Tablet's features work well

Fujitsu's LifeBook T4220 is a good tablet.

The Fujitsu LifeBook T4220 is designed to weather outside use better than your typical convertible tablet. It has a nice keyboard and performs well, too, all at a competitive price.

This successor to the LifeBook T4020 offers several improvements. The T series now uses Intel's Santa Rosa processor line, and the hard drive, sealed before, is now user upgradable.

Most important, the T4220 has a single, bidirectional hinge that is a first for a convertible and a major convenience breakthrough. When you want to switch between the tablet and notebook forms, you can swivel the screen right or left on its hinge -- no worries about having to double-check a directional arrow or twisting the screen the wrong way on the first try.

The T4220 has a few protective features, starting with a shock sensor that protects hard-drive components during a fall by retracting the drive's read-write head. Sturdy plastic port covers attach to the notebook, so they can't fall off and disappear; they keep dirt and moisture out of the network, modem, and monitor ports. The T4220 also automatically shuts down the optical drive during tablet use to protect it from breakage.

Our unit came with a nonglare screen coating for outdoor use, a $US150 option. The 12.1-inch, XGA, standard-aspect screen feels thicker than a standard tablet screen, needs firmer taps, and has a visible sheen. These things aren't too bothersome, however, and the special coating allows you to work in direct sunshine -- as long as the screen is displaying a light-colored background. When I tried it with a solid-colored desktop, I could barely make out its icons, but the white input panel stood out and was easy to write in with the T4220's tethered digitizer pen.

The T4220 is a nice-looking, squarish, tri-tone unit that is thoughtfully designed overall. It has a small but comfortable keyboard. At 4.6 pounds, it weighs a tad more than the average convertible, but it doesn't feel heavy. Tablet buttons are plentiful and all within easy reach, plus they double as a combination-number input panel -- serving as yet another layer of security beyond the built-in SmartCard slot and fingerprint reader.

Another nice extra is the modular bay, capable of holding the standard DVD burner, the included hollow weight-saving piece, or a second six-cell battery ($134 extra). A handy side release lets you eject and swap devices with one hand. Wireless communications is not completely covered -- integrated mobile broadband is not an option -- but Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are included. A $150 port replicator, which snaps onto the bottom of the T4220, adds a DVI port.

Equipped with a 2-GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 processor and 1GB of RAM, our $2099 review model earned a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 65. It's unimpressive in comparison with a ThinkPad X61t convertible that scored 75 (13 percent better), but the T4220 we tested came with a slower processor (a 1.6-GHz Core 2 Duo L7500), and the score is still well above the ultraportable average of 53. The T4220 can handle anything but sophisticated 3D games; in our tests such games wouldn't play at all because of the machine's shared video memory. Battery life was good, though, at almost 4.5 hours, about 30 minutes longer than the average ultraportable.

The only false step in the design is the screen latch, which you must manually rotate and line up for insertion into a small slot below the keyboard; with practice, though, even this goes fast. All in all, the Fujitsu T4220 might not be the cheapest or lightest ultraportable you can buy, but for tablet users desiring a little extra ruggedness and peace of mind, it gets along nicely with Mother Nature.

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Carla Thornton

PC World
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