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A Tablet PC Could Soon Be in Your Future

The Fujitsu LifeBook T4215 might win you over.

Joel P. Bruckenstein, 05/10/2007

Over the past several years, I've received a number of requests to take a serious look at tablet PCs, but I could never bring myself to do it. Conceptually, the idea of integrating tablet PCs into the life of advisors had some appeal, but the poor design of early models combined with software limitations convinced me that there was little chance of tablet PCs gaining wide acceptance in the financial service industry.

Now, for the first time, I'm sensing that the tide may be about to turn. While I'm not ready to predict that all financial service professionals will soon be toting tablet PCs, I do get the sense that, if used intelligently, tablet PCs could have a positive impact on the productivity of many readers. So, for the first time, I've decided to review a tablet PC: the Fujitsu LifeBook T4215.

I selected the Fujitsu LifeBook for a number of reasons. First, Fujitsu is one of the leaders in the tablet PC field. The company has been designing and producing tablet PCs for more than 15 years. Fujitsu appears to be doing particularly well in the health-care niche, one of the few Tablet PC success stories. Since practice management commentators in our industry often draw parallels between running a medical practice and running a financial practice, I thought that Fujitsu's understanding of the health-care industry might, to some extent, be transferable to financial services.

I was attracted to the LifeBook T4215 in particular because it is a reasonably sized convertible. This means that when you want it to, the T4215 can look and behave exactly like any other thin and light laptop PC; however, within seconds, you can convert it into tablet PC mode. In theory, then, users can get the best of both words: a regular PC and a tablet in one neat package. But would the theory hold true in practice?

Before we get into what I discovered, let's talk a bit about specifications. My test unit came equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T 5600 Processor (1.83 GHz), 2 GB of RAM, a 12.1 inch screen, an 80 GB hard drive, tri mode Wi-Fi (A/B/G), Bluetooth, and a biometric reader. The operating system was Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.

The initial setup was similar to any regular PC. You boot it up, follow the wizard perform the basic configuration, and in the case of Windows XP, download something like 50 updates and security patches. Once that is done, I clicked an icon, as instructed in the manual. This allowed me to install additional software provided by Fujitsu. This included a Fujitsu menu, some Fujitsu controls, and the software to use with my fingerprint reader. Next, I performed a finger scan so that I could log in to my PC with the biometric device as opposed to a password.

From a welcome screen, you can get a quick introduction to using the tablet pen to enter text, or you can take an interactive tour of the tablet PC. To use the PC as a tablet, you swivel the screen around, so that it lays flat against the keyboard, with the screen facing the user. Once you get the hang of it, using the stylus is easy. Tapping the screen equates to a left mouse click. Holding down a button on the stylus while tapping the screen is the equivalent of a right mouse click. I found the stylus generally to be accurate out of the box. If it is not, there is a utility to help you calibrate it.

From the moment you enter the Tablet mode, you begin to experience some of the little extras that Fujitsu has engineered into its systems. The first is the bi-directional swivel hinge. On all other convertible PCs I've seen, the hinge only swivels one way. If you try to swivel the wrong way, you risk damaging the hinge and the screen. With the T4215, the hinge, which appears to be sturdy, swivels smoothly in either direction.

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