Fujitsu's LifeBook s7211 Is Nicely Priced but Short on RAM

The sub-$1,000 LifeBook S7211 could work well for mainstream corporate computing, but only with added RAM. 

For $899, the Fujitsu LifeBook S7211 is a reliable machine that manages to pack a few high-end features into its 5.2-pound chassis. However, it scrimps in one important place-system memory.

The dual-core Intel Pentium-powered system-which offers a widescreen display, CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive and integrated Webcam-could serve well for mainstream business computing. However, it provides only 1GB of RAM-a problem, considering that the system also ships with Windows Vista Business Edition (although Windows XP is also available), and that its graphics adapter shares some of the system RAM. In comparison, the Toshiba Satellite Pro A210 I recently reviewed manages to provide 2GB of RAM while still remaining under $1,000. The S7211 does have two memory slots that allow it to scale up to 4GB.

The LifeBook also comes with a plug-in module media bay, a feature often found in high-end notebooks but is becoming more common in sub-$1,000 notebooks. Hewlett-Packard's HP Compaq Business Notebook nc600, Dell's Latitude DC 630 and Lenovo's ThinkPad T40 are all sub-$1,000 notebooks with plug-in modular media bays.

A digital status indicator panel, embedded in the LifeBook's body, indicates how various components of the notebook are operating (such as power, battery levels, number lock and caps lock).

Also embedded in the notebook's body is a security/application panel, which administrators can use to implement a numeric password for gaining access to the log-on password screen. Both an administrator and user password can be installed. During tests, when I punched in the password correctly, I was given access to user log-in prompted by the operating system. If I entered the numeric password incorrectly, my machine did not complete power-up. I could also customize the panel to launch certain applications.

The S7211 comes equipped with an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator x3100 graphics card, a 10/100/1000 Ethernet LAN adapter and a 120GB hard drive that spins at 5,400 rpm.

The LifeBook S7211 might be better suited to be a mobile workstation than the Toshiba Satellite Pro. The LifeBook has a spill-resistant keyboard and more workable dimensions, measuring 13.15 by 9.53 by 1.22 inches, while the Satellite Pro measures 14.3 by 10.5 by 1.32/1.55 inches. That said, I would recommend the Fujitsu's LifeBook S7211 more as a desktop PC replacement, mostly because of its weight: At 5.2 pounds, the machine is on the heavy side, and that's without the extended battery.

The S7211 boasts a 14.1-inch glossy screen with a maximum resolution of 1,280 by 800. Though the display dimensions for a widescreen are on the smaller end of the scale, I found the picture quality to be better than average. And, unlike a lot of glossy screens that purport to have anti-glare capabilities, the S7211's screen had minimal glare, even when viewed at a variety of angles and under different lighting.

A six-cell lithium-ion battery comes with the unit, and, according to the spec sheet, provides about 4.25 hours of life before needing a recharge; the Toshiba Satellite Pro A210, in contrast, offers only 2.5 hours of battery life. Fujitsu also offers a nine-cell extended-life modular bay battery that will add an estimated 2.5 hours of life to the system. So, users are getting a lot of power for a well-priced piece of hardware.

Given the low-cost compromises sub-$1,000 notebooks typically make, I was impressed with the LifeBook's integrated Web camera and ArcSoft WebCam Companion 2 software. The picture quality was adequate, though grainy, and the color quality was average but got the job done. This is great for companies thinking about initiating a unified communications platform that might include a video component.

I did find sound quality to be on the relatively poor side, with the volume really low. Still, this was a pretty neat application to be able to tool around with, and, again, given the S7211's price tag, a definite perk. Road warriors needing to capture or create video presentations on the road will find the tool handy, as will desktop users needing to create quick presentations or demonstrations.

The laptop sports a full-size keyboard and a touch-pad pointing device, which offers two left-click and two right-click buttons-one set is located at the top of the mouse and the second set is at the bottom, with a scroll button in between. I especially appreciated the touch-pad mouse, which has a slightly grainy surface that makes controlling the cursor a cinch. Similarly, the right- and left-click buttons offered great response, with only light pressure needed to obtain a response. Usually, I opt for an external keyboard with my notebook PCs, but, with this system, I wouldn't mind forgoing an external keyboard or mouse.

The system's built-in speakers provided great volume and sound quality, surpassing those of the Toshiba Satellite Pro A210, but the volume of my IBM ThinkPad, a longtime eWEEK Labs favorite, was still superior. The unit doesn't include any external keys or dials for volume control; instead, volume levels are adjusted via an applet found in the tray on the bottom right-hand side of the display.

As far as connectivity is concerned, the S7211 offers an RJ-11 modem and an Atheros 802.11 a/b/g WLAN (wireless LAN) module. Bluetooth is available only as a separate option. I was able to switch off the WLAN radio with a hardware switch at the front of the unit.

I found the assortment of expansion ports on the S7211 sufficient, with three USB 2.0 ports, microphone import and headphone export jacks, and an external video port.

The notebook also includes a multiformat memory card slot that supports memory stick, Secure Digital and multimedia cards, giving users plenty of flexibility to work with a variety of devices and formats. This will be especially important if the S7211 is used to replace a standard desktop PC.

The S7211 comes with a one- or three-year warranty, with the option of purchasing extended service plans and 24/7 technical support.

eWEEK Labs Technical Analyst Tiffany Maleshefski can be reached at