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Review Fujitsu Lifebook LH531 Notebook

Sebastian Jentsch (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 06/17/2011

Price breaker. While everyone is into slim line with aluminum looks, Fujitsu brings out a roundly 14 incher with a matt screen for use out in the sun. It is the cheapest Core i5 in 13 and 14 inches for starting at 549 euros.

Fujitsu Lifebook LH531 (LH531MXAB1DE): Mobility bargain with a strong Core i5-2410M?
Fujitsu Lifebook LH531 (LH531MXAB1DE): Mobility bargain with a strong Core i5-2410M?

Not everyone who wants to buy a notebook sees dedicated graphics as an indispensable element for their portable computer. The basics such as a matt display, good input devices, long battery runtimes, low waste heat and silent use are of more importance. And of course the price – which is just right in the case of our test device. 550 euros – a brand new Sandy Bridge Core i5 in a 13 and 14 inch device can't be found for less.

To finish off our Fujitsu test series, we got hold of a device for the above mentioned simple needs. The 14 incher Lifebook LH531 relies on the performance midrange, Core i5-2410M, but doesn't use dedicated graphics (Intel HD Graphics 3000). Gamers will stop reading here at latest. Ambitioned office users with need for mobility could however see a handy compromise of a well sized display and good portability in the 14 inch form factor. Find out how the Fujitsu Lifebook LH531 fares in our tests in this comprehensive review.

Case

Denting on the bottom
Denting on the bottom
Maintenance opening
Maintenance opening
A bit of high-gloss
A bit of high-gloss

The L series stands for portable among the Lifebooks. The weight of a MacBook Air (1327 grams, 13.3 inch) is not reached with a weight of 2118 grams, but the kilos are adequate for the laptop size.

The LH 531 is a basic and simple notebook in terms of materials and build. It doesn't have any aluminum-magnesium components or brushed aluminum surfaces. The (few) coated and matt surfaces are mounted cleanly. The dark looks are pepped up by the silver stripes around the lid and back.

Our impression of the basically good construction suffers under the base unit's low torsional stiffness. It can be warped evidently with both hands, whereas the optical drive area particularly stands out here. The bottom isn't perfect, either. It can be clearly depressed at the vents.

The lid's stiffness is adequate and will satisfy home needs. The twisting resistance, applied with both hands, could be better. We look at the hinge full of doubt. It lets the lid fall autonomously at an opening of five centimeters. The lid can be easily opened with one hand beyond that. We would appreciate more tightly pulled hinges (to be opened with both hands) since this could weaken after a longer period of use. The maximum opening angle of about 135 degrees is sufficient for use on the lap.

The 2.5 inch hard disk, the DDR3 RAM module (two occupied slots), the WLAN module and the inserted processor are found underneath the cover on the bottom. All named components are easily accessible.

Connectivity

The LH531 is sparsely equipped in terms of interfaces. There is no fast link to external eSATA hard disks and no USB 3.0 port. Retrofitting interfaces via controller isn't possible because there is no ExpressCard slot, as there is in the NH751, AH531 Lifebooks.

The positioning of the left interfaces doesn't make much sense. Cables, especially the unwieldy VGA and HDMI connectors, impair the use of a mouse and add chaos to the desk. Placing them on the rear would have been better. The sunken hinge and the battery prevent that, though. In return, USB 2.0 and Ethernet can quickly be lead around to the rear since the ports are in the far back.

Front: Line out, microphone, card reader SD/SDHC/MS/MS Pro
Front: Line out, microphone, card reader SD/SDHC/MS/MS Pro
Left: AC, VGA, HDMI, 2 USB 2.0s with one Anytime USB Charge
Left: AC, VGA, HDMI, 2 USB 2.0s with one Anytime USB Charge
Rear: No interfaces
Rear: No interfaces
Right: DVD multi-burner, 2 USB 2.0s, Ethernet, Kensington lock
Right: DVD multi-burner, 2 USB 2.0s, Ethernet, Kensington lock
Recovery media
Nero9 Essentials
PowerSaving Utility

Communication

The wireless network is from Intel as the draft n card, Centrino Advanced 6205 (abgn). It also includes the incorporated Bluetooth module with the old standard, 2.1+EDR. The Realtek LAN adapter communicates in the fastest gigabit manner. In terms of network, the LH531 is perfectly equipped. An internal 3G module for mobile surfing would have been the icing on the cake. But it can't be expected in this price range.

