Fujitsu LifeBook U810 First Thoughts

by Reads (42,343)

Fujitsu has just announced that the LifeBook U810 — a 1.6 lb Vista-loaded UMPC with touchscreen capability — will be released in the U.S. starting in mid-September at a $999 price point.

This model has attracted a great deal of attention for its very small size and ability to function in both tablet and laptop modes, as the screen can be rotated around and closed over the keyboard.

The following is a "first thoughts" hands-on look at this new device that migrates across to us from Asia, where it was released this past May as the LifeBook U1010.

Fujitsu LifeBook U810

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The Fujitsu LifeBook U810 is an Intel powered UMPC with a 5.6 inch screen. Fujitsu is actually calling it a notebook, which is probably a safer play given the stigma attached to past failures in the UMPC market, but for all intents and purposes it really has a form factor that builds on past UMPC devices such as the Samsung Q1 and Asus R2H. Some might even say it is reminiscent of the Sony Clie UX50.

The Fujitsu U810 has been available in Asia for some time now, where it’s sold as the Fujitsu U1010. If you look to CNET Asia for a review of the device and user opinions, you’ll see a mixed bag of people praising the form factor, but complaining about under powered performance for Windows Vista.

Seen above is the Asian version U1010;
the U.S. U810 release will feature a black lid finish.

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Fujitsu is changing a couple of things about the U810 from the U1010. First of all, the U810 will have a larger 4-cell battery than the U1010 offered. This is supposed to have a battery life of 5.5 hours. Second, the U1010 sold overseas has a white lid, while the U.S. release will feature a black lid finish.

Other than that, the specs remain the same, which is to say they are the following:

  • Processor: Intel A110 800MHz (512KB Cache, 400MHz FSB)
  • Graphics: Intel integrated
  • OS: Windows Vista Premium, Business or Windows XP Tablet PC 2005
  • Display: 5.6-inch WSVGA (1024 x 600) (external: 1600 x 1200, simultaneous 1024 x 768)
  • Hard Drive: 40GB 1.8" 4200RPM
  • Memory: 1GB RAM
  • Ports: 1 USB 2.0, Audio-in, Audio-out, power adapter, Ethernet via dongle, VGA-out via dongle, 1 SD card reader, 1 CompactFlash Type II card reader
  • Wireless: Atheros 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0 (WWAN coming Q1 2008)
  • Input: 56-key keyboard, or pen input via stylus touchscreen display
  • Weight: 1.56lbs
  • Dimensions: 6.73" (W) x 5.24" (D) x 1.04 – 1.26" (H)

The nice thing about the U810 is that it has a quite usable keyboard, something earlier UMPC devices neglected.

The way the pointing stick and mouse buttons have been implemented is good, too. On the top right side of the keyboard you have a black colored pointing stick (Fujitsu calls it Glide Point) that works to move the cursor around the screen, then on the top left side are two buttons that represent left and right mouse clicks. The Glide Point stick works in both keyboard or slate mode, it is not covered up when the screen folds down.

Underside of the U810
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Speaking of the screen, it rotates in a clockwise manner from notebook into tablet mode. The screen is 5.6 inches diagonally and 1024-by-600-pixel in resolution.

It’s quite bright, but the real news is that it is indeed responsive to pen input via the included stylus or simply using your finger, just like a regular PDA. It doesn’t use Wacom active digitized input like a full fledged Tablet PC device.

LifeBook U810 next to a 12.1" ultra-portable notebook
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The form factor of the U810 is certainly tiny when compared to a regular notebook, being half the weight of an ultra-portable notebook, but bulky if you’re comparing it to a PDA.

If you’re familiar with Palm’s Treo 700w device, it’s just over one Treo deep (including the antenna length) and 1.25 Treos wide. Exact dimensions for the U810 are 6.73" (W) x 5.24" (D) x 1.04 – 1.26" (H), and a weight of 1.6 lbs. Which, to continue with the Treo comparison, is about 4 Treo 700w’s heavy.

The U810 won’t fit in your pocket, but it will fit nicely in your hand and won’t be recognized as additional weight when thrown into a bag.

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Obviously with space at such a premium on the U810, Fujitsu couldn’t include every port under the sun. The SD card reader and CompactFlash slot are certainly nice to have, and you at least get one USB 2.0 port.

I addition, on the front of the U810 there’s a connector that allows you to hook up a dongle that can provide for an Ethernet adapter attachment or VGA output attachment. The same connector will also allow for hooking up to a port replicator.

Note the port replicator.
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A couple of neat features include lights that can be toggled on to illuminate the keyboard in the dark, and an integrated web camera with 0.3 MP resolution. A biometric fingerprint reader for finger swipe login to Windows or storing passwords for web sites is also included.

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The big question with the Fujitsu U810 is whether the 800 MHz Intel processor with 1GB of RAM and a 4200RPM hard drive can handle Windows Vista. Based on reports from users in Asia, the U1010 does struggle a bit in terms of performance, which one would expect.

In my experience of spending a few minutes using the U810, a QuickTime movie trailer video played well (no skipping) and the input interface was responsive, though not snappy, and there was some lag when opening menus.

The U810 will obviously be for those users that prize portability over performance, and don’t mind looking at the Windows Vista spinning icon a bit more often than with a regular notebook.

It’s great to get the full functionality of Windows Vista in such a small size, but on the other hand it’d be nice to have a light weight OS such as Windows Mobile 6 so the U810 could blaze through tasks. Ultimately it would be nice to see Microsoft release an OS version that sits somewhere between Windows Vista and Windows Mobile 6 that can run on UMPC devices.

As I said earlier, the LifeBook U810 should be available in the mid-September time frame and will sell for $999. That price is fairly reasonable relative to past UMPC devices, and should help to create a market for this model here in North America.

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