Review: Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Mini Ui3520
Amilo in compact form.
Triggered by the release of the Asus Eee PCs (review of the Eee Pc 901), the trend towards small netbooks is pretty much unstoppable. New developers are jumping on the bandwagon every day, offering ever more alternatives to the netbook-classic Eee PC. The developer Fujitsu-Siemens is no exception, putting its Amilo Mini Ui3520 in the runnings as representative for the ultra compact class machines. With a weight of only about one kilo and a price of just under 400 Euro, the Amilo Mini needs to well assert itself amongst its competitors in the areas of mobility, connectivity, performance, features and size. How well the Amilo Mini Ui3520 compares and how our test sample performed can be seen in the following review.
Fujitsu-Siemens (FSC) has equipped the Amilo Mini Ui3520 with an 8.9 Inch WSVGA non-glare display with a maximum resolution of 1024x600 pixels. For its processing unit, FSC has chosen the N270 Atom CPU from Intel clocked at 1.6Ghz. Furthermore the manufacturer has provided the Ui3520 with 1GB of DDR-2 RAM, a 60GB hard drive from Toshiba and an onboard GPU from Intel, all accommodated in very compact housing. Various connections also make an appearance, whose distribution will be seen shortly. For the operating system, Fujitsu-Siemens relies on the tried and true Windows XP Home Edition with Service Pack 3 from Microsoft.
Presumably in order to keep the weight and price of the Amilo Mini Ui 3520 as low as possible, the case is constructed from plastic. This means that the case noticably warped when pressure was applied to certain points, occassionally emmitting a creaking noise. Nevertheless, the case was sufficiently sturdy to use on the road without hesitation.
Due to its reduced size and weight, it was no problem picking up our test machine by one side using just one hand. Even in open position, grabbing the display and lifting proved to be no challenge for the Ui 3520. Despite the small size of the monitor, its reverse side was, like much of the rest of the case, very sensitive when it came to applying pressure. The reverse of the display lid, like that of many larger notebooks, was easily deformed without any considerable resistance. Above all, it would be important to take this into consideration and take steps to protect the device during transport in a ruck sack or other bag.
The small matte 8.9 inch display is held in place solely by one large hinge. This means the manufacturer has done without a dedicated closing mechanism, which for a display of its size probably isn't necessary anyway. In the same vein, the display of our test sample closed and stayed closed quite effectively. Also, opening the display lid was performed easily and simply by one hand without too much effort. Thankfully there was no squeaking or creaking noise to be heard here.
The aesthetics and colouration of the Amilo Ui 3520 have been kept relatively plain and simple. Furthermore the netbook has been provided a smooth finish (not high gloss!), which could work well in its favour when cleaning the device. The combination of black and white elements is visually quite successful and lends the notebook a discreet yet defined appearance. Whether or not it suits every user however lies of course with individual taste.
On the reverse of the white display lid, there is the central Amilo emblem in large and clear grey font, as well as the Fujitsu-Siemens logo further up in smaller writing. In its opened state the netbook is above all dominated by shades of black, particularly in the area between the keyboard and display where the loudspeakers are situated, as well as in the areas framing the display. Only the keyboard and palm rest along with the touchpad and mouse buttons are shaded white, while the keyboard labels themselves are again black. The interplay between black and white is not hugely innovative but nevertheless made an impression on us visually.
There are also optional replaceable add-on covers in various colours available for the Amilo Ui3520. Similarly there also is an optional external optical drive running on USB2.0 that comes with the Nero Software Suite. For added mobility an optional 6 cell battery can also be purchased.
Despite the small proportions of the Amilo Mini Ui3520, it isn't difficult to be impressed by the range of included connections.
At the front, there is a 4in1 card reader for SD, SD HC, MS, MS Pro and MMC cards. Right next to that are the audio connections for Mic and Headphones.
On the left hand side there is an Express Card Slot 34, followed by a USB Port, LAN connection and power jack.
There isn't much of mention at the back, just the access shaft for the long battery.
On the right hand side remains only the VGA-out and a second USB port followed by the ventilation shaft for cooling.
The Amilo Mini Ui3520 also includes an integrated 1.3 megapixel webcam, situated centrally above the display. Just a few centimetres to the right of the camera is the integrated digital array microphone for internet telephony or, thanks to the webcam, for video conferencing with friends and relatives.
Besides its LAN connection (Realtek RTL8102E Family PCI-E Fast Ethernet NIC), the netbook also provides a WLAN adapter, an Atheros AR5007EG Wireless Network Adapter, allowing cable-free connection with other computers or to the internet. The same thing applies to the on-board CSR Bluetooth USB Adapater included.
