Fujitsu Lifebook U1010

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Fujitsu Lifebook U1010
  • Fujitsu Lifebook U1010
  • Fujitsu Lifebook U1010
  • Fujitsu Lifebook U1010

Pros

  • Weighs only 600g, has a touch-screen and tablet functionality, is a fully-fledged computer

Cons

  • Lacks built-in 3G capabilities, unusual key placement will take some getting used to, battery life isn't stellar

Bottom Line

The U1010 is about twice the size of a smart-phone, yet it's a fully-fledged Windows Vista-based tablet PC. It's suitable for professional users, or even regular travellers, who want a very mobile device with all the functionality of a typical computer. Unfortunately, it lacks built-in 3G features.

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Computer miniaturisation has been taken to a whole new level by Fujitsu, with the company's ultra-portable U1010 tablet PC measuring only 17cm x 13.5cm x 3cm (W x D x H) when closed (or in tablet mode) and weighing a barely noticeable 600g. Its swivelling touch-screen measures 5.6in (it has a wide aspect ratio) and has a maximum resolution of 1024 x 600, while the base of the unit has a Qwerty, yet quirky, keyboard. Crammed inside the base is an Intel A110 CPU that runs at 800MHz, with 512KB of cache; it also has 1GB of DDR2 RAM, a 40GB hard drive and integrated graphics running off Intel's 945GU chipset.

These specifications don't run a cut-down version of Windows; instead, they drive Windows Vista Home Premium! This makes the the U1010 a fully-fledged computer, to be used for productivity, getting online and keeping in touch with friends and business associates. Unfortunately, it lacks a built in SIM card reader and 3G antenna, so it can't be used for mobile Internet access just yet (and it doesn't have an ExpressCard slot for a 3G data card), but Fujitsu says that 3G is on the cards for later in the year. For now, users will have to make do with integrated wireless networking and Bluetooth functionality, and one USB port is available for plug-in devices. There aren't any PC Card or ExpressCard slots, just SD and CompactFlash memory card slots, so it's a neat little device for storing photos while on a round-the-world adventure.

Understandably, the U1010 isn't very quick. It will run typical Windows applications such as Microsoft Office and Outlook, as well as Firefox and media utilities such as Windows Media Player and iTunes, but it won't run them super-smoothly, and multitasking is definitely out of the question. Where the U1010 excels is in its unobtrusiveness as a mobile computer. It can be used inconspicuously on public transport or at cafes and its screen is bright enough to allow for documents to be typed up while sitting under the shade of a tree on a sunny day.

However, the keyboard, will take some time to get used to, with many keys placed in unnatural positions. The Tab key, for example, shares the same key as the space bar and requires the [Fn] button to be pressed in conjunction with it. Likewise, even though there are dedicated arrow keys, they will only work while the [Fn] key is pressed. We would have preferred the arrow keys to be the primary function, as they mostly share seldom-used keys such as square and curly brackets, but we can see why Fujitsu has had to go down this path, as the period key is shared by the up-arrow. A built-in thumb controller and buttons can be used to navigate the pointer around the screen, and once you get familiar with its speed, it's easy to use.

When the screen is flipped and the U1010 is in tablet mode, the supplied stylus can be used to accurately navigate the screen and write notes. Because it's a touch-screen, fingers can also be used for navigation, instead of the stylus, but this can have its drawbacks, too; the pointer will dash across the screen if any part of the hand makes accidental contact with another part of the screen. A button on the bottom bezel of the screen allows the desktop orientation to be changed, and another brings up the on-screen keyboard. The desktop will automatically orient itself in a way so that the built in thumb-stick and buttons can be used in the same way a handheld gaming device can be controlled. Other shortcut buttons are available in tablet mode, too, including an Alt key and a [Fn] key.

For business users, the U1010 comes with an output dongle that plugs in to the front of the unit to give it a D-sub monitor port and an Ethernet port. This allows the U1010 to be hooked up to a projector and its built-in Bluetooth module and USB port allows for wireless pointers to be used, too. We were able to run a native resolution of 1280 x 1024 during our tests using a 19in monitor, and the unit auto-detected our monitor and gave us the option of using it as the primary monitor, as an extension, or as a clone. A tiny speaker is present on the unit, but the line out port should be used if any meaningful audio is required during a presentation.

While on the road, the U1010's 2-cell battery should last about three hours under a typical usage load that doesn't take up too many CPU cycles, such as working on a document, and in our worst-case scenario, where we looped a DivX-encoded movie file, it lasted one hour and 40min. This means that it might just be able to play back one movie in its entirety while on a flight or long car ride. The unit's lack of grunt, however, made our test movie stutter when in full-screen mode, so we had to watch it in windowed mode. During playback, the unit got a little warm and a relatively noisy fan kicked in to extract the generated heat. The screen's viewing angles aren't wide and its contrast isn't high, but it's a device that will more often that not, be viewed directly from in front. From the front, the screen was adequately viewable.

With a 40GB hard drive, there is ample built-in space for applications, documents and multimedia files, and the memory card slots and USB port can be used to add external storage devices. However, a slightly larger drive would be welcomed. In case the unit is lost, users should enable its security options, which include a fingerprint reader and a BIOS-level password.

Physically, the unit is built out of plastic and, as long as it's packed in its cushioned carry case, it will probably survive any accidental drops onto hard surfaces, but its best to treat it with absolute care. The keys are small and users with thick fingers will find it a little awkward to hit the mark 100 per cent of the time. Two-fingers, one eye on the keyboard and the other on the screen, is the preferred typing method for this device.

For communicating online, a built-in Webcam is located along the top bezel of the screen and it supports a maximum resolution of 0.3Mp. It can be used with programs such as Windows Live Messenger. (A built-in microphone is present, too, but it's not effective -- it's best to use the microphone port to plug in an external microphone.) Its integrated wireless connection supports speeds up to 108Mbps using SuperG, and we didn't have any problems hooking it up to our local 802.11g network. It also found plenty of hotspots during travels in the Sydney city area.

All up, the U1010 is a capable little device that's well-suited to anyone who wants a very mobile, fully-fledged computer with tablet functionality. Sure, it isn't as quick as a regular computer, but it's not meant to be. It performs basic tasks adequately, and it's a good tool for preparing and viewing documents while on the road, as well as giving presentations. As with all scaled-down gadgets, it will take some getting used to, and its battery life isn't stellar. It might be worth waiting until a version with a built in 3G antenna and SIM card reader is available, at which point this device will become a true mobile necessity.

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