Supplies

Recovery DVDs are included for Window 7 Home Premium (64bit). The manufacturer agreeably holds back on bloatware. The few tools are very sensible: DeskUpdate (download updates), Nero9 Essentials (burn) and a PowerSaving Utility (ECO button settings).

Warranty

Fujitsu grants a 12 month bring-in warranty for this series (Germany). Users have to consequently send in their defect laptop themselves. The manufacturer optionally bids a 3 year collect & return service for a price of 40 euros.

Input Devices

Keyboard

Cheap laptops often have clattery keyboards that make every typing task to a torment. This is fortunately not the case in the LH531. The 14 incher's keyboard belongs in the category office suitable, even if not with a claim on premium quality. The keys prove to have a medium key drop, a clear pressure point and a firm, yet quiet, stroke while typing. The only problem is the keys' even surface so that our fingers don't instinctively slide into the center. This provides a bit of insecurity in accuracy while typing.

The keys fit tight and only yield above the optical drive under high pressure. The layout, with the big enter, shift and backspace key, is well-designed.

Touchpad

The small touchpad (Synaptics V7.2) is in a cavity with a hard border. The pad is fast in use. However, the clattery keys click very loud and make an inferior impression (low key drop). Incidentally, the multi-touchpad can be controlled with two fingers.

Feedback strong keyboard's layout
Feedback strong keyboard's layout
Narrow, separated arrow keys
Narrow, separated arrow keys
Small touchpad with clattery keys
Small touchpad with clattery keys

Display

The matt LED screen (model: SAMSUNG 140AT07-501) has a resolution of 1366x768 pixels (16:9). The WXGA resolution is standard for 13, 14 and 15 inchers. The assessed black value is 1.61 cd/m2 and results in an extremely poor contrast of 152:1. Black has a gray cast, colors lose their brilliance.

The color spectrum (vital for pro DTP, CAD, picture editing) is remote from the AdobeRGB (t) reference. The same is true for sRGB. We place the AR coated Full HD screen from Dell's Latitude E6520(t), which covers sRGB, beside it for comparison.

ICC Fujitsu LH531 vs. AdobeRGB (t)
ICC Fujitsu LH531 vs. AdobeRGB (t)
ICC Fujitsu LH531 vs. sRGB (t)
ICC Fujitsu LH531 vs. sRGB (t)
ICC Fujitsu LH531 vs. Latitude E6520 FHD (t)
ICC Fujitsu LH531 vs. Latitude E6520 FHD (t)
223
cd/m²
231
cd/m²
223
cd/m²
236
cd/m²
245
cd/m²
241
cd/m²
237
cd/m²
249
cd/m²
243
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Gossen Mavo-Monitor
Maximum: 249 cd/m²
Average: 236.4 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 90 %
Center on Battery: 245 cd/m²
Black: 1.61 cd/m²
Contrast: 152:1

Fujitsu apparently has heard the objections put on the weak brightness of many consumer laptops. The background LEDs light up brighter than the majority of other low-price category devices and achieves an average of 236 cd/m2. Even the homogeneity of brightness distribution, of 90% is very good. This isn't as important indoors since 150 cd/m2 are enough. But will the brightness also be enough for outdoor use?

The matt display in this price range will likely make many buyers curious because it arouses hopes for good sight in sunlight. No reflections disturb no matter how we turn the LH531. The pictures below show the screen in intense sunlight. The good brightness is enough in most viewing angles to maintain a good legibility of displayed content.

