Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fujitsu LifeBook T2020

Fujitsu just recently updated their popular business tablet the T2010 with a new processor and chipset. Welcome the LifeBook T2020, which we got our hands on for review. This tablet has the same design, build, display and most of the features just better in the performance department. Check out our review of this sleek, lightweight LifeBook.

The Fujitsu LifeBook T2020 Tablet PC specs as reviewed (starting price: $1,699)

* Intel Core 2 Duo U9300 1.2GHz, optional U9400 1.4GHz processor

* Intel GS45 chipset

* 120GB (5400 rpm) hard drive, SSD optional

* 2GB DDR3-800Mhz SDRAM

* Windows Vista Business with OneNote 2007

* 12.1" WXGA indoor/outdoor active digitizer display with wide viewing angles (1280x800)

* Integrated speakers

* 2 x USB

* 1 x VGA - 15 pin

* 1 x IEEE 1394 (Firewire)

* 1 x Type I/II PCMCIA slot

* 1 x Smart Card slot

* 1 x Media card reader

* 1 x Microphone-in and 1 x Headphone

* Atheros XSPAN (802.11a/b/g/n)

* RJ-45 and RJ-11

* 10/100/1000 Ethernet

* Bluetooth 2.0

* High-capacity 6-cell Lithium-Ion battery

* Weight: 3.8lbs.

* Dimensions: 11.9" (Width) x 8.8" (Depth) x 1.36" (Thick)

Design and Build
The T2020 has a simple design that is sleek and appealing. It has that business feel to it, compact and lightweight, at 3.8lbs. It would be perfect for college students as well considering how small it is and the active digitizer is great for note-taking. The graphite color hides dirt very well and keeps the tablet looking professional. The chassis is solid and there is minimal flex, except for the keyboard area, which I will get to later.

There are a few dedicated tablet buttons on the bottom of the screen that change the screen orientation and function. They are very convenient, especially when using the T2020 in tablet mode. As I mentioned before this review is very similar to the T2010 review because none of the design features have changed.

The hinge is solid and feels sturdy. The screen doesn't wobble much, even when tapped. It has Fujitsu's signature bi-directional hinge as well. The entire design is solid and the battery being located in the front isn't an inconvenience at all. I thought it may be awkward, but it makes for a nice palm rest. Although, there is no optical drive, the T2020 is packed with a good variety of features and you can always get the docking solution for more.

The active digitizer is great and the 12.1" WXGA screen is flawless. You can adjust the brightness level to your liking and I didn't notice much graininess. The colors are bright and vivid, so much that I almost forgot I was working with a tablet instead of a notebook. I didn't have any problems taking notes and since the T2020 has a bi-directional hinge it's great for presentations. It automatically changes orientation in tablet mode as well. The screen does have a glossy finish, but it's not that reflective. In fact it has great viewing angles and is readable outdoors.

Processor and System Performance
The T2020 I reviewed has a Intel Core 2 Duo U9300 1.2GHz processor and a 120GB hard drive. It didn't show any signs of lag at all. It booted-up quickly and had no problems surfing the Web or running the benchmarks. It did make a little noise when running the benchmarks, so you will know when this tiny machine is hard at work and there was a little CPU whine when idling. The T2020 is an improvement from its predecessor, the T2010. The benchmark scores are improved and the GS45 graphics and processor are to thank. Remember though, the T2020 isn't for gamers or power fiends.

Don't get me wrong the keyboard has a nice design, it's just a little to soft and springy for my liking. When you are typing you can actually see the keys flex. Although, it is very easy to read since the characters are bolded and plenty big enough and there isn't any shortened keys. Everything looks small though including the space bar because Fujitsu didn't compromise any room on this design. Some users may feel a bit cramped. I wish they would have changed the design a little on the T2020, but it is the same keyboard as the T2010.

There isn't a touchpad just the pointing stick, which is very responsive and easy to get adjusted too. I mean there is barely a palm rest, so where would Fujitsu put a touchpad. Actually the palm rest is the battery, which connects in the front. The location of the battery didn't bother me though and it never got hot. This is definitely the perfect travel companion, nice and compact. I would have liked to see a little more grip on the pointing stick like Lenovo's because your finger can loose its place.

