About a year ago, I obscurely mentioned putting a tablet pc to use as part of devising a personal workflow setup in the interest “going paperless” (or at least semi-paperless). I spent a year using the Fujitsu Seimens Lifebook P1510, and, well, I’d like to tell you about the whole “tablet experience”.
It is important to start by noting that this is not only a review of the unit itself, at least not one that goes into the little specifics of the hardware and software (such review are abound on the web) as much as it is the summary of my own experience of using it given my particular intended usage. Reviews, like test drives, are good for forming an initial quick opinion about a certain gadget. On the other hand, spending a significant amount of time with the device in question makes for forming a more in depth opinion on its functionality given extensive use and testing within the context of the usage patterns intended. That said, I primarily used the P1510 for:
- Frequent business travel
- In class note taking
- Reading and digitally annotating e-books and magazines.
- Organizing and archiving research and class material with Agilix GoBinder , among other applications (more on this in another post)
- Occasional GPS navigation (with a bluetooth GPS receiver)
The P1510 is ridiculously small for an (almost) fully-featured notebook. To me, that is both one of its best and worst features. Being on the move a lot, I thoroughly appreciate that much technology crammed into something roughly the size of a paperback novel. This is the first gadget I carry that people would comment on as being “cute”. Despite its high cuteness (and coolness) factor, and after a year’s worth of heavy use- especially in tablet mode, I found out that small and light is not for everyone. At least not that small and light.
Again, its small. Really small (23.2cm x 16.7cm x 3.4-3.7cm). At a mere 1 kilogram it competes in the featherweight class of ultraportables. My shoulder bag felt almost weightless after substituting the heavy Dell Latitude D505 for this little fellow. This is a major plus in my book for any gadget worthy of a road warrior’s quiver. Build quality is top notch and the unit has a sturdy, solid feel to it. The mono-directional screen hinge didn’t develop the wobble that usually plagues such similarly designed devices after prolonged usage.
The P1510 placed over a Dell Latitude D505 (The Dell is in an entirely different notebook class, so this is not intended to compare both)
The P1510 side by side with the D505 (for relative size comparison)
Connectivity features are more than adequate considering the size: WiFi 802.11a/b/g, bluetooth, 10/100 Ethernet, a 56K V.92 modem and a Type II expansion slot. Only two USB 2.0 ports are provided. Also, an integrated SD/MMC card reader is a nice and important feature (especially with the lack of an optical drive)
One side has the audio ports, one USB port, and the expansion slot.
...and the other side has the stylus housing, SD/MMC card reader and a second USB port.
The P1510 also comes with a biometric fingerprint scanner (see top left corner of the picture below) for the paranoid among us. I have never used it myself though.
The bottom left part in tablet mode showing the tablet buttons and the fingerprint scanner.
The diminutive size of this tiny ultra portable convertible tablet is both a blessing and a curse…
Given its size, the keyboard is way too small for any form of prolonged typing. In tablet mode, the very small screen makes for a rather constrained writing, which was one of my major gripes since one of my main uses was in class note-taking in tablet mode. The stylus, which somehow decided to disappear from its housing in the side, is also very small for proper note-taking (thankfully, the screen is a passive digitizer; that is, one that can be tapped on and activated with any hard object, not just the included stylus. So I was able to replace the original stylus with a plastic tipped mechanical pen). Given a trade off between a larger/heavier notebook with an adequately-sized screen vs. a thinner/lighter one with a very small screen, I’d always go for the former. You are just going to need the screen real estate for any serious note-taking, reading of electronic /scanned material and putting the tablet to its best functional use. It doesn’t need to be too large, but 8.9” is just not the most optimal given the usage intended.
The P1510 generated plenty of heat from its underside, which was sometimes just a tad uncomfortable when using it in tablet mode.
Battery life was dismal, to say the least. With the screen dimmed, bluetooth and WiFi off, and other juice saving (and crippling) measure, I could barely squeeze out a little over two hours on a full charge (Fujitsu claims three), which totally beats the purpose of a device designed for optimum mobility. This one came with a three-cell, 2,600mAh battery. There is an optional 6-cell, higher capacity, battery available that supposedly doubles battery life.
Outdoor screen visibility was also less than impressive. In direct bright sunlight the screen is effectively unviewable. This might not be a major issue for most people, but when it comes to using such a unit outdoors with a bluetooth GPS receiver as a navigation solution, this becomes a major deal breaker.
Again, in favor for the very small size Fujitsu decided to do away with the built-in optical drive (an external DVD drive was included though). This was really not that important for my purposes.
The P1510 is a beautifully designed yet very functional convertible tablet. It impressively packs a lot into a very small package, which makes it a true ultraportable, light, go-anywhere notebook (especially with a larger capacity battery). It is best suited for someone whose usage will be limited to internet access and word processing on the go, and is capable enough to handle most software applications you’ll throw at it. However, you will want to look elsewhere if your usage will be primarily focused on the tablet functions, frequent note taking, regular reading, research and annotation of electronic material, and any other forms of more serious productivity on the go.