My new toy: Fujitsu TH700 convertible tablet

30 11 2010

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks with the newest gadget in my life – my convertible tablet.  I’d like to give some first impressions and a review of sorts from my short time with this device.

While I have definitely been jealous of the iPads I see everywhere these days, I have not ever seriously considered purchasing one.  The first requirement when I sought out for a new laptop was that it must have a fully-functional keyboard and trackpad for my day-to-day work.  To me, carrying around a slate tablet means carrying around at least two devices – the slate, and a full laptop for when duty calls (or I want to type an email/blog post in under two hours).

Recently, it feels like I have also started spending more time in meetings than out of them, which led me to a second requirement for my new laptop – being able to take notes efficiently, preferably directly, with a stylus.  I really, really wanted to stop killing so many trees with my yellow notepads…  Combining this requirement with my aversion to heavy mobile devices seemed to limit the playing field significantly.  I had now narrowed down my search to two contenders:

Fujitsu LifeBook TH700

HP TouchSmart TM2T

My very understanding wife took me on two field trips earlier this month to the local Fry’s in exchange for some clothes shopping ventures.  During the second trip I gave the HP and Fujitsu a true head-to-head test (they didn’t have the HP in stock the first time) – and made my decision in under 10 minutes.  For a device that is primarily going to be facing up at lights and used in many places that aren’t a dark room, the HP’s extra glossy screen was simply unusable.

I found a good online deal on the Fujitsu TH700 and placed my order the next day!  After just short of a week of waiting I got the first laptop that work didn’t buy me in about 7 years.  I like a clean build and quickly rebuilt my newly acquired toy with Windows 7 Enterprise x64 and my normal software library.  While I had some initial trouble getting the wireless adapter working, I finally found the magic driver on a non-Fujitsu-associated site and was up and running shortly.  Everything else I needed came directly from their driver download site, which from past experiences reminded me a lot of Dell’s.

As a tablet, the TH700 is decent.  I had been liking using Chrome as my default browser, but have reverted to Firefox because there aren’t good touch/gesture controls for Chrome yet.  The Kindle application for PC works just fine, and, although I find the form-factor slightly cumbersome, it’s much nicer than my previous Kindle device – my iPhone.  Watching TV shows on Hulu.com and streaming Netflix works flawlessly.  While the speakers are a bit tinny, I am usually using headphones anyways, so this hasn’t been much of an issue.

As a notepad, I could not be more impressed with the new(ish) Windows 7 handwriting recognition system.  It is simply amazing.  While some of the editing controls take getting used to, I don’t have to use them very often – a testament to the accuracy of the initial recognition, and with no training of the software to my handwriting!

As a laptop, the TH700 won’t break any barriers, but it definitely holds its own.  I can easily run a couple of test virtual machines and several native applications (including 10+ Firefox tabs) with no slowdown whatsoever.  While I am happy with my initial memory configuration of 4GB, upgrading the RAM to 8GB is trivial should it become necessary.

Overall, I am smitten with this tablet/laptop.  If I had any complaint, it would be it’s bad viewing angles, particularly while I am lying down.  However, I knew this was part of the trade-off of going with the semi-matte screen over the high gloss of the HP TM2T.  In conclusion, two weeks in this looks like it was a good buy, and, given the longevity Fujitsu laptop products are known for, one I feel certain I will be enjoying for a while.

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