For all the talk of the iPad and Android tablets infiltrating the enterprise, Windows 7 convertibles are still the device of choice for serious inking and productive professionals. Fujitsu understands this, and has been in the inking game for years, cranking out LifeBook tablet PCs and gradually evolving its product with changes in the industry.
So it comes as no surprise that Fujitsu shipped the 10.1-inch LifeBook T580, considering the ubiquitous netbook and rising popularity of slates. Business users are clamoring for both portability and productivity, preferably in the familiar Windows environment. The question remains, however, with the HP Slate 500 and upcoming Windows 7 slates from Dell, Asus, Lenovo, and even Fujitsu, does the T580 convertible offer enough of both to compete? Read this Fujitsu LifeBook T580 review to find out.
Our review unit of the LifeBook T580 features the following specs:
Fujitsu is in the business of making business machines, and the T580 looks the part, with a professional black plastic chassis sporting only two Fujitsu logos, one small and one large on the lid, and a gray trim around the center, surrounding the keyboard and touchpad. Compared to the HP Touchsmart tm2t, HP’s convertible looks like a party in a box.
Despite its overly plastic build, the T580 is extremely sturdy, with minimal creek and flex. I’m assuming Fujitsu put effort into toughening up this LifeBook, as it’s thicker and heavier than notebooks of comparable size, even taking into account its convertible design. The plastic also features a very slight texture, which does well to shrug off fingerprints and smudges.
Business users will also probably appreciate the panel access Fujitsu granted on the bottom of the T580, which makes speedy upgrades and repairs easier. Those looking to swap out RAM or other components won’t have a hard time, and that should sit well with IT departments.
Screen and Speakers
The 10.1-inch display (1366 x 768, 16:9) swivels 360 degrees and opens close to 90 degrees on a sturdy hinge. It’s glossy but not horribly reflective, nor is it exceptionally bright even at the highest setting, peaking at 186 nit, with a contrast ratio of 132:1. That’s on the higher end of average compared to other business-class notebooks and netbooks.
The small size relatively high pixel density keeps the grain found on other convertible displays to a minimum. The colors are very pleasant, with just a touch of saturation. Horizontal viewing angles are acceptable, but colors quickly invert at sharp downward vertical angles.
Experiences with netbooks has taught us that running Windows on a 10.1 inch-inch screen takes some getting used to, especially for those that typically rock dual monitors at work and home. And while we eventually grew accustomed to the smaller real estate, the thick plastic border that surrounds the screen certainly delayed the adjustment. It’s reminiscent of the screen border found on rugged convertibles, and while it no doubt increases T580 durability, it does make the overall experience feel more claustrophobic than it otherwise should.
Still, we think 10.1-inches of diagonal screen space is near the minimum for what you need for a productive Windows experience, and even then we think heavy Excel users will want to upgrade to a larger machine.
Of course, the big draw on a convertible is inking, and the Fujitsu T580 offers a decent inking experience through its digitizer and pressure-sensitive N-trig pen. The tip of the pen has a tiny amount of give to measure the pressure input, and requires that users apply a bit more force than typical with other tablets to measure pen strokes. The T580 screen is up to the challenge, with absolutely no bleeding or flexing, but the pressure required slows the pace of inking as users have to apply a bit more force than expected. Also, the feature opens up the possibility of a scuffed up or dirty pen tip scratching the screen.
Otherwise, the T580 offers the same Windows 7 inking experience users know and love. There is a calibration option and pen settings screen (though no obvious way to increase the pressure sensitivity), and Windows can learn to recognize handwriting, which we were happy to experience through two weeks of testing the tablet.
The T580 also registers up to four touch inputs at a time, which can also be calibrated and adjusted. The T580 supports the typical pinch and finger swipe features and there is also a Touch Launcher app that brings up large, touch-friendly shortcut icons for navigating, printing, and other simple tasks. The touch features are a nice addition, and extend to novel four-finger functions. However, they are not nearly as fluid as mobile tablets, and due to the precise nature of Windows and the high pixel density, users will want to stick with the pen for most navigation.
The T580 registers the pen when it’s hovering approximately an inch over the screen, and palm rejection works like a charm, which is good because with such a small screen, it’s easy to bump into task bar shortcuts. The pen itself, which docks nicely in the unit, is on the stubby side, and just barely long enough for a comfortable grip. It’s powered by a AAAA battery and sports one button that doubles as a mouse right-clicker in most instances, in addition to the aforementioned tip. The review unit we received also shipped with a replacement tip.
Finally, the display automatically rotates 90 degrees from a horizontal orientation to a vertical orientation each time the T580 is docked in tablet mode, and vice versa. For those looking for a bit more orientation control, there is a shortcut button to further rotate the display next to the rotation hinge, nestled between a menu shortcut and ctrl+alt+del button.
The on-board mono speaker won’t blow you away with decibels. In fact, they only just reach audible levels at max volume, but the sound is plenty loud over headphones. As for audio fidelity, the sound is a tad tinny on the high end and muddy at low, but it does the job.
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