Fujitsu Stylistic LT C-500

Compact tablet PC gets makeover (March 2001 issue)

To be honest, we didn't know what to think when longtime pen tablet leader Fujitsu Personal Systems was merged into the Fujitsu PC Corporation early last year. There is, after all, a big difference between notebooks and vertical market tablet computers, and that difference extends to the way they are marketed and sold. Well, after a number of new product announcements and several meetings with the Fujitsu PC folks over the past year it appears that things are on the right track. The high-end Stylistic 3400 turned out to be a more than worthy successor to a long line of earlier Stylistics. The PenCentra 200--which at first sight seems identical to the PenCentra 130--impressed with much improved performance. And late last year Fujitsu introduced a replacement for the Stylistic LT, the LT C-500.

When we reviewed the original Stylistic LT in our August 1999 issue we praised the compact new machine that packed almost all the power of the full-fledged Stylistic 2300 into a smaller, lighter package. In fact, we did the math and found the LT to weigh in at half the volume and just 58% the weight of the (then) flagship 2300. Some more sleuthing revealed a remarkable kinship between the Stylistic LT and the Japanese market Biblo MC8 mini notebook. That marvellous little wonder, of course, eventually made it to the States where it became the "B-Series" LifeBook--Pen Computing executive editor David MacNeill's favorite little clamshell. Perusing the specs of the latest B-Series mini notebook, the B-2175, reveals a similar kinship between the latest B-Series product and the new Stylistic LT C-500. Both use a low voltage 500MHz Intel Celeron processor (hence the "C-500" addition to the LT's name). Fujitsu pen tablets have always ranked very high in design, engineering, and production quality, and this sharing of internals with a polished consumer electronics product can only benefit the Stylistic line, especially now that the two organizations are under one roof.

Those familiar with the Stylistic LT won't see much of a difference between the old model and the new one. That's because, with the exception of a significant power boost under the hood--from a 233MHz Pentium MMX to the 500MHz Celeron--they look virtually identical. With one exception: the bulge you see in the picture to the left of this paragraph is not a peripheral or an optional, more powerful battery. It is the C-500's standard battery. When we looked at the old LT we noted the huge difference in battery power between the original LT and the electronically almost identical Stylistic 2300: 4,500 vs. just 1,300mAH in favor of the Stylistic 2300. You could get an optional 2,600mAh pack for the LT, but that wimpy 1,300mAh pack lasted barely an hour and a half, not exactly what you need out in the field. Well, Fujitsu apparently agreed, and so the new LT C-500 comes standard with that big 3,100mAh battery. Plus, you can hotswap power packs thanks to a bridge battery. The new battery may ruin the Stylistic C-500's otherwise svelte profile, and adds a bit of weight, but it's worth it.

I should mention that the LT C-500 has been updated in other areas as well. The non-expandable 64MB of RAM has given way to a choice of 64, 128, or 256MB. Disk capacity grew from 4.3GB to 6GB. Whereas the old model had two Type II or one Type III PC Card slot, the new one features a Type II PC Card slot plus a Type II CF-Card slot next to it. Fujitsu has also increased the rather narrow operating temperature range of the LT (41 to 95 degrees) to a more reasonable 32 to 104 degrees.

What hasn't changed, at least not in any way I could detect, are the superb TFT screen with its anti-reflective coating that provides a surprising degree of outdoor readability, the handy silkscreened data-entry pad along the left side of the display, and the overall handiness of this compact little pen tablet. The liquid-filled passive digitizer offers excellent palm rejection. No spiking here when you use the standard CIC Handwriter recognition engine. The flipside of this is that the pen requires a firm hand and a good deal of pressure to create the unbroken lines needed for optimal handwriting recognition. Unchanged also is the clever mini-dock that provides a good deal of additional connectivity. There are PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, an AC/DC jack, an RJ-45 10/100Mbps Ethernet connector, a USB port, parallel, serial, and video-out, and a mini connector for an external 3.5-inch floppy drive. The mini-dock uses a simple beach chair-style ratchet mechanism to provide four different viewing angles. If you want to cut down on cables, you can get an optional infrared keyboard that communicates with the C-500 via a second, front-mounted IR port and has a reliable range of up to six feet.

On the system software side you have a choice between Windows 98 with Microsoft's by now ancient Pen Services 2.0 and CIC's PenX Version 1.7 (you can switch back and forth), or Windows 2000 with CIC PenX 2.0. Our review unit came with Windows 98 and worked flawlessly.

Overall, the faster processor and especially the much larger battery have made the Stylistic LT a better computer. It has enough power for just about any task, and it won't run out of juice as quickly as the old LT did. It's small and handy enough to take (and fit) almost anywhere, yet you can still use it as a "real" computer in the office. You do need to weigh its pros and cons against the more full-functioned Stylistic 3400, but there will be many applications where the Stylistic LT C-500 provides just the right combination of size, weight, and power.

Conrad H. Blickenstorfer

Processor 500MHz Intel Celeron
OS Windows 98 with Pen Services 2.0 and PenX 1.7
Memory 64-256MB RAM
Display 8.4" 800 x 600 256k-color TFT
Digitizer Pressure-sensitive panel
Storage 1 PC Card Type II, 1 CF Card Type II slots
Size 9.6 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
Power 3,100mAH Li-Ion
Interface USB, RJ-11, IrDA. Mic., DC (more on mini-dock)
Options Mini-dock, charge dock, floppy, IR keyboard, cases, adapters
Price inquire
Contact Fujitsu PC Corporation

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