Laptops: a touch of class and a real rock
Roger Frost finds the Rock TextBook to be great value for money
Isn't it ironic that after weeks of waiting, the touch-screen LifeBook laptop from Fujitsu-Siemens should arrive the same day as the much-hyped Titanium G4 PowerBook portable from Apple. Which one would hold the attention of a 12-year-old and his dad? No contest. After a brief "ooh ahh", the Apple was forgotten and Dominic spent the time drawing by finger on the screen of the LifeBook B-series, making animations in Flash and enjoying a new level of interaction with a laptop computer. It can be driven along by fingertip with the merest hint of nail pressure, or the stylus provided.
This machine heralds a dramatic portable break with the past and the prolonged (20 year) period of mouse dominance. Just by touching the screen you can point, click and drag with ease. After a few minutes use, a type of digital jobshare emerges and you decide when to use touch and when to use the more conventional stubby nipple (the same as the IBM ThinkPad laptop) hiding in between the G and H keys, or even plug in a standard mouse as pointer.
The potential applications of this computer are wide-ranging. It's particularly useful for PowerPoint presentations as you just have to touch the screen to advance the slides. The LifeBook also has many special-needs applications as pieces of software that are unusable without good mouse control become effective with a touch-screen.
The LifeBook is well set up with a cleverly formatted hard drive partitioned into two sectors; one for system folders and software and a larger (7 gigabytes) area for work to be saved giving a total capacity of over 9 gigabytes - adequate even for most multimedia applications. An 8.4in TFT screen is small, but provides wide viewing angles and the SVGA resolution display is crisp and clear. The LifeBook is slim, light and portable. A CD drive is supplied as a separate item and connects via the PC card slot. A floppy disc drive is also provided and this connects via the port replicator - a small docking station that gives access to printer and standard mouse port. Two USB ports, modem and network sockets and an infrared port are all built into the machine which comes with the Windows 98 operating system and is powered by a low-voltage Intel Celeron processor.
The only drawbacks are a slightly flimsy connector on the floppy drive and less than expected battery life - five hours is claimed but two would be more realistic.
If you want to be less mouse dependent, this is the machine for you. The touch- screen really changes the way you interact with the computer. The future is touchy feely computersI the days of the mouse and trackpad may be numbered.
ONLINE STAR RATING
Suitability for purpose: ****
Ease of use: ****
Value for money ***
Fujitsu-Siemens LifeBook B Price: pound;1,350 + VATwww.fujitsu-siemens.com G4 PowerBookPrice: from pound;1,799 + VAT www.apple.com