Is Fujitsu's Miniscule PC a Big PDA or a Small Tablet?

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

Living with a Lifebook U Series means living with computing compromises, but the convenience and portability may just be worth it.

Don’t kid yourself: Fujitsu’s tiny Lifebook U810 isn’t about to replace your notebook computer any time soon, and it won’t make you chuck your BlackBerry or Treo into the trash. But the $999 U810 may fill a niche for many mobile Web surfers and on-the-go executives.

Surprisingly, Fujitsu’s tiny tablet PC is loaded with features that rival larger notebook computers. Users will find 802.11a/b/g, Bluetooth, wireless broadband (AT&T), Webcam, a 40GB hard drive and a fingerprint scanner all crammed into the 1.5-pound device.  Measuring just 6.73 inches wide, 5.24 inches deep and 1.04 inches high, the U810 also offers a 5.6-inch WSVGA (1024-by-600) touch-screen that swivels and converts the diminutive unit into a small tablet PC. For those looking to play with the unit as a mini-tablet, a tablet pen is hidden in the display lid.

Check out pics of the Lifebook U810 in our slide show.

The unit is powered by the Intel Ultra Mobile Platform 2007, which consists of an Intel A110 processor, 945GU Express Chipset and an Intel ICH7U I/O controller hub. Video is handled by an Integrated Intel 3-D Graphics Accelerator, while 1GB of DDR2 RAM rounds out the equation. Built-in audio is based upon a RealTek ALC262, which is connected to a single internal speaker and integrated digital microphone. Surprisingly, the tiny U810 offers several ports, including  Audio-in, Audio-out, Type I/II CF Card slot, SD (Secure Digital) Card Reader and a connector for a USB 2.0, 10/100 Ethernet and external VGA combo adaptor. For those looking to use the U810 more than just on the run, a docking station is a welcome option that can transform the tiny PC into a desktop computer, albeit a slow one.

Speaking of performance, the U810 was able to muster an overall score of 146.2 using PassMark’s Performance Test 6.1. Not too shabby considering the small size and price point of the unit. Battery life ran about 3 to 5 hours, depending on the options in use. Constant use of the integrated wireless broadband seemed to drain the battery a little quicker than using the integrated Wi-Fi. The Bluetooth radio also sucked up the watts, impacting battery life some more. The basic rule of thumb here is to shut off all unneeded options to get five hours of computing from the four-cell 5200mAh Lithium Ion battery pack.

Our test sample came with Windows XP Tablet edition installed, but Fujitsu does offer the option of Windows Vista Basic edition. Most users will want to stick with XP for as long as it remains available; we can’t see how anyone would be satisfied with the U810’s performance running under Vista. With XP, the U810 was amazingly snappy and proved to be very usable from a performance standpoint.

Speaking of usability, what can one actually use the unit for? Well, right off the bat, the unit does browse the Web significantly better than most PDA counterparts on the market. Also, the ability to run Microsoft Office makes the unit a quick and handy tool for e-mail, PowerPoint presentations and even typing up a document or two, although you may sprain your thumbs typing. Thumbs? That’s right, even though the unit has a keyboard bigger than any PDA on the market, those with bigger hands are going to find thumb typing the way to go. Touch typists need not apply!

Mousing around is another issue. The unit features a touch-sensitive pointing stick, which takes a lot of getting used to and may be difficult to master. Although it is better than nothing, there is some room for improvement here, and users may want to forgo the default pointer and just use the digitizer pen to select icons. Switching over to tablet mode takes little more than flipping the screen around; the U810 handles the rest by changing the screen orientation and offering the XP tablet features automatically. The digitizer pen works well in tablet mode but can be a little oversensitive. That is in part due to the high resolution used on the small 5.6-inch screen.

That brings up another point: While having WSVGA resolution is great for cramming a lot of information on the screen, there are those users who may just find the text and icons too small. The unit does offer a magnify option, but when in use, less screen real estate is available. Considering that there is no viable solution to that particular problem, Fujitsu has done a great job compromising on the resolution/screen size conundrum.

So, the question still remains: What exactly will this unit replace in the knowledge worker’s briefcase? Probably nothing. It doesn’t offer an integrated cell phone, so it won’t be replacing that common business tool, and the overall form factor is too small to really replace the ubiquitous notebook computer. But the unit does do a great job at performing some minor tasks, such as e-mail, slide shows and surfing the Web. What’s more, with the wireless broadband connectivity and integrated Webcam, the unit could make a great little video conference call system for those using Skype or other VOIP (voice over IP) technologies. What’s more, the ability to run a standard version of Windows (XP in this case) means that the system can readily be configured to connect via corporate VPNs, terminal server clients and most any other traditional Windows connectivity product, which may make the U810 a great tool for the traveling salesman or tech support guru. While it’s far from perfect and there are plenty of nits to pick, the U810 proves to be a unique solution for mobile professionals and niche markets, and you can’t deny that the unit is just plain cool!

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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