As we've noted before, Windows is a far from ideal tablet operating system — but manufacturers continue to use it on their tablets, so there's clearly a market. Fujitsu's latest Windows 7 tablet is the 10.1in. Stylistic Q550. A relatively small and neat device, the Q550 costs as much as a notebook, with prices starting at £749 (inc. VAT; £624.16 ex. VAT); it uses the new Intel Atom Z670 processor, which is designed primarily for tablets.
The Stylistic Q550 is quite compact for a 10.1in. tablet, measuring 27.5cm wide by 19.2cm deep by 1.62cm thick. It's heavier than it looks, though, at 870g; this is noticeable if you hold the tablet in one hand for any length of time.
The build is quite robust, despite being entirely plastic. Fujitsu's trademark black and pale-grey colour scheme is used, the latter shade adorning the backplate. The back is dominated by a cover for the battery, but also houses a fingerprint scanner and 1.3-megapixel camera — there's a second front-facing VGA camera in the screen bezel. Neither of these camera specs are particularly high, but they're adequate for low-res photographs and videoconferencing.
The screen is surrounded by a fairly thick bezel, and — in what looks like a design effort to make it look less lost — the edges of the tablet are angled outwards. This also provides the opportunity to use icons to indicate the location of side-mounted connectors and ports.
These sit on all four sides of the tablet. Along the bottom edge (in landscape mode) is the power connector, a speaker grille and a connector for the optional docking station, which doubles as a stand. We'd prefer a kickstand built into the main chassis, but Fujitsu has not opted for this — perhaps for fear of denting docking station sales.
The Stylistic Q550 is 1.62cm-thick and carries USB and HDMI ports on the left edge, along with dual microphones, a headphone jack and a smartcard reader
The top long edge has an SD card reader, while the left short edge houses two microphones, a USB 2.0 port, an HDMI port, a headphone jack and a smartcard slot. On the right short edge are LEDs indicating battery and on/off status, the power switch, a wireless on/off toggle and three buttons.
One of the buttons takes you to the main login screen, another is an on/off toggle for automatic screen rotation, and the third calls up the on-screen keyboard. All three of these buttons are small, and we found we needed to press them quite hard with a fingertip to get a reaction.
The screen is finger-touch-sensitive, but also responds to stylus input. Fujitsu provides a high-quality stylus that attaches to the tablet via lanyard, but there's no housing for it on the chassis. That's potentially a problem for anyone wanting to use pen-based input on a regular basis. Fujitsu may have shaved a little off the size and weight of the Stylistic Q550 by omitting a stylus housing, but it's not an optimal trade-off in our view.
The screen, despite looking a little lost in its bezel, is actually a 10.1in. unit, which is a standard size for tablets. It has a resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels and benefits from an anti-glare coating. The display looks sharp and clear indoors and offers excellent viewing angles. Outdoors, the screen remains viewable as long as you stay out of direct sunlight, but does look somewhat washed-out.
The screen's touch sensitivity is very good, but Windows 7 is not well suited to finger-touch navigation: icons within applications, in particular, are often simply too small for hitting accurately with a finger.
The Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 runs a new Intel processor, codenamed 'Oak Trail' — the Atom Z670, which runs at 1.5GHz. The Z670 series includes integrated on-die graphics and is designed for portable devices requiring long battery life — from point-of-sale devices to ruggedised industrial tablets according to Intel. The single-core CPU is supported by 2GB of RAM, the maximum available on the system.
The Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 can be delivered with either Windows 7 Professional 32 bit, as in our review sample and the three preconfigured options, or with Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit. It's surprising that 64-bit versions of Windows aren't offered, although Acer's Windows 7 tablet, the Iconia Tab W500, also ran the 32-bit OS.
Noticeably absent from the list of connections is Ethernet — all you get is one USB 2.0 port, an HDMI port and a connector for the optional docking station. On the wireless side, Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth (3.0) are included, but mobile broadband and GPS are optional features. There are two storage options, both SSD: our review sample had a 62GB SSD, the other option being a rather paltry 30GB SSD.
Currently there are three versions of the Stylistic Q550. At the top end is a model with a 62GB SSD, mobile broadband and A-GPS, along with a Trusted Platform Module security chip; this will set you back £715.83 (ex. VAT). The mid-range model offers these features but a 30GB SSD for £665.83 (ex. VAT); the entry-level model, which lacks mobile broadband and GPS, costs £624.16 (ex. VAT).
Fujitsu provides an overlay for Windows 7 called Infinity Lounge. This is accessed by dragging down a tab that sits at the top centre of the main Windows 7 screen.
Infinity Lounge offers a smartphone-like array of three screens that you can populate with widgets and flick though with a sweep of the finger. Currently available widgets include calculator, calendar, email, notes, RSS reader and a device search tool.
Infinity Lounge also offers a toolbox area that allows you to choose wallpaper, setup and manage Wi-Fi and mobile broadband (if you have the latter installed), fire up the webcam software, access all the installed applications, and call up the Windows Control Panel. You can also adjust system volume and screen brightness, and monitor battery charge.
In many an alternative to a dual-boot system, Infinity Lounge has potential. However, on our review sample it seemed a little buggy. There were occasions when it failed to open to cover the full screen, and it was slow to respond to automatic screen rotation. We do like the idea, but it needs a little tweaking.
Intel's single-core Atom Z670 'Oak Trail' processor is not designed for blistering performance. That much is apparent from the Stylistic Q550's Windows Experience Index (WEI) of 2.0 (out of 7.9), which trails the Acer Iconia Tab W500 with its WEI of 2.7. The Iconia Tab W500 runs on an AMD Fusion C-50 processor.
The Q550's overall WEI score equates to the lowest component score, which was for Processor (calculations per second). A lowly 2.9 went to Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero) with 3.0 for Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance).
More respectable scores of 4.1 and 5.9 went respectively to RAM (Memory operations per second) and Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate).
We found the system somewhat sluggish in general. Automatic screen rotation wasn't that fast, and applications did not run exactly briskly. This may or may not be an issue in everyday use, depending on the demands of your workloads.
One of the key features of Intel's Atom Z670 processor is good power management, which helps prolong battery life. On its website, Fujitsu claims up to 8 hours from the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 — although notes which came with our review unit claim a maximum of 9 hours.
Unusually for a tablet device, the battery is removable, so if you need prolonged mains-free uptime you could carry a second battery.
We tested the Q550's battery life by playing movie footage from a USB stick in a continuous loop on the system's Eco power setting. We got 4 hours and 43 minutes of playback from a full battery charge under these conditions, which is good, but not great. Sound quality was not as good as we'd like, and volume was a little low. Fujitsu may have missed a chance to equip the Stylistic Q550 as a presentations device.
We rather like the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550's overall design: it's not particularly eye-catching, but it is very functional — and although the tablet is on the heavy side, it ought to be robust. We appreciate the removable battery too, as this will help longevity when you're on the road.
Fujitsu has made a good attempt at enhancing the Q550's finger-friendly potential with its Infinity Lounge, but we'd like to see a bit more work put into this.
We are concerned that the processor might not stand up to more demanding usage patterns, and that Fujitsu may not have provided enough internal storage.There should also be a housing on the chassis for the stylus.