Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/04/04/review_fs_amilo_pi_1536/

Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1536

A well-spec'd Centrino Duo laptop at an affordable price

By Lars-Göran Nilsson

Posted in Hardware, 4th April 2006 12:19 GMT

Review It hasn’t been three months since Intel launched the Centrino Duo platform, and you can already find much-better-than-base specification machines for quite a bit less than £1,000. The Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1536 is one such laptop, and it has a very well-rounded feature set and utilises some of the latest technology...

Amilo_Pi_1536_front2

Although the CPU specifications might not be the most impressive - it’s only got a 1.66GHz Core Duo T2300 - there’s enough power here for its target audience. Add to this 1GB of 533MHz DDR 2 memory in a dual-channel configuration (512MB x 2) and you've got a decent system. The chipset of choice is the Intel 945PM which is paired with an ICH7-M. The final part of the Centrino branding is an Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG adaptor which offers wireless access to 802.11 a, b and g networks.

The good news is that Fujitsu-Siemens has gone for a discrete graphics solution, fitting an ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 PCI Express-based MXM module with 128MB of dedicated graphics memory. If need be, the X1400 can utilise a part of the system memory thanks to ATI's Hypermemory architecture, to produce a combined maximum of 512MB of graphics memory. Using an MXM graphics module makes for an easy upgrade path for Fujitsu-Siemens, and a model with an Nvidia GeForce GO 7600 is expected later this year.

The Amilo Pi 1536 ships with no less than a 5,400rpm 100GB SATA hard drive with 8MB cache. And there's a multi-format DVD writer which will write to DVD±R media at 8x DVD±RW at 6x, DVD+R dual-layer at 2.4x and finally DVD-R DL at 4x.

Looking around the sides of the Amilo Pi 1536, starting on the left-hand side, this is where the audio jacks are located. There are only two 3.5mm jacks – even though a 7.1-channel HD audio codec has been used - one for headphones and the other for a mic, but the headphone jack doubles up as an optical S/PDIF output. Kudos to Fujitsu-Siemens for fitting a volume control wheel, something that is missing from far too many laptops these days. This is also the side where the optical drive is located, although it seemed to have a fairly poor fit in the review sample. Finally, there are two USB 2.0 ports just below the top corner.

Amilo_Pi_1536_rear

The rear is home to the RJ-11 connector for the 56Kbps modem, the power connector and the battery. Moving on to the right-hand side, we find a DVI connector and S-video out for connecting the Amilo Pi 1536 to external displays or projectors. Next up is the RJ-45 connector for the built-in Gigabit Ethernet controller. Then we have a four-in-one memory card reader, which supports MMC, SD, MemoryStick and MemoryStick Pro. The last two connectors are a four-pin FireWire connector and a USB 2.0 port. Finally, there is an Express Card slot that accepts both types of Express Cards. There is no PC Card slot, and there are no ports around the front, though there is a small switch here to enable and disable the wireless antenna.

The screen is a now-standard 15.4in unit with a resolution of 1,280 x 800. It has an anti-glare coating which Fujitsu-Siemens refers to as CrystalView. Just below the screen are a set of quick access buttons that launch your media player, web browser and email client. The fourth button is for low-noise operation - it disables the fans, but also slows down the CPU and GPU to reduce the heat produced. There’s also a speaker just below each of the screen hinges.

The keyboard is quite comfortable to type on, although it’s not the best I’ve used. The key travel is good and it’s not too bouncy. The only minor complaint I have is the location of the Fn key: it has taken up the space where you usually find the Ctrl key, which has here been moved one step inwards, but this is not unusual on notebooks. The touchpad is large and easy to use with a separate section that allows you to scroll up and down on pages. Fujitsu-Siemens has also fitted a button just above the touchpad that allows you to disable and enable it, which is very useful when you do a lot of typing.

Amilo_Pi_1536_battery

Amilo_Pi_1536_Mobile_performance

Amilo_Pi_1536_PCMark05

Amilo_Pi_1536_3DMark05

The not so good parts include the screen hinges, which feel rather flimsy, something I didn’t expect. The integrated microphone has also been located at the lower right hand side of the laptop, exactly where your wrist ends up when you’re typing.

Size-wise the Amilo Pi 1536 isn’t what you’d call small, but it’s not the biggest 15.4in machine I’ve seen either. It measures 36 x 27 x 3.7cm and weighs in at 3.1kg, which makes it portable, but not something you’d want to carry around with you for a long period of time.

Amilo_Pi_1536_3rd

The Amilo's battery life isn’t too impressive, recording a mere 115 minutes from the DVD playback test, not even enough for a feature-length movie these days. The normal battery test was, at 137 minutes, somewhat better, but this is still disappointing. On the other hand the performance score of 179 isn’t a bad result from MobileMark 2005.

The PCMark 05 scores are in line with what you’d expect from the components used, although the SATA hard drive gives it an extra performance boost. The 3DMark 05 score is not all that impressive, as the X1400 card only managed a paltry 1670 points. You’d get away with playing some games on it, as long as you don’t have too high expectations, but the latest titles will really struggle.

You don’t get a lot of software with the Amilo Pi 1536, but Fujitsu-Siemens has at least included a copy of Microsoft Works 8. You also get Nero 6 and WinDVD 5 along with a system restore disc.

Overall, the Amilo Pi 1536 is a well-featured laptop with some of the latest mobile technology under the hood. It’s not the most powerful machine on the market, but this is justified by the £940 price point. It’s not perfect and there are similarly specified laptops out there for slightly less money, although cheaper doesn’t alwasys mean better when it comes to notebooks.

Verdict

The Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1536 is a well-specified desktop replacement laptop. It’s definitely not for the road warrior, but if you occasionally need to take your computer with you, this could be the one for you. It’s affordable and has a good range of features, although the battery life if disappointing and there are a couple of minor question marks about the build quality. ®