Fujitsu-Siemens has students in its sights with its new Amilo range of laptops - they can be customised to meet their specific needs. There are four new models. I tested the seemingly modest Amilo L7300.
Part of the Fujitsu-Siemens "Back to School Batch" this is an all-round laptop with no particularly striking features. This doesn't necessarily mean that the L7300 is a poor laptop, and if you had to pick its main strength it would be connectivity. A highly adequate four USB connectors for any plug-and-play gizmos and the presence of an SP-DIF port for digital audio allow good flexibility. Connect to the school's network physically via the notebook's 10100Mbps LAN port or, alternatively, through the integrated wireless (802.11bg).
A 1.4Ghz Intel Celeron M Processor 360, 512Mb of memory and a 40Gb hard drive are components good enough to cope with most schooling tasks. If something seems to be lacking, tailor the notebook's components to meet your requirements. It's as simple as that. Definitely worth a mention is the multi-format DVD writer with double-layer support, which can write CDs at 24x and DVDs at 8x.
The L7300 is silver and sleek, measures 330mm wide x 278mm deep x 35.3mm high and weighs 2.9kg. Three quick-launch keys are available at the top of the keyboard - one for email, one for the browser and, interestingly, one for reducing the noise level of the cooling fan, although it didn't seem particularly noisy in the first place.
The first downside is that for all its connectivity there's no FireWire port and there should be, for digital video at least. But the biggest moan has to be about battery life - at a mere 1.5 hours, a spare always needs to be close at hand. Other minuses would be its only average screen quality and a lack of processing power.
Fortunately, solutions are provided elsewhere in the range. While the L7300 offers flexibility, three other Amilos - M7740, L1310G and A1645G - offer different specialties of endurance, vision and power respectively.
With more and more students taking their own notebooks into schools, and customisable, cost-effective offerings, the Amilo range could well prove to be a winner for Fujitsu-Siemens.
Toshiba Tecra M4
TabletPC that can be used as laptop. Intel Pentium M740 processor (1.73 GHz) with Centrino Mobile tecchnology. 60Gb hard drive, 14.1-in SXGA+TFT, 512Mb memory, Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Pro Edition 2005, CD-RWDVD drive, nVidia GeForce Go6200 graphics card, wifi (802.11ag), Bluetooth, V.90 modem.
Price from pound;1,349 ex VAT. Toshiba 0870 444 8948. www.computers.toshiba.co.uk
Fitness for purpose *****
Ease of use ****
Value for money ****
Laptop with Intel Celeron M Processor 360, UniChrome Pro integrated graphics, Windows XP Home, 512Mb memory, 40Gb hard drive, 15-inch XGA TFT screen, multi-format DVD burner, wifi (802.11bg), 10100 Mbps, built-in 56K modem, 4 x USB 2.0 ports, 1 x SPDIF, 1 x CRT, S-Video port, PC card slot. Price from pound;499 inc. VAT.
Fujitsu Siemens Computers www.fujitsu-siemens.co.uk
Fitness for purpose **** Ease of use ***
Value for money *****