Fujitsu Lifebook E743
18th Nov 2013 | 11:00
Modular projector bay lets you beam presentations
Over the past few years, the 'bring your own device' (BYOD) phenomenon has placed pressure on laptop vendors to raise their game. With employees taking their own slim, stylish models with top-end specs to match into the workplace, IT leaders are under pressure to kit out employees with similarly desirable products.
Recognising this, Fujitsu is aiming to strike the middle ground between consumer-focused style and business practicality with its new series of configurable E-Series Lifebook Windows notebooks.
Featuring a third-generation (Ivy Bridge) Intel Core i5 chip with integrated HD Graphics 4000, the E743 is internally similar to Lenovo's no-nonsense ThinkPad T431s and Toshiba's Satellite C50 models while aiming for the consumer styling of machines like Dell's Latitude 6430u.
To give IT leaders a choice when supplying employees with new machines, Fujitsu's new models come in three sizes. At 14 inches, the E743 is the middle child, lying between 13.3 inch and 15.6 inch models (the E733 and E753 respectively). Together they give organisations the choice between a more compact machine geared for sales teams on the road, a larger device that's closer to a desktop replacement, or one that sits somewhere in-between.
Fujitsu has aimed for consistency with the notebooks by equipping them with the same operating system images (Windows 7 or Windows 8 Pro), motherboard and firmware, allowing IT departments to chop and change between models while using the company's docking station and peripherals.
In design terms, the E743 is a smart-looking machine that takes its design cues from Intel Ultrabooks, even if it's nowhere near as thin as the thickest among them (it measures 27mm at its thickest point). You certainly wouldn't feel embarrassed lugging it around though - with a smooth metallic finish and Fujitsu's signature red trim along its keyboard and edges - you'd be hard pressed to find a better-looking business laptop out there.
Its magnesium alloy lid is sturdy too and was no trouble opening with a single hand while giving no discernible flex between the fingers. However, at 1.9kg, it isn't the lightest of 14-inch laptops and is noticeably hefty when held in a single hand, though this lends to its solid feel and we'd be confident that it would survive being regularly slung into a backpack for trips.
It sports a 1,600 x 900 pixel-resolution LED backlit display that looks noticeably crisper than the 1,366 x 768 pixel resolution display found on the 13.3-inch Lifebook, so if you're after a sharper image or require more screen real estate for editing or other tasks it's worth considering the larger size.
The E743 is only let down by lacklustre viewing angles in the absence of an IPS panel, though you do get the benefit of an anti-glare display that aids viewing the screen in brighter light conditions.
The trackpad feels roomy and its buttons offer a satisfying click. Its chiclet keyboard's keys are well spaced and afford decent travel - typing out long documents shouldn't pose a problem on this machine, which can be configured with an optional backlit keyboard to aid typing sessions in the dark.
The E743 we got our hands on contained a third-generation Ivy Bridge Intel 2.6GHz Core i5-3230M dual-core processor under the hood. Though you'll miss out on the benefits (namely improved battery life) you'll get from Intel's fourth-generation chip, it will be available with Haswell in the first quarter of 2014.
The CPU gets Intel's shared HD 4000 Graphics chip that's more than adequate to handle basic graphics tasks, such as powering the Aero theme on Windows 7 and 8 and allowing you to play basic games, but don't expect it to handle anything more than that. If you're looking at hooking up the E743 to an external monitor, it's capable of driving resolutions of up to 2,560 x 1,600 (DisplayPort) and 1,920 x 1,200 (VGA and DVI).
Other specs include 4GB of DDR3 RAM (upgradable to 16GB) and a 500GB HDD spinning at 5,400rpm (available alongside an optional 512GB SSD drive or hybrid 500GB SSDHD drive). It's also available with a number of security options, including a fingerprint scanner on the bottom right-hand side of the base, a Trusted Platform Module (TPM), SmartCard read and full disk encryption at the hardware level for increased security.
The E743 comes with a dock that can be used with all three laptops in the range. Onboard are VGA and HDMI connections for hooking up external monitors, in addition to a connector for a Kensington security lock, alongside standard headphone and microphone ports on its left-hand side.
The dock, which retails for £82 (around $134, or AU$143), also provides four USB 3.0 ports, two DisplayPort jacks, Gigabit Ethernet LAN and eSATA ports for extra storage.