The inbuilt keyboard overall leaves a somewhat frail, rickety impression and is prone to warping with harder key presses. For space reasons, the size of the keys is smaller than on an average keyboard, particularly in terms of their height. The result is that the keys measure just 15x13mm, and this makes itself quite obvious when typing. We found ourselves accidentally pressing vertically adjacent keys more than just every once in a while. The miniaturised Right-Shift key could also cause typing problems for some users. Nevertheless with a bit of skill and fingertip dexterity it is quite possible to get used to the typing arrangement. Users with large fingers may however have difficulties ever making good friends with the board.
The white touchpad occupies a total of 5x3 centimetres and reacts very quickly and precisely to any finger movement. The mouse cursor sensitivity is therefore naturally quite high, which makes sense given the touchpad's small surface. The positioning of the mouse buttons on the Ui3520 is somewhat unusual, however given technical/spacial issues this was probably unavoidable. Instead of being situated beneath the touchpad like on most portable computers, the two mouse buttons are to be found to the left and right hand sides of the pad. Even so, they do the job quite well.
Overall, while quite usable it's clear that both the keyboard and the touchpad along with its two mouse buttons require a certain time to get used to, before the user can be completely comfortable with the Amilo Mini Ui3520.
In comparison to the Eee PC 901, the Amilo Mini Ui3520's display brightness is quite a bit better. With an average brightness of 182.63 cd/m² and a maximum value of 194.4 cd/m², the Ui3520 remains, thanks to its matte non-glare display which considerably reduces distracting reflections, quite comfortable to use in outdoors environments (provided the screen is shielded from direct sunlight).
The Amilo Mini Ui3520 comes with an 8.9 inch display with a maximum resolution of up to 1024x600 pixels. Both Windows XP and the vast majority of websites can be used without problems at this resolution.
The colour reproduction on the other hand is unfortunately not as full or strong as it could be, as is often the case for non-glare displays (at least subjectively). Nevertheless the image production quality varied between average and quite good. And then there is always the advantage of having a reflection-free display.
Similarly, the display's horizontal perspective stability is commendable being, in contrast to vertical perspective stability, fairly robust against variation in sitting position. Variation in sitting height very quickly caused slight colour alterations.
The Amilo Mini Ui3520 takes its performance from an Intel Atom N270 CPU with a 1.6 GHz clock speed, one gigabyte of DDR2 PC2-5300 RAM (1x1024MB stick), and an integrated GMA 950 on-board graphics solution, also from Intel. Given this configuration, this netbook is definitely not designed for 3D gaming or intense graphics work. The hardware is just too meek.
Like the Asus Eee PC 901, the Ui3520 is quickly pushed to its limit and has great difficulty keeping up with the computing power of a dual core notebook. The strengths of the Amilo Mini Ui3520 lie in its very manageable size, its mobility and its value price.
In order to better illustrate the performance capabilities of the Ui3520 and to make a better comparison to similar devices, we reverted back to the tried and true Cinebench R10 and the PCMark05 benchmark test. We also ran the somewhat outdated 3DMark01 and 3DMark03 to test the netbook's graphics capacity.
We started with Cinebench R10. On this test the Amilo Mini Ui3520 achieved a Single CPU rating of 531 and 829 for Multicore, while Cinebench rated the netbook's onboard GPU at 271 points. Comparing these values to those produced by the Asus Eee PC 901 shows that the netbooks' Cinebench ratings are more or less indentical.
PCMark05 gave our test sample of the Amilo Mini Ui3520 1363 points putting it just a hairwidth ahead of the Eee PC 901 on this test. This small performance advantage was probably due to the Ui3520 internal hard drive, whose burst rate performance was twice as high as the SDD included in the Eee PC 901.
In 3DMark01 the Ui3520 performed pretty much as expected with 2884 points, again landing it marginally in front of the Eee PC 901. A run through of the 3DMark03 test suite produced a result of 719 points.
|3DMark 2001SE Standard||2884 points|
|3DMark 03 Standard||719 points|
|PCMark 05 Standard||1363 points|
|Rendering Single 32Bit||531 Points|
|Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit||829 Points|
|Shading 32Bit||271 Points|
For undemanding tasks the performance offered by the little Fujitsu-Siemens netbook will not fail to satisfy. Surfing the internet, writing emails and other office tasks are performed effortlessly.
The Amilo Mini Ui3520 comes with a 60GB hard drive from Toshiba (Toshiba MK6028GAL). The 60GBs provided should last quite a while since the Ui3520 is a netbook. Only the noise emissions and performance leave something to be desired. According to HDTune the hard drive's transfer rates, aside from the burst rate, lie below that of the internal SDD of the Eee PC 901.
