April 2009: Read our review of the Fujitsu U820 that replaces the U810.
Reviewed November 12, 2007 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Like the Japanese, some Americans have a love affair with miniaturized technology. Be they studio apartment dwelling Manhattanites or IT folks who'd rather not tote a 15" notebook everywhere they go while on call, these folks want Windows and they want it small. The UMPC, the progeny of Microsoft's Origami project wasn't the answer and didn't try to replace a notebook. It was supposed to be ~ $1,000 low resolution slate design device more suited to casual web browsing and multimedia. The original Samsung Q1 and Raon Vega are prime examples. Mini-machines like the Sony Vaio UX380N and OQO model 01 and OQO model 02 aspired to more with their tiny keyboards and more complete specs, these guys wanted to be your notebook replacement. In terms of usability they weren't for everyone, and with prices averaging $2,000, they certainly were for a select market. Even the 11" Vaio TX (see our Vaio TX850 review) and TZ series at 3 lbs. were highly portable but also cost $2,000 to $2,500.
The Fujitsu U810, a just barely touch-typeable belly-top computer.
Specs and the Basics
The Fujitsu U810, the US cousin to the Japanese U1010, attempts to bridge the gap between couch-top casual and real workhorse. It sells for $999 with Windows Vista Home Premium (Vista Business with XP Pro Tablet Edition 2005 in the box) will set you back $100 more) and uses the Intel A110 800MHz processor like other recent UMPCs, but it has a significantly higher resolution display and a mini-notebook design for more serious productivity. In fact Fujitsu avoids the UMPC moniker and calls it the "U810 Mini-Notebook".
This 1.56 lb. mini-notebook has a 5.6" 1024 x 600 touch screen display, webcam, the Intel 800 MHz CPU with 512k level 2 cache, 1 gig of DDR2 400MHz memory, a 40 gig 1.8" internal hard drive, 1 SD and 1 CF slot, 1 USB 2.0 port, 3.5mm headphone and mic ports and both VGA and Ethernet ports on a dongle adapter that plugs into a dock connector. The notebook has a biometric fingerprint scanner and Trusted Platform Module (TPM).
Another Slow UMPC? Not Quite
I'd not been enamored with the Intel A110's performance as experienced in the Samsung Q1 Ultra UMPC with Vista. Though Intel claimed it was a new chip (albeit using a variant of the GMA945 last generation notebook motherboard chipset) with great power savings and better performance than you'd expect from 800MHz, it was too underpowered for a pleasant and productive experience. Better suited to Windows XP, I muttered to myself and came to further appreciate Sony's UX with an Intel Core Solo "real" (low end) notebook CPU. Power savings weren't apparent on the Q1 Ultra and a few other A110 machines either. Thus I approached the U810 with both anticipation and dread, but things looked up: the Fujitsu has bearable performance and just the kind of battery life we all hoped for in a UMPC-- 4 to 5 hours worth. Not, it can't compete with a current standard notebook, but you won't be thinking you could have done it faster with an abacus.
Ergonomics and Keyboard
The U810 is a "honey who shrunk the notebook" kind of device. It looks just like a regular notebook, at quarter size relative to a standard 15" laptop. It has 56 real notebook style keys, not the FlipStart's Treo-like keys (the FlipStart is the only other clamshell UMPC on the market). Granted many of these keys are double-mapped to save space. This means you'll press the Fn key plus the Z key to turn on caps lock and the Fn plus D to increase display brightness. We can easily live with this. The only two thing we really didn't like was the absence of a dedicated Tab key (you'll have to press Fn plus the spacebar to get a tab) and the arrow keys require the Fn key as well. The arrow keys bothered us less because there are dedicated up and down buttons above the keyboard and you can use the biometric fingerprint scanner as an up/down scroller.
Can you really touch type on this? I have long, thin fingers and have played piano, so yes I can, though with more errors than normal. Broad fingered, large-handed folk may have trouble touch typing and may have to resort to a 2-fingered approach. Is it better than any other micro notebook's keyboard currently on the market? Yes. It has notebook-like key travel, notebook-like tactile feel and larger keys than any other Lilliputian computer on the market.
There's no traditional key backlighting. Instead, press a button just below the display to turn on two white LED keyboard lamps, which is definitely cool but helps just a little in dim to dark light. The lamps stay on until you press the button again, so no need to beat out the backlight as with a PDA or smartphone.
