Fujitsu is a PC maker that’s firmly entrenched in the Wintel (Microsoft-meets-Intel) camp. As such, it has launched a tablet PC based around those companies’ offerings, the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550.

It’s a 10.1in tablet PC, running Windows 7 Professional and powered by an Intel Atom processor. For storage it has a 62GB SATA solid-state drive. After losing space to a Windows recovery partition, along with Windows 7 itself, drivers and some included programs (Adobe Reader, non-functioning trial of Microsoft Office) we found just 27GB of that 62GB available for use.

On the bottom – along the lower longest edge – is an Apple-style docking port. Looking around the chassis, we see more ports than an iPad: there’s one USB 2.0, HDMI, an SD card slot, and a set of buttons on the right to change screen orientation and switch off wireless.

Given the choice of operating system and the absence of keyboard, Fujitsu has thoughtfully included a little button that activates the Ctrl-Alt-Del command. When Windows locks up on this tablet, this sometimes gets you out of trouble.

Strangely missing are any buttons to control screen brightness or sound volume of the mono speaker.

Build quality is quite tough looking. Edges are bevelled and allow a more comfortable handhold of the 16.5mm-thick frame. At 890g, it’s almost 50% heavier than an iPad 2 – and feels it.

The plethora of odd buttons, switches, hatches and ports around the edges and on the back quickly remove any chance of an award for design excellence.

In essence, the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 is a netbook with a stylus-activated touchscreen.

As such it carries all the baggage associated with trying to run Windows on an underpowered processor – combined with the awkwardness of wrestling with desktop Windows through a touchscreen.

Let’s focus on the plus points. The screen has 1280 x 800 pixels, so it doesn’t burden you with quite the claustrophobia of a netbook's 1024 x 600 space. And the panel itself is semi-matt, so won’t reflect glare like the gloss screens now ubiquitous on consumer laptops as well as other tablets.

The rougher plastic surface is not so finger-friendly, but since the OS mandates a stylus to get around, you don’t notice the texture so much.

The screen uses in-plane switching (IPS) technology, so is viewable from side angles, although the touch-digitizer layer under the surface does mean the image gets more blurry as you view off-axis.

And images at all times are leached somewhat of colour, a trade-off of anti-glare screens generally and perhaps not helped by the stylus-reading tech that sits between LCD and the user.

The screen is touted as multi-touch, but in practice it barely works with two fingers, let alone the promised four. You can just about scroll using the two-finger drag action.

For most interface operations, you’ll need the pointy stylus stick, tethered to the chassis by a piece of tanglesome string. When not in use, it would be useful to clip it to the body by a clip or into a slothole; the unit sadly lacks either, instead leaving the pen to trail loose. You’ll also need to keep a AAAA battery inside the digitizer pen to power it.

Performance

More troubling than a dull screen – and one that usually needs serious prodding in order to click on files, icons and Windows screen elements – is the system speed. Or serious lack thereof.

The Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 is inordinately slow. Not just a little lagging in everyday tasks – every operation, from opening a Windows Explorer window, to launching an app, to surfing web pages, can feel like you’re working through cold treacle wearing welding gloves.

To input text into the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 is an ordeal. There’s Microsoft’s onscreen keyboard, summoned from the side, small by default and only really operable by stylus. Or you can expand it to full screen width, at which point it takes over the whole screen and is difficult to get out of your way to see anything else.

Whichever way you place it, the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 is effectively useless for finger-typing text into an on-screen keyboard.

Crucially, sleep (and wake from sleep) do not work correctly. It typically took around 40 seconds to go into sleep on demand. It could wake from sleep in around 10 seconds, providing you didn’t try to wake it within the protracted sleep process.

Knowing that few consumers in their right mind would want a slow, expensive, clinically ugly tablet running a tired operating system unsuited to touch operation, Fujitsu is firmly pitching its tablet at business. The kind of operations already locked into Microsoft software deals, such as hospitals, health care and local government.

