REVIEW: Fujitsu Stylistic Q550

The market is overflowing with consumer tablets, but it’s only recently that IT manufacturers have started to target corporate users with devices more suitable to business use.

Sure Apple’s iPad has made its way in the travel bags of many executives—along with the iPhone—but it’s not the right tool for content creation on the go. This is where Windows 7 and Android tablets are showing their competence, allowing users to work on spreadsheets, databases, presentations, text documents and custom applications almost as comfortably as with a laptop—but without the bulk and lengthy boot times.

Panasonic hopes its Android-based Toughbook Tablet will be the answer for those people seeking a ruggedised tablet alternative, while Lenovo’s ThinkPad Tablet includes several business-oriented features that answers the call for a professional, durable, secure, IT-deployable tablet. Then there’s Dell with its Latitude ST Tablet and Motion Computing with its specialised ruggedised tablets for field professionals.

Enterprise mobility

Not to be outdone by the growing number of devices hitting the market, Fujitsu’s Stylistic Q550 (£624 ex. VAT) exploits the Japanese company’s impressive foothold in the enterprise market by offering most of the features a highly mobile corporate user requires. Sure the company has a water-defying tablet coming early next year, but the soon-to-launch Arrows Tab F-01D has no stylus and runs Google’s Android operating system―a no-no for businesses locked into Windows applications.

Building on Fujitsu’s long heritage of creating tablet PCs for professional and business users, the Stylistic Q550 (275x192x162mm) builds in security from the ground up, so that it meets the most stringent security requirements of governments and businesses. It meets enterprise mobile computing demands and integrates seamlessly into existing infrastructures thanks to the use of Microsoft Windows 7 operating system (32-bit only).

Windows 7 isn’t the best operating system for touchscreens―the Stylistic Q550 relies on the tethered stylus―but additional licensing and rollout costs are capped since the Stylistic Q550 uses the same software already deployed in enterprise infrastructures. Software licensing really is a big deal for corporates and shouldn’t be overlooked, nor should the ability to deploy the Stylistic Q550 without having to make changes to existing Windows environment security resources and operations management systems.

Moreover, Fujitsu has engineered the Stylistic Q550 to incorporate a variety of technologies—such as fingerprint authentication, smart card reader, embedded security chip, and encrypted SSD—that enable the development of even more robust security systems, an essential feature for enterprise customers.

The Stylistic Q550 is further distinguished by a full work-day battery runtime of around 10 hours using the optional high-capacity battery (the regular battery lasts around 4.5 hours) and an anti-glare 10.1-inch screen (1280×800) that allows for use both indoors and outdoors.

Furthermore, in terms of maintenance, the battery is removable and the overall unit weighs only 690g when a standard battery is inserted (the high capacity battery raises the machine’s weight to 840g). Connectivity comes through the inclusion of 802.11n/a/g WLAN, Bluetooth 3.0 and optional mobile broadband 3G/UMTS, enabling the sharing of documents and e-mail management on the move.

Entering data onto the Stylistic Q550 is relatively painless as it combines a multiple touch interface with a pressure-sensitive pen input. The Stylistic Q550 automatically recognises when users are working with a pen, allowing them to rest their hand on the screen when writing. Built-in handwriting recognition software converts input to text. When the pen is not in use, the Stylistic Q550 automatically readjusts to touch.

Power of the pen

The Stylistic Q550 isn’t the most powerful tablet thanks to Intel’s single-core 1.5GHz Atom Z670 processor, codenamed “Oak Trail”, and integrated on-die graphics. But it runs typical Windows applications relatively effortlessly, helped along by the silently-operating SSD (32-, 64- or 128GB).

Try to run high-end creative applications like video-editing and CAD/CAM, however, and it struggles. Having just 2GB of non-expandable memory doesn’t help. The back-facing 1.3-megapixel camera comes in handy for product shots and site assessments and the front-facing VGA (640×480) camera is adequate for low-resolution videoconferencing in a bright room.

A major benefit of the Stylistic Q550 is that is houses regular I/O connectivity, allowing users to attach typical PC peripherals. There is a single USB 2.0 port, HDMI-out, smartcard slot, 3.5mm headphone jack and stereo microphones on the left side of the machine, along with an SDHC card reader and fingerprint reader at the back. Noticeably absent from the list of connections is Ethernet.

The right side of the machine accommodates the power button, a dedicated Wi-Fi switch and separate buttons to launch a software keyboard, toggle the screen between portrait/landscape, and launch the Windows log-in screen. There are also two LEDs indicating battery and on/off status. 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.

Infinity Lounge

Fujitsu has improved the usability of the Stylistic Q550 by providing a graphical overlay for Windows 7 called Infinity Lounge. Sporting the look and feel of an iOS or Android device, Infinity Lounge is accessed by dragging down a tab that sits at the top centre of the main Windows 7 screen, or by clicking the link on the Windows Start Menu. The interface is adjustable to landscape and portrait mode and offers access to e-mails and calendar information (amongst others) without opening Outlook.

Moreover, additional widgets include an RSS reader, note taker, Internet browser and calculator. Infinity Lounge also provides quick access to altering the screen’s brightness and volume levels, checking on battery life and Wi-Fi connection. Users can switch from the Windows Desktop to the Fujitsu Infinity Lounge or vice versa with just one click. Infinity Lounge also offers a toolbox area that allows users to choose a desktop wallpaper, launch the Web camera software, access all the installed applications, and call up the Windows Control Panel.

Summary

Unlike Apple’s iPad, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab or the other line-up of tablets found in your local PC World retail store, the Stylistic Q550 is firmly aimed at the enterprise market. Pitched at businesses seeking a rugged tablet device that can effortlessly slot onto their network, Windows 7 is the proven choice for businesses looking for a device that integrates effortlessly onto their network. With Windows 7, users get enterprise manageability, security, as well as the ability to run the applications used within organisations―such as Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer.

However, unlike Panasonic and Motion tablets, the Stylistic Q550 is not suited to ‘challenging conditions’ such as aviation, construction, field service and public safety. And unlike tablets from Panasonic and Motion Computing, the Stylistic Q550 doesn’t support a wide range of work accessories, such as vehicle mounting, ergonomic hands-free holsters, or swipe card readers. On the plus side, the Stylistic Q550 is definitely a well built and well supported (Fujitsu’s enterprise pedigree is renowned) tablet that could find its way into many workplaces due to its well-rounded business design considerations.

The Stylistic Q550 is a robust device, despite being plastic, and is easy to use thanks to the familiarity of Windows and Fujitsu’s Infinity Lounge. Our biggest gripe is that there’s no housing for the stylus―it attaches via a lanyard and hangs perilously when not used. The Windows 7 operating system integrates perfectly with existing IT infrastructures and the Stylistic Q550’s security features such as Fingerprint Sensor, SmartCard slot and optional TPM will protect a business’s valuable information. Overall, the Stylistic Q550 is a good choice for corporates.

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