Fujitsu-Siemens Scenic Mobile 501 510 510 AGP
Best retro purpose
Early Windows 95/98 games or as an office computer. Unfortunately, despite the somewhat adequate CPU speed, the biggest compromise is that the more powerful the laptops are (moving onto the 510 series), the worse the compatibility gets, especially for sound cards. The video chipset lacks any 3D capability, while it offers only mediocre Windows support (DirectDraw only). However, screen scaling is very good for a laptop of its time, including a great character resizing that makes text very nice on a full screen display. The few games that can run, mostly due to the lack of any reliable Soundblaster emulation, run fast on 640x480 resolution. The good RAM expansion capability and good VRAM size create quite a powerful mix that is affected by compatibility. This means that, surprisingly, the 501 models are better than later and faster 510 models.
Durability and repair-ability
The mediocre plastic quality means most of the chassis can crack, although of damage of internal plastic screw stands are less visible due to the chassis being mostly fixed onto a strong and heavy metal underframe. Disassembly and assembly operations are normal, with few screws that are difficult to remove or tighten. Access to the hard-drive is straightforward, requiring only a single unscrew. Unfortunately, the LCD screen lamp is mounted vertically and it is very difficult to replace, requiring a full disassembly of the display. This means that you rarely can repair a screen without damaging or affecting something else with dust or slight manipulation mistakes. The rubberized coating that flakes over time is one of the most annoying feature of the laptop, as the smell, dirt and stickiness of its gets worse as the laptop aged. It can be cleaned with careful wiping using a smooth sponge and mild concentration iso-propyl alcohol or another alcohol solution.
Greatest features & flaws
|Good Windows 98/95 3.1 2D Gaming platform||No 3D hardware acceleration, poor power supply build quality|
|Flexible removable bay for floppy or CD-ROM drive||Mediocre screen, poor SoundBlaster compatibility, poor speakers|
|Average keyboard, comfortable palmrest||Various compatibility quirks due to BIOS and hardware implementations|
|Quite good CPU and RAM expansion||Very poor cooling design, fragile, easily crackable case, poor LCD LVDS connector|
A mostly low-end, quite slim, business laptop, released in 1998. It had a good mix of parts and a standard chassis. The choice of PC-66 SDRAM and dual RAM sockets, as well as graphics chipset, make for a good all-around laptop. Unfortunately the laptop stands quite unbalanced due to it not being fast enough or compatible enough to score very good on an are. It fares fine as a Windows laptop with no accolades. By 1999 the laptop was just quite obsolete due to the video chipset choice but this was standard for IBM laptops of its time, with no 3D hardware rendering support, no matter how rudimentary. The system runs reasonably well Windows 2000 or Windows XP, if you really need it, but Windows 98 SE is the best choice.
The graphics chipset is quite alright. The great scaling support make it possible to have very sharp output on the internal or external display, although less smoothly than on modern computers. It depends on taste if you like or hate this scaling mode without any blur but some small rough edges. Overall, the Neomagic graphics chipsets were very fast for 2D operations, definitely faster than Trident or Cirrus Logic Chipsets and Chips&Tech 6555x chipsets in just about every respect. The Neomagic graphics is the top performer on 2D graphics both for compatibility as far back as Windows 3.1 and DOS as well as competitive with Chips&Technology or S3 Trio 64 videocards.
The LCD TFT screen is somewhat alright but it uses a dated technology that results in low brightness, relatively low contrast due to the vertical rather than horizontal, higher power CCFL sidelight. Colour rendering is average.
The typical CPU implementation is very good. The Pentium 2 CPUs are Deschutes so they do not heat as much as typical desktop CPUs of the time. The active cooling is quite bat, overly noisy and ineffective, with a very tiny fan. The inclusion of an USB 1.0 port is a major feature. The keyboard is durable and with good tactile feedback. The trackpad is average in terms of response and sensibility, on par with Dell laptops but clearly less sensitive than Trackpoint equipped laptops. The palm rest is quite comfortable.
The removable drive tray is a nice feature, offering both CD-ROM and Floppy drive support. The rechargeable battery can be easily removed or replaced, even replaced with the power supply, for a very compact desktop placement on 510 models. Unfortunately, the power supply has definitively poor build quality, trading durability for portability. The suspend battery is made out of a rechargeable NiMh battery that can degrade. BIOS and timekeeping battery is a standard CR2032 3V button cell.
The chassis was standard, slightly heavier than other laptops, but, still, comfortable due to rounded corners. The laptop's case is not very durable as cracks are coomon. Combined with the lack of proper cooling, the design seems seriously flawed. The lid closing latch is well designed and durable. The display hinges are moderately ressistant although cracks near them are common. The integrated speakers are quite bad for a laptop due to their size and mounting.
The standard HDDs are quite a very good choice for any Windows 98 SE installation supporting the UDMA33 interface that allows a typical top performance of around 15MB/s transfers, if the harddrive can keep up. Replacing the harddrive is straightforward as the system accepts most late Pentium III era drives for a real speed boost.
Software support is average but very poor in the case of drivers for other operating systems than Windows 95,98 and NT. Due to the video chipset Windows 98 is the best choice of operating system. Good DOS sound support is present only on the older 501 models due to the ESS Audio chipset that is Sound Blaster compatible but it is somewhat less refined for older MIDI and software support in MS-DOS, as it is slightly difficult to configure out of the box.