Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 User Review
30 June 2011
Bottom Line First: One of the advantages of not writing a review in the first couple of weeks of ownership is that you have time to thoroughly explore a product's features and develop a realistic perspective about its strengths and weaknesses. With regard to the Q550, this is particularly relevant. If I had written this review just ten days ago, I would have been less enthusiastic about the "Q" than I am today. Given the Q's critical balance between computing power, bright display and battery capacity, it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that careful settings and adjustments can make the difference between a satisfactory mobile companion and a disappointment.
With appropriate user adjustments, I find the Q to be a good, if slightly quirky, tablet with excellent display characteristics and battery operating life. N-trig's DuoSense digitizer, with Generation 3.5 hardware, seems to work better than other contemporary tablets (e.g., the HP Slate, a Generation 3.0 design), but is still bedeviled with the noisy N-trig Digital Pencil. The Atom Z670 processor is no speed demon, but most tasks are completed without too much lag.
Users who are looking to buy the Q (or its "cousin," the Motion Computing CL900) as a primary computing platform should, of course, have their heads examined. However, as a secondary / back-up computing platform, I believe that the Q can more than fill the bill. While early reviews of the CL900 suggest that it may have certain advantages over the Q, the Q is ~$350 cheaper; to me, that's a very significant factor. As for the details, please read on...
What's In The Box: The Q currently comes in two versions; one with a 30 GB SSD and 19 WHr battery priced at $730 and the other with a 62 GB SSD, a 43 WHr battery and an Embedded Trusted Platform Module (TPM) priced at $850. Prospective buyers are strongly advised to avoid the 30 GB version; in today's software world, 30 GB simply isn't large enough to accommodate Win7 plus a reasonable software load. (It's true that heroic measures can be taken to slim down Windows, but we won't be getting into that here.) The review unit is the 62 GB version.
As delivered, the Q's complement of accessories is pretty spartan. In addition to the Q itself, the box contains:
- A "Getting Started" Guide
- A Guide for the Nuance On-Screen Keyboard (an extra, "slide"-type OSK)
- A Pen Tether
- A set of Recovery Discs (OS and Drivers & Applications)
- A Recovery Guide
- Warranty documents
- An AC Adapter and 2-conductor AC cord (Input is 100-240 V, 1.0-0.6 A; Output is 19.0 V, 2.1 A. The DC barrel connector appears to have an outer diameter of 5.5 mm, an inside diameter of ~3 mm and a length of 12 mm)
- A standard N-trig Digital Pencil with AAAA battery, pen tether and one black replacement nib
- A large microfiber Cleaning Cloth
As I hope most readers know, the Q550 is a ruggedized slate tablet aimed at business applications and designed to run 32-bit Windows 7 Professional. The short list of features include:
- A single-core, dual thread Atom Z670 processor running at 1.5 GHz (max) with an 800 MHz Front Side Bus
- 2 GB of DDR2 RAM
- A wide viewing angle (160 degrees) 10.1" WXGA IPS screen with 400 nits max brightness
- 62 GB SSD
- N-trig Gen 3.5 DuoSense digitizer with 4-finger touch and N-trig battery-powered Digital Pencil
- 43 WHr, 4-cell Li-Polymer removable battery, good for about 6-8 hours of operating life (depending upon power management setting)
- 1 USB 2 port, 1 Type-A HDMI port, SD / SDHC slot, Smart Card slot, Fingerprint Reader
- Weight ~1.9 lb
- 10.8 " x 7.6" x 0.6" Overall
Additional details can be obtained from the Fujitsu site ( here )
User Comments: Initial start-up of the Q was not quite as tedious as the Fujitsu T580, but it still took longer than usual to get the Q fully updated and running with a stabile desktop. It took over 20 minutes to get to the first appearance of the desktop and over an hour and a half before Windows updates and Fujitsu set-ups finally settled down. Note that everything pretty much ran smoothly during this cycle; it just took longer than I am used to.
At this point, with the Q using the Power Saver power management profile, the Windows Experience Index (WEI) was 2.0 based on scores of: Processor 2.0 / RAM 4.1 / Graphics 2.9 / Gaming Graphics 3.0 / Primary HD 5.9 . Note that with this scoring, the Q really should not be running the Aero interface. Switching to Balanced power management, the scores did not change in any significant way.
