With its brushed black aluminium top, shiny black interior and silver trim along the lip, the LifeBook SH530 cuts a reasonably fine figure. Of course, if you're one for flair, you can opt for the red version instead, which adds a Ferrari-style visual punch.
The SH530 aims at that magical sweet spot of 13.3 inches, in an attempt to perfect the trade off of performance, portability and battery life. Its gloss, LED backlit screen supports a resolution of 1366x768, and its weight of 1.99kg, while no MacBook Air, still allows it to achieve reasonable portability.
Open it up and it's reasonably plain inside — no media or shortcut buttons at all, just unadulterated keyboard. We're so used to seeing island-style keyboards now that the SH530 was a shock — the keys are flush with one another, in a seriously old-school fashion. It doesn't inhibit the usability any, but visually now is the alternative rather than the mainstream.
What does get in the way are the dedicated home, page up, page down and end keys — we love the fact that these are there, but the placement of the home key so close to the backspace key caused more than a few typing accidents.
What's likely to cause more frustration though is the tiny touch pad — despite the huge increase in usability a large touch pad brings, it seems Fujitsu prefers to keep things beyond petite.
Internally it punches in the mid-weight division, carrying a Core i5 M460 @ 2.53GHz, 2GB RAM, 500GB HDD and a Mobility Radeon HD 5430. Nothing to sneeze at, but we'd have loved at least 4GB RAM.
There are other corners cut as well; while it features 802.11n wireless and Bluetooth, it only has a 100Mb Ethernet port, rather than gigabit. While we understand the cost-cutting measure when it comes to netbooks, in anything else we can't understand why these older, slower ports are still around.
The port complement is standard for this size, with ExpressCard 34, an SD card reader, three USB ports (one with integrated eSATA), VGA and HDMI out.
Software-wise, it sports Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, so you can bump up to 4GB RAM without any issues. Crapware is refreshingly minimal, sporting only Norton Internet Security, CyberLink PowerDVD and YouCam, and Roxio Creator LJ.
As can be expected, on the performance front it's not too shabby, pulling 3597 in 3DMark06 and 6850 in PCMark05, indicating it's great for productivity, but only really capable of tackling older games.
Battery life is disappointingly short, however — with all power-saving features turned off, screen brightness and volume set to maximum and an XviD file played back, the laptop only lasted one hour and 44 minutes before going into hibernation, a time we'd expect of a laptop with more grunt and a larger screen.
Fujitsu's LifeBook SH530 is a competent performer, and portable enough to lug about as a medium-level productivity machine. Just don't expect the battery to last too long.