Fujitsu’s Stylistic Q550 Tablet: First Look

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Fujitsu’s Stylistic Q550 is certainly secure, but seems to be caught in limbo between an executive gadget and a rugged practical device

Fujitsu last month began shipping its Stylistic Q550 tablet, which it says is designed to meet the “high-security requirements of mobile enterprise computing”. With an array of security features – such as an integrated fingerprint reader, smartcard reader, and solid state hard disk with full disk encryption – the device undoubtedly fits the bill on the security front, but what are its chances of success in the enterprise market?

eWEEK Europe had a play with the Q550 at a Fujitsu event earlier this month, and was somewhat non-plussed by the results. The combination of a clunky unit running Windows 7 – which is just totally unsuited to a touchscreen interface – and a retro stylus, failed to produce the desired wow-effect.

Heavy and robust

But let’s start with the basics. The Stylistic Q550 has a 10.1-inch non-glare display and runs on the new Intel Atom Z670 (Oak Trail) processor, which can reportedly squeeze a whole day out of the battery. A Fujitsu spokesperson said that the device can achieve a maximum 9 hour working run time, but this requires fiddling with the settings – ie. turning down the screen brightness and disabling some applications.

The unit is fairly compact, measuring 27.5cm by 19.2cm, and is 1.62cm thick. It weighs 750g with a 2-cell battery and 860g with a 4-cell battery, making it slightly heavier than the first generation iPad. However, the battery is removable, so that enterprise users who require extended mains-free uptime can carry a second battery.

The tablet is designed to be robust, with a plastic cover and magnesium hinges within the chassis. The edges of the device are also angled outwards, so that if you were to drop it on a wooden floor it wouldn’t break or chip (Fujitsu claimed – we weren’t allowed to test this). It has a rubbery non-slip back, so that – unlike the iPad – it won’t go flying if you give it an accidental nudge.

There are an array of buttons down one side of the device, which can be configured to carry out different commands. One acts as a power switch, and another lets the user return to the home screen.

The Q550 has a built-in 1.3-megapixel rear camera, as well as a second front-facing VGA camera for videoconferencing. It also comes with all the usual ports – a memory card slot, a USB port, HDMI input and a docking connector, among others. The tablet is available in Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi + 3G versions.

So a solid device, but nothing fancy. Slightly on the heavy side and lacking the sleek design that many executives require in a tablet such as this.

Windows 7 – an unpopular choice

The Stylistic Q550 runs Windows 7 Professional which, as countless reviewers have pointed out before, makes for tricky handling on a touchscreen device. It is perhaps for this reason that Fujitsu has opted to include a stylus. The device can be operated with either a finger or the stylus, but the majority of operations are simply too fiddly to carry out by hand.

For content creation, users are given the option of using a virtual keyboard, or using the stylus to write words in a box, which are then converted to text. You can of course also buy an additional USB keyboard, but then you might as well just buy a netbook.

I tried using the stylus to enter a URL in the browser search bar, but it took several attempts for the device to understand my handwriting. Inevitably though, the Fujitsu reps made it look easy, so maybe it’s just a case of practice makes perfect.

However, even some of the simpler tasks took several attempts – such as launching an application and closing a window. The Windows 7 interface requires users to tap exactly the right spot on a screen, and this is just not practical on a touchscreen device. It needs to be more intuitive.

Of course I understand that some enterprise users feel the need to run a full Windows operating system, and these problems could all disappear when Microsoft releases its Windows 8 operating system in 2012. Microsoft has promised that the next version of its operating system will be optimised for tablets, offering an experience more akin to its Windows Phone operating system … Here’s hoping.

Don’t lose your stylus!

The stylus itself is a familiar enough device. By pressing a button half way down the shaft you can enable ‘right click’ mode – which is fairly essential for using Windows 7. Strangely, Fujitsu has not included a slot on the chassis for the stylus to slip into – a recipe for disaster if you ask me. Most people are bound to lose this within a week.

Unless of course, you buy one of Fujitsu’s cases, which include little elastic holders in which to slot your stylus – and can also act as a stand. (Rigid stands are also available to buy separately). The cover currently available is leather and clearly targeted at executives, but Fujitsu is also planning to offer an array of “ruggedised case solutions” for people using the devices “out in the field”.

And that really sums up the problem with this device – it seems to be caught in limbo between a sexy corporate device (like Apple’s iPad, RIM’s PlayBook or Motorola’s Xoom) and a rugged practical unit designed for use by engineers, utilities workers and the aviation industry, like Motion Computing’s CL900 or the Panasonic Toughbook.

No doubt there are some people out there looking for a cross over between the two, but in general people tend to fall into one category or the other, and will want a device that suits their specific needs.

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