Twelve Weeks With The Q

This week will mark the three-month anniversary of my Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 slate tablet, and after three months of usage I must confess that I still have very mixed emotions about this device. I might feel a bit better about the whole thing if it weren’t for the fact that I continue to compare and contrast the Q with three other slates; my venerable HP Compaq TC1100, my so-so HP Slate 500 and my stellar Asus EP121. The root problem is that each of these competitors offers marginally-to-dramatically better operating performance than the Q, and the last three months have demonstrated to me that good operating performance is a very important characteristic to me!

However, let me state up front that other characteristics of the Q have proven their enduring desirablity. The Q’s form factor has really grown on me. The thin, light shape with the grippy coating on the back is so appealing that, after trying the Fujitsu silicon sleeve folio for a couple of weeks, I removed the Q and returned to using it bare, unencumbered with bulky extras. The large, bright screen is another feature that appeals to me as much now as when I first reviewed the Q. Actually, I usually find the screen to be too bright and I typically turn it down a bit, but it’s nice to have some extra brightness in reserve (even if I seldom use it!). Battery life is another strong point, but the clear recognition that it comes as the result of significantly hobbled performance makes this a good news – bad news attribute.

And that brings us to the Q’s real-time operating performance, which is clearly its Achilles’ heel. When I reviewed the Q in mid-July, I focused mostly on singular events; opening an application or a website, starting up or shutting down. All of my testing was done near my main computer (and wireless router) location. In the cases that I looked at, I saw little or no difference between the Q and the HP Slate, minor differences between the Q and the TC1100 and, of course, the EP121 just mopped the floor with the Q as one would pretty much expect. After all these comparisons, my opinion was that the Q was clearly sluggish, but with fine-tuning it looked to be an acceptable compromise between performance and battery life.

But then I started to use it while roaming, and quickly discovered an additional factor, the Q’s weak WiFi performance. In other parts of our house, the Q’s indicated WiFi signal strength was noticably lower than my more expensive tablets, and the Q’s connectivity suffered accordingly. In our familiy room, where no other tablet had ever shown a problem, the Q was hard put to stay connected. Combined with the laggy processor performance, surfing became an exercise in either patience or frustration, depending upon (seemingly) the phase of the Moon or some other esoteric effect. Recent video and WLAN updates did little to improve matters. Ironically, the “stronger” radio performance in the TC1100 gave it a clear advantage in roaming situations over the Q. The Slate also seemed to enjoy better radio performance that also tipped the scales somewhat in its favor. I’m not going to comment on the EP121 because that would just be unfair!

So, as matters stand today, I continue to give the Q a recommendation, but reluctantly. Where it shines, it shines brightly: form factor, construction durability, weight, screen performance and battery operating life. However, the sluggish processor performance combined with the weak WiFi performance is just a constant drag on the ownership experience. It’s not hopeless, but during almost every session I find myself thinking about my XT2 (which is a top WiFi performer) or my EP121, and wishing that the Q was just a little bit faster. OK, maybe a lot faster! I don’t know anymore if Fujitsu has access to a driver or software update that could fix this (at the cost of battery operating life, of course), but I sure wish that they would give us that option…