The pen feels solid in your hand and is responsive. It has an eraser too, which is a convenient feature. It is easy to take notes with because the pen flows nicely on the screen and doesn't feel awkward in your hand. Fujitsu even included a tether incase you want to attach the pen to the tablet, this way it never gets lost, even though the pen's garage is right on the side.

Heat and Noise
I didn't experience any heat issues with the T2020. In fact it ran quite cool almost all the time. The keyboard area never got hot or the bottom. I think Fujitsu's famous suede patches along the bottom help reduce the heat as well. They make it more comfortable to hold the tablet on your lap or on your arm in tablet mode. The only heat issue was by the left side fan and that is because when this machine is working hard it blows out a lot of hot air. I mean there is enough heat coming out to keep your hand warm on a cold winter day. I enjoyed it because my hands get really cold at work in my office.

As for noise, well that is a different issue. The T2020 is about average for a smaller tablet. Even when idling the fan kicks on and it sounds like a hairdryer and I had some CPU whine too. You run benchmarks and you can barely hear yourself talk over it, but it doesn't have a heavy duty processor to compensate the workload, so its understandable. I don't think it would bother anyone in a classroom, but in a quiet library, other people would notice it running multiple applications.

Overall the T2020 has a nice array of features including two USB 2.0, IEEE 1394 (FireWire), External monitor/VGA, modem (RJ-11), Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45), docking connector, headphone jack, and microphone jack. It also has a Type I/II PCMCIA slot, Smart Card slot, and media card reader. All of this is packed into such a small tablet is pretty nice. You can always get the dock if you need the optical drive or more ports.

The small form factor and battery life make up for the price of this machine. The battery life is supposed to last for up to 11 hours with the 9-cell, which is the option I would go with. I reviewed the T2010 with the 9-cell and it pushed about 8-9 hours of life. If you need to be in high performance mode the battery life isn't as long either, but you could easily use this an entire work day. The T2020 I reviewed only had the 6-cell battery unfortunately, but it held it's own. I got about 5 1/2 hours of life from it in balanced mode. Both tablets have the same battery option and design. The battery life is great and I never worried about traveling with it.

I wouldn't recommend listening to your iTunes on this tablet. I mean the T2020 is lacking when it comes to speakers. It has one little speaker that puts out decent sound, but nothing I would brag about. Another problem is in tablet mode the speaker gets covered, so your sound becomes muffled. I listened to a few rock and jazz songs, which sounded fine at mid-volume level, but once you go above that it starts getting distorted. The headphone and microphone jacks come in handy though. I was hoping Fujitsu might have updated the speakers as well, but no luck.

OS and Software
The T2020 I reviewed had Vista Business and OneNote 2007. Vista worked great considering the T2020 had 2GB RAM and OneNote was great for taking notes. It didn't have much bloatware to uninstall or anything that was bothersome.

The T2020 connected to the Internet with no problems, and it seemed to have better signal strength compared to the T2010. It does have Atheros XSPAN 802.11a/b/g/n that is nice on the go. The Bluetooth comes in handy if you want to connect a mouse, which some users will because they can't get past the pointing stick. However, coming soon to the T2020, optional AT&T Wireless Broadband Connect (3G HSUPA), which will be the way to go.

The LifeBook T2020 was impressive. I mean the display alone is reason enough for buying this tablet, besides the great battery life and 9-cell option. Fujitsu notebooks usually have nice screens, and the T2020 was no different. I enjoyed the bi-directional hinge too, which is great for viewing at many different angles. The tablet is small and lightweight enough to take anywhere. Perfect for road-warriors, college students and business professionals alike. It has a nice variety of ports and the option for a dock. The upgraded chipset and processor pep this tablet up and give it better benchmarks compared to its predecessor. It is solid performance wise, I just like to see little design changes with updates too. I would have liked to see a stiffer keyboard because it flexed to much for my liking and I am sure some users won't like the pointing stick, but that is a personal preference. Another speaker or relocation of it would be a nice touch as well.

* Nice screen with bi-directional hinge
* Solid design and chassis
* Lightweight
* Great battery life
* Improved performance and wireless connectivity

* One speaker, which doesn't do any justice
* Keyboard has a lot of flex and feels springy

Pricing and Availability
For more information on the LifeBook T2020 check out Fujitsu's webite. You can customize your own tablet or get a preconfigured one with prcies starting at $1,699

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