Review: Fujitsu Lifebook U904

Review: Fujitsu Lifebook U904

Submitted by Detlev Conrad … on Wed, 01/08/2014 - 12:00

Disclaimer: Please note that the below represents my personal experience and opinion only.

Given that my last laptop was purchased in June 2008 and I had some personal reason to require a more up to date personal computer, I purchased a Fujitsu Lifebook U904 this December – so I have had it for a couple of weeks as of writing this.

My requirements for a laptop were fairly simple but also very specific:

- light, less than 1.74kg (the mass of my old laptop)
- long battery life (my old laptop got at most 4.5 hours out of it)
- not too small or too big (my old laptop was 13” at 16:10)
- as powerful as I can get (i7-4600U – graphics don't matter to me)
- existence of an ethernet port (in case I want to install Linux on it)
- an SSD was also a requirement for me, but if necessary I could do the swap myself

 

Knowing that Fujitsu was about to release a number of new laptops with resolution displays, I considered initially both the S904 and U904, finally settling on the U904 for the higher resolution screen and because I just couldn't agree with the battery bulge on the S904.

For those interested in specs, I would suggest you look up the options available on the Fujitsu website and then check with local retailers.
http://www.fujitsu.com/fts/products/computing/pc/notebooks-tablets/superior/lifebook-u904/

 

So on the obvious points, overall impression, build quality, keyboard and battery life:

The first impression one gets unpacking a Fujitsu U904 is – wow, nice, especially the slimness and the beautiful brushed aluminium palmrests.
It looks beautiful and well built – as one would expect from a laptop at this price point.

 

side view, ports Fujitsu U904

Reading reviews on the web, a slight creaking was mentioned when one carries the Fujitsu U904 on just either of the palmrests – and this does indeed exist when the laptop is brand new, however reduces with usage and carrying. Not worse than any other laptop I have ever encountered when subject to such forces. Overall the laptop's frame is very solid – or at least there is no unexpected flex anywhere – it feels solidly build.

Saying this, I will regularly pick it up at a corner – though I prefer a hinge corner for quickly moving around the office.

My overall verdict on the build quality is that it is well built and I do not find any faults with it.

 

The keyboard is a more difficult territory – and includes the palmrests to me.

Overall typing is enjoyable on the U904 – though I am taking a bit of time to get used to it. My previous laptop a Vaio SZ7 has an enjoyable 3mm keyboard pitch – the U904 is maybe 1.5mm and thus takes some time getting used to unless you have used such a flat keyboard in the past. On a colleagues HP laptop the shallow key-press irritated me – and it still does, in fact I think the Fujitsu U904 offers a better keyboard, however in the end this is a very subjective impression.

Keyboard Fujitsu U904

Reading reviews on the web, a slight creaking was mentioned when one carries the Fujitsu U904 on just either of the palmrests – and this does indeed exist when the laptop is brand new, however reduces with usage and carrying. Not worse than any other laptop I have ever encountered when subject to such forces. Overall the laptop's frame is very solid – or at least there is no unexpected flex anywhere – it feels solidly build.

One point where I unfortunately have to give the U904 slightly negative marks is the palmrests.

They are nice and large, but the edge is sharp. When the laptop is brand new, the metal finish comes with s very sharp edge that blunts with use, however I still find it slightly uncomfortable. A rounded edge would lead to a significantly more enjoyable typing experience. Also, if you wear a watch with a metal wristband you may cause minor scratches in the edge – I have. Otherwise the palmrests feel solid with no flex offering good support while typing.

 

Finally battery life – the difficult one.

Fujitsu quote an unconfirmed 10 hours in their specs, other tests on the web have pegged it at 3 hours and 7-8 hours respectively. I have found that the answer is “it depends what you do”.

When one first boots up the U904, it will be using Fujitsu's Eco Power Plan, which actually locks the CPU in the lowest multiplier. To realize this I had to look at the reported clock frequency in the task manager as the laptop is otherwise perfectly responsive. 

Using either the Fujitsu Eco mode or the default balanced mode with the Eco mode enabled, the U904 will exhibit very slow battery use in general day to day office tasks and web browsing using around 10% per hour.