The desktop was clean and uncluttered, and for those who dislike bloatware, Fujitsu has done a very clever thing. One of the items on the desktop is a folder labeled "Bonus Apps." In it, Fujitsu has thoughtfully included a range of uninstalled applications that the user may want to try (or not). Because the user only installs what he wants, if anything, Fujitsu cannot be accused of cluttering up the installation with unwanted applications! Kudos to Fujitsu for this clever compromise approach. The contents of the Bonus Apps folder is:
- Battery Utility
- Nuance OSK (an alternate, slide-type on-screen keyboard)
- OmniPass Fingerprint Utility
- On-Screen Touchpad
- Port Shutter (a security app that allows you to "shut down" the USB and other ports on the Q)
- Power Saving Utility
- Touch Launcher
- Touch Note Pad
For various reasons, I have not found it necessary to install any of these apps, but I actually appreciate the fact that Fujitsu included them. In addition, the baseline software suite included the Fujitsu Battery Swap Utility, Adobe Reader 9, IE8, the Stylistic User's Guide and the odd Fujitsu MobilityCenter utility. MobilityCenter appears to be Fujitsu's attempt to create a touch-friendly app that does most of the things that Outlook does. It seems nice enough, but since I routinely use Office Professional, I don't have much use for MobilityCenter (plus MobilityCenter seems to have a bug or two that need attention...!).
Since I have already published a couple of interim user reviews on the Q, I'm going to draw heavily from those comments, for the sake of continuity. To reitererate a key observation made above, the Q has clearly been designed with a critical balance between processor power, battery life and display brightness. As delivered, the Q appears to be optimized for long operating life; it's set to Power Saver mode, but Windows Aero is also turned on. Those and other settings make for a strange combination and it doesn't make the best first impression.
The thing that struck me most positively about the Q was the screen, which looks much better to me than the HP Slate 500. Color values look more correct, and they hold up over very large viewing angles. By contrast, the colors on the Slate have always struck me as being too saturated (too "hot"), and the narrow screen viewing angles cause unsatisfactory color distortions with very small viewing angle changes. I also found the Q's larger screen more to my liking because I can write more on it before my palm starts to slip off the edges. As time goes on, I am finding the Q's color rendition and wide viewing angles more and more attractive. During video playback trials, I could watch the Q while it was flat on my table. On the other hand, I had to tilt the Slate 500 up in order to avoid some really serious color distortions in its display when viewed at a moderate angle.
In the wake of Intel's promotion of Oak Trail's (Atom Z670) capabilities, many folks have been curious about the Q's ability to play videos. To test this, I downloaded a 1080p clip to my desktop machine and played it with WMP to ensure its integrity. Video quality was excellent on my calibrated U2410 monitor (I use this same monitor for soft-proofing digital images). I then copied the file to the Q desktop and attempted to play it with WMP. The Q could not play the clip without occasional video tearing and pixilation. I repeated the trial a couple of times with no change in the results. Note, however, that all lesser videos that I tried played OK on the Q. Only 1080p was a problem. This is something of a disappointment since Intel claimed that Oak Trail would have "full high definition video viewing capability."
As noted by me and other observers, the Q seems a bit sluggish in general. Although some tasks are accomplished with satisfying speed, other tasks, especially web surfing are painfully slow (in many circumstances). Adjusting power management and unloading the processor, discussed below, have improved things somewhat, but this is still an area of concern for the Q. Hopefully, Fujitsu and Intel can do something about this with software updates.
I also found that sound quality is a definite shortcoming. With only one speaker, the resulting volume was always lower than I would have liked. Sound by way of the Q's audio jack was OK, though, with the quality that one would expect. Unfortunately, my Q produced an unsatisfactory "pop" (sometimes it was more like a "crackle") the very first time an audio clip started (the sound would be OK thereafter) and occasionally, the sound would be raspy. As time went on, I found the raspy sound quality more and more irritating. I finally got around to calling Fujitsu Tech Support about this; the Tech recommended that I try reinstalling the audio driver and it seems to have worked! I have been testing the Q for about a week or so, and the "raspyness" and "crackle" is 99% gone. With this issue fixed, my only reservation about the Q is the single-speaker volume. Even though it is intended for business applications, good sound while showing customers a product video would seem like it should have been a design priority!
During all of my use to date, the Q's temperature on the left side rear has never more than "warm." I made it a point to specifically run virus scans, and there was no significant heat build-up during those times. In fact, I have never observed the Q getting "hot." This is not to say that there isn't something that could cause the Q to get uncomfortably hot, I'm just saying that it has never happened to me.
