Towards the end of 2005 Fujitsu Siemens launched its LifeBook P1510, a roughly A5-sized convertible Tablet PC. There were some issues with screen resolution, USB port provision and battery life.
So has its successor, the LifeBook P1610, successfully addressed these concerns?
Measuring 232mm by 37mm by 167mm, you almost feel you could slip the LifeBook P1610 into a pocket (you can't quite, actually). Although its dimensions are identical to the P1510, we see them afresh thanks to the intervening arrival of the similar-sized (although somewhat lighter) ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) in March 2006. In the 'post-UMPC' era, the fully fledged functionality of the convertible LifeBook P1610 is appealing when compared to a keyboard-less UMPC.
The LifeBook P1610 weighs a maximum of 1.2kg. Our review sample came with a six-cell battery that protrudes about 20mm from the front edge, providing an extended wrist-rest area. An optional three-cell battery fits flush, reducing overall system weight to 1kg but delivering shorter battery life.
Whichever battery you choose, the LifeBook P1610 feels comfortable in the hand or the crook of an arm. It's certainly a lot more ergonomic to use in Tablet PC mode than some convertible tablets we've seen.
An additional usability boost comes from the passive touchscreen, which means there's no need to use stylus that active screen Tablet PCs require for direct screen interaction. With a passive screen, you can simply prod with a fingertip.
If you want to use a stylus or require it for functions such as handwriting recognition, there's a plastic one in a spring-loaded slot on the right-hand side of the system. The display, at 225mm across the diagonal, is the same size as the P1510's but the resolution is boosted to 1,280x768 pixels (up from 1,024x600 pixels).
The LifeBook P1610 has a small securing mechanism between the upper and lower sections. This does little more than prevent significant rotation between the two sections when the lid is closed. We'd have preferred a solid clasp.
The keyboard suffers somewhat because this is such a small device and people with large hands may find it a challenge to touch-type at speed. Fujitsu Siemens has made the most of the available space, though. There's a two-thirds-size row of function keys atop the number row, the space bar is relatively large, there's a set of inverted-T cursor keys and a decent-sized enter key.
The small wrist-rest area houses left and right mouse functions, while cursor movement is handled by a pointing stick nestling between the G, H and B keys.
Beneath the screen, accessible when the LifeBook P1610 is in Tablet PC mode, is a power on/off button and a button for switching to Eco mode, which dims the display and minimises battery drain. Further buttons flip the display between landscape and portrait modes, open the Windows XP calculator and Journal application, access the Task Manager and call up a range of settings options. Also lodged in the display surround is a fingerprint reader for controlling access to the system.