The Hardware Under the Hood
The Fujitsu Q550 is a reasonably powered tablet with a latest-generation 1.5GHz Intel Atom Z670 Processor, 2GB of memory and a 30GB or 62GB sold state drive (SSD).
Configuring it with SSDs rather than the hard-wired flash memory used in iPads and other consumer tablets may contribute to the increased bulk of the Q550. (Its noticeably larger and chunkier than the iPad.)
But when streaming video, there was a marked difference between the Q550 and the iPad. High-bit-rate video from the Vimeo website did not play as smoothly on the Q550 as it did on the iPad, and the audio was clipped.
Assessing the Screen Quality
A tablets screen is obviously a critical component. Its both an input and an output device. Based on specifications, the Q550s screen should be great for output, and it is certainly very good. It measures 10.1 inches (versus the iPads 9.7), and 1,280 x 800 pixels (versus 1,024 x 768 for the iPad).
Subjectively, though, the iPad screen looks better, especially when playing video: its crisper with richer, more realistic color.
Fujitsu stresses the Q550s wide angle of view (160 degrees), which is important if youre using the tablet with customers, and you want the people beside you to see the screen clearly. But in our testing, the Q550 held no particular advantage over the iPad and other consumer tablets in this regard.
Comparing Input Capability
On paper, again, the Q550 appears to hold a significant advantage over consumer tablets because it supports both iPad-like capacitive multi-touch and pen computing. It comes with a stylus and built-in handwriting recognition software.
But this is also where the Q550 falls down hardest.
The repertoire of multi-touch gestures is limited compared to the iPad. Scrolling up, down and sideways with a flicking motion, tapping and tapping and holding are the extent of it. You cannot tap, hold and drag to scroll slowly, for example. And when scrolling by flicking, there is a noticeable lag between gesture and action.
You also have to calibrate the screen -- both for touch and pen -- to ensure accurate tracking. This should happen during initial startup but it doens't. Before calibrating the screen, we frequently found ourselves having to poke at links several times before we hit them.
The handwriting recognition in the Q550 is a standard Windows for Tablets component and has been around for several years. Some people swear by it, but we dont.
The Q550 does, cleverly, recognize whether youre using touch or pen, so you can rest the heel of your hand on the screen while handwriting with the stylus without sending multitouch commands. A small handwriting icon appears whenever you place the cursor where text can be entered. Tap it with the pen and the handwriting interface appears.
On some occasions, though, including once when the cursor was in the search field at the Google home page, the icon failed to appear. The only recourse then is to display one of the onscreen keyboards.
The Q550 has a standard keyboard, which is active on startup. It also comes with XT9 software that adds, sometimes confusingly, a second, separate onscreen keyboard.
The benefit of XT9 is that it adds enhanced predictive capabilities and can be configured with business and technical dictionaries. All of which means it should be easier and faster to input text using the XT9 keyboard. But the predictive algorithms in the XT9 software produced some truly bizarre and annoying type-ahead errors.
Both keyboards are inferior to those on consumer tablets, and certainly to the iPads. The keys are too small, there are too many of them -- its pretty much a standard PC keyboard pictured on the screen.
The shortcomings with Fujitsu Stylistic Q550's user interface will be immediately obvious to anyone who has used an iPad or other quality consumer tablet. The trouble is, many of your users will have already had their hands on an iPad. They may balk at using a much less user-friendly device.
The shortcomings are not fatal, however. For companies that need the security features and connectivity and prefer to stick with familiar Windows for tablets, the Q550 has much to recommend it and any awkwardness with the interface can be overcome.
Gerry Blackwell is a freelance technology writer based in London, Canada. Read his blog, AfterByte
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