Lateral view, indirect sun
Lateral view, indirect sun
Lateral view, direct sun
Lateral view, direct sun
Frontal view, indirect sun
Frontal view, indirect sun

The Samsung screen is no longer the ray of hope that it is in outdoor use with its viewing angles. Ghosting already turns up at about 20 degrees when the eyes look downwards or upwards (vertically). We can only deviate up to 45 degrees from the center towards the right or left (horizontally). Beyond that, the colors invert clearly. However, good viewing angles are scarce and non-existent in this price range.

Viewing angles: Fujitsu Lifebook LH531
Viewing angles: Fujitsu Lifebook LH531

Performance

The Lifebook LH531 is currently available with two CPU alternatives (price difference of about 50 euros). Our test device is the stronger configuration with the latest Sandy Bridge CPU Core, i5-2410M (2x2.3 GHz) and a 500 GB Hitachi hard disk. The other LH531 alternative runs on an i3-2310M and a 320 GB hard disk. Please see the up to 2.9 GHz clocked (one core) Turbo 2.0 CPU's spec sheet for more technical details. The graphics chip, HD Graphics 3000, is incorporated into the processor (650-1100 MHz) and both RAM slots are equipped with 2048 MB each.

System info CPUZ CPU
System info CPUZ Cache
System info CPUZ Mainboard
System info CPUZ RAM
System info GPUZ Intel HD 3000
PC Latency Checker Idle no latencies
DPC Latency Checker WLAN off/on short latencies
System information: Fujitsu Lifebook LH531

Is the i5-2410M (2x 2.3 GHz + Turbo 2.9 GHz) really necessary, or is the i3-2310M version (2x 2.1 GHz, no Turbo) enough? We compared both processors with the single core benchmark, Cinebench R10 Single 64bit first. It's 4564 to 3389 points (i5 vs. i3). The Turbo clearly has an advantage.

The same is true in Cinebench R10 Multi 64bit. The i5-2410M (4 threads) scores 9659 points. The i3 (4 threads) manages 7550 points. If you benefit from multi thread processing (e.g. video rendering, picture editing), you're better served with the i5. Although both CPUs calculate with four threads, the i5 can clock them with 4 x 2.3 GHz.

5.7
Windows 7 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
6.9
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
5.9
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
5.7
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.2
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
5.9
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
3731
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
8021
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
5233
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
4564 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
9659 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
5388 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
9.55 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
2.58 Points
Help
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage5902 points
PCMark 71855 points
Help

PCMark Vantage finishes with 5320 points. That is an advantage of 21% in comparison to a device equipped with an i3 (HD Graphics 3000, 5400 rpm). We looked at the Dell Inspiron 15R with a 2310M (4300 points). PCMark Vantage depicts the general application performance. Buyers who can't decide between both LH531s can therefore reckon with a performance difference of 20%.

3D Mark
3DMark 0310572 points
3DMark 057837 points
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
4069 points
Help
Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B HTS545050B9A300
Transfer Rate Minimum: 3 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 88.1 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 65.6 MB/s
Access Time: 22.2 ms
Burst Rate: 89.6 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1 %

The 500 GB HDD from Hitachi works quite fast, although it is a normal rotating 5400 rpm. It reads with 65 MB/s in sequential read (HDTune). The second test, CrystalDiskMark, shows 89 MB/s (different test routine). PCMark Vantage's HDD score reaches 3848 points (sub score). In comparison: The SSD in Acer's Aspire 4820TG-644G16Mnks accomplishes outstanding 20196 points, a 7200 rpm HDD in Dell's Vostro 3450 still achieves 4286 points (WDC WD3200BEKT-75PVMT0). Short: The LH531 plays in the slowest league in terms of hard disk.

