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Fujitsu LifeBook T4220 review: Fujitsu LifeBook T4220

Editors Note: In our original review, we erred in our description of the LifeBook T4220's display. It rotates on a bidirectional swivel, and the screen orientation can be adjusted in all four directions. We regret the error. (7/10/07)

With four tablet models in its catalog, Fujitsu offers something for every potential tablet user. The LifeBook T4220, a Centrino Duo update to its earlier T4215 model, is targeted at users who want all the performance and features of a full-fledged laptop with added handwriting functionality. In that light, the LifeBook T4220 largely succeeds: it offers nearly every feature you'd expect on a thin-and-light laptop plus a sizable display for writing and lengthy battery life. However, its performance on our benchmarks was mixed; its paltry allotment of RAM held it back on one of our tests--though the fault is easily fixed with a $150 upgrade. While not as elegant as the Lenovo ThinkPad X61 Tablet (which lacks a built-in optical drive), the highly configurable LifeBook T4220 is a solid choice for business users who want a tablet PC without compromise.

6.8

Fujitsu LifeBook T4220

The Good

Mostly strong performance, thanks to the Centrino Duo platform; excellent battery life; bidirectional display swivel; indoor/outdoor screen is highly visible.

The Bad

Somewhat expensive; heavy; configuration could use more RAM; stylus is inelegantly stored in the display bezel.

The Bottom Line

For business users who don't want to compromise, the Fujitsu LifeBook T4220 is both a full-fledged laptop and a handwriting-friendly tablet--though we recommend tweaking the base configuration.

While the LifeBook T4220 falls in the middle of the weight range for a thin-and-light laptop, it is a bit hefty for a tablet; we were able to cradle it in one arm, clipboard-style, but never for more than a few minutes. Like most tablets larger than a UMPC, the LifeBook T4220 seems best for those who want to take handwritten notes while sitting at a desk or conference table.

The LifeBook T4220's 12.1-inch display offers a native resolution of 1,024x768. That resolution and its standard (4:3) aspect ratio are rather ho-hum compared to the wide-screen displays found on most thin-and-light laptops, but we appreciated the T4220's larger type and icons while we were navigating with the stylus. Our review unit's price includes an indoor/outdoor display that provides excellent off-angle viewing and is readable in a variety of different lighting conditions, including summer afternoon sun. (If you're likely to only use your tablet in typical work environments, you can save $150 by opting for a standard display finish.) While most tablets include a small slot in the base so you can tuck the stylus out of sight, the LifeBook T4220's stylus sits in full view on the left side of the display bezel--a somewhat unattractive design that nevertheless keeps the stylus within easy reach. A number of other features around the bezel help you navigate when the computer is in tablet mode: a fingerprint reader for quick and keyboard-free log-ons, plus buttons for Alt, Fn, page up, and page down.

Like its predecessor, the LifeBook T4220 features a bidirectional swivel, which lets you twist the screen in any direction you like. When you rotate and fold down the display, the computer automatically locks the laptop's optical disc drive and rotates the screen 90 degrees into portrait mode. A button alongside the display also lets you manually adjust the screen orientation in all four directions. Because the LifeBook T4220's vents get quite hot, however, we don't recommend orienting the screen so the vent side rests against your body.

Writing on the LifeBook T4220 was comfortable enough for quickly scribbled notes but not ideal for writing a lengthy document: the stylus lacks heft, and we wish the writing surface offered a little more resistance. We found the stylus responsive, however, and loved the eraser feature on top, which works exactly like a pencil eraser; though the eraser isn't unique to Fujitsu, we consider it a key feature for any tablet stylus. When not using the system in tablet mode, the amply sized keyboard and rectangular touch pad function well, although the keys are somewhat loud. We appreciate that even the heaviest key strokes weren't enough to make the LifeBook T4220's display wobble. We also love the scroll button, located between the laptop's two mouse buttons, which let us coast through long documents and Web pages with ease.

The Fujitsu LifeBook T4220 has a more or less average selection of ports and connections for a thin-and-light laptop, though it does lack a mini-FireWire jack. An ExpressCard slot would have been nice as well, especially if you want to add mobile broadband later on (Fujitsu does not offer a built-in WWAN radio, even as an option). We do like the LifeBook T4220's integrated smart card reader, which lets you add a level of security beyond just passwords. And we appreciate the port covers that keep dust and debris out of some (but, strangely, not all) of the laptop's ports. As would be expected on a work-oriented tablet, the LifeBook T4220's stereo speakers produce extremely tinny sound.

As befitting a laptop built on Intel's latest Centrino Duo platform, the $2,249 Fujitsu LifeBook T4220 performed well on CNET Labs' mobile benchmarks. Its performance equaled or exceeded that of the $2,102 Gateway E-265M and the $1,499 Lenovo 3000 V200. One notable exception: the LifeBook T4220 trailed far behind both systems and even a previous-generation Dell XPS M1210 on our Photoshop test. The most likely culprit is the Fujitsu's paltry allotment of RAM--half as much as the competing systems. If you're likely to do resource-intensive tasks beyond Web surfing and pounding out memos, you should consider upgrading to at least 2GB of RAM, which will add $150 to the price.

The Fujitsu LifeBook T4220 lasted an impressive 2 hours, 41 minutes on our resource-intensive DVD drain test; this test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use. The Dell XPS M1210 managed to last longer than the LifeBook T4220, but the Dell also included a much larger battery. The Lenovo 3000 V200 included similar components (with the exception of a slightly slower processor) and lasted only 2 hours, 16 minutes.

Fujitsu covers the system with a one-year warranty. Support is available through a 24-7, toll-free phone line, and technicians can connect to your computer over the Internet to diagnose problems. Standard Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and driver downloads also are available. Adding an extra year of service costs $100, and upgrading to next-business-day on-site service is an additional $50 per year. Fujitsu is also unique among laptop vendors in offering a no-questions-asked Screen Damage Protection Plan that costs $150 for one year and $383 for three years.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Fujitsu LifeBook T4220
943 

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Fujitsu LifeBook T4220
462 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Fujitsu LifeBook T4220
184 

DVD battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Fujitsu LifeBook T4220
161 

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Fujitsu LifeBook T4220
Windows Vista Business Edition; 2.2GHz Intel Core Duo T7500; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 100GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm

Gateway E-265M
Windows Vista Business Edition; 2.2GHz Intel Core Duo T7500; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD2300; 100GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Dell XPS M1210
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition: 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB nVidia GeForce Go 7400; 120GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Lenovo 3000 V200
Windows Vista Business Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 120GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

6.8

Fujitsu LifeBook T4220

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 6Battery 7Support 7