Why would anyone want a tablet PC? Try holding your laptop with one hand and typing with another. Not too easy, is it? This is one very good reason to buy the Fujitsu's Stylistic 3500. Weighing just over 3 pounds and measuring 11 inches by 8.5 inches by 1.1 inches, the tablet is a full-fledged, Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional-running PC. It's powered by an Intel Celeron 500MHz processor, with a 15GB hard drive and 64MB of SDRAM.
While it's easy to be taken in by the Fujitsu's coolness, you will soon become acquainted with its many drawbacks.
First, the 10.4-inch TFT XGA (768 by 1024 resolution) display, while sharp and bright from a dead-straight angle (indoors and outdoors), significantly loses brightness at the edges when the unit is tilted even slightly. When placed down flat on a desk, you need to look directly down at the screen to see your work. Fujitsu does offer a Mini-Dock cradle accessory -- a $310 necessity for use at a desk.
A great advantage of the Stylistic is the option to rotate the image 90 degrees so that the display goes into portrait mode. The tablet feels more like a clipboard, displaying Web pages and long spread sheets more fittingly.
The key feature of the Stylistic 3500 is the touch screen, which uses a stylus pen for navigation and input. Text can be entered by tapping the touch-screen keyboard or by using the built-in handwriting recognition engine from CIC. Microsoft's Handwriting Trainer application asks a series of questions on how you prefer to write various characters. We experienced some recognition errors but the accuracy improved with a little practice on our part. The engine does not support dynamic learning, meaning the device will not learn to recognize your writing.
The Stylistic 3500 includes a VGA port for an external monitor, a USB port, a sound card, an internal 56K modem, a type II PCMCIA slot only on the docking station, and two IrDA infrared ports. One IrDA port is located on the bottom of the device for use with an infrared keyboard and mouse. For Ethernet networking, you'll have to purchase the Mini-Dock or the attachable port replicator ($310), which provides an Ethernet jack and all legacy ports. A floppy or CD-ROM drive also comes at an extra cost. The device runs on a lithium-ion battery, claimed to last for up to four hours of conservative use.
Most users will find more bang for their buck with a notebook PC, but for those who must roam, the Stylistic 3500 pen tablet offers a well-suited interface that sacrifices much less than today's handhelds.
FUJITSU STYLISTIC 3500 PEN TABLET PC
MANUFACTURER: Fujitsu PC Corp.; www.fujitsupc.com; 800-831-3183
CONFIGURATION: Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional or Windows 98 or NT; Intel Celeron 500MHz processor; 15GB hard drive; 64MB of SDRAM or 128MB (256MB Max); 10.4-inch XGA TFT XGA transmissive display (indoor/outdoor use) or SVGA TFT reflective (outdoor use)
PROS: Cool form factor; portrait display mode; convenient for very mobile work
CONS: Expensive; lots of optional accessories; handwriting recognition can be frustrating