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Fujitsu LifeBook T4020D Review

January 1, 2007

in All Articles,Laptops and netbooks

This is a review of the Fujitsu T4020D, one of those fancy, new-fangled “Tablet PCs“. A Tablet PC is essentially a laptop with stylus touchscreen capability. Draw and write on the screen, and have your writing and pictures stored electronically. Tablet PCs also have the capability to turn your handwriting into machine-readable text, though my testing shows this is one aspect that could be greatly improved.

This article assumes you know the basics of Tablet PCs, and you’re concerned specifically with a review of the Fujitsu LifeBook T4020D. Below, find my observations, recommendations and personal preferences, all from having used the T4020D for about six months.

First, some “action shots”. Here’s what the LifeBook looks like as its being rotated from standard laptop configuration to a tablet format:

Fujitsu LifeBook T4020D Benefits

Portability: The laptop is nicely portable, small and light. Screen size is a little small, but I got used to it quickly. It fits 1024×768 resolution nicely (though is unable to run at higher resolutions without screen-scrolling). If you’re planning on using this machine for a lot of desk work, however, I’d recommend an external monitor and keyboard.

Quick-access: When the laptop is rotated down to Tablet mode, there is a group of five customizable buttons, giving the user access to frequently-used programs and functions without requiring the stylus.

Good battery life: By taking out the hot-swappable CD drive, I can put in an extended battery. Using the combined might of two batteries, I can get about 5-6 hours of use if wireless devices (networking and Bluetooth) are turned off. With wireless turned on, I get 3-4 hours of battery life.

With the “Fujitsu Driver Update” tool, all Fujitsu drivers are kept at the latest version. Extremely handy, making administration easier.

Fujitsu LifeBook T4020D problems, limitations and usage notes

The screen is only touch-sensitive if you use the required stylus. I’d prefer a truly “touch” sensitive screen, one that responds to finger pokes, making basic use and screen navigation much easier. This isn’t a large issue, but I don’t like being limited to a stylus.

The integrated memory stick reader doesn’t read MagicGate MemoryStick Pro memory sticks. According to the documentation, it should. Not sure if this is correctable by future driver upgrades.

The keyboard is a little cramped, relegating popular function keys (like Home, End and Print Screen) to an ALT-command sequence. Not an issue if you rarely use those keys, but something I had to get used to:

Microsoft’s handwriting recognition takes practice. It’s difficult when there’s no graphic description of how to draw letters. But you can use the “Dictionary Tool for Tablet PC” (see below) to slightly customize your handwriting recognition and add words to dictionary. Or play the several Tablet PC handwriting recognition games located at the link above. Getting reliable handwriting recognition on a Tablet PC is possible, but requires practice. Lots of it.

Should I get a Tablet PC? Why should I get a Tablet PC? What advantages does a Tablet PC have over regular laptops?

Those who would benefit from a Tablet PC are those who need to take frequent and long notes, but also have the time available to plug in recharge batteries, and the prep time to wait for a laptop boot if needed. Suitable professions include doctors, lawyers and students.

Those who wouldn’t benefit as much from a Tablet PC are people needing fast access to note-taking devices, like fiction writers, comedians and reporters, all of who need to write down ideas and notes quickly as they occur. If you simply must have a Tablet PC, I’m not one to stop the forward march of technology. Just make sure you have a classic backup like a paper notepad and pen. Or compromise with a voice recorder.

Tablet PC resources

A good page to start with is Microsoft’s list of Tablet PC Powertoys.

The tablet, stylus and Microsoft’s Powertoys give us new ways of interacting with our PCs. This could involve creating new fonts based on your handwriting, to improving old applications with Tablet PC technology, to using the advantage of Tablet PCs for education: Microsoft’s “Physics Illustrator for Tablet PC” is an example. Design gravity and physics experiments by drawing and moving your experimental controls directly on the laptop screen. Also included in the list are Tablet PC games, some for fun, some for helping the user practice handwriting recognition. And don’t forgetMicrosoft OneNote, an application specifically designed to easily incorporate typed, written text as well as graphics. The below graphic illustrates this (as well as my complete lack of any artistic talent):


I’d recommend the Fujitsu LifeBook T4020D. I use Microsoft OneNote fairly regularly, both for taking fast notes when consulting (it’s more polite than typing furiously while someone talks), and for drawing quick schematics of network topology. My job entails using it at multiple locations every day, and I’ve had no problems with the multiple bumps and bonks inevitable during transport. It looks good and is fun to show off. As I came from a slightly larger laptop, I had to get used to size issues. But if you’re comfortable with a slightly smaller-sized screen and keyboard, you’ll like the T4020D.

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