- ✓Solid design with plenty of accessible connectors
- ✓high-quality display
- ✕Not particularly lightweight or compact
Tablet PCs have yet to take off in a big way, but that hasn't stopped some of the biggest names in computing developing the platform beyond its early iterations. Fujitsu Siemens is one such company, and its LifeBook T4010C shows off some of the best aspects of the tablet format.
The LifeBook T4010C uses the standard 'convertible' design for a Tablet PC, with a swivel hinge located in the centre of the display. Turn the screen around 180 degrees, lay it down flat, and the lid falls into its usual place, but with the screen outermost ready for pen-based input. The hinge is the only connection between the upper and lower halves of the system, and some manufacturers' early Tablet PCs suffered from instability here. However, Fujitsu Siemens has come up with a very solid design: you have to apply a more than accidental degree of force to swivel the lid the wrong way, and there’s an ingenious locking mechanism that secures the lid in the screen-up position and helps the whole arrangement feel stable. One of the ways in which a Tablet PC can be used is held in the crook of the arm, allowing you to stand and prod at the screen with the stylus. We wouldn’t want to do that for too long with the LifeBook T4010C as it weighs 2kg. This is not unduly heavy for a Tablet PC, though -- Toshiba’s Portégé M200, which we looked at in June last year, also weighs a couple of kilos. The T4010C is reasonably large at 29.3cm wide by 24.4cm deep and 3.5 to 3.75cm high, but this does provide space for a superb keyboard with Fujitsu Siemens' usual good feel to it -- touch typing is perfectly feasible. The touchpad, twin keys and centrally positioned rocker for scrolling also presented no problems. The display is a 12.1in. XGA unit with the extra reflectivity common to Tablet PC screens because of the digitizer (for pen input). That aside, the display was excellent in quality. Its native resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels delivered clear, crisp and bright images with an impressively wide viewing angle.
The LifeBook T4010 comes in several configurations. Our review model had a 1.8GHz Intel Pentium M 745 processor. The 885GME chipset with integrated graphics is also present, and our review configuration had 512MB of RAM. There's also a couple of variants with the 1.6GHz Pentium M 725. With a 60GB hard drive, our review model sat in the middle of a 40GB/60GB/80GB range. The system's modular bay housed a DVD/CD-RW combo drive in our review model, although a drive capable of reading and writing CDs and DVDs is also available; the bay can also be used for a spare battery or second hard drive if need be. Both Bluetooth and 802.11b/g are built in, and a wireless trilogy is completed by a fast infrared port. There are plenty of connectors spread around all edges of the casing. With the system in clamshell orientation, you'll find a PC Card slot, a FireWire connector and one of two USB 2.0 ports plus a wireless on/off switch on the left edge; at the back are the wired LAN, modem, VGA and second USB ports. The right edge houses the optical drive sits, while the front is home to the headphone and microphone jacks plus a combination Memory Stick and SD card slot. The LifeBook T4010C runs Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 with Service Pack 2. This latest incarnation has been through a number of tweaks and changes, the most notable being improved handwriting recognition. Fujitsu Siemens includes Corel Grafigo, a rather nice graphics application ideal for people who like to think visually or who need to sketch out image-based documents of any kind. It can export to a number of common graphics formats, and supports collaborative working via Microsoft NetMeeting. Nero6 is also provided along with Norton Ghost and F-Secure antivirus software.
Performance & battery life
With its 1.8GHz Pentium M processor and 512MB of DDR SDRAM, the T4010C should be able to handle mainstream business applications without a problem, although its integrated graphics rule out any serious after-hours gaming. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get the MobileMark 2002 benchmark suite to complete during the test period, so we don’t have the figures that allow us to compare this system with its peers. This is no reflection on Fujitsu Siemens' hardware: MobileMark 2002 can be sensitive to other software installed on a test system. Fujitsu Siemens claims battery life of up to 4.5 hours for the T4010C, and this is broadly in line with our experience with similarly specified systems -- but again, we don't have MobileMark 2002 data to test this claim.
The Fujitsu Siemens LifeBook T4010, which comes with a three-year collect-and-return warranty, shows how far the hardware design of Tablet PCs has come. The screen's swivel mechanism is sturdy, the distribution of connectors around the case offers maximum flexibility, and the display is superb considering that it has to incorporate a digitizer for pen input. To cap it all, this notebook is also mercifully quiet in operation.