Hitachi HTS545050B9A300, 500GB, 5400 rpm
Hitachi HTS545050B9A300, 500GB, 5400rpm
HD-Tune: 65 MB/s read
HD-Tune: 65 MB/s read
CDM: 89 MB/s read
CDM: 89 MB/s read

Emissions

Vent
Vent

System Noise

The noise level fluctuates between 29.6 dB(A) and 34.6 dB(A) in idle and low load. The former measurement is the hard disks' base noise. The fan has turned itself off. The level settles between 33 and 34.6 dB(A) when programs are opened or copying processes start. However, the fan does its work considerately and there is no irregular, constant whining.

The fan can however also get loud with 45 dB(A) when the i5 processor and the Intel HD Graphics 3000 are put under demand at the same time (stress test). The fan slows down extremely fast after the permanent load is finished: The level is again at 35 dB(A) within 5 seconds.

Noise Level

Idle 29.6 / 32.9 / 34.6 dB(A)
HDD 32.4 dB(A)
DVD 35.7 / dB(A)
Load 38.2 / 44.9 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)
Stress: Stable clocking on 2 x 2.3 GHz with no throttling
Stress: Stable clocking on 2 x 2.3 GHz with no throttling

Temperature

The temperatures only differ between load and idle by about 5 degrees. The exception is found in three areas on the bottom (vent, heatpipe vicinity), which get very warm (41 to 45 degrees). Since the wrist-rest and keyboard always stay within the blue field, there is no reason for distress in regard to waste heat.

We didn't notice throttling of CPU clock rate caused by the temperature limits being surpassed. The clock rates were 4 x 2.294 MHz (Hyper Threading: 2+2 cores) while Prime95 calculated on all 4 threads. A 3DMark06 executed immediately after the full load test of several hours reached the same 3DMarks as in the normal test (3DMarks & CPU score).

Max. Load
 34 °C31.1 °C30 °C 
 33 °C34.6 °C30.6 °C 
 31.2 °C32.5 °C29.2 °C 
Maximum: 34.6 °C
Average: 31.8 °C
32.3 °C41 °C45.2 °C
27.7 °C43.2 °C34.4 °C
26.8 °C30.2 °C28.7 °C
Maximum: 45.2 °C
Average: 34.4 °C
Power Supply (max.)  46.6 °C | Room Temperature 23.5 °C | Voltcraft IR-360

Speakers

Both stereo speakers emit their sound from above the keyboard. Their extremely midrange-heavy, undifferentiated sound isn't pleasing for the ears and music fans will quickly take hold of headphones or external speakers. The volume isn't at all impressive and doesn't suffice to fill a room with sound during a presentation.

Battery Life

The attractive battery life of almost 6 hours is very good for a 14 incher, especially since we aren't dealing with a high capacity battery (48 Wh, 4400 mAh). The WLAN test (surfing on the Web) comes to an end after 5:52 hours, a DVD movie runs for 3:59 hours. The TFT's brightness was set to 100 cd/m2 (medium level) for the WLAN/DVD tests. The charge time of 1:56 hours between the battery tests is adequate.

You have to look around for a long time to find an affordable notebook (not netbook) with equally good runtimes. The Dell Vostro 3350 achieves 6:45 hours (WLAN test), but has an 80 Wh battery available in return. The Asus U30SD is also equipped with 84 Wh in order to reach 6:30 hours. Dell's XPS 15z achieves six hours with 64 Wh. All aforementioned devices are however a lot more expensive than the Lifebook LH531. The price range of our Fujitsu, with the new Intel processors, is about 5 hours e.g. Aspire 3750 (i3-2310M) or MSI CX640 (i5-2410M).

