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Ivy Bridge smackdown: Fujitsu's Lifebook U772 vs. Lenovo's ThinkPad X230

June 8, 2012 06:00 AM ET

Fujitsu Lifebook U772

Fujitsu may have sat out the first round of ultrabooks, but its Lifebook U772 surpasses the initial offerings.

Fujitsu Lifebook U772
Fujitsu Lifebook U772

The black and gray laptop measures 12.9 x 8.9 in.; it's only slightly wider and longer than the Asus Zenbook UX31 ultrabook, yet it holds a 14-in. display rather than the Zenbook's 13.3-in. screen.

The Lifebook weighs in at 3.1 lbs.; with its small AC adapter, it hits the road at 3.5 lb. Inside is Intel's third-generation Core i5 3247U Ivy Bridge processor. It has 3MB of built-in cache, two processing cores and can handle four simultaneous threads. It runs at 1.8GHz, but with TurboBoost 2.0 it can sprint as fast as 2.8GHz when needed.

More to the point, the processor has the same maximum power rating of 17 watts as many second-generation Core i5 chips, but it runs faster and has more capable graphics hardware.

The Lifebook comes with 4GB RAM and can be configured with up to 8GB. The review system came with a 256GB solid state drive (SSD); Fujitsu offers a 128GB SSD option as well as 320GB and 500GB hard drives with 32GB of dedicated data cache.

As with most ultrabooks, you can neither upgrade anything inside nor swap the battery. The system does have an emergency reset button underneath if the system locks up and needs to be restarted. The system has a single fan underneath to keep things cool.

Bright display, dark keyboard

The system's 14-in.display is mounted nearly flush with the lid frame and has a tiny 0.15-in.-wide bezel around it. When using the Lifebook, the screen seems to float in space, but the display wobbled a bit if I accidentally pushed it.

However, I can't fault the display on any other measure. The colors are bright and rich. Like the ThinkPad X230, it can show 1366 x 768 resolution. It was able to show smooth and detailed HD video and never lagged while running games or showing presentations.

Underneath the display are the system's recessed keyboard and large touchpad. The 18.9mm island-style keys feel comfortable, but have no backlighting for those who work the night shift.

The Lifebook has the basic ports you'd expect of an ultrabook, including two USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 2.0 port, HDMI and audio jacks, and an SD card slot. It lacks a VGA port, but Fujitsu will sell a $169 port replicator that snaps onto the system's bottom and provides VGA and DVI ports, as well as a slew of others.

For business customers, the Lifebook has a Trusted Platform Module and fingerprint scanner. Fujitsu's Portshutter app allows a system administrator to block the use of the system's USB ports so that what goes into the Lifebook stays in the Lifebook.

The system includes 802.11n Wi-Fi, but to connect using wired Ethernet you'll need to use the included adapter cable. The system has Bluetooth for connecting with accessories.

The good news is that the system has Intel's WiDi hardware for wirelessly connecting with a TV or projector, but you'll have to download and install the software on your own.

Test results

The Lifebook scored 1401.1 on the PerformanceTest 7.0 benchmark, more than a 40% increase over the Acer Aspire S3 ultrabook that was equipped with a previous-generation Core i5 2467 processor. The Lifebook also outperformed the ThinkPad X230 by a small margin, likely the result of using solid-state storage instead of a slower hard drive.

On the Cinebench processor tests, the Lifebook blew away the first generation ultrabooks with a 2.60 score, compared to 1.92 for the Aspire S3. It was, however, second best to the ThinkPad X230's result of 3.10.

Showing the power of the new HD 4000 graphics engine, the Lifebook scored 12.32 frames per second (fps) on the Cinebench graphics tests, nearly 60% percent ahead of the Aspire S3's score of 7.79fps (the Aspire was outfitted with Intel's HD 3000 graphics accelerator). Again, the Lifebook was slightly behind the ThinkPad X230, which scored 13.61fps.

With its 2,700mAh battery, the Lifebook ran for 4 hours and 43 minutes on a charge while continuously playing HD videos from a USB drive. That's an hour short of the X230, which had a much larger battery, but an hour and a half longer than the Aspire's 3,260mAh battery life.

At a Glance

Lifebook U772
Price: $1,725
Pros: Slim design, good performance, Trusted Platform Module, Eco mode extends battery life
Cons: Expensive, Ethernet requires adapter, no VGA port, no keyboard lighting

While this probably translates into a full workday of on-and-off computing, if you're worried about making it through the day, the Lifebook has an "Eco" button that can stretch battery life by muting the audio and turning off the Wi-Fi while lowering the screen's brightness and dialing back the processor speed. To try it out, I waited until I had only 10% left on the battery and turned its Eco mode on. The system ran for nearly an hour more, twice as long as I expected.

The Lifebook comes with a one-year warranty, Windows 7 Professional and a 30-day subscription to Norton Internet Security.

Bottom line

At $1,725, the review unit that I looked at is definitely not inexpensive. Fujitsu also sells a model with a slower Core i5 3317U processor and a 128GB SSD for $1,149.

But if you find the cash, then you'll find that the Fujitsu Lifebook U772 is more than another pretty face -- it combines a beautiful design with top performance.

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