Selecting the right tool for any job requires a proper assessment of needs. After all, you wouldn't reach for a hammer when you need a wrench. Whether you're thinking about purchasing a tablet for yourself or multiple devices for your department or your district, it's important to be mindful of what you need the technology to do.
The Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 slate PC is designed for business users, but its light weight (starting at 1.7 pounds) and robust productivity offerings make it a contender in the education space as well. The device's glare-resistant, 10.1-inch matte-finish display with 1280x800 resolution provides extra-wide viewing angles for easy collaboration among classmates. Access to millions of Windows applications, advanced security features, multiple input options, a speedy startup and dual webcams add to its appeal.
Powered by the Windows 7 operating system, the Stylistic Q550 comes preloaded with Microsoft Office Starter 2010, which includes reduced-functionality, ad-supported versions of Word and Excel. Although Windows 7 isn't optimized for touch-screen devices (a limitation that Microsoft aims to fix with Windows 8, which is in development now), Fujitsu has included a few touch utilities that improve the user experience. Most notable is HomeLauncher, which is accessed from the home icon in the Windows taskbar. The app presents a touch interface with large icons that users can customize to easily access frequently used applications and files.
Users who prefer writing with a stylus to keyboarding or navigating touchscreens with their fingertips will appreciate that the Stylistic Q550 ships with an AAAA battery–powered stylus featuring dual-mode (pen and capacitive multitouch) digitizer technology. When the user taps inside a text field, a small keyboard or notepad icon emerges: Touch the keyboard icon to bring up the software keyboard or the notepad icon to bring up a blank writing area.
I was impressed with how well the software deciphered my handwriting. In some cases, I wrote in a print-cursive hybrid, and the software was almost always able to convert my scribbles into coherent text. Even when I rested my hand on the screen, the software was sophisticated enough to distinguish my resting palm from the tip of the stylus. Having the option to use a stylus was nice, and I found myself writing with it far more frequently than I typed.
Users who would rather use a physical keyboard or mouse can do so via the Stylistic Q550's USB port. (The device's optional cradle offers four additional USB ports.) In less than a minute, Windows had detected my spare keyboard and mouse and had downloaded and installed the necessary drivers. Next thing I knew, I was typing and navigating within a Word document, just as I do on my desktop computer.
Educational apps are all the rage in many schools today. Thanks to Intel's energy-efficient Atom Z670 CPU for tablets, the Stylistic Q550 can support a variety of applications for both content creation and consumption. In fact, Stylistic Q550 users have access to any of the more than 4 million Windows apps currently available.
Notably, the Stylistic Q550 boots up fast, thanks to the fast seek times of the device's internal 30-gigabyte (or 62GB) solid-state drive. It took fewer than five seconds to transition from sleep mode to the password screen, and just three more seconds to bring up the home screen.
The Stylistic Q550 comes with a pair of front- (0.3 megapixel) and rear-facing (1.3MP) webcams. What I like best about the device's camera application is how big the buttons are. Children as young as 5 years old would have no trouble switching between the front and rear cameras. A large soft-key shutter button is appropriately placed on the screen, making the snapping of photos intuitive. Images are automatically saved to the Camera folder under Pictures.
Why It Works for IT
Windows continues to be the most widely used operating system in the world, with a roughly 87 percent market share as of August 2011. Any system running Windows in a primarily Windows environment is a win for IT because maintenance and support is more predictable and familiar.
The Stylistic Q550's USB port gives IT managers a convenient way to transfer data between devices when a network connection either isn't convenient or is just too slow. It's also a handy method for connecting other peripherals, including keyboards, optical mice, smart pens, MP3 players, flash drives and more.
The Stylistic Q550 is so secure, it could even make a Secret Service agent crack a smile. All tablet-style devices offer at least one layer of protection, but this one comes with fingerprint authentication, a dedicated smart-card slot, full disk encryption and optional embedded Trusted Platform Module v1.2.
The onscreen keyboard was slow to register key commands. As such, I never felt fully comfortable typing anything longer than a URL or quick note.
The relatively expensive stylus needs a slot in the hardware (or at least a clip) for storage. Currently, users can carry it around and hope they don't lose it, or they can attach it to the device with the foot-long string that tends to hang and bang desks during walks around the classroom.
Unfortunately, the Stylistic Q550's integrated Wi-Fi was too weak to recognize the router at my favorite coffee shop, even though my Wi-Fi–enabled PC and cellular phone were functioning at full strength. Although the display is bright and vibrant indoors, it appears muted and “washed out” when viewed in direct sunlight.