The machine weighs just 1.56 lbs. and measures 6.73” x 6” x 1.04 to 1.26" at the thickest point. While not as small as the OQO, it's one of the smallest notebooks on the planet with a traditional clamshell design. It fits easily into a purse, could fit into a jacket with large pockets and would simply get lost in a laptop bag. The charger is quite small and light too, about the same as the OQO model 02's charger. It's a convertible tablet whose display swivels to lay flat in tablet mode and the screen orientation automatically switches. There's a button below the display to rotate the screen in 90 degree increments so you can use it in landscape or portrait orientations. Switching is decently fast, even with IE and Photoshop CS2 running.
Touch Screen for Finger and Stylus
The Fujitsu has a passive touch screen which means you can use your finger or a regular stylus as opposed to the EMR pens used with active digitizer tablets. Passive screens don't look quite as good as standard notebook displays or active digitizers, especially glossy ones-- they're a bit grainy and less bright. That said, the U810's display is sharp at 200 pixels/inch resolution and should pose no problems for those under 40. For those 40 and up with poor vision or presbyopia, the screen is still workable but you may suffer eye fatigue after an hour's use. There's an 800 x 600 resolution option which is easier on they eyes, though the aspect ratio makes for some horizontal stretching. The machine's relatively high 1024 x 600 resolution on a 5.6 inch screen mean that some targets are too small to accurately press with a finger. The "x" close box and tiny hyperlinks are best attacked with a fingernail or the included stylus for this reason. The touch screen requires a hard touch with stylus and finger, and we had to adjust to "jabbing" at it with the stylus. Screen brightness is acceptable and we had no trouble reading the display at 50% brightness (the default power management setting), though it's easier on the eyes with brightness set to somewhere between 75% and max (battery life will suffer). It's definitely not as bright as today's non-touchscreen standard notebooks and the screen has some glare (though it's not a gloss display) which reduces outdoor visibility.
Right and left mouse buttons.
The gray square is the mouse pointer and the controls to the left are page up and down. Pressing the mouse pointer acts as a left mouse click.
More on Design
On the outside, the Fujitsu U810 looks like the average boring black mostly polycarbonate notebook, just smaller... much smaller. It looks neither cheap nor classy. A device this small calls for creative design, and so we have an eraser stick pointer on the machine's right side above the keyboard and just below the display. Two buttons that act as mouse left and right click buttons sit symmetrically opposed to the mouse pointer. These do get the job done and the location insures that they're also available in tablet mode. We prefer the OQO model 02's more responsive, faster tracking pointer, but this is somewhat a matter of personal preference.
The iPod Touch, RAZR V3 and U810. The U810 is half the size of the Sony Vaio TX series (not pictured).
The PDA-sized plastic stylus sits in a silo above the display on the right side, and the sole USB port is on the machine's right side along with the CF type I/II card slot. The power slider is here as well while the combined dock connector/dongle adapter connection is on the subnotebook's front edge. Fujitsu includes the short dongle which has and Ethernet and VGA port. The power jack, SD card slot, volume jog wheel, wireless on/off slider, 3.5mm stereo headphone and mic jacks are on the left side. The bottom of the U810 has Fujitsu's felt covering (also found on the Fujitsu P1510), a large vent, a trap door with phillips head screws (hard drive and WiFi module underneath) and the battery release latch. The battery is the larger 4 cell variety rather than the 2 cell used in the Japan version, the U1010. This means the battery sticks out the back unlike the U1010's which is flush.
Left side view. Note the battery sticking out the back.
Right side view.
Battery Life, Thumb's Up
Obviously, the larger battery increases bulk and makes for an odd appendage hanging off the rear. The good part is that the battery makes an excellent grab handle when in tablet mode. And I'll take the hump any day when it means long runtimes. Unlike most UMPCs and micro-PCs that last 2 hours on a charge, the Fujitsu U810 managed 5 hours with WiFi and Bluetooth on (WiFi was actually in use but Bluetooth wasn't) and display brightness set to the middle under Vista. That's very impressive and is certainly in the ballpark we'd hoped for when UMPCs first came out. We charged the notebook at noon of day 1, and used it on and off during the day and allowing it to sleep when not in use. We did not shut it down overnight but instead let power management take care of things. When we put it to sleep it had 70% charge. When we woke it up the following morning it had 60% charge. We continued to use it throughout the day lightly and didn't need to charge it until 8pm. Under Windows XP, the machine lost only 2% charge while sleeping overnight. Obviously if you're going to watch a 2 hour movie or install beefy applications over the Net of from a CD, the battery won't hold out for 2 days. But if you're going to use it to check email throughout the day, view or edit a few MS Office documents and surf the web for an hour a 2 per day, it should last more than a day.
