- Good features and ergonomics
- fingerprint reader, smartcard slot and TPM module provide good security
- good range of optional accessories available
- Could be lighter and more compact
- runs hot
- screen can be hard to see outdoors
Fujitsu Siemens is a specialist in pen-based computing, and includes both convertible and slate-style Tablet PCs in its product range. The Stylistic range of slate tablets has just been through a refresh, and we have examined the top-of-the-range ST5022; uniquely among the three models in the range, this incorporates fingerprint recognition.
As it's a slate-style tablet, there is no keyboard built into this device. You interact with software is by tapping the screen with a stylus. Most people will use the Stylistic ST5022 with the 12.1in screen in portrait orientation, in which case the large removable battery is at the bottom and the stylus is housed on the upper right edge. Tablet PC screens are not touch-sensitive (unlike handheld screens), so you must use the stylus to interact with applications; fortunately this is connected to the system unit with a lanyard, making it difficult to mislay. Given that a slate-style tablet must accommodate landscape as well as portrait orientation, it's a challenge to arrange all the buttons and ports ergonomically. In this case there's the added complication that users may require the optional -- and somewhat flimsy -- infrared keyboard (£89 ex. VAT). Accordingly, there are infrared connectors on both long edges, and next to the SD card/Memory Stick slot at the top (when in portrait mode). The top edge also houses the single PC card slot and, tucked neatly beneath it, a slot for a smartcard that can provide security for your data. The long edge that would form the top in landscape mode houses two USB 2.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks, a FireWire (IEEE 1394) port, a VGA-out port (protected by a rubber cover), plus Ethernet (RJ-45) and modem (RJ-11) connectors. The other long edge -- which would be on the right-hand side with the tablet held in portrait orientation -- is home to the power button and two banks of buttons. The lower bank comprises two navigation rockers (cursor up/down and page up/down). The upper bank is a set of application buttons that variously launch software, change the screen orientation, and allow you to perform other actions without needing the stylus, including changing some system settings. On the opposite edge sits the fingerprint sensor, which is only available on the Stylistic ST5022. Finally, on the back, there's an on/off switch for the built-in Bluetooth and 802.11a/b/g wireless networking modules (configurations vary depending on the model). There's an optional docking station that's rather chunky but incorporates a nice swivel mechanism to orient the screen in both portrait and landscape modes. It includes a modular optical drive bay, and provides additional ports and connectors. You get a choice of optical drive configurations: with a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo unit, it costs £249.25 (ex. VAT).
The top-of-the-range Stylistic ST5022 model uses a 1.1GHz ultra-low-voltage Intel Pentium M 733 processor, which has 2MB of Level 2 cache and a 400MHz frontside bus (FSB). Our review system had 512MB of RAM, and up to 2GB can be installed. Hard drive capacities range between 40GB to 80GB (the 40GB and 60GB options run at 4,200rpm, while the 80GB drive has a spin speed of 5,400rpm; we had the 60GB drive). Graphics are handled by the Extreme Graphics 2 module in Intel’s integrated 855GME chipset; this can dynamically use up to 64MB of the system's main memory for its purposes. The Stylistic ST502x range has several screen options. The entry-level ST5020 and top-end ST5022 models have 12.1in. transmissive TFT displays, while the mid-range ST5021 has a 10.4in. reflective TFT with frontlighting for optimal outdoor usage. The ST5022's transmissive XGA-resolution screen has an anti-reflective coating to boost its legibility outdoors, and it did perform better in this respect than some we have seen. Fujitsu Siemens provides a pouch containing a range of international modem adapters, all neatly labelled by country, plus a software suite that includes Norton Ghost 2003 and Corel Grafigo (for producing diagrams and other hand-drawn content).
Performance & battery life
A Tablet PC needs to be small and light enough to carry for extended periods. At 22cm wide by 32.4cm deep by 2.09-2.49cm high and 1.55kg, it can certainly be held in the crook of an arm without much discomfort, but ideally it would be lighter and more compact. By way of comparison, Fujitsu Siemens' convertible T4010C measures 29.3cm by 24.4cm by 3.5-3.75cm and weighs 2kg. In addition to being a touch on the large side, the Stylistic ST5022 became noticeably hot on its felt-clad underside after extended periods of use. When we attempted to run our standard MobileMark 2002 benchmarks, the test repeatedly failed to complete -- despite the removal of pretty much all of Fujitsu Siemens' software bundle (the presence of other installed software being a common reason for MobileMark to choke). However, in use we found that the Stylistic ST5022 had enough power to run mainstream business applications without any bother. Boosting the RAM from 512MB to 1GB or higher will give you more responsiveness, but you'll be stuck with the Extreme Graphics 2 module, which has now been superseded by the better-performing Graphics Media Accelerator 900 in Intel's 915GM chipset (part of the latest Sonoma platform). Without MobileMark 2002 results, we can't report a formal battery life figure: Fujitsu Siemens claims up to nine hours for the 9-cell, 7,200mAh extended-life Li-ion battery that came with our review system, while the standard battery is a 6-cell, 4,800mAh unit.
The Stylistic ST5022, which comes with a generous three-year warranty, has good ergonomics, and the lanyard for the stylus is a nice detail. On the other hand, it's a bit large and it runs hot after extended use. Also, despite its anti-reflective coating, the screen doesn’t perform all that well outdoors: if you really need good outdoor visibility, go for the ST5021 model with its reflective TFT screen.