Charge: 116 min
Charge: 116 min
WLAN surfing: 352 min
WLAN surfing: 352 min
DVD movie: 239 min
DVD movie: 239 min
Idle: 508 min
Idle: 508 min
Load: 75 min
Load: 75 min
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
8h 28min
WiFi Surfing
5h 52min
DVD
3h 59min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 15min

The gap between idle and high performance becomes obvious in power consumption. This trend has always existed since Speed Step and dynamic clocking. This difference has become even bigger since Arrandale and Sandy Bridge. The Lifebook LH531's idle power consumption is between 8.5 watts (energy savings, minimum brightness) and 13.2 watts (high performance, maximum brightness). The stress test proves the opposite. A 3DMark 2006 (IGP Intel HD 3000) needs 38 watts. The Core i5 is added in the stress test and then it is 59 watts. The compact 60 watt power adapter (235 grams) is adequately sized for that.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.3 / 0.3 Watt
Idle 8.5 / 12.2 / 13.2 Watt
Load 38.6 / 59 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 960

Verdict

We've seen better jobs done. We are disappointed after Fujitsu faced us with a very stable construction with the Lifebook AH531 in 15.6 inches. The 14 inch Lifebook AH531 has an agreeably matt surface, but the base unit clearly twists when it's handled with both hands. The workmanship is basically satisfactory because the hinge, lid and wrist-rest are adequately stable in contrast to the former one.

The keyboard with its clear pressure point and cushioned stroke, and which fits almost 100% tight is on the pro side. The loud touchpad keys aren't agreeable, though – the high-pitched clattery sound soon gets annoying.

The battery life of almost 6 hours (WLAN) test, fused with the over averagely bright and matt display can again conciliate us with the LH531. The weight of 2.1 kilograms can be carried around easily and the view on the desktop is clear thanks to the AR coating.

Users will be perfectly equipped with the application performance for the office for the next few years. Demanding computer display workers with external data carriers and tools concerning pictures and videos won't be happy. On the one hand, USB 3.0, respectively ExpressCard and eSATA have been omitted. The interfaces that are installed are available in every better netbook nowadays (incl. HDMI). On the other hand, the mainstream screen has narrow viewing angles and a very narrow color spectrum.

The Lifebook LH531 is therefore not a perfect notebook. However, as known, the price makes unwilling consumers docile. The LH531 (LH531MXAB1DE) with a Core i5-2410M is currently the cheapest 13 to 14 incher with this graphics card. Alternatives, such as the reviewed Aspire 3750 with the same CPU, are first available for starting at 650 euros.

Fujitsu Lifebook LH531 (LH531MXAB1DE): Weak case, but a lot of mobility
Fujitsu Lifebook LH531 (LH531MXAB1DE): Weak case, but a lot of mobility
By courtesy of ...
In Review: Fujitsu Lifebook LH531, by courtesy of:
In Review:  Fujitsu Lifebook LH531

