack pack includes four USB ports, one four-pin FireWire input, and an E-SATA port. VGA-out lets users hook up the laptop to projectors and external displays, and an HDMI output will let you fire up Blu-ray movies on your HDTV. There’s a line-in jack, but, sadly, just one stereo headphone port means you won’t be getting cuddly with any potentially cute seatmates as you watch movies on your next plane trip.
Bluetooth, Wireless-N, and Ethernet are integrated, but there is no dial-up modem (apologies to all you troglodytes). A standard ExpressCard slot facilitates wireless broadband connectivity, should you happen to have an aircard.
We ran a couple of informal tests on the N7010’s 8-cell battery, the first with a Blu-ray movie running at maximum brightness and volume. It stopped 12 minutes shy of the two-hour mark before shutting down – acceptable performance for a multimedia notebook.
We then ran a test under typical energy conserving conditions, using only productivity applications and a web browser (Wi-Fi was enabled), and managed to squeeze out about two hours and 40 minutes—ten minutes longer than Fujitsu’s 150 minute rating. Again, adequate performance.
It’s worth noting that we weren’t able to find a way to easily switch off the secondary display, which is likely a minor power muncher. Find a means to power it down and you might add several minutes of juice.
The N7010 is an interesting arrival on the consumer multimedia scene. It doesn’t deliver the sort of performance and some of the perks available in similar class books from the likes of HP and Acer, but the Touch Zone display does sweeten the pot—especially for video messaging junkies. At the very least, it makes this LifeBook worth a look the next time you’re browsing laptops at your local electronics retailer.
- Integrated secondary screen is a boon to video messaging addicts
- Gesture enabled track pad gives your pointer finger a rest
- Powers through multimedia playback and editing
- Relatively low-res primary display
- Lacks integrated TV tuner and WMC remote
- So-so gaming performance
- A bit portly for a 16-inch book
Fujitsu Lifebook N7010