Thanks to the energy efficient Intel Atom N270 processor, the Amilo Mini Ui3520 in idle state is pretty much inaudible at an average of 31.2 dB (max 33.3 dB) making it a truly quiet companion. The only irritating component is the internal hard drive, which, when accessing data, emits a clattering noise (measuring 35.4 dB). This noise is quite noticeable and casts a bit of a cloud over the otherwise very amicable Ui3520.
Under load the netbook makes itself both seen and heard. While the fan does reach a quite audible maximum of 36.1 dB, due to the very constant fan noise, it never seems obtrusive or irritating.
The Amilo Mini Ui3520 also offers a "silent mode" via key combination, which is supposed to reduce the device's noise emissions by lowering CPU and GPU performance. In practice, activating this mode only reduces the fan revolution speed by an negligible amount. Given the regular clattering noises upon hard drive access, this feature is well intentioned but insignificant.
29.1 / 31.2 / 33.3 dB(A)
||35.7 / 36.1 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: (15 cm distance)
We can quite confidently give a positive report concerning the heat emissions from the top side of the Amilo Mini Ui3520. With a maximum temperature of just over 32 degrees Celsius in the centre left region (32.4 degrees) and at the front (palm rest at 32.6 degrees), the netbook never became uncomfortably warm. The temperatures on the underside also remained at acceptable levels. The highest temperature we recorded here was in the right-back region with 36.2 degrees Celsius, followed by 35.4 at the centre-right, making it quite possible to work with device on lap. The rest of the underside remains comfortably cool and hardly breaks the 34 degrees mark.
In heated situations concerning both top and bottom of the machine, the Amilo Mini Ui3520 from Fujitsu-Siemens clearly comes out cooler headed when compared with the Asus Eee PC 901.
Finally we come to the acoustic aspects of the Amilo Mini. One big positive on the Ui3520 is the location of its loudspeakers, which, rather than being placed on the bottom of the unit like on the Eee PC 901 and projecting downwards, are oriented upwards. This tiny netbook unlike certain other models can actually make itself heard.
Despite their size the loudspeakers delivered quite reasonable sound in our practical test, although bass frequencies came through quite thin. The volume produced by the Amilo Mini is entirely sufficient for living room use. Even at maximum volume there was never any booming to be heard from the speakers. On the other hand users wanting to watch a movie or listen to music on the train or other louder environment may have difficulty hearing the speakers' output satisfactorarily. For this kind of use it'd be better to use some good headphones, which would also compensate for the internal speakers' lack of bass.
Using the included 4 cell battery the Amilo Mini produced a quite satisfactory result in the Battery Eater Readers Test (idle, all features off, min brightness, no WLAN, energy saving on), clocking 208 minutes run-time. On the Battery Eater Classic Test (all features on, max brightness, full load), the netbook scored a similarly pleasing 134 minutes. Surfing the internet via WLAN with practical settings allowed almost three hours (171 minutes) away from the power socket.
|Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)||3h 28min|
|WiFi Surfing||2h 51min|
|Load (maximum brightness)||2h 14min|
|Off / Standby||0 / 0 Watt|
|Idle|| 12.4 / 12.4 / 13.1 Watt|
14.3 / 16.7 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max:
With its Amilo Mini Ui3520, Fujitsu-Siemens is expanding its Amilo product series with an 8.9 inch model, marking its entrance the ever expanding netbook market. With a weight of just one kilogram and measurements of 23.3 x 17.5 x 3.58 centimetres, the Ui3520 holds quite a good figure and keeps up quite well with its netbook colleagues.
Fitted with an energy saving Intel Atom Processor N270 at 1.6 GHz, one gigabyte of DDR2 RAM, 60 to 80 GB of hard drive space and an Intel GMA 950 integrated GPU, the Amilo Mini Ui3520 easily holds its own in terms of hardware compared with its competitors.
One minor shortcoming (in our opinion) is the strangely situated mouse buttons, which find themselves to the left and right of the touchpad respectively. The buttons nevertheless do meet their purpose quite well, they just need a certain time to get used to: something we still hadn't gotten a complete handle of by the end of the testing period.
In terms of connectivity the Amilo Mini offers pretty much all the common interfaces found on even larger notebooks. LAN, WLAN and Bluetooth are all available on board inside the unit's compact housing. The case also accomodates two USB 2.0 ports, an analogue VGA output, a cardreader and an Express Card Slot 34.
The Amilo Mini Ui3520 is available for 399 Euros and comes with a 24 month warranty (collect and return) and is delivered preinstalled with Windows XP Home Edition with Service Pack 3.