Performance, we Test Vista Business and XP Tablet Edition 2005
So exactly how good or bad is performance? We call it just acceptable under Vista and good under XP. It takes 1 minute 18 seconds to boot up to the Vista log on screen. Wake from sleep takes only a few seconds, though if enabled, the OmniPass fingerprint scanner software will add 3 seconds more. Resuming from hibernation to the Vista log on screen takes 36 seconds, and it takes 48 seconds for the OmniPass fingerprint log on window to appear.
Windows Vista Experience Score:
Gaming Graphics: 2.6
Hard Disk: 3.7
Aero is disabled in the Vista Business machine we tested and windows draw and drag at a decent speed, but stylus response is sometimes slow. The Windows start menu opens and closes with a delay and the control panels pane using Classic view takes 2-3 seconds to draw for the first time after boot. MS Office 2007 applications launch and run quickly enough, Adobe Photoshop CS2 is fine when working with images under 5 megs in size. Photoshop's lists 1024 x 768 as the min. required resolution though the app had no problems with the U810's 1024 x 600 panel. The only problem we had was with the camera RAW plugin interface which is too tall to show the entire window (the OK button is below screen, so you have to hit the enter key on the keyboard). Skype struggled with video calls and couldn't keep up, resulting in nearly unusable outgoing audio.
We received the Vista Business version which includes a restore CD for both Vista Business and Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005. Installing Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005 using the included recovery DVD with our Sony external optical drive took less than 10 minutes-- nice! XP is much more responsive than Vista for most every task. Stylus response is markedly better, making the machine more enjoyable to use as a tablet. MS Office 2007 applications ran very quickly and Skype worked perfectly, even with video calls. Our take? Unless you're wed to Vista, seriously consider installing the included Windows XP, the machine simply rocks. Note that only the $1,099 Vista Business version comes with the XP CD, the $999 Vista Home Premium version does not.
The U810's underside.
Since the U810 is barely bigger than a CD, there's no internal optical drive. It works with USB external optical drives, and we had no problem booting from or burning DVDs or booting from our Sony 510UL DVD burner which has both USB and FireWire ports. The machine has a traditional BIOS and you'll need to go into it (hit the Fn plus F2 key at boot) to set the CD/DVD drive at #1 boot priority. The 40 gig hard drive is sufficient for a super-mobile computer, even though it pales in comparison to the latest iPods with their very large capacity disks. The 1.8" drive spins at 4200 rpm, and can't compete with the SSD (solid state) drives used in high end machines, but then that would make this a much more expensive computer (SSD drives cost ~ $600). There is no recovery partition, so the full capacity of the drive is available, which works out to be 34.4 gigs for the C: drive (with 22 gigs free) and 1 gig for the D: drive.
The machine has 1 gig of DD2 400MHz RAM that's not upgradable (there's no accessible SODIMM slot). It runs on the Intel 945U chipset and uses the Intel 945GM integrated graphics processor with 128 megs of shared memory and some 3D acceleration. This graphics processor is essentially the same one used on pre-Santa Rosa Intel integrated graphics notebooks. It does the job fine for business and productivity tasks and could handle light gaming with older titles, though most require 1024 x 768 resolution so you'd have to use an external monitor. Fujitsu doesn't state maximum external monitor resolution, but we tested the U810 with a 19" NEC monitor at 1600 x 1200 resolution and it worked well. You can set the machine to use the external display only or to mirror by pressing Fn plus the A key.
