Fujitsu Lifebook NH751 gaming notebook review
We all know that gaming laptops have a very high tendency to produce large amounts of heat, and that there is a close relationship between the size of a device and the amount of ventilation it is capable of. So what would be the magic number for Fujitsu's gaming notebook in order to strike a balance between both variables? Answer: 17-inches, apparently.
Gotta admire the the power of black: it makes the NH751 look all serious and no-nonsense like, and yet sleek and modern at the same time.
It might sound a little redundant, but we are going to have to point out that the LifeBook NH751 gaming notebook is one extremely large machine to lug around while on the move. That being said, if you want to impress some ladies with your elite gaming skills, you may as well take it one step further and show off the bulging biceps you are bound to develop after hauling this notebook around as your primary portable computing device, seeing how it weighs a ton. Figuratively speaking, of course. After all, most women chicks dig guys with huge biceps.
Now that we are done gawking at the NH751's size and heft, it is time to take a look at the real meat of the matter; its design and hardware.
Simplicity is always a virtue
Like most notebooks, the NH751's rear is rather clean and non-descript. Of course, there are the usual ventillation holes to assist in the cooling of various hardware such as the memory sticks, hard disk and processor.
Removing the captive screws on the base allows one to gain access to most of the Fujitsu Lifebook NH751's innards, as shown in the image below.
With the NH751 being marketed as both a gaming and multimedia entertainment notebook, we were actually hoping to see a high-performance, 7,200rpm hard disk being used as the default storage solution, if only because it would provide users with faster read/write speeds on their machine. As such, we were disappointed to see that Fujitsu had opted to furnish the notebook with a standard-performing Western Digital Scorpio Blue hard disk that boasts a platter speed of 5,400rpm. Still, if it is of any consolation, 640GB of storage ought to be plenty, even for the most hardcore gamer and video junkie out there.
Supplying the NH751 with the memory needed to multitask efficiently are two sticks of PC3-10600 SODIMM modules from the likes of Samsung, and are each clocked at 1333MHz. Interestingly, CPU-Z identifies the sticks as the higher-performing PC-10700 in spite of what is clearly printed on the label.
Wireless Internet connectivity is provided by the half-height mini PCIe WiFi card, which is powered by Atheros's AR5B97 chipset. We were originally expecting the NH751 to feature an Intel-branded WiFi card due to the fact that most people perceive Intel's WiFi offerings to provide better performance than the competition, but we will take what we can get, considering how Atheros is fairly well-known for its decent performance.
Of course, having a notebook that boasts such a huge physical footprint also gives Fujitsu the luxury of providing some extra bells and whistles, many of which are technically impossible to achieve on a standard-sized notebook. In this case, the 'extra feature' comes in the form of an additional hard disk bay which users can utilize to potentially double the available storage capacity found in the NH751. Just so you know, you will need to procure an additional hard disk bracket from Fujitsu (or scavenge one from an old notebook) if you intend to do so.
The NH751 makes use of a socketed processor in its design, a practice which is fairly common across most typical notebooks save for ultra-thin designs. While this means that users could potential swap out the bundled processor for a pin-compatible alternative, the difficulty in finding said processors, coupled with the possibility of having the notebook's BIOS reject the newer chip, makes the idea unappealing to all but the most dedicated enthusiast.
In charge of cooling the notebook's hardware and providing ventilation is a KSB06105HB cooling fan from Delta Electronics, which is a fairly well-known brand among the hardware enthusiasts.
Remember what we said about how gaming-grade notebooks should come with more advanced BIOS-es which allow for users to make certain tweaks to the way they want their machine to run? Well, if you are expecting to find that kind of luxury in the NH751, we got some advice for you: be prepared to be disapointed, for the NH751 utilizes a very locked-down BIOS which essentially allows you to do very little.
You can set the Anytime USB Charge feature, along with other features such as legacy USB support, Intel's VT-x and IDE emulation through the BIOS. But the important parts that we were really looking for, such as the ability to play around with SpeedStep and TurboBoost, were conveniently missing from the BIOS. Still, if it is of any consolation, you get the option to toy around with the notebook's fan speeds. How nice.
And now, with the technical stuff about the LifeBook NH751's hardware out of the way for now, we turn our focus to the more consumer-friendly parts of the notebook: its expansion and I/O ports. As it stands, the left side of the NH751 offers the standard ports one would expect to find on any notebook: there is a VGA-out port on the extreme left, a huge heat vent, a couple of USB 2.0 ports, of which one also happens to double up as an eSATA port for those rare eSATA accessories you may happen to have lying around. A HDMI-out port is also present, along with a card reader that supports both SD cards and Sony's Memory Stick. That being said, this area is also home to one added bonus: the inclusion of an ExpressCard slot, which is located directly above the SD and MS card reader.
The right side houses a couple of USB 2.0 ports, with the leftmost port featuring support for Fujitsu's Anytime USB Charge feature, which allows users to utilize that port for charging and powering their USB-powered devices, even when the notebook is turned off. Of course, this feature can be set accordingly from within the NH751's BIOS, if needed. Also present here are the obligatory Blu-ray rewritable drive and the all-important Ethernet port for network connectivity via copper cables.
If you are wondering where the vital DC-in jack needed to power the notebook and charge its battery pack has disappeared to, fret not; it is situated behind NH751, directly below the left hinge. This is where the slot for Kensington-compatible locks can be found, too.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Opening the NH751's lid reveals that Fujitsu has seemingly opted to go old-school with the keyboard's design; you will not find any chic, trendy-looking "chiclet-style" keypads here. Of course, whether this is a blessing or curse will depend on how accustomed a user is to either design.
Traditional and functional. Nice.
Of course, it being a huge notebook with a 17-inch screen, there is more than enough room available for the inclusion of a dedicated number pad to help with data entry and gaming.
The trackpad is located directly below the spacebar instead of being placed right space at the centre of the entire machine. Like most modern trackpads, it comes with built-in support for basic multitouch gestures, such as two-finger scrolling. However, we often found ourselves using the trackpad's dedicated scroll areas (bottom and extreme right) to perform the task instead, if only because it felt more intuitive.
That being said, the keyboard also came with its own fair share of flaws which we definitely would not expect to find in a gaming-grade notebook. First and formost, the keyboard is not level; there is a very prominent bulge in "W A S D" area which can be felt almost immediately as soon as one puts his or her hands down on the keyboard.
In addition, with that much room available to fit a full-sized keyboard on the NH751, we found ourselves baffled at Fujitsu's choice to shrink the size of the directional keys. Granted, the smaller keys look nice when one is viewing the keyboard in its entirety, but trust us when we say that there is nothing remotely 'nice' about accidently hitting the wrong keys in the middle of benchmark test or typing something because of how small and cramped they are.
Tiny keys are tiny…