Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 review: Windows 7 tablet offers tons of flexibility and features

The Stylistic Q550 packs business-friendly features but its Atom processor lacks oomph.

Fujitsu is a veteran in the tablet PC game, and that experience shows to good advantage with the Stylistic Q550 (price as of June 1, 2012, starts at $729; as reviewed, $849). This Windows 7 tablet incorporates an Atom processor, and comes crammed with features--a fingerprint scanner, a smartcard reader, Trusted Platform Module, and a removable battery--that make it especially attractive to business users.

Hardware

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Inside the Q550 beats the heart of a netbook. It carries a 1.5GHz Intel Atom Z670 processor and 2GB of RAM. The Windows 7 Pro operating system works, but you'll need patience at times as you navigate the OS. Storage options include either a 30GB or 62GB solid-state drive; and you can expand the storage further via the tablet's SD Card slot.

Wireless connectivity includes Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0. A rear-facing 1.3-megapixel camera and a front-facing VGA camera handle image capture chores; image quality is passable for videoconferencing and taking quick photos in the field, but not much more.

The bottom of the Q550 accommodates a dock connector, a grille for the single speaker, and the AC adapter slot. The bottom of the machine isn't an ideal place to plug in a power adapter, but the tip has a 90-degree bend, so it doesn't stick out too far.

The right side is studded with buttons and switches,including a wireless on/off switch, a Ctrl/Alt/Del button, a screen rotation button (a built-in accelerometer can rotate the screen automatically, but that feature is switched off by default), a button to bring up the on screen keyboard, and the power switch. The only component along the top is the SD Card slot; near it on the back is the fingerprint reader.

On the left side of the Stylistic Q550, at the top and bottom, are the dual microphones. It may seem odd to have two microphones and only one speaker, but a dual-microphone array increases the accuracy of dictation programs and improves noise cancellation during videoconferencing. You'll also find a single USB port, a smart card slot, a headphone jack, and a full-size HDMI port.

The 10.1-inch, 1280-by-800-pixel IPS display offers a great 160-degree range of viewing angles. In my hands-on use, the matte screen helped eliminate glare when I used the tablet outdoors or under bright office lights. The pixel density nicely balances fitting enough information on the screen and keeping elements big enough to touch easily.

Fujitsu's Stylistic line of slate-style tablets has historically been Wacom-based and pen only. But with the Q550, the company turns to N-trig for the four-point capacitive multitouch screen and active digitizer pen.

The Stylistic Q550 is relatively light and easy to hold. The baseline model weighs 1.7 pounds if you opt for the two-cell battery, and 1.9 pounds as tested with the four-cell battery. The soft-touch rubber back and curved edges make the tablet comfortable in the hands. Though it's a bit heavy for extended holding in one hand, the Stylistic Q550 felt light enough to hold in one hand or in the crook of my arm while I used my other hand to write with the stylus.

The fanless design means that some heat accumulates, but the areas that get warm didn't hinder my holding it naturally. In everyday use--for Web browsing and note taking--the heat buildup wasn't uncomfortable. Only the back grew warm, while the screen areas that my hand touched while writing remained at room temperature.

Performance

The Atom processor kept up with my day-to-day tasks fairly well. Exporting a OneNote page to PDF took a little longer with the Stylistic Q550 than on a typical Core2Duo-based machine, but not so long that it interrupted my workflow.

In the PCWorld Labs' performance tests (a subset of the WorldBench benchmarks that we use for desktops and laptops), the Stylistic Q550 performed in line with other Atom Oaktrail-based tablets, but not as well as the AMD-based Acer Iconia Tab W500. It was faster, though, on our Heaven Photoshop image-editing test and WebVizBench test. tests. With the four-cell battery in place, it delivered the second best battery life of any Windows tablet we've tested: 6 hours, 21 minutes.

Though the Stylistic Q550 handled office work smoothly, it stumbled a bit when used for video playback. The Intel GMA 600 integrated graphics are supposed to provide hardware acceleration for many types of video, and if your video is properly formatted to play back with hardware acceleration, even high-def video should be okay. I found that the tablet handled my 720p test videos ably.

Streaming video posed more of a problem. The tablet could stream Netflix to a TV over HDMI, but only if I left it alone once it got going. Any attempts to change the player's volume or to skip to a different part of the stream killed the playback. The tablet also fumbled when it tried to play back a 720p video embedded in a PowerPoint presentation.

If you plan to do any listening to speech or music on this machine, you'll needs to attach headphones or external speakers. The single speaker on the bottom of the unit puts out too little volume to make dialog comfortably audible, even in a quiet room. The headphone jack generates plenty of signal though, making music piped through my external desktop speakers sound great.

Bottom Line

As a business machine, the reasonably thin-and-light Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 ticks all the right boxes--security, swappable battery, matte screen, and active digitizer. The only caveat is the pokey Atom processor. If you run only a few things at a time, and nothing too media heavy, this tablet should be able to handle general office tasks without slowing you down. The machine's usability, battery life, and Windows 7 convenience make it one of the strongest slate-style business tablets on the market today.

This story, "Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 review: Windows 7 tablet offers tons of flexibility and features" was originally published by PCWorld.

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