It took what felt like a very long time for the Fujitsu P1620 to reach Mobile Tech Manor but in reality it was just a few weeks. Now that I’ve had it for 24 hours I can ask myself "was it worth the wait"? The answer is a resounding yes. Here are my first impressions of the newest little Fujitsu as I am getting a lot of questions from a great many people interested in this little touch-enabled Tablet PC. Hopefully these impressions will answer some of the most pressing of those questions. This is simply a rambling post with my thoughts so far, my impressions of how the P1620 compares to its older sibling the P1610, and how it compares in real use with the HP 2710p I have been using.
The P1620 I bought is configured as follows:
- 1.2 GHz Core 2 Duo
- 2 GB of memory
- 100 GB hard drive
- FIngerprint reader
- Touch screen (passive digitizer only)
- 8.9" screen at 1280 x 768
- Vista Business
- 6 cell battery (extended)
I also bought a second extended battery, second A/C adapter and a port replicator. I haven’t had the P1620 long enough to have detailed information about the battery life but I am seeing a good five hours in Power Saver mode with the extended battery in real usage which means WiFi going all the time. The two batteries will meet my standard of 10 hours of battery life for any given day and I am happy with that.
The first thing that strikes me with the P1620 is the fabulous build quality. Fujitsu products are always built very solidly and this is no exception. Every join is flush and everything about the unit feels well constructed. The second thing that strikes me is how the P1620 is the same as the older models, the P1510 and P1610. This is fine with me because if something works why mess with it and that was obviously Fujitsu’s thought too. The unit is designed with usability as foremost and this new model delivers that like the older ones. The P1620 is also a convertible sub-notebook and one of the handiest features of the swivel screen is that it is bi-directional. You can swivel it to either the left or the right and while that sounds frilly I can tell you from experience that it is extremely useful. Every other Tablet I have used only swivels one way or the other and it’s always the second direction I try. This is not a problem on the Fuji and it makes a big difference for switching back and forth from notebook to Tablet mode. Fujitsu also kept the unique screen latch which goes both ways and either locks it in slate mode or notebook mode when closed by simply pushing the latch. Again very simple but extremely useful for the user.
Taking a quick tour around the P1620 you quickly appreciate the functionality that Fujitsu has packed into such a tiny notebook. On the left side you find an on/off switch for the radios, Bluetooth and WiFi, and a Type II PC Card slot. I use an ExpressCard form modem for 3G connectivity so I have to use an adapter which lets me use that form card in the PC Card slot. It works flawlessly so that’s OK with me. On the Front of the unit you find nothing in particular, just the extended battery if that’s what you get which sticks out about 3/4 of an inch in front of the device. Moving on to the right side of the P1620 you find front to back the stylus silo, SDHC slot, USB 2.0 port, headphone jack, mic jack, a second USB 2.0 port and the power jack. On the back you find a VGA-out port behind a trap door, Gigabit Ethernet jack, modem jack, Kensington lock port and a ventilation port. On the bottom of the device you find access panels to reach the memory and hard drive, the battery release levers and a connector for the dock.
Right side, in the port replicator (dock)
Back of device
Opening the lid you find a useful array of buttons on the bottom screen bezel. There are 5 buttons on the left of the hinge, page up/down, screen rotation, Fn button, Ctrl-Alt-del. All of these buttons are programmable for a second function that is invoked by hitting the Fn button followed by the programmed button. On the right of the screen you find a brightness toggle (min/ max), a battery indicator, HDD activity indicator and a sliding power switch. All of these buttons and indicators are accessible while in slate mode as well as in noteboo mode. On the left side of the screen is the fingerprint sensor which can serve as a mouse scroller as well as a security login for the computer and programs. What is sadly missing from the inside lid is a web cam as the P1620 still doesn’t have one included. This is the only regret I have about this refreshed model and I wish Fujitsu would include one as there seems to be plenty of room for one.
