Retrofitting the Fujitsu LifeBook U820/U2010 with 3G/UMTS/HSDPA

So, I replaced my U810 with the newer U2010 model a few weeks back. Contrary to the U810 the U2010 has an empty and functional Mini PCI-E slot. I am using the O2 Internet-Pack L plan here in Germany a lot and tethered my Sony Ericsson K850 with the U810 before, which was quite a problem since this setup used to drain the batteries of my mobile phone quite fast due to UMTS/HSDPA + Bluetooth connectivity. I figured an internal solution would work better in my case. :)
The Novatel Expedite EU850D Mini PCI-E card seems like a good fit since it already includes a SIM card slot on board and is readily available via several retailers.
The big problem with this solution however is the fact that the U2010 is so crammed internally that it is hard to add any new conventionally available antennas. The device already has six antennas: two for Wifi, two for GPS, one for Bluetooth and one for the FM Transmitter. However I was not able to use any of these without sacrificing the functionality of these connectivity options.
Some retailers offer antennas with the module which are to be installed in the display lid and are too big to fit into the casing of the U2010. I refrained from opening up the lid and was looking for a different solution instead:
Why not use the same antenna a mobile phone uses?
As luck had it, a friend of mine had a broken Sony Ericsson K800i lying around, which I took apart and removed the antenna assembly from. You can also get the whole assembly as replacement part from several dealers at eBay. Fortunately the antenna is a film based one which can be stripped away from the plastic part it is fixed on. Due to the flexible form of the antenna you are free to place it almost anywhere in the case.
So I got an antenna cable with a Hirose U.FL / IPAX pigtail and soldered the other end of the cable onto the copper pads of the film antenna.

If you intend to do the same here is a word of warning: Be sure to use a placement inside the casing that is not covered by the silvery radiation shield coating as it will dramatically reduce the reception quality of the signal. I had to sand down some of the coating to get better signal strength. Your mileage may vary.

11 thoughts on “Retrofitting the Fujitsu LifeBook U820/U2010 with 3G/UMTS/HSDPA

  1. Hi,

    I did the same thing as you to my U820 and it works fine. But, whenever the device goes to suspend-to-ram (not hibernate) the Novatel card will disappear from the system and I need to power off the U820 to make it come back.

    Did you have the same problem and if so, did you find a way to fix it?

    Thanks
    /Henric

  2. Hi Henric,

    yes, same problem here. However, I don’t use the suspend/sleep function any more.
    The device is now running all day long – either in the docking station or on the road. At the end of the day I let it hibernate. Not perfect but it works for me.

    Regards,
    Andre

  3. Hi,

    very nice. I would like to do the same with my U820.
    Where did you get the Novatel Expedite EU850D Mini PCI-E card and what have you paied for it?
    opening the U820 I saw 2 cables (White an black) with coaxial connectors right at the pci-e-slot. These cable go to the display housing. I think this could be connectors to the build in antenna. Do you have something similar in your 820?

    Kind Regards,
    Peter

  4. @Alibum, I got mine from an eBay retailer here in Germany. I know that mobilx.hu carried the EU850D for some time. Perhaps they still do…

    @pekawe, I think I paid roughly 150 Euros for the card, which came with an antenna which was too big to fit into the U820/U2010.
    There were no antenna cables in my U2010. Perhaps your U820 is prepared for the Sierra 3G Modem? Do you have an SIM-Card-slot located somewhere next to the battery retainer?

    Either way, there are now mini Wifi antennas available at eBay from various chinese retailers (look for “mini pci wireless antenna U.FL” or “Tyco Universal Antenna”). I thing those might fit into the U820/U2010… So perhaps the DIY cell phone antenna hack is obsolete.

    And for you U810 users: Novatel has developed a combined Wifi/3G Mini-PCIe Card which might just replace the existing Wifi-Card if they add the SIM-slot onto the card:

    http://www.liliputing.com/2009/09/novatel-develops-a-combination-3gwifi-module-for-dell-notebooks.html

  5. Ah, merci.
    Looking desperately some kind of UMPC with a) UMTS, b) Windows System, c) resolution of at lest 1024×768 and d) small as a book … :-)

    So far I am stuck with the sony p-series for 500+ euro but only 1,5-2h battery time :-/

    Therefore the U2010 looked promesing with 3+ running time.

  6. I am getting 5.5 – 6.5 hours (5-7 Watts of power drain) with one charge on the bigger 4-cell battery. That is with with constant usage and Wifi on, display dimmed to half the brightness.
    With light usage and display off, that is when I am using the device as music player, I am getting up to 9 hours of runtime (~3-5 Watts of power drain). I replaced the HDD with a Samsung SSD, so your mileage may vary.
    Other than that I am perfectly happy with the device even with all the money that went into the upgrading. :)

  7. A kinda related question… You mentioned that you salvaged an internal antenna from a Sony Ericsson K800i phone. Well, I use a K800i tethered to my computers. Sometimes I need to use the computer in a poor reception area. So I want to get an external antenna to fit my K800i. There’s a socket for external antenna on the back of the phone (just by the flash, there’s a rubber bung you remove to get to the socket). I don’t know what kind of pigtail I’ll need to fit this socket, and local stockists seem clueless. So I was wondering, do you know what pigtail is needed to fit this socket? Or is there another way to attach an external antenna to the K800i? Cheers.

  8. Hi all u820 / u2010 users, please help me :) I spend a lot of time of searching manufacturer and product number of lifebook u820 lcd but without succes. so do you know what kind of lcd is in this laptop, and if it have really 16M colors? (because all other 5,6″ 1280×800 lcds which i found had only 262k colors)

    thanks,

    Michael

    best regards

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