Fujitsu's Stylistic Q550 is aiming to trump rivals in the nascent business tablet market by combining the design and form factor of a consumer device with the management and application compatibility advantages of a full Windows 7 client.
Announced in February and shipping since the end of June, the Stylistic Q550 is approximately the same size as Apple's iPad but heavier, and is based on an Intel Atom processor running Windows 7 Professional.
This enables the device to slot into a corporate Windows domain where it can be brought under standard Active Directory group policy controls, plus it features a built in trusted platform module, smartcard reader and fingerprint scanner to support user authentication, and a self-encrypting solid-state drive (SSD) to protect data.
Fujitsu has also included a user interface overlay that makes touch access to many common functions easier than with the standard Windows display.
However, if the much talked about 'consumerisation of IT' trend really does become mainstream policy in large organisations, it remains to be seen whether the Stylistic Q550 can compete against the likes of the iPad or BlackBerry PlayBook; we can see that CIOs and administrators will prefer this model, but whether end users will want it is a different matter.
We found the Stylistic Q550 somewhat sluggish in performance, the device sometimes taking seconds to respond to a touch on the screen, and applications also took a long time to open compared with a mainstream laptop.
Nevertheless, the very fact that this tablet runs Windows makes it worth evaluating for any company with a Microsoft-based infrastructure seeking to deploy tablets to some employees.
Fujitsu has done a good job in terms of the form factor of the Stylistic Q550. It weighs in at just 870g, making it lighter than a netbook, although at 16.2mm it is almost twice as thick as Apple's iPad 2.
With its 10.1in 1280 x 800 screen, however, the Stylistic Q550 is much smaller than traditional Windows Tablet PCs and closer in size to recent devices such as HP's TouchPad and those based on Android. It also borrows much of the styling, with rounded edges and a screen that fits flush with the front bezel.
But unlike most consumer tablets, the Stylistic Q550 supports pen input from a digital stylus as well as touch gestures. This enables handwriting capture, as well as making it easier to pick out small objects on the screen, which is often necessary with the Windows 7 user interface.
Alas, there is no slot to stow the stylus, as there traditionally is with Windows Tablet PCs. On our review unit, the stylus was tethered to the top left edge of the case by a slender lanyard instead.
Despite its 870g weight, Fujitsu's tablet is fairly comfortable to hold and use while standing, although we suspect it could become tiring to hold for any length of time. The situation is a little better if you hold it in portrait orientation, but it still feels heavy compared to non-Windows devices.