Fujitsu M1010: a compact little critter

If you’re in the market for a netbook these days there’s certainly no shortage of choice. It seems that pretty much every hardware vendor has an option for this boom niche market.

Fujitsu’s offering is the M1010. Like the vast majority of netbooks it’s powered by Intel Atom architecture – a 1.6GHz N270 Atom CPU and Intel 945 GSE/ICH7 chipsets. It has 1GB of DDR2 RAM a Toshiba 60GB 4200RPM 1.8in HDD and an 8.9in LCD screen running at 1024 x 600 so on the surface this unit doesn’t offer anything particularly out of the ordinary from every other netbook on the market.

It’s certainly a compact little critter though being noticeably narrower than other models like the Acer Aspire One and weighing in at around 1kg. The smaller chassis comes at a price – the keyboard is very cramped and it’s very easy to mistype and given the amount of space still available on either side of the keyboard we can’t help thinking that Fujitsu could have designed this feature much better. The trackpad is quite nice with big usable left- and right-click buttons.

All aspects of communication are taken care of – 10/100 LAN 802.11b/g WLAN and Bluetooth. The embedded webcam is 1.3 megapixels which is better than some units available and which has rather good quality and there’s also a 34mm ExpressCard slot if you want to add 3.5G mobile networking. For external connectivity there’s the standard VGA-out port two USB 2.0 ports and a multi-format card reader.

General performance was good with the system running on Windows XP Home Edition. These netbooks do run quite well on Windows Vista and Windows 7 is expected to be a good netbook platform. The desktop was responsive and there was no noticeable lag or hard drive thrashing. Given the small screen resolution we couldn’t complete a basic PCMark05 system test but the unit was able to get through hard drive memory and CPU tests without any dramas.

The M1010 comes bundled with various bits and pieces of software from Fujitsu like Acronis TrueImage ArcSoft Connect and ThinkFree Mobile as an online productivity suite alternative to Office.

Battery life wasn’t bad – the unit ships with a 4-cell Li-Ion battery which Fujitsu claim should be good for four hours. Our stress test drained the battery in 3 hours but that would improve with more aggressive power-saving features enabled. Even so compared with other units which have 6-cell batteries the 4-cell seems rather lacklustre and there doesn’t appear to be a 6-cell option for the M1010.

The overall design isn’t anything special. There are no sleek lines or even any of that netbook “coolness” which so many units have. Perhaps it’s symptomatic of Fujitsu coming late to market or merely the fact that the M1010 resembles a black and white brick but this unit didn’t offer us anything in terms of aesthetics. If you don’t like the black and white combination Fujitsu offer five other lid covers in different colours. Maybe you can find one to rock your world. Apart from the power cord and a single battery the unit comes with a protective cover although the unit we reviewed didn’t have one.

We really are spoiled for choice when it comes to netbooks and as a result it’s very hard to get excited about the M1010 as it just doesn’t offer anything which hasn’t been done before. And because most netbooks are so comparable in terms of specification and performance and occupy such a narrow price range it’s much easier to get put off by pedantic things like aesthetics and small keyboards. The best thing to say about the M1010 is that it’s an average netbook and if you like the look and feel then apart from the 4-cell battery there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. But given the plethora of netbooks on the market there’s nothing which marks which unit as a stand-out.