If you can't decide whether you should get a new laptop or opt for a tablet instead, maybe the Fujitsu LifeBook T580 could be the answer. It's a 10.1-inch laptop with a multi-touch screen that can be rotated and snapped back against the keyboard to turn it into a tablet.
Priced at around £900, the T580 is significantly cheaper than Fujitsu's other tablet-laptop hybrids, such as the LifeBook T900, which we reviewed last year.
Given its small, 10.1-inch screen, it's no surprise to find that the T580 is pretty similar in size to your average netbook. It's slightly thicker, though, as extra girth is needed for the twisting mechanism of the display.
The T580 isn't the prettiest machine we've ever had in for review, with the two-tone matte black and chrome finish failing to add much in the way of visual flair. It's also slightly heavy, at 1.4kg, which is something to bear in mind if you planning on using it as a tablet device for prolonged periods.
Nevertheless, the T580 does feel well-built. There's very little flex in the chassis and the rotating mechanism of the screen feels like it's built to last too.
Fujitsu has done a reasonably good job of fitting a keyboard into the T580's small chassis. The keys are large enough to comfortably touch type on and the action is fast and smooth. The trackpad is on the small side, but the dimpled surface helps your finger to glide across it smoothly.
As you'd perhaps expect, given the small size of the machine, the T580 doesn't offer a huge variety of ports. For example, there are only two USB sockets and it lacks the PC Card slot that you find on many ultra-portable laptops. There are, however, both HDMI and VGA outputs for connecting the T580 to an external display. Fujitsu has managed to cram in a memory-card reader and Smart Card slot too, along with a fingerprint reader on the left side of the display.
The T580 offers Wi-Fi connectivity, but there's also the option to add an integrated 3G modem with GPS. This wasn't included in our review sample.
The most interesting aspect of the T580 is its rotating screen, which allows it to be used both as a laptop and a tablet. The screen is relatively small, but its resolution of 1,366x768 pixels means that text and graphics look very crisp. The surface of the display has a glossy finish that's quite reflective, though. It's something that's especially noticeable if you're using the T580 indoors under bright lights.
The touchscreen can be operated either by just tapping on it with your finger, or using the stylus that's tucked away in a slot under the front of the chassis. Using your finger is fine for simple tasks like scrolling down Web pages or launching applications. But the small screen size and fairly high resolution mean that, for more precise control, you really do have to resort to using the stylus.
The screen also supports multi-touch, so you can use the pinch-to-zoom gesture in Windows 7 applications like the photo viewer.
The T580 doesn't have the meatiest of specs. Fujitsu has opted for a rather modest, dual-core Intel Core i3-380UM chip that ticks over at 1.33GHz. This is helped along by a slightly stingy 2GB of memory. Nevertheless, the T580 managed to clock up a score of 3,476 in the PCMark05 benchmark test, which is respectable and shows that it will handle most business tasks without too much hassle.
The T580 is less impressive when it comes to 3D performance, however. It only managed to wheeze its way to a score of 1,206 in 3DMark06, so this isn't a machine that you'll be able to play the latest games on. You may be able to get the laptop to run a few older 3D titles at a decent frame rate, though.
Using a relatively low-powered processor has helped Fujitsu to boost the T580's battery life. In the intensive Battery Eater Classic test, it managed to keep running for 2 hours and 40 minutes, which is significantly better than the T900 managed, hanging on for just 1 hour and 5 minutes. But you'll still get much longer real-world battery life from the iPad or many Android tablets.
Overall, the Fujitsu LifeBook T580 is a solid ultra-portable laptop with decent battery life. But we think its weight, design and small screen make it much less successful as a tablet.
Edited by Charles Kloet