NBC on-site: Fujitsu Visit 09 / Munich
by J. Simon Leitner 19.11.2009
Good bye Amilo, Esprimo & Co.
Fujitsu invited the international community to the International Congress Centre in München (ICM) so as to show them the future of the "new" Fujitsu brand. In addition to the numerous lectures, visitors were also allowed to take a look at popular models from the Japanese multi-international company. This was also our first contact with the Lifebook S760, AH550, and NH570 multimedia laptops.
The loss of the trusted Siemens brand was a heavy blow to the customers. As if that in itself was not bad enough, Fujitsu now wishes to rename every single one of its notebooks, with the exception of the Celsius models, "Lifebook". Simply put, the different brand names given to the various laptops from Fujitsu, such as Amilo or Esprimo, will now be replaced by "Lifebook" and some serial number. Why? – "We wish to simplify matters for our customers". How does renaming simplify anything?
Here is the reasoning from Fujitsu for the renaming:
All "Lifebooks" will be given a serial number. For example, the Lifebook S760 belongs to the price series (S), and the three digits afterwards represent a specific model of that series. If you wish to buy a business notebook, then you can easily find it by finding its individual series and model number. The laptops which are designed specifically for home use are designated with an extra "H" in their serial name. So for example the Lifebook AH550 can be immediately recognized as a model intended for home use.
Of course, we are a bit sceptical of this advertising strategy. Before when customers bought a "Lifebook", they had a better idea of its capabilities as it was a stand-alone brand similar to "Thinkpad" or "Latitude". However, now even the multimedia laptops, which cost less than 500 euros, are being produced under the brand name "Lifebook". We can only wait and see whether this is a good name to attract business clients with. The intention behind this move was to strengthen the "Fujitsu" brand name and to mix the business and home laptops together so as to create a varied notebook palette under a single brand name ("Lifebook") which caters to a wide range of buyers. This strategy is similar to that of Asus. Asus, the brand name, is already imprinted in our minds, but when it comes to the Eee family people are still a bit confused. However, if one were to ask the question: what is the name of the business models from Asus? Most people would be unable to reply. Thus, it proves that the opposite of the intended effect is also possible (the name of the business models is BXX (2 digits)).
What would a strong brand name be without an appropriate logo? For example, Apple, the brand name, would not have been so popular without its well-known and popular apple logo. The red point on the Thinkpad models can hardly be described as a proper logo. If anything than the whole lettering. So we are back where we started.
Infinity. Does it not sound great? By choosing this as the logo, Fujitsu wants to ensure that their logo is not a failure. This logo, which was till now only used at Fujitsu-i-points, will be inscribed on all "Lifebook" models of the future - Big and shiny on the the consumer laptops, and nice and conservative on the "Lifebook-Lifebooks".
Enough of the dry branding politics, let us continue with something more interesting. We here at NBC (notebookcheck) are far more interested in how the coming "Lifebook" models will look and perform. In the so-named "Demo Center", we got to see a couple of server models and a lot of the future Fujitsu notebook models, as well as current Fujitsu laptops. Our attention was, of course, caught by the yet unreleased devices which were mixed with the already available models.
The first model we saw at the convention was a "mock-up", which is basically an empty case, of the Lifebook S760 which is supposed to serve as the representative of the upcoming business models ("mock-ups" are intended to give the customers a general idea of design and form factor). The "Best Friend on the Move" section had a 13 inch model with a 16:9 widescreen display ratio. Fujitsu seems to be trying to keep the thickness of this model to a minimum, so this upcoming business model could still be considered "slim".
The most noticeable feature of the S760 was the round surface next to the touchpad. This is the "scroll wheel". A touch-sensitive surface which is supposed to be used for scrolling down windows and documents.
All in all, the design of this model seems fresh and compact when compared to the current notebooks. This effect is mainly created by the rougher surfaces in the region of the palm rest areas. The colour combination has stayed the same: the black display, the bright-grey keyboard, and silver materials decorating the top of the base unit. With this distinct combination, the "Lifebooks" can be clearly recognized.
According to Fujitsu, the release date of this model is the first or second quarter of 2010. This leads, of course, to the natural assumption that the notebook will be equipped with the new yet-to-be released Intel CPUs. Even other laptop manufacturers are currently working to refresh their models so as to be able to present more powerful machines next year.
The AH550 model represents, according to the Fujitsu personnel on-site, a compact multimedia laptop for laptop buyers. So it is basically, the successor of the current Amilo model. The model was fully functioning, and was designed so as to be near identical to the other models of the series. However, changes are not yet out of question.
The new design of the model is definitely the first thing that the eye picks up on. This model has evolved from the current smooth and straight edges, which give a futuristic look, to a simple, unpretentious exterior. It really is a pity that, due to the change of names, it will become harder to easily distinguish between "Lifebook" models, unlike the Amilo models which are easier to recognize due to their various individual nicknames.
Glossy, shiny surfaces and the use of chrome elements are supposed to attract buyers to the new multimedia "Lifebooks". The meaning of the above statement should be clear from our pictures: fingerprints, smudges, and dust particles wherever one looks. It's a real pity as the Amilo models were far better at dealing with such annoying details.
Thanks to the widescreen format, the laptop model has enough place for a standard keyboard, and an additional number keypad to the right. The touchpad has a comfortable surface but the chrome touchpad keys are a bit too much.
The positioning of the ports is good. An HDMI interface, a LAN port and a total 3 USB ports can be found on the sides and the rear of the laptop.
How good is the laptops performance? Unfortunately, this is still unknown. We do know that the laptop is due for release sometime in the first or second quarter of 2010. So we can naturally assume that the CPUs of the next, coming Intel generation and newer graphics chips will be used for the notebook. As the laptop is of the middle-class, we can expect the CPUs and the graphics chips to be of a similar class.
There was also a second functioning model put out on display: the somewhat bigger NH570. This model looks very similar to the smaller AH550, so there are a lot of glossy surfaces. Even the keyboard with the number keypad is to be found in this model.
However, one additional device, which sparked our interest, was presented alongside the NH570: the new version of the "Fujitsu presenter". This presenter communicates with the laptop over a USB stick (it should be usable with any notebook), and it can be mainly be used as a wireless mouse which works even from far away. It should also be compatible with beamers. However, this device also has other surprising features besides that of a presenter.
With a twist, one can turn the presenter into a sort of a pistol which is designed to be used for shooter games. We managed to test it with the well-known shooter game: "House of the Dead". From our little test, we concluded that although the presenter/pistol is not exactly a cutting-edge gaming device, it can still be fun to use. The best comparison we can make is that the presenter/pistol is similar to the controller of the Nintendo Wii. The bundle, with everything included (presenter and USB stick, as well as a few games) will be available by the end of this year for 69 euros at shops.
Back to the performance details of the NH570: Similar to the AH550, Fujitsu has not announced any set price for the notebook. The laptop should be released sometime in the 1st quarter or the 2nd quarter of 2010. Due to the fact that it will be released next year, we expect that it will also be equipped with the new Intel platform and new graphics chips which should perform better than the current middle-class. We can't wait.