3 Convertible Tablets That Mean Business
Big and bold, the Fujitsu LifeBook T900 is built around a screen that's more than twice as big as the iPad's and is clearly designed for people who have to use both graphics and type.
The LifeBook T900 has a plastic case and a magnesium lid, which is more stable than the Portege M780's case, particularly around the screen bezel. The T900 is the largest of the three units reviewed here, at 1.5 by 9.5 by 12.5 in. It weighs 5.1 lbs. and hits the road with its AC adapter at 5.8 lbs., making it the heaviest of all the three models, too.
Like the others, the LifeBook T900 uses Intel's GMA HD graphics technology and offers 1280 x 800 maximum resolution. Its 13.3-in. display offers 35% more viewable space than the 12.1-in. screens found on the other models I reviewed.
The LifeBook doesn't offer niceties like the EliteBook's keyboard light, but of the three notebooks reviewed here, its 19.5mm keys are the largest and most comfortable to type on. Above the screen is a 2-megapixel camera, but its ability to take pictures is compromised a bit because the display lid wobbles if you bump it when the unit's in laptop mode. The Portege M780 has a similar problem.
Inside, the LifeBook includes Intel's 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-520M vPro processor, which can run as high as 2.93 GHz when needed. The review model came with a 160GB hard drive and just 2GB of RAM; upgrading to a 320GB drive and 4GB of RAM adds $220 to the $1,889 base price. A DVD read/write multidrive is standard equipment.
While the screen can be smoothly rotated and opened when it's time to type, the LifeBook has an awkward clip at the top of the screen that needs to be flipped over to fully close the system or to lock the display in tablet mode.
With the screen sunk about 0.05-in. below the tablet's bezel, the LifeBook T900 is a little more awkward to write and draw on than the EliteBook's flush screen. The display is quick to respond and reliably translated pen or finger motions. It works well with two-finger moves like spinning the forefinger around the thumb to rotate an image.
There's a place to stash the pen on the side of the system, and the pen can be tethered to the machine. The stylus itself is larger than the EliteBook's but smaller than the Portege's. The LifeBook T900 was able to get me to all 10 of the Web addresses that I wrote on the handwriting interface.
Along one side of the bezel is a control panel with five buttons that emulate the Tab, Shift and Enter keys, plus others (using a separate function button). In addition, you can press a button to rotate between landscape and portrait orientations. Like the other tablets in this group, it doesn't automatically rotate the screen's orientation as you move it.
For security purposes, you can set the control panel so that it requires anyone who wants to use the system to enter a sequence of numbers (each button is also numbered). The LifeBook T900 also has a smart card reader and a fingerprint scanner.
On the other side of the bezel is what Fujitsu calls a Scroll Sensor, which is like a touchpad but only works up and down. It offers more precise control than using the touchscreen alone, and it can help users quickly fly through Web pages and long documents. I prefer the Cross-Function button that's on the Portege M780, however, which can work horizontally and vertically.
The LifeBook's 5200mAh (milliampere-hour) battery was able to run for three hours and 11 minutes, twice as long as that of the EliteBook 2740p.
The LifeBook T900 comes with a dial-up modem as well as Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth and 80211a/b/g/n Wi-Fi; the wireless had a disappointing range of only 90 feet, the shortest of the three. An optional AT&T 3G module costs $125.
Around the edge of the system are a reasonable assortment of ports, including three USB ports, a connection for an external monitor, headphone and microphone jacks, FireWire and ExpressCard ports and a flash card reader.
Like the others in this roundup, the LifeBook T900 comes with Windows 7 Professional. The LifeBook's standard warranty covers the machine for just one year, whereas the EliteBook and Portege models I reviewed have three-year warranties.
The LifeBook T900 starts at $1,889; the unit I reviewed sells for $1,989. While it's the biggest and heaviest of the three machines reviewed here, the LifeBook is a fully equipped business travel computer that is just as good for typing as it is for drawing or scribbling.