Fujitsu Q550 – Not As Ready For Prime Time As It Should Be

The Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 is the latest Atom-powered tablet to reach user’s hands, and the result is a distinctly mixed bag of noteworthy capabilities and deficiencies. Potential buyers will likely want to compare it to HP’s Slate 500 and it should come as no surprise that the processor performance of these two devices is nearly identical. After familiarizing myself with my Q550 for the past week, I have put together a preliminary series of comments that I hope will be helpful:

<> With regard to the “Q,” much has been made about its ability, or lack of ability, to play 1080p videos. If all you want it to do is play such videos, pass on this slate (based on this and next item). I downloaded a 1080p clip to my desktop machine and played it with WMP to ensure its integrity. Video quality was excellent on my calibrated Dell U2410 monitor (I use this same monitor for soft-proofing digital images). I then copied the file to the Q desktop and attempted to play it with WMP. The Q could not play the clip without occasional video tearing and pixilation. I repeated the trial a couple of times with no change in the results. Note, however, that all lesser videos that I tried played OK on the Q. Only 1080p was a problem.

<> Sound quality is a definite shortcoming. With only one speaker, the resulting volume was always lower than I would have liked and more than occasionally “raspy.” Sound through earbuds was OK, though. Unfortunately, the Q produces an unsatisfactory “pop” (sometimes it’s more like a “crackle”) at the very start of an audio clip, as if the audio decoder is, perhaps, initializing. Thereafter, the sound will be OK. In my opinion, there is not excuse for the audible ‘blemishes” in the Q’s sound reproduction.

<> In a side-by-side comparison with the Slate 500, I saw no significant performance differences in accomplishing different tasks! Starting-up, opening an application, opening IE9, navigating to a website, opening a video… neither machine was ever more than a second or two different from the other. (Note that they were both pulling from the same router. Since I have high speed Internet, I assume that this was not a bottleneck and, in any event, the router would have no effect on start-up or the opening of an application.) For reference, my Asus EP121 starts up in less than half the time that it took the Q (20 seconds versus about 45 seconds). It was no contest at all.

<> In a side-by-side comparison with the TC1100 (running Win7), the Q was usually at least a few seconds faster than the TC, but every now and again the TC would beat the Q at completing a task. The Q was consistent enough that it is reasonable to say that it is faster, but differences that we’re talking about were on the order of maybe 5 seconds or so…!

<> The screen on the Q looks much better to me than the Slate. Color values look more correct, and they hold up very well over large viewing angles. The colors on the Slate have always struck me as being too saturated (too “hot”), and the Slate’s narrow screen viewing angles cause further color distortion with little viewing angle change. I also find the Q’s larger screen more to my liking because I can position my hand and write more on it before my palm starts to slip off the edges.

<> During the lengthy Windows initialization and start-up, and in all my other tests, the temperature on the left side rear was never more than “warm.” I made it a point to specifically run virus scans, and there was no significant heat build-up during those times.

<> The Q’s claim of eight hour battery life is perfectly believable, based on my experiences, and I was running in Balanced power management mode. In various trials, running for at least 4+ hours at a shot, the battery was never significantly below about 50% capacity. During many trials, I noted that the CPU seemed to be aggressively throttled and tended to run at only 600 MHz for much of the time. While this is surely a major component in the Q’s long operating life, the “slow” processor may be partially responsible for other owner’s complaints about sluggish behavior (in particular, touch?).

<> Inking seems subtly better than both the Slate and Fujitsu’s own T580. Head-to-head with the Slate, touch curiously seemed to be the same almost every time I compared the two machines, yet somehow touch frequently felt subtly less positive on the Q. As noted above, I suspect that the aggressive processor throttling might be a factor. With the processor running at 600MHz, an initial touch would cause a brief acceleration to 1500MHz but then the processor would slow start to throttle back again. I have not had time to try tweaking the power management settings to see if they make any difference.

<> The Q’s overall dimensions, in particular thickness, are acceptable to me. Length is nearly identical to the TC1100 and the width is a fraction of an inch smaller. Of course, the Q is noticeably thinner than the TC. Weight seems comfortable, and the construction fit and finish look OK, although I am not a fan of the black front and white rear. I found the tablet buttons, along the right edge, to be hard to press. Despite earlier hopes, the Q does not feature a pen garage, but it does have an anchoring point for a pen tether.

In summary, the processor and graphics / video issues look to be “fixable” IF Intel steps up and supplies driver updates. The sound issues may / may not be fixable. Certainly, the low volume from the small, single speaker isn’t going to change, but a driver update may be able to fix the distracting popping and crackling sounds. All other aspects of the Q appear to me to be good, given the design intents and the price point. In particular, the screen is excellent and the Q’s overall dimensions makes it very comfortable to work on.

Despite its deficiencies, I will be keeping my Q largely due to its nice intermediate size. My Slate 500 is simply too small. Since I am not much into videos, the Q’s 1080p performance issues aren’t terribly important to me. The audio does matter though, but I guess I can use earbuds, and it’s not much of a sacrifice to carry them.

Like all of us, I had hoped that the Q would be better, but compared to its immediate competition, I guess it’s good enough for now. Let’s hope that Fujitsu and Intel support this new product with the driver improvements that we, and it, deserve. A few minor improvements would make all the difference!