Ultra-portable notebooks used to the preserve of rich kids who would let them casually tumble out of their man-bags, while they pretended to talk on their gold-plated phones. But now, more people can afford a Dolce & Gabana RAZR, and, due to falling prices, ultra-portables too are now within our grasp.
While you can still get flashy gadgets such as the Asus S6 and the Sony UX17, the Fujitsu P1610 is the mullet of the portables world: it's business in the front, party in the back. But that's not to say it's unfashionable: it comes in an understated black and gun-metal box, and is almost "cute".
As you'd expect, the Fujitsu P1610 is incredibly tiny, and one of the smallest tablets we've ever seen. Though it may look somewhat like a toy, it certainly isn't. It's built fairly sturdily, and the hinge -- very important on a tablet -- is rugged and will take a little abuse.
It is an update from last year's P1510, and includes some updates including a higher screen resolution (1280x768 vs 1024x600) and a shift to a Core Solo processor from a Pentium M.
The screen is an 8.9 inch indoor/outdoor model which, while missing out on some of the glitz of full-sized notebooks, is perfectly readable -- if a little "grainy". When swivelling the display into Tablet mode the screen orients itself automatically based on the way you're holding it.
The screen is passive, though it acts like an active model due to its clever palm rejection technology, which appears to use the natural resistance of your skin. Like the buttons in modern lifts, the screen detects when your finger, or palm, is resting on the screen and the cursor doesn't move. This also means you need to use a fingernail if you lose the stylus. The stylus itself is quite funky, and the nib is spring loaded meaning that if you press hard you won't actually damage the screen.
Smaller dimensions mean less powerful parts, and the Fujitsu runs an Intel U1400 running at 1.2GHz with 512MB of RAM. The hard drive is an 80GB 4200RPM Toshiba which has been partitioned into two drives.
Connectivity includes two USB ports, 802.11 a/b/g adaptor, an SD card reader, PCMCIA, modem and Ethernet.
The specs page lists it as "Windows Vista capable", and it just fits the bill, if you don't want to run Aero, that is. To be capable you need only run an 800Mhz processor and 512MB of RAM, but we'd always suggest 1GB to ensure a smooth experience.
Small size has also meant a smaller keyboard, and while it's not terrible to type on, you wouldn't want to write your memoirs on it. The mousing controller is a trackball, while the mousing buttons include a "scrolling" key which turns on page scroll and is manipulated with the trackball.
The unit we saw was a pre-production model, and you can expect some issues, but we did have one niggle in that one of the two USB ports didn't work. We're sure this won't be an issue in the final product. The Fujitsu's also built for the corporate world with a fingerprint reader and security software onboard.
Ultra-portables are always a compromise between weight, battery life and performance. And here, they've sacrificed the latter two to keep the device portable. To test the battery life we were unable to use our default benchmark, MobileMark 2005, due to the lack of an included optical drive. Instead we used the similar, and free, Battery Eater Pro to determine how much juice it can supply. Using the "Reader" benchmark, and with the screen at the maximum brightness, the P1610 managed a full two hours and 15 minutes.
In order to boost battery life, the P1610 also comes with an extensive Power Saving Utility which turns off memory cards, wireless and adjusts brightness. There are also optional six-cell batteries to provide extra power on the road.
We tested the system using the synthetic benchmark PCMark 05, and it came up with a figure of 1506. By desktop replacement standards, this is pretty slow, but amongst its peers this is to be expected. PCMark is fairly multimedia intensive, and this demonstrates that the machine can do multimedia if pushed, but is perfect as a pen-and-paper replacement.
The only problem we can find with this machine is that the notebook gets hotter than most of its size, so if your carting it around in your hands all day it may get uncomfortable.