Fujitsu Siemens Amilo 3520
When it comes to the term Netbook, I don’t think Psalm has a leg to stand on. The term is clearly out there and has established itself its own corner of the portable computing market where more and more of the big names are getting involved.
The Fujitsu Siemens brand has always carried with it a good reputation, but not necessarily a name for anything exciting or particularly groundbreaking. However, there latest foray in to the netbook market may just change things around.
I spent the last few weeks using the Amilo Mini 3520 featuring the Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, 8.9-inch screen and Windows XP Home Edition installed on a 60GB 1.8-inch hard drive. All this weighing in at sub-1kg.
A set of standard ports and IO is included but you’ll also find an ExpressCard slot for adding accessories such as a 3G data card. Only two USB ports are available on the Amilo Mini along with VGA output, audio in/out jacks and a 4-in-1 card reader.
In order to add a touch of excitement behind the product, the designers have created a two-tone look with replaceable add-on shells that clip on to the back of the screen. The thought of this concept on any kind of product is to be honest, a little bit tacky, but I have to admit that because the idea was executed well, I didn’t realise that there was this shell attached to the screen. The last thing I want people realising when I’m in a business meeting for example, is that I’ve ‘accessorised’ the external shell of my laptop screen. So because of this, I’ll let it slide. Without the shell attached, the back of the screen is the same colour as the rest of the body with a brilliant-white finish.
On first boot up, I was greeted with Windows XP Home Edition, using the ‘Classic’ desktop theme. Compared to the likes of Vista and Windows 7, XP on a Netbook using Classic mode does start to make it look a bit dated. So, without much delay, Windows 7 Build 7057 was promptly installed. I’ve been doing this on all of the products I’ve been testing recently, because of the impending launch of Windows 7, it’s always good to know whether the machine you’re looking at is a good fit for this future OS release. Whilst XP is probably the best fit for Netbooks of today, Windows 7 proved to be just as quick on the Amilo Mini as its ancient predecessor. This is thanks to the much better memory management and hardware utilisation of Windows 7.
The Amilo Mini features an 8.9-inch LCD display with a non-gloss finish. This removes reflection that you often get with glossy screens but the downside is that the vibrancy of the colours are a bit flat. Great for working on Word documents, but not so complimentary for photos or video.
Whilst the 1.8-inch hard drive was never going to be the best performer, on both P and Windows 7 it performed admirably. It was able to load up multiple applications without anymore of a delay than expected. However, I did find that the drive was particularly noisy whenever there was any activity – noisier than other netbooks I’ve previously tested. A minor issue because performance is key at the end of the day, but something to consider if you do like to work in a quiet environment.
Build quality for the machine, whilst mostly plastic, did feel solid and robust. It does have a bulky look to it with solid lines rather than smooth curves, but that added to the ‘robust’ look of the Amilo Mini.
The keyboard was the major let down for the Amilo Mini. Keys on the right side are not sized the same as the keys for the rest of the keyboard. This makes it tricky to hit the right key when you’re looking for the various punctation keys located on the right.
Touchpad size is about average, with the left and right mouse keys situated to the side of the touchpad rather than together. This makes it rather awkward to start with, but you do adjust to the unique layout. Having the mouse buttons positioned on the side also means they’ve allowed more room for the touchpad.
Battery life comes at a reasonable three and a half hours for light use with Wi-Fi and LCD display on low brightness. You can increase this by purchasing the optional high-capacity battery for around £60. This should give you four hours or more of running time.
As one of the best priced Netbooks I’ve reviewed so far (found for around £250), the Fujitsu Amilo is a bit of a me-too product that does little to differentiate itself from the rest of the competition. It scores high marks in build quality as you would expect from a name like Fujitsu Siemens, but the internals and overall ‘package’ is a little underwhelming for the consumer-end of the market. I can however see the appeal for someone who is looking for a tough Netbook that gets the job done rather than focus on aesthetic appeal.