Fujitsu LifeBook C Series

Affordable all-in-one laptop includes a rewritable DVD drive

WHAT'S HOT: Fujitsu's latest consumer notebook brims with hot new features: a combination Secure Digital/Memory Stick card slot, four USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, and a built-in rewritable DVD drive for burning your own DVDs. Our test unit recorded an above-average battery life of 3.3 hours, and its 60GB hard drive will keep most users flush with storage for a long time.

WHAT'S NOT: This heavyset laptop is not travel-friendly. It weighs 9.2 pounds counting the power adapter (8.2 pounds without) and measures 2.2 inches thick at the hinges.

WHAT ELSE: The C Series's performance lags just a bit behind that of the only other notebook we've tested with the same configuration, the Dell Inspiron 4150. The 1.8-GHz Pentium 4-M-equipped Fujitsu model earned a PC WorldBench 4 score of 95, placing it 3 points (about 3 percent) behind the Dell.

A good choice for both early adopters and traditionalists, the LifeBook C Series offers not only the latest features but also a built-in floppy drive, a parallel port, and the not-often-used serial port. For an extra $80 you can get the notebook with built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b) networking.

The keyboard is one of the C Series's best features--it has a quiet, cushy feel and a good layout. Rubber feet provide an angle for typing. The memory sockets and hard drive aren't in the customary spots but are fairly easy to reach; to access the hard drive, you simply remove the fixed floppy drive, which is held in by a couple of screws. The RAM sockets sit beneath the keyboard, which flips up once you remove the top panel.

We were a bit disappointed with some carryover features that haven't improved in this new addition to the C Series stable. Like previous models, this version offers dual-purpose buttons on the case front that let you play music CDs or launch applications. The buttons, a nearby status LCD, and the unit's stereo speakers all remain exposed when you close the lid, a good start for a notebook aspiring to be a stand-alone CD player. But because the optical drive has no dedicated power button, you still must turn the notebook on (and thus use more power if you're on battery) to play CDs. Plus, for some odd reason the old model's volume wheel is missing from the new notebook. The status LCD, now backlit in an almost too-distracting bright blue, provides a handy way to check remaining battery life, but it continues to miss its true calling as an audio-track display. Finally, the C Series still struggles with sound, emitting flat, subdued audio; plan on using headphones for games or music. The line-out port doubles as an S/PDIF port for downloading digital tunes to MiniDiscs.

Documentation, including a four-page, 8.5-by-11-inch "Getting Started" brochure and a thin user guide with simple line drawings, is nothing special but covers all the bases.

UPSHOT: Despite a multimedia design that doesn't entirely deliver, the LifeBook C Series offers consumers plenty of bang. It's tough to beat a rewritable DVD drive, a 60GB hard drive, the latest card slots, and a good keyboard in a package priced less than $1700.

By Carla Thornton

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