The first generation of UMPCs were more technological showcases than consumer-ready products. High prices and poor battery life simply did not justify replacing a full-sized ultraportable with a pint-sized device, regardless of the fact that the latter could run a full-fledged operating system. This changed when the Kohjisha SA1F00 was introduced at a very attractive price point of just over S$1,000 (US$657.99) with 5-hour battery life to boot.
Announced at the Fujitsu Forum in May, the LifeBook U1010 (formerly known as the LifeBook FMV-U8240) is the Japanese maker's first UMPC to hit the Asia-Pacific market. Barely larger than a paperback novel, we take a closer look to see if this UMPC has mass appeal.
When the pre-production unit of the LifeBook U1010 first arrived at the office, everyone wanted to hold it. Though from pictures it may have seemed a little thick, believe us when we say it fits just right in one hand. The screen can be rotated like a convertible tablet PC, though the display is of the touchscreen variety rather than an active digitizer screen.
For such a small 5.6-inch portable, we were surprised to find it exceptionally feature-packed. There is an integrated Webcam located at the top of the LCD together with a fingerprint scanner at the side. Instead of trying to fit a tiny touchpad in the keyboard, a thumb trackstick and mouse buttons are located on the hinge, giving portable console gamers a familiar feel. This LifeBook offers a full set of network connectivity options, from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to an Ethernet port using a supplied adapter. However, some Asia-Pacific regions may distribute different configurations which exclude Bluetooth connectivity.
Like the Sony VAIO VGN-UX38GN and ASUS R2H, it has only a single USB 2.0 port. However, the LifeBook U1010 makes up for it by integrating a CompactFlash slot and an SD card reader on its petite chassis. A nice touch is the keyboard LED lights which can be activated at the touch of a button for use in dark environments.
At S$1,998 (US$1,314.03), it sits in the same price point as the ASUS R2H and Samsung Q1 Ultra Mobile PC, though much cheaper than the Sony UX series which starts at S$3,499 (US$2,301.98). Considering the premium position of Fujitsu LifeBooks, this is quite a bargain for its first UMPC.
Due to its size, it will be unreasonable to expect a full-size keyboard on a UMPC. While touch-typing is definitely out, two-finger and one-hand input are still possible. Just don't say we didn't warn you if your hand turns into a claw after trying to write a 1,000-word essay on the LifeBook U1010.
Sad to say, one of the pitfalls of the first-generation UMPCs was their weak battery life, a factor which still plagues this LifeBook. With around 3 hours of runtime between charges on its standard two-cell battery, do not expect all-day computing with this baby, especially if you like your Wi-Fi network. Fortunately, there is a four-cell option which bumps the uptime to around 6 hours, though you will have to compromise with additional bulk and weight. The Kohjisha SA1F00 may have a slower processor, but despite its larger 7-inch screen it still manages up to 5 hours on its standard battery.
Though still not cheap enough for most consumers to consider as a complement to their existing notebooks, the LifeBook U1010 is an excellent companion for those who need a full-fledged operating system while on the move. However, its poor battery life on the standard cell certainly reduces its mobility factor. The extended four-cell battery is definitely a must if you want to take this on the plane.