I have been very pleased with the usage of the Fujitsu P1610 Tablet PC, as you can see in the video review of this marvelously portable Tablet PC with a touch screen. I have been using it in my daily routine and it has performed very well and I have no quibbles with the performance nor the usability that Fujitsu has packed into the little Tablet. I have also been using the Fujitsu port replicator (part # FPCPR56AP) and this article will focus on that extension of the P1610.
The port replicator is well designed as far as usability goes, and the P1610 sits well on the replicator when attached. The Tablet has a connector on the bottom of the device and it snaps into place very easily when it’s mounted on the replicator. There a a latch on the right side of the replicator that pulls forward and “pops” the Tablet PC out of the dock for easy removal. The base of the port replicator is long enough that it fits the P1610 perfectly with the extended battery in place, a nice design touch that shows Fujitsu’s thoughtful design.
On the left side of the replicator one finds the power jack and nothing else, while the right side of the replicator has only the latch described above. The business side of the replicator is the back of the unit, where we find all of the useful ports and jacks and also where we don’t find some that I believe we should. The back side of the replicator is where we find two USB 2.0 ports, the VGA out connector, and a LAN connector for connecting to the network. The latter is a nice touch as ethernet connections are generally so much faster than WiFi if your network connection is pretty fast. That is the sum total of the connectors that Fujitsu has provided on the port replicator and the source of my major complaint with the port replicator.
My experience with mobile devices has proven to me that a good dock or port replicator should at the very least provide all connectors and ports that are found on the PC it is intended to work with, and the best ones will throw in additional ports and connectors to extend the number and types of peripherals that the user can attach while docked. I tend to use my mobile devices as my main work computer so I like to attach all types of peripherals while docked to provide a total computing experience. I am doing that with the P1610 through the port replicator and while it is fully functional and is working well for me there are a few things I would improve on the Fujitsu design.
I find the two USB ports to be adequate as I have all my various USB peripherals attached to a powered hub that is itself attached to the Fujitsu port replicator. I currently have attached a 19” LCD monitor, a Canon scanner, a Canon i70 printer, a DVD burner, a Seagate 160 GB hard drive, an iPod, my XV6700 Pocket PC Phone Edition, and a TomTom One navigator. This is my normal assortment of peripherals I attach to every dock or replicator that I use and this is working well in practice. One glaring omission from the replicator are the microphone and headset jacks. I hook up external speakers for audio and it is a pain to have to plug them in through the P1610 because there is no jack on the replicator. To me this is a big deal because the beauty of a good port replicator is how it allows you to just flip the latch, pop the PC out of the dock for a quick getaway. Anything that has to be unplugged from the computer just slows you down and it wouldn’t have been such a big deal for Fujitsu to at least put all the ports like this on the dock. This won’t be a factor for some users but if you use the mobile PC as your primary computer as I do this creates a negative experience for sure.
It would also have been nice had Fujitsu included some ports not found on the P1610 itself, such as a Firewire port. I would love to be able to connect my digital cameras directly to the P1610 and the replicator is the perfect way to do that without having to put this additional port on the P1610 itself so the absence of this port is a pity, at least to me. The back of the port replicator has lots of unused space and it would have been wonderful to see Fujitsu fill it up with various ports and connectors. This lack of ports is not a killer but it does mean the replicator is not as useful as it could easily have been. I realize the replicator would have been more expensive had Fujitsu put all of the connectors I’d like to see but those of us using portable computers are used to paying more for good docks.
These issues aside the port replicator is working very well and useful enough that I am glad I have it. The design is pretty good, with all ports on the P1610 that are not duplicated on the replicator having cutouts so they are accessible even while docked. You don’t lose the ability to use those ports but after all it is a replicator so you’d like to see all of those ports replicated. OK, I am repeating myself so I’ll just let it go. There is one usability issue I have that surprises me, though. The Intel graphics don’t work with the port replicator as well as most other docks I have used with other computers. When you dock a computer the graphics system should recognize the presence of the dock and any external monitor that is attached to it but the Fujitsu doesn’t. Sure, when you dock the PC the external monitor fires up properly as it should, but only at the P1610 resolution of 1280 x 768 which looks very odd on a typical monitor. There are no profiles that I can find associated with a docked condition so I have to go through the Intel Graphics utility to change the resolution of the external monitor. Once you set it up you can save it as a scheme in the Intel software, but it still must be manually invoked to change the resolution. This is very aggravating as you must do it not only every time you dock the P1610 but also every time you resume from standby. This should not be the case and I intend to investigate this further but right now that’s the way it is and it is quite frankly annoying. I do find it surprising that the normal Windows XP graphics utility will not set up the external monitor, you must go through the Intel utility to work with the external monitor. This is not enough to keep me from using the replicator due to all the other benefits it provides but pretty darn annoying nonetheless.
I am happy I have the port replicator as it does facilitate connecting the P1610 to my gear and also to pop it out and go, something I do a lot of. I wish Fujitsu would produce a version 2 of this replicator addressing the lack of ports and tighter video integration but in the meantime I am happy to keep using it just the way it is compromises and all. I do recommend the replicator for anyone wishing to attach the P1610 to peripherals and the price of $149 MSRP is not too heavy.