Fujitsu Siemens T4010 review
Good looks and good performance, but this latest offering from Fujitsu Siemens offers little to advance the tablet cause.
Review Date: 20 Oct 2004
Reviewed By: David Fearon
Price when reviewed: (£1,761 inc VAT); Delivery £10 (£12 inc VAT)
Tablet PCs are here to stay: despite a lukewarm reception from many quarters, their benefits are gradually winning over many sceptics. Along with the improved handwriting recognition of XP SP 2 and Microsoft's insistence that it has no intention of letting tablet PC going the way of Smart Displays, manufacturers are persevering and the devices are improving. Following on from the T3010, the new T series LifeBook is the second from tablet PC stalwarts Fujitsu Siemens to come in convertible notebook form, as opposed to the pure, keyboard-less slates that it generally favours.
The convertible approach brings more opportunity for innovation, and there's considerable scope for design ingenuity in making the convert-to-slate mechanism simple but sturdy. That said, the T4010 doesn't shatter many preconceptions design-wise, and bears a striking resemblance to the system sported by our A-Listed tablet, Toshiba's Portege M200. The lid swivels round and back on a central pivot-hinge and the design plumps for the 'no visible means of support' approach: the screen hinge isn't bolstered with any extra latches. And in all fairness it works fine, although in our pre-production sample the screen didn't sit exactly square to the body in notebook mode.
As a laptop, it has the familiar look of a LifeBook; the two-tone metallic grey and black appearance treading a fair path between the business-like and the stylish. The industrial chic is helped by a metallic-finish touchpad with stylised button layout, and a small LCD display bar set into the lid shows battery charge state, hard disk activity and so on, giving it a more modern look than a row of LED-backlit icons.
A convertible tablet inevitably features compromises in both notebook and slate modes. In notebook orientation, the screen is where you'll feel the pinch. Normal notebooks of this size would sport a 13in-plus display, but the extra circuitry and surrounding buttons mean a thick bezel for the T4010, resulting in a 12.1in screen with 1,024 x 768 resolution. The transparent layers over the screen to allow for pen input reduce pixel definition to some extent, brightness a little and viewing angles quite considerably: the overall effect is of a notebook screen circa 1999. Go into slate mode and the extra bulk over a pure tablet is a drawback, although people are now starting to realise that the best way of using a slate tablet is not to stand up with it in the crook of your arm. It's more at home sitting on a desk in a meeting, being used as a smart notepad.
Unusually, we found the infuriating phantom mouse syndrome prevalent with the LifeBook, typing away in a Word document and suddenly finding the cursor halfway up the page because the heel of our hand had brushed the touchpad and induced an unintentional mouse click. A bit of investigation reveals that this is because the touchpad is offset with respect to the spacebar, being slightly to the right of its centre; a definite design problem as far as we're concerned. A shame, since the touchpad itself is very smooth and the keyboard, while shallow and a touch rattly, is responsive and perfectly usable for more than just email.
The T4010 is adequately endowed with peripherals ports and connectors, including mini-FireWire and a media slot at the front able to accept SD/MMC cards and Memory Stick. The wired Ethernet adaptor is a gigabit model too. There are just two USB 2 ports, but sensibly one is at the back for your mouse and one is at the side for popping in your USB flash drive. A fine design touch is the single hardware switch that deactivates both the integrated Bluetooth and 802.11b/g wireless adaptors, giving total peace of mind against wireless snoopers in public places.
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