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.
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.
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