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.