Fujitsu's Lifebook E8420 is a business tool with plenty of useful hardware and software features, and, most importantly, it's fast!
Its Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 CPU runs at 2.53GHz, and it's paired with Intel's PM45 chipset. Along with an Intel WiFi Link 5300 wireless networking adapter, it forms the holy trinity of the Intel Centrino 2 platform. The rest of the configuration comprises 4GB of DDR3, 1066MHz memory, a 320GB, 5400rpm hard drive, and a GeForce 9300M GS graphics adapter.
All of these components combined to produce a fast score of 102 in our WorldBench 6 test suite; this score is almost as fast as it gets for a notebook. It will easily run any office applications you throw at it, and it's great for multitasking. Its time of 1min 11sec in the Blender 3D test was an expected result, but its time of 1min 21sec in our MP3 encoding test was about 9sec slower than expected. Still, it's a fast notebook with plenty of power and storage capacity for photo editing and even editing and rendering video files. Don't use it for gaming though; its 9300M GS adapter only scored 1942 in 3DMark06, which isn't a fast result.
Aiming to simultaneously please users of modern and legacy devices, the E8420 offers more ports and slots than most traditional notebooks. It still carries ports from yesteryear, which might be welcomed by companies that still use serial-, parallel- and PC Card-based devices, yet you also get an ExpressCard slot and HDMI, USB and FireWire ports.
The notebook's serial and parallel ports sit on the spine, along with a D-Sub port, two USB ports and an Ethernet port, which means the unit's battery sits underneath and towards the front of the base. It's an 8-cell, 5200 milliampere hour battery, and it lasted exactly two hours in our worst-case scenario run-down test. Luckily, the unit ships with a power saving utility that allows you to switch off all unnecessary devices (such as the optical drive, 56Kbps modem and the FireWire port) so that you can squeeze more life out of it while you travel. Strangely, it doesn't switch off the Bluetooth and wireless networking modules. You'll have to switch these off separately.
You can also give it more battery life by plugging a second battery into the unit via its modular optical drive bay.
Aesthetically, the notebook has a modern two-tone colour scheme, yet it retains a '90s-looking monochrome, single-line LCD screen. This screen is used instead of bright status lights to let you know if the wireless module is enabled, the power level of the battery, and to indicate hard drive activity and lock-key status. It's not an illuminated panel, so you won't be able to see it at night.
To the right of this screen lie number keys and an 'enter' button which can be used to fire up commonly used applications, but which also look like they can be used to enter a security PIN for entering the system. We couldn't find a security application for these keys, but the Lifebook Application Panel software lets you elect which applications the numbers should invoke.
The 15.4in widescreen display's native resolution of 1680x1050 makes it feasible to have two windows side by side, and it's also not a bad screen to watch videos on. It has a thin frame along the sides, but it is slightly thicker at the top to make room for the webcam. Its hinge is stiff, so it should stay in position even if you use the notebook on a bumpy taxi ride. And speaking of bumpy rides, the E8420 has shock detection for the hard drive which can park the heads as soon as it detects excessive vibration or shock.
For typing, the notebook's spill-proof keyboard is roomy, and its keys produce good travel. However, it does feel a little bouncy and we hate the location of the 'delete' key, which is not in the top-right corner. Navigation is by way of a touchpad and a TrackPoint-style pointer. There isn't a switch to disable the touchpad if you only want to use the pointer. (By the way, if you ever do spill liquid on the keyboard, power down and turn the notebook upside-down immediately to drain it.)
At 2.75kg, the E8420 doesn't feel too heavy, and its overall size makes it quite easy to carry — even in a backpack. For the office, there is an option to use a port replicator, so you can plug straight in to external peripherals and mains power without having to tinker with cords and settings, and security can be implemented via the included fingerprint scanner. This can be used to log-in to the system, and it can also be used in conjunction with Omnipass to make it easier for you to log in to password-protected sites. The fingerprint reader also doubles as a scrolling device, which is very handy when viewing long documents.
What it all boils down to is that the E8420 is a great business tool. It has more ports and slots than your average notebook, it feels well built and it's fast. It could use more niceties, such as an illuminated keyboard or a nightlight, 'sleep-and charge'-style USB ports, and perhaps some manual controls for the volume and touchpad. These are things Fujitsu might like to look into for the next model.