I spent three weeks getting to know the deliciously tiny Fujitsu P1510d, a convertible touch screen notebook. Here, then, are the observations of a mobile tech addict who has been spoiled by working on an active digitizer tablet for over a year.
General Hardware Notes
My first thought when I looked at it was, “why does its lower lip stick out like that?” Recalling the IBM ThinkPad X41T I’d seen a couple of months earlier, I realized that this must be an extended life battery. My suspicions were confirmed not much later. I must say that 7 hours (the published rating) is a lovely battery life. My best portable (not counting my PDAs) has only 3.5 hours to give, which is the rating for the P1510’s normal battery. True, it’s reported that the Electrovayas can stay up for nine hours, but the P1510 is still doing better than the average Tablet.
I was surprised to see that the processor was a 1.2gHz Pentium-M, but after experiencing the heat that little machine (it sports an 8.9 inch display and is a real load-lightener at 2.2 pounds) puts out, I could understand why the processor wasn’t any faster. The system can hold up to 1 gigabyte of memory; the device I used had 512 megabytes installed. The 60gb hard drive was more than sufficient for leaving the original XP installation on one partition and installing Windows Vista Beta 1 on a second partition.
I found the locations of the USB ports (one on either side of the keyboard) to be smartly placed. I appreciated and used the Secure Digital slot, but was disappointed that I could find no way to make the device boot from an SD card. I found myself wishing for a PC Card slot, instead of the Compact Flash slot. I have plenty of CF cards, but I have an adapter for them, as well. I tried, but never actually made use of, the fingerprint sensor.
I rarely used the port replicator. In fact, I was surprised that it didn’t seem more substantial. There was actually more to it, but in handling it, I got the impression that it was no more than a simple, light piece of plastic.
The P1510 is a widescreen device. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that instead of the 800×480 resolution I’d resigned myself to seeing, I was actually viewing at 1024×600. The resolution could be increased to 1280×768, but this would force the viewer to pan around to see everything. I admit I don’t have a lot of experience with evaluating LCDs, but I found the screen to be a thing of beauty, bright and clear. It was even legible in sunlight, though I’m not in any way stating that it should be purchased for outdoor use.
The device uses RealTek™ AC’97. I didn’t spend a lot of time with audio, but I and some others listened to a song on it, and we agreed that it had a very nice sound for such a tiny device.
Being that the device is small, the keyboard is, too. At 5’3” tall, my hands are proportionate for my frame, which means they are small, and I found that I had to swing my wrists outward to place both my hands on the keyboard with the fingers on their proper home keys. I used to have a wonderful working relationship with StickPoints, but I haven’t had one for a while (my TabletPC does not have one), and I found it much more difficult to use than a touchpad.
I found the pen to be a bit strange and a bit too small for comfort. Since the P1510 uses a touch screen, rather than the active digitizer, one is not limited to using that pen, so I’d recommend heading out to the nearest high-tech office supply store and grabbing a bigger stylus, maybe even one of those 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 types. Or, if you’re like me and have several older Fujitsu tablets, rob one of those of its stylus.
For the most part, the screen did not register when my palm rested against it; a few times a day, however, my bent pinkie would graze the screen, and any input I was involved in would be affected. Interestingly enough, a rather large technician found that the screen completely ignored his forefinger, so normal-sized individuals might not find this as much of a problem as I did.
One thing the touch screen means for the average user is that there is no cursor tracking, much like on a PDA. Dragging/dropping and resizing of items sometimes had to be attempted more than once, since I could not see where the cursor was until after the pen touched the screen. I was thrilled, however, to see that the calibration utility uses six points, rather than the four I normally see. Right-clicking is achieved by enabling it within a Fujitsu utility and tapping the resulting icon on the taskbar; this works well in, say, explorer or a program, however, I often use right-clicking within the Start Menu to re-arrange items or pin them, and for these tasks, I had to revert to the keyboard.
It was announced last month that these devices will ship with the TabletPC Edition of Windows XP, and that means that they will have the Tablet Input Panel, so owners of the P1510d will not have the same text input concerns I did. However, the unit I received came with Windows XP Pro installed, so input with a pen involved using the On-Screen Keyboard, which a TabletPC aficionado really can’t abide. Although I’m quite happy with EverNote’s RitePen, and I did eventually discover that RitePen came on a CD that shipped with the device, I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to take another look at PenOffice. Other than some issues with alignment when using the pen as a mouse (I had to turn recognition off to select items or navigate though the Start Menu), I wasn’t disappointed. Though RitePen and PenOffice are similar, I still prefer the handwriting recognition and correction method of RitePen, but I love PenOffice’s lite version of PenCommander.
I never tried the modem. I used the wireless (Integrated 802.11a/b/g Atheros Super AG) quite a bit, and there were no problems there. The same goes for the Ethernet (Integrated 10/100 Base-T/TX). The device has no bluetooth, nor had I any need of that.
Vista Beta 1 on the P1510d
Wanting to experience the P1510 as a Tablet PC, I grabbed my copies of Microsoft Windows Vista Beta 1 and installed it. I tried two different builds. I was aware that Vista makes many more demands of hardware than its predecessor, and I had concerns that the 512mb of RAM wouldn’t suffice, but I found I had no unexpected performance issues whatsoever (there were some device driver problems and application compatibility issues, but this was expected in a beta, and I reported it to Microsoft). I can honestly say that using the Vista Tablet Input Panel on the Fujitsu was a better experience than using the TPCE 2005 TIP on my beloved ViewSonic V1250.
If I hadn’t been using an active digitizer for a year and a half, I’d be sold. For those who are new to penabled computing or who have been using PDAs and wishing for something that can do and show more, I have little doubt that the P1510d will deliver. A way simply needs to be found to make the device run cooler.
Specifications for the P1510d can be found here:
Laptop Notebook Review