Further flexing its accessory muscles, Fujitsu has built the E743 to be something of a Swiss army knife, so long as you don't mind carrying around a few bits and pieces. That's thanks to a modular bay component on the left-hand side that lets you swap between modules on the go.
The default module is a weight saver, which is the lightest of the available options but doesn't actually do anything. You can swap it for a second battery (high capacity 6-cell 6700 mAh, 72w), a Blu-ray disc player and writer, a DVD multi writer, an optical disk drive or Fujitsu's pièce de résistance - an LED bay projector.
The projector will prove useful for any road warriors making frequent presentations. It's capable of beaming a full-colour image into the nearest wall at 854 x 480 pixels, and Fujitsu claims it'll go for nearly 11 years before giving up the ghost.
It costs £280 (around $452, or AU$480) (excluding VAT) and slots into the module bay slot, meaning it would save you carrying around an external projector - plus you can load it in and forget about it.
There is a downside to that convenience, though, as it's nowhere near bright enough to display content in anything other than a small to medium-sized rooms. If your main job is showing off presentations in larger echoey chambers, you might want to consider plumping for something like Dell's M900HD instead, which is far brighter (it manages around 900 ANSI lumens, versus the E743 projector's 40 odd).
Once inserted, the projector is controlled using three buttons on its top side. The first switches it on, while the second toggles between two brightness levels, and another inverts the displayed image.
Undoing a catch allows you to slide it out and gives some room to flex it up and down, though we stopped yanking it around after a short while as it felt like it would snap off under too much force. There's also a discrete slider on its side that does its job but is highly sensitive, meaning you only have to move it very slightly to get the desired effect.
On the connectivity front, the E743 features a Gigabit Ethernet port on the left-hand side for connecting up to LAN, alongside VGA and DisplayPort. There's also USB 3.0, in addition to a SmartCard and SD card reader.
Wireless connectivity stops short at 802.11 a/b/g/n, so there's no 802.11ac to be found here. Frequent travelers may be more interested in the option of a 3G or 4G LTE card for hooking up to mobile services on the move.
Cinebench - 11.5
OpenGL - 13.28 fps
CPU - 2.97 fps
Ice Storm - 23728
Cloud Gate - 3383
Fire Strike - 439
2 hours 29 minutes
In terms of performance, the component to score the highest on the Windows Experience Index (WEI) was the processor (7.1), followed by gaming graphics (6.3), HDD transfer rate (5.9) and RAM performance (5.9), and graphics (5.0).
The E743 lasted around four hours during our general use test, which dipped to just two and a half when put under our 3D Mark Home battery life test, which continuously opens and closes apps and plays video until the laptop's battery is depleted. If you're not keen on lugging around a power cable, you'd do well opting for that second battery in your module bay.
The graphics tests fared the worst in our benchmarks, with 3DMark's more demanding Cloud Gate and Fire Strike tests resulting in extremely choppy frame rates.
But clearly this isn't a laptop for gaming, and it was more than responsive when it came to navigating the desktop and opening apps such as Microsoft Office 2013 (Word and OneNote).
After firing up a 1080p YouTube video we found playback smooth and stutter free, though we weren't too impressed with the E743's middling audio that can be described as adequate at best.
Hands on gallery
Fujitsu's E743 is a flexible entrant into the business notebook market that appeals on its own at its price point but shines when twinned with the company's peripherals or other models in the series.
The E743 will please IT leaders seeking an easy life thanks to its ability to share peripherals and accessories with its bigger and smaller siblings, and the projector bay is a standout addition for anyone that needs to travel and give presentations in smaller rooms.
On its own the battery life isn't fantastic, but it should get a welcome boost when the Haswell-powered models become available, and will go for even longer with a second battery module inserted. There's an impressive number of ports and connectivity options on the E743, particularly so when combined with the docking station.
We didn't like
The E743 may still prove a little too chunky for frequent travelers, who would be better served by lighter, thinner and more portable 14-inch laptops if swappable modules aren't needed. Additionally, average audio means you're not likely to be using it as a multimedia machine, so using a decent pair of headphones would be advised.
If you're into swapping around accessories and having a multitude of peripherals at your disposal, the E743 is an attractive laptop. It's certainly a team player, and a welcome indication of the direction vendors are travelling in when attempting to make notebooks as attractive as their in vogue Ultrabook counterparts.