The Q's claim of eight hour battery life is perfectly believable, based on my experiences. Although I have not run the battery to exhaustion while in Power Saver mode, my experiments with power management clearly indicate that the Q will run for that long. The real question is whether a user will be satisfied with that level of responsiveness and performance? Returning to the issue of battery life versus processor performance, I have made a few adjustments to my Q that make its responsiveness more satisfactory to me. I have turned off Aero (and thus its processing demands) by selecting Windows 7 Basic in the screen menu under Personalization. I have also shifted to Balanced mode power management. These two steps seem to make the Q a bit snappier and I still get about 6 hours or so of battery life. (I tried Performance mode, but it didn't seem noticeably better than Balanced and battery life was significantly impacted.)
I'm sure that many people are curious to know how the Q stacks up against some other tablets. In a side-by-side comparison with the Slate 500, I saw no significant performance differences in accomplishing different tasks! Start-up, opening an application, opening IE9, navigating to a website, opening a video... neither machine was ever more than a second or two different from the other. (Note, however, that they were both pulling from the same router. Since I have high speed Internet, I assume that this was not a bottleneck, but one can never be entirely sure...!) In Balanced power management mode, the Q's processor spends a lot of time at 600 MHz, spiking to 1500 MHz when tasks are invoked. I switched to Performance power management and adjusted the CPU settings so that the processor stayed pinned at 1500 MHz. I then repeated a small battery of trials with my Slate, whose processor was running mostly at 1833 MHz. This time, the results were a little mixed with the Slate occasionally being a second or two faster than the Q. In at least one trial, the Q was faster. This means that over a few seconds (to open an app, for example), the Q's throttling is more than fast enough that starting from 600 MHz doesn't hurt it... and it does save power. Another important qualification to state about these results is that my Q and my Slate 500 had different software loads (which means, in part, that there were a different number of processes running in the background of each device). The most that one should probably take away from this comparison is that the Q and the Slate are mostly comparable in day-to-day processing capabilities and that neither one has a clear-cut edge over the other...
In a side-by-side comparison with the venerable HP / Compaq TC1100 (running Win7), the Q was usually at least a few seconds faster than the TC, but every now and again the TC would beat the Q. The Q was consistent enough that it is reasonable to say that it is faster, but we're talking about differences that were typically no greater than 5 seconds, max...!
Inking on the Q seems subtly better than the Slate 500 or Fujitsu's own T580. The more I use the Q, the more pleased I am with the inking experience, up to a point. That point, of course, is N-trig's Digital Pencil, which I still think is the weak point in N-trig's current DuoSense hardware set. I find the DP prone to skips, which ruins the integrity of the inking for recognition in some applications, and the limited hover height of the DP frequently allows touch to kick in when it is really not wanted (and causing inking to be lost). For me, a refined N-trig Digital Pencil cannot come soon enough! Nonetheless, the earliest that we are likely to see a new DP is the Fall of this year.
Head-to-head with the Slate, touch sensitivity and response seemed to be the same almost every time I compared them, yet somehow the Q still managed to frequently feel subtly less positive. At times, I suspected that processor throttling might be a factor, but it's hard to see how that could be, given the likely speed of that throttling. I tried at least one experiment to take throttling out of the equation and with the processor pinned at 1500 MHz, the touch experience was not noticeably improved! (Note that I used the Touch Tuning feature in the N-trig driver window when I first set up my Q, and I repeated the Touch Tuning before these tests.) Exactly why the Q seems slightly "laggy" when one-on-one trials suggest there is no difference is still a riddle to me.
Finally, I find the Q's overall dimensions, in particular thickness, very seductive. Combined with a weight that is just under 2 pounds, the Q is easy to hold, even for extended periods. The construction apparently meets some ruggedness criteria, although that's something that I am reluctant to test! Suffice to say that the construction quality looks OK. The back of the slate is coated with a light gray / white-ish silicone or rubberized layer that enhances the feel of the slate in your hands; however, I'm not much of a fan of the resulting black front and "white" back, which looks to me like an unfortunate attempt to mimic the look of an iPad. Despite earlier hopes, the Q does not feature a pen garage, although there is a location to anchor a pen tether. The Q features three tablet buttons along the right edge (in landscape mode). I found these buttons unusually difficult to press.