Micro PCs and UMPCs generally have poor WiFi range compared to their full-sized brethren. Why? Less room for an antenna and more aggressive power management settings. We were pleasantly surprised at the U810's excellent WiFi range and throughput when tested over 802.11g networks. It did as well as our better full-sized notebooks and better than the Sony Vaio UX380N, OQO model 02, Samsung Q1 Ultra and a few of our full-sized machines. The Fujitsu has the Atheros Super AG WiFi 802.11a/b/g wireless module and you can use the Atheros client or Windows to manage connections.
In both Vista and XP, the Toshiba Bluetooth Stack for Windows pops up at first boot, offering to find Bluetooth keyboards and mice (you can disable this). Otherwise it's the usual Toshiba stuff with support for FTP, headsets, DUN, Bluetooth GPS (serial port) and more. We used it with the Motorola Q9 Global for high speed WAN access and had no trouble pairing, discovering the service and using it under Vista. Thus our wish for integrated 3G or EVDO was quickly forgotten. You can of course use a USB wireless modem from any carrier such as the Sierra Wireless AirCard 595U EVDO rev. A USB modem from Sprint or others.
The Fujitsu is the closest to ready for prime time micro PC we've seen to date in terms of affordability combined with usability. Though it still can't compete with a full-sized notebook in terms of performance or usability, the relatively high resolution display combined with a miniaturized version of a normal notebook keyboard win big points. Vista performance is better than average among UMPCs (which means acceptable not great) and XP performance is actually good (we recommend trying XP unless you're in love with Vista). If you want a PC you can take anywhere that runs full Windows, the relatively reasonably priced U810 should be on your short list. It isn't a desktop replacement but it does everything the much more expensive OQO model 02 and Sony Vaio UX380N do at half the cost (minus the WAN radio). Email, web browsing, working with MS Office documents and light image editing are perfect for this mini-notebook, but don't buy it if you want a machine that can do CAD, serious software development or pre-press image editing.
Pro: Great form factor, the mini-notebook is much more usable and carry-able than slate designed UMPCs. Acceptible performance under Vista and good performance under Windows XP. The wide-screen display means dialogs won't be cut off and you can watch a YouTube video with no top/bottom truncation. Very good battery life. Price is right and the size and weight are perfectly portable. WiFi performance is excellent.
Con: This isn't a true notebook replacement. The high resolution display is harder on the eyes than a conventional notebook and the keyboard is barely touch-typable (and large-fingered folk will resort to 2 finger pecking). OmniPass fingerprint scanner software for Vista slows down machine and has few features compared to Protector Suite QL used on Sony's notebooks. The Windows XP version (included with the XP restore CD on the Vista Business model) doesn't slow down the machine as much and has more features.
Price: $999 (Vista Home Premium), $1,099 (Vista Business +Windows XP)
Display:5.6" WSVGA 1024 x 600 "Crystal View" touch screen with passive digitizer. Intel 945GM integrated graphics with 128 megs shared memory (224 megs under Vista). Comes with dongle adapter with VGA connector for external monitors and projectors. Max external resolution not specified, we successfully tested it with a 19" 1600 x 1200 monitor.
Battery:4 cell 5200 mAh 7.2v Lithium
Ion rechargeable. 37.4 watts/hour, claimed runtime: up to 5.5 hours.
A110 800MHz processor with 512k level 2 cache and 400MHz FSB. 1 gig DDR2 400MHz RAM (non-upgradable). Intel 945U chipset. 1.8" 40 gig hard drive (4200 rpm) with PATA interface.
Size:6.73” (W) x 6” (D) x 1.04-1.26” (H). weight: 1.56 pounds.
Camera:Webcam located above the display (works fine with Skype).
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. RealTek ALC262 HD audio codec.
Networking:Atheros Super AG WiFi 802.11 a/b/g and Bluetooth 2.0. Realtek 8101L 10/100 Ethernet (requires included dongle adapter).
Software:Windows Vista Home Premium Edition or Windows Vista Business + DVD to downgrade to Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005. MS Works 8.5 is bundled on a CD (not pre-installed) with Home Premium model. OneNote 2007 included with Vista Business model.
Ports and Expansion:1
SD slot and 1 Compact Flash card slot. 1 USB 2.0 port, 3.5mm stereo out and mic in, port for docking station/dongle adapter which has VGA and Ethernet ports.
Security:Integrated Fingerprint Sensor and embedded TPM. Boot Sector Write Prevention and BIOS passwording. AuthenTec fingerprint scanner and OmniPass software for Windows.