If one however switches to the normal balanced energy mode, maybe even playing a graphics intensive game, battery life will dwindle away and one can expect at most maybe 4 hours of gaming on the Fujitsu U904. (Side note: I would not advice to play graphics intensive games on the U904 as the high resolution display means that the integrated Intel graphics card will struggle a bit with the game.)

Personally I could use Eco mode all day and would not notice at all. The Fujitsu U904 is an Ultrabook aimed at people who need a high end ultraportable laptop – expecting to work on CAD on the go is as unrealistic as gaming on the go with an Ultrabook if you are looking at good battery life.

On my SZ I always used an energy saver mode to get round 4.5 hours of battery life when new from an 80% battery charge. The Fujitsu U904 easily surpasses that battery life.

Fujitsu quote a charging time of 2 hours for the U904 – in my experience this is accurate, it may even charge faster.

 

Points of joy – special interests:

I have not applied any monitor calibration to the screen as I do not anticipate to do photo editing on the U904 (despite it being significantly more powerful than my SZ which was up to the task during its life).

However in a very subjective assessment, the colours on the U904 look quite well – though are slightly more saturateed than on my calibrated monitor. Viewing angles are fair – there is a sweet spot that is best, but the degradation of colour accuracy at more extreme angles is surprisingly low. The backlighting is bright and can be adjusted in 10 steps.

 

The reason for wanting a light laptop is that I commute – and use the laptop on the train as well.

It does not get uncomfortably warm when used in eco mode and can be used perfectly well as a laptop. However if I do run some computationally more intensive taks without CPU throtteling, the left side of the U904 will warm up (hand warm only) in the fan area.

 

As can be possibly gathered I enjoy my audio and the headphone jack on the U904 is possibly the biggest positive surprise on this laptop.

Subjectively it sounds good, however I have no ability to verify this. What I can say objectively is that it has a lot of power – how much? Well, I can comfortably bring my Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro up to pretty loud volume levels. For my T50p that I use in the office, I MUST stick to very low volume settings – both to not disturb other people but also to protect my hearing.

So if you have high impedance headphones – up to 250 Ohm the Fujitsu Lifebook has absolutely no problem driving them – in fact, it gets close to the maximum loudness achieved using a Project Headbox II.

 

Something that I see as not ideal is the lack of service ports on the bottom. The model I have only came with a 128GB SSD giving me 100GB on the C partition. (15GB recovery partition, but, a huge plus, Fujitsu supplies a recovery disk – which will need an external drive on the U904.)

I would have liked to put a larger SSD inside, however I think this is infeasible as I estimate that the bottom is attached by nine screws (assuming the centre nub covers a screw) and there is no wy to predict how it looks inside. I suspect that such an upgrades will also void the warranty – so either learn to not carry all of your digital life around or buy one with a larger SSD right away. (So far I am managing well even with only a 128GB SSD. The device manager, report it as a Toschiba THNSNH128GCST, according to its specification sheet, a standard 2.5” drive which is 7mm thick. Disk Management reports a total of 119.12GB in including the EFI and recovery partitions.)

 

The BIOS offers many options from visualization to control over speedstep – i.e. it is fairly open. Having said that, apart from setting a BIOS password there should be little need to access it.

 

The U904 ships with Windows 8.1 64Bit – to make the OS usable, Classic Shell is a must have.

One of the very pleasant experiences with the U904 is that it is very free of bloatware – not entirely, e.g. I immediately uninstalled the McAffee trial, but otherwise there is no bloat.

CorelDraw Essentials are offered as a free download – requiring registration.

 

Conclusion:

There are plenty of tiny details I could point out – and there are other larger points that may be of interest that I have omitted. To be honest writing a full review of the Lifebook U904 would take several pages, many days – and equipment that I do not have.

So it stays a user impression – it is my third personal laptop – as I prefer to upgrade seldomly but then properly. Along the way there have been additional laptops in the family and I tend ot often be tech support for colleagues – which means that I have seen quite a few different models.

On this basis I am very happy with the Fujitsu Lifebook U904 and would highly recommend it to anybody looking for a light beautiful well built Ultraportable.

The U904 fulfils my expectations perfectly – and my friends know me to be picky.

The coming years will show whether it can live up to its expectation in the long term.