To help convince them that they really need an out-dated slab like the Stylistic Q550, Fujitsu is playing the security card. In a presentation to PC Advisor, Fujitsu spokespeople were convinced that real business would not adopt usable tablets like the iPad, as it is not secure enough against hardware penetration.

So Fujitsu has included a fingerprint reader, SmartCard slot and full-disk encryption, branding the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 as a tool for serious enterprises.

To get with the times, Fujitsu has also included its own, more touch-friendly, interface skin to augment stock Windows. Activated when required from a stuttering pull-down tab on the screen top, you can find a calendar, calculator, RSS reader and notes app in this environment it calls the Infinity Lounge.

We applied an offered patch that also added Mail (requires Microsoft Outlook to be installed; not included), and a web browser. There’s nothing substantial enough here to overcome the problems of running desktop Windows on an insensitive touchscreen.

We didn’t run the WorldBench 6 benchmark test; based on other tests of Intel Atom PCs at PC Advisor we would estimate its score to be the usual netbook result of circa-35 points. Note that performance of the Intel Atom is practically unchanged whether the chip is an original single- or new dual-core type.

Two battery options are offered for the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550, either two or four cells in a removable lithium-polymer power pack.

Battery life for the larger four-cell is listed as ‘up to 9 hour’. In hands-on testing we saw the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 last 6.5 hours.

NEXT PAGE: Review from PC World Australia

Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 is a tablet device designed for enterprise customers.

It has to be said from the outset that the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 slate device is not intended for the consumer market - it's not in direct competition with the iPad or any Android tablet. It's designed for enterprise customers, which have specific needs that can't be met by consumer tablets. If you think this device might be good for browsing the Internet and watching videos, then you'll be left sorely disappointed.

The Stylistic Q550 weighs about 850g and it's approximately 18mm thick. It has a screen that measures 10in on its diagonal, but when taking the bezel into account the unit measures close to 12.5in overall. The screen has a native resolution of 1280x800 and its dull finish is not overly reflective. It's an IPS panel with capacitive, multitouch features and it makes use of dual-digitiser technology (N-trig DuoSense). This means you can use your fingers or a pen to navigate around the operating system, and handwritten notes can be executed easily as you rest your palm on the screen and move the pen. Fujitsu has a good pedigree when it comes to tablet-convertible notebooks with excellent touchscreen capabilities, and the Q550 is just as good in this department as the tablet-convertible Fujitsu laptops that we've reviewed in the past.

The operating system on the Stylistic Q550 is Windows 7 Professional (32-bit) and Fujitsu tells us that this is one of the features that many commercial customers want so that they can run their specialised applications. That's not the only feature those users have been clamouring for: a removable battery (the standard one has a 38 Watt-hour rating), and good security measures such as TPM 1.2, a 'kill pill' enabled BIOS, a fingerprint reader and a Smartcard slot are also said to be in demand. The Q550 ticks all those boxes, too. You'll also find more consumer-style features around the edges of the unit, including an HDMI port and two cameras — one front-facing and one rear facing. Like most consumer tablets, the front facing camera only has a VGA resolution, while the rear camera is capable of taking photos that fill up the entire 10in screen. There is also a USB 2.0 port, a docking port, a headphone port, a built-in microphone, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, embedded 3.5G (optional) and you also get a full-sized SD card slot.

See detailed pictures of the Stylistic Q550 in our gallery.

The unit feels very well built and it's fairly easy to hold while taking notes and navigating around the operating system. It has no moving parts (it uses a solid state drive with a formatted capacity of 56.5GB) so it can be used in dusty environments such as workshop floors, for example, without clogging up. The viewing angles of the IPS (in-plane switching) panel are excellent and so is the quality of the screen overall. Images and text look sharp and possess good colour saturation. An accelerometer is built in to the unit, which allows the screen to change orientation depending on the way you are holding it. This was a little inaccurate in our tests; at times, it would change orientation at the slightest movement and we would have to figure out which direction to turn it to get it back the right way. It can also be a somewhat slow operation depending on how many programs are running on the tablet at the time.

