After finishing up with Sony's excellent and finely-cut Vaio TZ Premium subnotebook
, I wiped my customizations, uninstalled my productivity software, cleaned the display, polished the case, put it back in the box, and mailed it back to Sony PR. Then I went back to Fujitsu's P8010.
It's quite similar to the TZ. It's uglier, for sure. And bigger, despite like specifications. But while Fujitsu also wants it back by the end of the week, I can't quite bring myself to wrap it up yet.
Whereas the Sony is a perfect design marred by minor flaws, the P8010 is a good all-rounder. I'll never love it irrationally as I might something like a TZ or a MacBook Air, but unlike those machines, I feel enthusiastic about using it to work on for hours at a go. As an everyday laptop for work, travel and buggering around on the internet, it offers an unmatched balance between portability, power and utility.
It's just a little larger than the TZ; more or less the same form factor, but a half-inch fatter in every dimension. The keyboard is compact rather than cramped, the trackpad and its buttons feel spacious rather than squished, and so on: you'll kiss typical portable-PC woes goodbye, but you'll never mistake it for an ultraportable, either.
The P8010's crowning glory is its brilliant 12.1" LED-backlit display, which almost completely fills the lid on the horizontal axis. The border is only a fraction of an inch wide — after a year of fat, ugly screen bezels, from the Asus EeePC right up to the MacBook Air, it offers a pleasing widescreen workspace.
Its specs are strong where it matters, but lacking in fine trim. Configurations start at $1,700 for a 1.2 GHz Core 2 Duo SL7100 model with a gig of RAM, XP Professional, 80 GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-FI and integrated Intel X3100 video. Maxed out, you'll get Vista Business, 4GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive, for $2,400.
All models also pack a DVD drive into the 2.9 lb chassis. A docking tray is optional for more ports.
It does lag in places. The design is boring, and that banality is compounded by odd materials. Its lid is an unpleasant shiny black and unnervingly flexible. The performance, though good enough, is a reminder that if you're happy to lose a little portability, a 13.3" model from Dell, HP or even Apple gives more power for less money. There's no options for SSD or WWAN—the latter is quite disappointing, given its presence in cheaper Fujitsu models.
If you want something smaller than a MacBook, but insist on an integrated optical drive and reasonable price, the P8010 is a safe bet.