The US$899 (as of 2/7/08) Fujitsu LifeBook S7211 (model FPCM43471) would make a good travel laptop for workers on a shoestring budget. This svelte Windows Vista Business laptop suffers from only two significant drawbacks: Its speed is so-so, and it can't burn DVDs. But if getting basic work done on the go is all you need, this attractive little unit might be just your cheap ticket.
The LifeBook S7211 weighs 5.2 pounds with its built-in CD writer/DVD reader installed in its modular bay. Swap the optical drive out for a battery instead ($120 extra) and you can really cut the cord to a wall outlet. Our review unit lasted a solidly average 3.8 hours with a single battery. With the second battery in place (which we didn't test), Fujitsu estimates 6.5 hours of operation.
Unfortunately, the unit's speed could have been better. Using a 1.6-GHz Pentium Dual-Core T2330 processor and only 1GB of RAM, the S7211 notched a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 56, putting it 14 percent behind the average of 65 earned by the five sub-$1000 laptops we tested. The good news is, the standard memory allocation comes on one stick, leaving one slot open, so you can easily add another stick later when you're ready to improve performance.
The S7211 lacks some desirable features, such as Bluetooth connectivity and a FireWire port. The overall design, however, is good for the price. Aside from a small glare problem, the 14.1-inch, 1280 by 800 resolution screen is crisp and readable. I quickly acclimated to the petite keyboard, which features Fujitsu's dual-purpose Security Application Panel. This panel has numbered buttons that you can use to set up a password to prevent intruders from starting Windows. When the notebook is running, the same buttons can be used as shortcuts to launch your favorite applications.
If your laptop budget is tight, this basic, lightweight notebook can help you stay within your price parameters.