That's one of our major quibbles with this slate device: it sometimes feels way too sluggish. It has a similar configuration to a netbook, albeit with more RAM (2GB) and a relatively large solid state drive, but it can be a massive pain just to browse some Web sites. Even scrolling up and down a page won't be easy if the single-core , 1.5GHz Intel Atom Z670 CPU (which is part of the Oak Trail system on a chip platform) is too busy with other background tasks. Don't bother watching YouTube videos on it, for example, as they will play back choppily, especially if they are a medium or high resolution. Even flicking through photos can be a chore. Fujitsu says that the Q550 is designed to complete only one task at a time, be it data entry via a form-style application, or note-taking via the built-in Windows 7 tablet features. It's a wonder then why a lot of extra background software is installed and set to start up once the device has booted.

Fujitsu Stylistic Q550

Not only do you get Norton antivirus software on this device (most organisations will want to run some form of antivirus on this unit, so that's understandable), it also comes with Omnipass and a 'home' style interface for accessing photos and documents. Not to mention all the other background processes that are required for the proper operation of the tablet, such as the accelerometer and touchscreen software. It all adds up and it can take close to 1min for the device to cold boot. We'd love to see this tablet with an extremely streamlined, bare-essentials-only configuration. When we uninstalled Norton and got rid of some of the unnecessary background software, the tablet was quite enjoyable for basic Web browsing and taking handwritten notes, for example, so it does have the potential to be a good productivity tool. Its performance will definitely hinge on how organisations configure it and what type of software they use with it.

Indeed, the Stylistic Q550 could be a good tool for completing very specific tasks, but we think it will be too sluggish to be used like a typical computer for office productivity-style applications or media-rich Web browsing — and the thought of multitasking with it shouldn't be entertained either. We'd like to see it with a dual-core Atom CPU instead. Otherwise, it's a well built device with a very good screen and touch capabilities, and it has plenty of worthwhile features. This build quality and feature-set costs a lot, but as many of those features are designed for minimising downtime (such as the removable battery and the security features, for example), it will hopefully end up paying for itself in the long-run.

The Stylistic Q550 is an Intel 'Oak Trail' based tablet that runs Windows 7. It's designed for enterprise users and has lots of security features to prove it. It's not awfully fast and it can sometimes feel downright sluggish, but as Fujitsu told us: it should only be used to run one task at a time. We agree with that.

Elias Plastiras

Fujitsu Stylistic Q550: Specs

  • 1.5GHz Intel Atom Z670
  • 10.1in (1280 x 800) IPS touchscreen
  • Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
  • 62GB SATA SSD
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • USB 2.0
  • HDMI
  • mono speaker
  • 1.3Mp front and 0.3Mp rear cameras
  • SD card slot
  • SmartCard slot
  • GPS/UMTS modem
  • fingerprint sensor
  • four-cell 38Wh removable battery
  • 275 x 192 16.5mm
  • 874g (890g with stylus)
  • 1.5GHz Intel Atom Z670
  • 10.1in (1280 x 800) IPS touchscreen
  • Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
  • 62GB SATA SSD
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • USB 2.0
  • HDMI
  • mono speaker
  • 1.3Mp front and 0.3Mp rear cameras
  • SD card slot
  • SmartCard slot
  • GPS/UMTS modem
  • fingerprint sensor
  • four-cell 38Wh removable battery
  • 275 x 192 16.5mm
  • 874g (890g with stylus)

OUR VERDICT

It was tablets like the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 that caused the computer industry to fold on Microsoft’s flawed tablet concept, long before Apple showed it was possible to build a long-lasting intuitive pad that loves fingertip control. If you’re a business professional and are issued with a Fujitsu Q550 in your line of work, be warned you'll be battling with an unwieldy, unholy relic of the past.

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