Portable computers that marry touch screens to standard notebook technology have come a long way over the last eight years. Called “convertible” notebooks, these machines have become mainstays in the design, engineering and other technical categories as well as others who use forms-based documents.
Fujitsu is among the PC makers who have a long history in convertible notebooks and I wanted to review a specific new model – the Fujitsu Lifebook Model 730. Over the last several years, I’ve reviewed several convertible PCs and been somewhat disappointed by various machines. My problem has always been, PC makers have been slow to realize a fundamental fact about this category of portables; touch screens have to be responsive enough to respond equally well to stylus or fingertip input.
I was not disappointed by the Fujitsu Lifebook 731’s 12.1 inch screen.
The unit supplied to me for this review was a Model T731, which included a 320GB hard disk drive, an Intel i5 2.3GHZ processor, 4GB of system memory DVD drive in an option bay and a 2MPixel video camera built into the display case. The Lifebook 731 family has integrated 802.11 (a,b, g and n) capable wireless networking and an Gigabit Ethernet connector as well as HDMI, VGA , audio, plus three USB ports and one firewire connector. The operating system is Windows 7 Professional. The price of the unit supplied for this review is $1,549.
Like most convertible notebooks, the Lifebook T731 isn’t an ultrabook; it measures11.7 by 9.2 by 1.5 inches and the entry version of this family adds four pounds to your carry load. This notebook’s case is sturdy enough that you won’t worry about it being damaged in the field and its construction is rock solid. I was somewhat baffled by a single design element of this notebook. The system case slightly overlaps the display case, a very unimportant issue, since the Lifebook T731’s rock solid construction and well above average performance are what matters most in this class of notebook.
I like this system’s 84-key keyboard, which reminded me of those used in earlier Toshiba portables. There is enough tactile feedback on the keys to reinforce my comfort with keyboard data entry and its touchpad required almost no tweaking to accommodate my heavy handed, wandering fingers typing. The touchpad paddle keys were easy to use and the touchpad supports multi-directional scrolling— a “must” in any touch screen portable.
The 12.1--inch screen on the T731 is very responsive, which answers my biggest complaints about the two previous generations of convertibles. The screen’s performance is greatly enhanced by this system’s multicore processor and its integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics chip. A stylus is included with this system and I like that it fits securely in a socket on the front right hand side of the system case, thus reducing the possibility that I will lose it within the first month.
One of the things that sets the Lifebook T731 apart from other convertibles is the sensitivity of the screen. You absolutely do not need to punch this screen to get to any place on the display. A simple light touch with the stylus or your fingertip works just fine. And it supports multi touch control so you can twist and twirl images to you hearts content, without waiting eons, parsecs or arduous minutes for screen redraws.
Battery life in my field testing of this unit averaged 6.5 hours.
I like the options for the Lifebook T731. It’s available with hard disk configurations with up to 500 GB, and it can be socketed with as much as 8GB of memory. My recommendation: if you’re using large digital files such as maps or GIS data, go with the optional large SATA hard disk and max out the memory. If you need to work away from a power source, I’d also recommend the optional extra battery which increases the unplugged power up to about nine hours.
Overall, the Fujitsu Lifebook T731 exceeded my expectations. It’s construction is tough enough to survive roughing it in true field settings and its touch screen is quite remarkable when compared to previous generations of convertible computers. Comparing a convertible notebook to current thin and lights isn’t appropriate. Convertibles are specialized machines that use specific components that most often aren’t power misers. The $1,549 price tag might seem very high to some users, but the functionality, solid construction and basic performance of the Fujitsu Lifebook T731 combine to make it the convertible notebook I recommend.—Jim Forbes on January 2, 2012.