Final Remarks: In my opinion, the processor and graphics / video issues on the Q look like they might be "fixable" if Fujitsu will get behind their product and demand that Intel supply appropriate driver updates. However, the sound will remain hampered by the low volume from the small, single speaker. All other aspects of the Q appear to me to be adequate, given the design intents and particularly the price point which is hundreds of dollars less than Motion Computing's CL900.
As for me, I intend to keep my Q because of its larger, wider viewing-angle screen. Since I am not much into videos, the 1080p performance issues simply aren't important to me. The audio does matter, but I guess I can use earbuds, and it's not much of a sacrifice to carry them. Like all of us, I had hoped that the Q would be even better, but with a few judicious adjustments, it's good enough. Given time, I suspect that the Q will grow on you, as it has on me.
Upper left: Asus EP121 Upper right: HP/Compaq TC1100
Lower left: HP Slate 500 Lower right: Fujitsu Stylistic Q550
Last edited by Steve S; 07-03-2011 at 11:08 AM.
I have the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 and also the HP Slate 500. The HP Slate impressed me straight away. I was disappointed with the performance of the Q550 at first - in comparison with theSlate 500, which flies, it seemed sluggish and unresponsive. But I spent a couple of days playing around... recalibrated touch/pen, re-installed some of the utilities, disabled Aero, tweaked the buttons and scrollbars for touch, increased the text size, disabled Indexing, installed MS Security Essentials and disabled file monitering - just the most obvious things. Got rid of a few pointless programmes and installed the ones I really need [Office, Outlook and Evernote] plus a few things I like to have ... and the experience improved dramatically. I got a Vikuiti screen protector and for some reason the touch response improved as well! The Q550 is now on a performance par with the Slate 500, and I have to say that I'm more than happy with both. Of course neither are as fast as my desktop. Who cares? They're mobile devices! And after the tweaks [even when set on high performance with radios on] they give me 4 hrs plus [Slate] and 6 hours plus [Q550]. The inking is great on both, and the combination of touch and pen makes the UI so easy. Oh, I forgot - the new Opera mobile browser works great too. I sometimes wonder about all the criticism these Windows devices receive ... if I wanted to watch hi-def videos all day I'd get a different device!
<<...I got a Vikuiti screen protector and for some reason the touch response improved...>>
Phil: Unless you are using another product, Vikuiti (ARMR-200) is not compatible with the N-trig DuoSense digitizer (and probably not any other brand of capacitive digitizer)
Otherwise, glad that you are enjoying your Q.
Steve: pleasure to be here. But I don't understand your comment... surely if the Vikuiti screen protector isn't compatible then the digitizer won't work ... ? But it does ... everything about it works fine, pen, four-finger gesture touch, whatever ... and better than without!!! So .... ???
PS ... I've got a Vikuiti s/p on my Slate 500 also!!! No problem at all.
<<...I don't understand your comment...>>
Hi, Phil: When you say "Vikuiti," you're talking about a brand name that encompasses a whole series of film products. My comment was intended to warn Q customers that not all Vikuiti products are compatible with N-trig's DuoSense digitizer. Vikuiti's anti-reflection film, ARMR-200, is perhaps the most popular product under this brand, and some associate the Vikuiti name exclusively with that product. It is not compatible. So when you say "Vikuiti," you also need to specify which Vikuiti product you're talking about: Anti-Reflection, Display Protection, Multi-Functional, Brightness Enhancement...
...Which film are you talking about, by the way...???
OK, I get it now. Thanks :-). The one I bought for the Q550 was advertised as "Vikuiti ADQC27 Screen Protector for Fujitsu Stylistic Q550", so I guess they get it right!
...ADQC27 is a product of 3M-Germany. Interestingly, it is not listed on the 3M-US site. If it is working for you, that's great, and others can buy with confidence based on your experience...
Bluetooth quit working: (Seems like this should be a new thread, but I don't see how to start one.)
My first q550 had multiple problems, esp. Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (both Microsoft) would suddenly quit at the same time, forcing me to remove and add them. Tech support clueless. I sent it back. Fujitsu claimed to test it, but the problem recurred. They sent me a new one in exchange. Same problem. I decided to work around it rather than return for refund. Yesterday it seemed to quit for good. I hard booted, removed devices, readded them. To no avail. When I add the devices BT recognizes them and claims to install device driver, but the led keeps blinking red-green and the devices don't work.