Fujitsu P1610 a miniature marvel

It began innocently enough: a colleague’s huge 17″ Dell laptop starting a conversation about what makes a good laptop. The majority view in the office being that it should be as powerful as possible, with as big a screen as possible. Even a 17″ screen being seen as too cramped by one who lusted over Acer’s 20″ 9810.

My view is somewhat different. My desktop machine is the powerhouse , and you’d have to prise it’s three 24″ monitors from my cold dead hands for me to give them up, but a laptop is something different.

If it’s so big and heavy that carrying it about is a hassle, so powerful that the battery only lasts an hour, and runs so hot that I can’t even keep it on my lap that long, I’m just not interested. I don’t see the point: It still won’t be as powerful as a comparatively priced desktop, and is only slightly more mobile. No, for me a laptop should be small, light, have long battery life, and run cool enough to sit on my lap for a few hours with setting fire to my trousers.

Much to my colleagues disgust, my mythical perfect laptop would be roughly the size of an a piece of A5 paper; have tablet functionality for ease of note taking in meetings (but still have a usable keyboard); have at least four hours of battery life; be powerful enough to run the basic apps I would use when away from my desk; and have built-in wifi and Bluetooth for flexible internet connectivity. Basically, a cross between a fully fledged modern laptop and a UMPC. Fortunately for my bank balance no such machine exists…

Or so I thought until one of my colleagues pointed me in the direction of the Fujitsu Siemens website, and curious little machine that seemed to meet all of my requirements, the Fujitsu P1610. And so, before I could stop myself, out came the credit card and a few days later my new toy arrived.

Basic specs first:

  • Intel Core Solo U1400 1.2Ghz Processor
  • 8.9″ Touch-screen
  • 512Mb RAM
  • Intel 945GM graphics chipset
  • 60Gb Hard disc (1.8″, 4300rpm)

So, by desktop standards at least, weak, very weak. But, I’ve had it for about week now, and it’s an amazingly little machine, its size (just 23cmx19cm) makes it small enough to take anywhere without being obtrusive. In tablet mode the 8.9″ WXGA touchscreen is great for taking hand written notes on, mostly because it doesn’t get confused about where the cursor is if you rest you hand on the screen while writing. I’ve no idea how it does this, but it’s immeasurably nicer than any over touch screen I’ve ever used. Its also makes a very good e-book reader, being roughly the size of a small hard back book (though a little heavier at 1.5Kgs). I read a lot of technical books in pdf format, and being to do this on the sofa or in the garden is much nicer than being stuck at my desk, especially as I’m easily getting 4.5 hours out of the battery, even with wifi and Bluetooth turned on.

So the tablet functionality is good, but being able to flip the screen round and have a ‘proper’ laptop with a keyboard is really the killer feature. Especially as it’s handled so well, with screen resolution automatically switching between landscape and portrait modes as the screen is rotated. Despite being small, the keyboard is surprisingly nice to type on. The keys are small but well defined, with a decent amount of travel and a nice positive action. It’s no Model M, but it’s a lot better than a lot of the keyboards in laptops literally twice its size, and is fine for banging out emails or short pieces such as this.

In both portrait and landscape the 8.9″ screen doesn’t feel as cramped as you might expect, probably because the 1280×768 resolution means that there is a fair amount of space. Although it may make things a bit too small for some people – one of the first things I did was map a couple of the hard buttons next to the screen to <CTRL>++ and <CTRL>+- to make it easy to increase the font size whilst viewing websites in tablet mode.

It’s only real weak point is performance. It’s quite happy running the main applications I wanted to use it for: Firefox, OneNote, Outlook, Word and Acrobat Reader. But running them all simultaneously brings it to its knees as it struggles to page out to that 4,300rpm hard drive. The upgrade 1Gb of Ram should make a massive difference, but it would have been nice if that was the base spec, with the option for 1.5Gb.

Then there’s Intel graphics chipset, which while adequate for windows applications, isn’t going win any performance awards so high-end gaming is definitely out of the question. That said, it managed to run the latest Sam & Max adventure well enough to be playable if not perfectly smooth. It does have a Vista Capable sticker, but I have to wonder just how much slower that would make it, and I’ll definitely be sticking with XP for the time being.

The only other point against it is price, at about £1400 all in for the base 512mb model, it’s not cheap. But the quality of the overall user experience does justify that price tag.

So, if you want a truly portable machine, and don’t actually need blazing speed, I really can’t recommend the Fujitsu P1610 highly enough. It’s even managed to win over one of the most ardent proponents of the ‘Bigger is always better’ mantra in my office, what higher praise could there be?

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