Review: Fujitsu U810 executive leather portfolio

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Shortly after unboxing the Fujitsu LifeBook U810, I returned to the company’s online shop to browse its selection of carrying cases for the mini notebook.  The one that had already been recommended to me by several readers and that immediately caught my eye was the executive leather portfolio ($59).

Although nicely crafted and generally well designed, read my full review below to find out why I’ve already put the case into a drawer.

Packaging

Like the U810 itself, the leather portfolio arrives in a plain cardboard box.

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The case, wrapped in plastic, slides around beneath a one-page manual with installation instructions and tips on how to properly care for the leather. One of the tips warns users against storing the portfolio in plastic, as it "encourages the growth of mildew and bacteria that will ruin the leather."

Design

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In the product description, Fujitsu describes the portfolio as giving "your highly sophisticated Mini-Notebook the classic look of a traditional paper bound organizer."

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The case is lined with thick gray leather embossed with the Fujitsu logo and is impeccably manufactured in Vietnam with even pieces, straight stitching, and nicely finished details like mesh air vents.

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The lipped-edge "brackets" that hold the U810 in place are made of an incredibly sturdy and unbendable material (metal?) covered in leather. I can’t find out without tearing the case apart, but I think these brackets are attached to a metal plate sandwiched between the bottom leather pieces of the case.

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Like the classic organizer it is meant to emulate, the slightly cushioned leather portfolio is kept shut with a button snap.

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 Unlike the leather case designed for the LifeBook U1010, a variant of the U810 that ships with the standard 2-cell battery, this case features a large cutout in the back to accommodate the extra three-quarters of an inch that the extended 4-cell battery adds to the unit’s depth.

Fit

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The portfolio fits the U810 perfectly and quite beautifully.

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The leather brackets that secure the U810 by its keyboard feature cutouts for every single port, jack, and switch except the Compact Flash slot on the right side. I’m assuming that because the slot is covered by a black plastic door, manufacturers weren’t in regular contact with Fujitsu or aware of its existence. Otherwise there’s really no excuse for making the slot (and only this slot) completely inaccessible.

This is incredibly annoying to me because I use a Compact Flash adapter for my digital camera’s MS Duo cards. I know that there are workarounds (e.g., USB memory card readers), but I shouldn’t have to compensate for an incomplete or oddly thought-out design.

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Although the portfolio fits the U810 exceptionally well, inserting and removing the unit from the case is not easy.

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Because the brackets are unyielding and all four corners are lipped, the unit cannot be quickly slipped in and out of the portfolio. Rather, it must be deliberately placed and sometimes gently forced into position.

In-Case Use

Clearly then, the executive leather portfolio is meant to enable in-case use of the LifeBook U810.

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And it does. Provided that you don’t need access to the Compact Flash slot, the portfolio easily allows use of the U810 in either slate, laptop, or UMPC mode. The leather flap can easily be folded back so that it doesn’t get in the way.

This versatility is great for many users out there (particularly those who primarily use the unit on a flat surface in laptop mode), but for me, in-case use is unpleasant because of two issues: weight and bulk.

Weight

Because of what I assume are a metal plate and brackets, the leather portfolio weighs in at a whopping 0.43 pounds. That’s nearly half a pound!

With its 4-cell battery, the Fujitsu U810 alone tips the scales at 1.56 pounds. This is already rather heavy for a UMPC, so to increase that by a third of its weight is something that can’t be taken lightly. Holding a 2-pound device in one hand (slate mode) or between two hands (UMPC mode) isn’t something that can be done for extended periods without some fatigue.

Bulk

The case adds about a quarter of an inch to the keyboard’s thickness (half an inch to the U810 overall). Although it sounds insignificant, the added  thickness does make a difference when thumb typing in two-handed UMPC mode (compare the difference in my typing speed on the FlipStart 1.0 with the slimline battery and 0.25-inch thicker high-capacity one for proof).

Depending on the size of your hands, the added thickness may have a positive effect on your thumb typing. For me, its effect is negative.

Conclusion

Available in both black and purple, the Fujitsu U810 executive leather portfolio looks great and fits the mini notebook perfectly. It’s well made, well priced, and is a good choice for frequent travelers, people who use the U810 on a desk or table, and anyone with bigger hands and stronger arms than me.

On the other hand, those who need access to the Compact Flash slot, are already struggling with thumb typing because of the keyboard’s width, and whose forearms tremble at the idea of supporting a two-pound device for even 30 minutes are well advised to clear out some storage space in a drawer before clicking the Add to Cart button.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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