Fujitsu Stylistic Q550: A Tablet for the Enterprise

Every now and again, whilst I’m away from the office, the gadget pixies visit my desk and leave something interesting for me to play with. It’s a bit like Bagpuss, except stuff works when it arrives and I can never get the guys to wake up when I need them too.

The last time this happened there was a tablet sitting on my desk. I like it enough to write about it.

The Stylistic is never going to win a beauty pageant. Which is a shame, because it has all the features that I usually bemoan the lack of in Windows Tablets. Most of them are designed for the consumer. That’s great, but I get involved in lots of projects these days where the end user wants the convenience of a tablet device but the demands of their IT department make them unusable.

For example, I once visited a site where the IT department had imaged the tablet we were to use and applied their standard group policies. They required a smart card for authentication and forced CTRL-ALT-DEL to logon. You can probably see the problem with that.

It wouldn’t phase the Stylistic.

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Stuff I like about it

  • Removable battery. I’ve played with this for a while now, and I can report that battery life is on a par with the other tablets I’ve played with – four to five hours. That’s good, but not a working day. Being able to carry a spare battery if I need it means that I can be away from a power outlet all day and not worry.
  • Smart card reader. Two factor authentication on a tablet – fantastic! It’s just what enterprises need in order to support these kind of devices. As an IT manager I want to be able to apply group policies to these devices. They are extremely portable so I have to be sure that the data on them is secure.
  • TPM Chip. I can bitlocker the drive on this thing properly. Shame the one I have to play with came with Windows 7 Professional on it. Be careful with this, though: I checked the product information and the TPM chip is an option on the device. I think that’s a mistake on Fujitsu’s part – most organisations won’t check and will probably order the wrong variant.
  • Fingerprint Reader. Personally, I don’t like or trust fingerprint readers for authentication, but I like that I have the option.
  • Matte screen. This is great! Virtually every windows tablet I have seen has a glossy screen. That’s great in the shop window and a real pain in the real world as I can’t see the screen for the reflections. The Stylistic has a matte screen and it’s incredibly easy to read and use.
  • Stylus. It’s much easier to write notes using OneNote than type on a software keyboard. The digitiser on the Stylistic is a dual mode one that works with fingers and a stylus and I like it.
  • Multi-touch. The touch digitiser on the Stylistic can handle four points. It may be able to handle more but I haven’t found any detailed information. Four is better than most windows tablets, however, which tend to deal with only two touch points.

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Stuff I don’t like about it

  • Stylus. Don’t get me wrong – the stylus is great. The fact that there is nowhere to put is is very annoying. It’s a nice stylus, but there’s no clip on it so I can’t treat it like a pen and keep it in my pocket, and there’s nowhere on the tablet to stow it away.
  • Styling. From the front the Stylistic doesn’t look too bad. However, flip it over and it’s been hit with the ugly stick. I realise that Enterprise purchasing teams don’t care about looks but users do. Why can’t it be sleeker. Heck, I’d settle for it simply being all one colour!
  • Fiddly buttons. There are lots of buttons down the side of the Stylistic. One brings up a software keyboard, but it’s not the standard Windows 7 one – it’s a nasty one from N-Trig that crashes a lot. One makes the screen rotate which I view as a bit surplus to requirements – why can’t I simply have a lock rotation button like every other tablet. With the stylistic I must fiddle with a tray app to turn auto-rotate on and off, then poke at the little button to rotate the screen if I have disabled the auto-rotate in an outstanding failure of ergonomic design. There’s also an ‘Alt’ button that I admit to not having figured out.
  • Crazy Gestures. Why do all these tablet manufacturers insist on ‘improving’ Windows 7 with complex multi-touch gestures that nobody can remember and really aren’t useful. I don’t want crazy three- and four-finger gestures. Fortunately this is all software and I can turn it off.
  • 32-bit Only. Why would you release a piece of kit these days that isn’t 64-bit capable? I appreciate that the tablet only has 2Gb of memory (which is enough for most people’s needs) but operating systems are moving steadily to 64-bit and I’d rather not be left behind.

Overall: A Win

Most of the things I find annoying are implemented by software and I can turn them off. The fact that it’s a sexy as a house brick is of little importance to the enterprise market at which it is aimed. Overall the Stylistic has a raft of features that enterprise IT demands but doesn’t sacrifice the key elements of tablet design to deliver them. The Stylistic is not too heavy to hold, is a nice size and has good battery life for a Windows machine. As an enterprise tablet I think it’s a solid choice that supports all the security functionality I would want to enable for such a mobile device.

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