Open lid, lower left
Open lid, lower right
The keyboard of the P1620 is much smaller than a full-sized one but as I discovered with the P1610 I used for a good while it allows touch typing once I get used to the size. My hands are quite large but I can still touch type long pieces with it no problem. For some reason I have always had trouble hitting the Back Space key and I still do. I don’t know why that is but it’s always been that way. It’s not a big deal as it encourages me to not make many typing mistakes. :) Above the keyboard are three indicator lights, num lock, caps lock and scroll lock. The Num lock key turns the right side of the keyboard into a 10-key device and on the tiny front of the key you can see what those keys are when Num lock is pressed. The Scroll Lock requires the Fn key to be pressed first followed by the Num Lock key to toggle it. There is no room for a trackpad so those who are fans of them will not be happy. I prefer the trackstick control and use this one just fine. There are two large mouse buttons below the keyboard which are easy to use and a small middle mouse button which is useful for scrolling the screen with the trackstick.
Performance vs. the P1610
One area I expected to find the P1620 to be much improved over the older model is in performance. The new Core 2 Duo processor coupled with the 2 GB of memory I got is good enough to even run Vista well, something the older Core Solo processor and only 1 GB of memory couldn’t do in the P1610. I have not been disappointed with the snappy performance in the P1620, Vista runs well and multi-tasking is a real joy. I am finding the P1620 with this configuration to be just as good as other devices I have used and have no complaints at all. Everything happens quickly and it can handle multiple tasks simultaneously with ease. Fujitsu was wise to update the components and I don’t think anyone will be unhappy with performance of the P1620 over the P1610.
Performance vs. the HP 2710p
The hardware components of the new Fujitsu are comparable to those of the HP 2710p I have been using so I felt confident I would see the same snappy performance on the P1620 that I have gushed about on the HP. This is true for the most part but the HP is definitely a better performer than the P1620. I have investigated this to find out why that should be as the processor, amount of RAM and the hard drive is the same in the Fuji as those in the HP. There turns out to be one difference in a major component that I wasn’t aware of and I believe it is the reason the HP performs better than the Fuji. HP coupled the U7600 CPU (same as that in the Fuji) with a newer graphic chipset, the Intel 965M. Fujitsu decided to stay with the older Intel 945M chipset and since Vista is so graphically intensive I believe HP’s choice was wiser. I think the slight performance difference that I am seeing between the two devices relates back to the graphics chipsets and the performance they each deliver. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not unhappy with the performance difference as it is relatively minor but the Core 2 Duo processors were designed by Intel to be coupled with the 965 chipset (or newer) so in my opinion Fujitsu should have updated the graphics like HP did.
Inking on the touch screen
Fujitsu replaced the passive digitizer controller of the P1610 with a new USB-based controller on the P1620 but I don’t see any difference in operation. I am very happy to report that the outstanding palm rejection technology I appreciated so much with the P1610 is still living quite nicely in the P1620. I find that inking, especially in OneNote which is where I take volumes of notes, is very nice and while active digitizers are better for inking than passive digitizers I don’t feel I am sacrificing anything with the Fuji. The digitizer reacts well to the stylus and inking is fluid and smooth on the touch screen just like on the P1610. This is very important to me and I am happy with the results. I do find that interacting with the touch screen on the P1620 with my fingertips is a little harder than the P1610 and I need to press a little bit harder with my fingertips. Again this is not a negative rather a difference I have noted. It is very nice to be able to just tap stuff on the screen without reaching for the stylus in any event and I really miss the touch screen already when I pick up the HP without one for a bit. I don’t miss the HP’s active digitizer at all when I go back to the Fuji so that speaks volumes. I find the P1620 is as fine a Tablet PC as anything out there, better in fact since the size makes it much easier to use in the hands like a slate than bigger Tablets.
You can probably tell I am very happy with my decision to go with the Fujitsu P1620 and while it is somewhat expensive when the components are beefed up where I think they need to be to run very well I can happily recommend one to those looking for a highly mobile Tablet PC. It is a joy to use in the hands for extended periods even with the heavier extended battery and requires such a small bag to carry it in. You know how mobile my work keeps me and the Fujitsu fits my needs perfectly. I should comment on the new screen since Fujitsu has stated it is an improvement. My memory is not what it used to be but I recall the P1610 screen was more glossy and a bit brighter than the screen on the P1620. I haven’t taken it outside in bright sunlight yet to try it out but it’s certainly bright enough for me and I don’t notice any outstanding difference in the older screen and this one that is big enough that it sticks in my mind.