Fujitsu, not known for its personal computer products, is trying to establish itself in the booming laptop market, and is selling a feature-packed, low-end model that might fit nicely both under your Christmas tree and into your holiday budget.
The Lifebook 735DX is a Pentium laptop with most of the trimmings that sells for $1,699, counting a $100 manufacturer’s rebate.
The Lifebook 735DX has a 133-megahertz Intel Pentium processor, 16 megabytes of memory, a 1.6-gigabyte hard drive, with a “maximum” 20-speed CD-ROM drive and a floppy disk drive. Its color screen is bright and clear, but it is not notably sharper than most passive-matrix color displays, despite a lot of manufacturer hype about its being a “high-contrast DSTN” color display.
There is a stereo sound card, two built-in speakers and two PC card slots. What sets the unit apart from most systems in its price range is that it also has a built-in 56K modem, which is a proprietary internal board that does not consume a PC card slot. It has a jack in the rear of the computer, so hooking up a phone line is simple. Most comparable laptops have no modem. This one uses the Rockwell K56Flex technology, not the U.S. Robotics x2. If you have an account with an Internet service provider which either supports or plans to support one of these, it would be wise to determine which one before buying a modem.
The keyboard is comfortably-sized and has the special Windows keys that many users find handy. The layout is a bit odd, with an unusually small space bar, but it’s nothing you can’t adjust to easily. The built-in pointing device is another matter, however. It is similar to the eraserhead pointers found on Toshiba and IBM laptops, but instead of being embedded in the keyboard, it is located at the rear of the wristpad at the base of the keyboard.
The pointer is a slightly raised button that moves in any direction, and moves the on-screen pointer accordingly. Just behind it, in thumb range, are side-by-side rectangular buttons that serve as the left and right mouse buttons. Those accustomed to an eraserhead pointer will find the “Ergotrac” device, as Fujitsu calls this gizmo, easy enough to use, but because it is located at the very base of the unit, it may not prove as comfortable, since you must move your hand farther to reach it and there is nothing on which to rest your wrist as you use it.
Those who are accustomed to the touchpad pointing devices used by Compaq, Dell and other laptops may find the “Ergotrac” intolerable. Don’t underestimate the importance of this: An uncomfortable mouse pointer can make a computer extraordinarily difficult to use. Indeed, many laptop users carry a real mouse with them for use anywhere there’s enough desk space.
While the Lifebook 735DX has both a CD-ROM drive and a floppy disk drive, it only has two built-in bays to accommodate the drives and the lithium-ion battery. It’s easy to pop these things in and out of the drives, but you will have to choose between the floppy drive and the CD-ROM drive while operating on battery power. There is an optional outboard floppy drive that connects by cable to its own port on the side of the system. It costs $99.
Software bundled with the Lifebook 735DX includes Windows 95, and Microsoft Works for Windows 95 a suite of light-duty applications with a word processor, spreadsheet, database and communications program. Also included is a current version of Laplink for Windows 95, which is an exceedingly useful program that allows not only file exchanges between two computers by cable, but for one computer to operate another by remote control. You see on your display exactly what you would see if you were sitting in front of the remote computer and you can operate it accordingly.
McAfee’s popular Viruscan anti-virus utility is included, as is a diagnostic package called PC-Doctor. PC-Doctor includes test programs to check your system overall, your memory, video and audio capabilities and provides access as well to Windows 95’s own system utilities. It’s not as sophisticated as, say, the Norton Utilities, but it’s not bad either.
Software to access CompuServe, America Online and the Microsoft Network is also included and there are the usual discount offers to try these online services. This is no great value since each of these services gives discounts, or free trial memberships, and also gives away the needed software. But it’s convenient not to have to install it yourself.
T.R. Reid is Rocky Mountain bureau chief of the Washington Post. Brit Hume is managing editor of Fox News in Washington. You can reach them in care of the Washington Post Writers Group, 1150 15th St., Washington D.C. 20071-9200, or you can e-mail T.R. Reid at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Brit Hume at email@example.com.