Specifications

Fujitsu Lifebook LH531
Processor
Graphics adapter
Memory
4096 MB 
, SO DIMM, DDR3, 1333MHz, max 8GB
Display
14 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, SAMSUNG 140AT07-501, glossy: no
Mainboard
Intel HM65
Harddisk
Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B HTS545050B9A300, 500 GB 
5400 rpm
Soundcard
Realtek ALC269 @ Intel Cougar Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
4 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: line out, microphone, Card Reader: SD/SDHC/MS/MS Pro, USB 1x Anytime USB charge function
Networking
Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 (a b g n ), 2.1 + EDR Bluetooth
Optical drive
TSSTcorp CDDVDW TS-L633F
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 35.4 x 335 x 240 ( = 1.39 x 13.19 x 9.45 in)
Weight
2.118 kg ( = 74.71 oz) Power Supply: 235 g ( = 8.29 oz)
Battery
48 Wh Lithium-Ion, 4400mAh 10.8V
Price
599 Euro
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
Additional features
Webcam: 1280x1024, Fujitsu Recovery, Nero Essentials, 12 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
You only have a little money for a handy notebook with the newest Sandy Bridge Core i5 processor?
You only have a little money for a handy notebook with the newest Sandy Bridge Core i5 processor?
We can't speak of interface diversity. There is NO USB 3.0, no ExpressCard and no 3G module.
We can't speak of interface diversity. There is NO USB 3.0, no ExpressCard and no 3G module.
The adapter is small and only weighs 235 grams (without power cable).
The adapter is small and only weighs 235 grams (without power cable).
The 60 watt adapter makes itself quite small in your bag.
The 60 watt adapter makes itself quite small in your bag.
The angled power plug leads the cable quickly toward the back.
The angled power plug leads the cable quickly toward the back.
Accessing hard disk and RAM is possible via two covers.
Accessing hard disk and RAM is possible via two covers.
The processor is also inserted into a slot and can be replaced.
The processor is also inserted into a slot and can be replaced.
The sole heatpipe conveys the CPU's waste heat to a heat exchanger and the fan expels the heat out.
The sole heatpipe conveys the CPU's waste heat to a heat exchanger and the fan expels the heat out.
An unintentional battery release is prevented by a combination of three steps for unlocking it.
An unintentional battery release is prevented by a combination of three steps for unlocking it.
Makes sense: There is a switch for immediate deactivation of all wireless connections.
Makes sense: There is a switch for immediate deactivation of all wireless connections.
The key lights up atmospherically, which shows its advantage in the dark.
The key lights up atmospherically, which shows its advantage in the dark.
Fujitsu has the fitting offer: The Lifebook LH531 with a Core i5-2410M for starting at 549 euros.
Fujitsu has the fitting offer: The Lifebook LH531 with a Core i5-2410M for starting at 549 euros.
The 14 incher doesn't have a dedicated graphics card, but a matt and bright display in return.
The 14 incher doesn't have a dedicated graphics card, but a matt and bright display in return.
That provides for good sight in the sun.
That provides for good sight in the sun.
The matt surfaces are a bit slippery in your hands, but fingerprints are kept within limits.
The matt surfaces are a bit slippery in your hands, but fingerprints are kept within limits.
The base unit suffers under its low torsional stiffness, especially underneath the optical drive.
The base unit suffers under is low torsional stiffness, especially underneath the optical drive.
The hinges only teeter marginally, but are too smooth for our taste.
The hinges only teeter marginally, but are too smooth for our taste.
The wrist-rest has a feasible pressure resistance though.
The wrist-rest has a feasible pressure resistance though.
The big power button and the keyboard's bezel in piano lacquer provide an optical highlight.
The big power button and the keyboard's bezel in piano lacquer provide an optical highlight.
The battery supplies enough energy for keeping the 14 incher running for almost six hours (WLAN test).
The battery supplies enough energy for keeping the 14 incher running for almost six hours (WLAN test).

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Pro

+Good TFT brightness
+Screen AR coated
+Good typing feedback
+Strong battery life
+Low power consumption
+Good application performance
 

Cons

-Few interfaces
-Narrow viewing angles
-Yielding case
-Loud mouse keys
-Loud during load

Shortcut

What we like

Matt display, combined with a strong battery life and a feasible keyboard.

What we'd like to see

Quiet and smooth mouse keys would be great for the typing center of operations. The base unit could do with a bit more stiffness.

What surprises us

Fujitsu has the lead in the price war of cheapest Sandy Bridge Core i5 13 and 14 inchers.

The competition

Acer Aspire 3750: weak GT 520M graphics and glare type TFT; Lenovo IdeaPad Z370: memory capacity of 750 GB; ASUS X43SV-VX084V: GT 540M for games; ASUS U30SD-RO058V: matt screen, long battery life; HP ProBook 6360b: supply shortages

Rating

Fujitsu Lifebook LH531
06/10/2011 v2
Sebastian Jentsch

Chassis
70%
Keyboard
85%
Pointing Device
78%
Connectivity
67%
Weight
86%
Battery
85%
Display
74%
Games Performance
66%
Application Performance
89%
Temperature
86%
Noise
83%
Add Points
80%
Average
79%
80%
Office *
Weighted Average
> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Fujitsu Lifebook LH531 Notebook
Author: Sebastian Jentsch, 2011-06-17 (Update: 2013-06- 6)