Fujitsu T4210: 2-year review

Discussion in 'Fujitsu' started by Hattori Hanzo, Dec 7, 2011.

  1. kureshii

    kureshii Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    I figured some users might want a long-term review for tablets, be it to judge the reputation of a manufacturer or for buying second-hand tablets. My tablet and I are fast reaching our two-year anniversary (still about a month and a half short), but I figured this is as good a time as any to write a review.

    I won't be doing any benchmarking or describing its features since these can be found in any fresh review; I'm just going to describe my setup, and mention any relevant experiences with regards to its long-term performance, such as battery life and heat issues.

    Setup

    All T4210 parts are stock except for memory, which is a pair of Mushkin 1GB DDR2 667 modules. The harddrive is stock Fujitsu SATA 80GB.

    On a normal school semester the T4210 spends about 50/50 of its time between tablet mode and laptop mode. I take notes and study from my e-textbooks in tablet mode, and do analytical coding (in MATLAB) as well as web-browsing in laptop mode.

    Back at home (or in the dormitory), I use it with a laptop stand, external keyboard and mouse, and store most of my stuff on an external hard drive. This helped minimise wear on the keyboard and touchpad, and possibly on hard drive usage as well. If you use your tablet keyboard and touchpad more intensively you might experience a greater rate of wear than noted here.

    I'm using some cheap overhead projector transparencies cut to size to serve as screen protectors, held in place by 3M clear tape. This works well and is cost-effective, even though they need replacing every 6 months to maintain good screen visibility.

    I underclocked the processor to about 75% speed and voltage as low as 1.0875V (11X) on battery mode using NHC. It holds up well under such underclocking, though this setup seems to cause it to BSOD occasionally for no apparent reason (about once a month). It has enabled me to squeeze up to 6 hours battery life, using only Windows Journal, out of my main battery before (which may be part of the reason why it's dead now...)

    I just bought a slim remote control that plugs in via USB, when not in use it can be stored in the PC card slot (USB dongle and all). That makes it really portable (and makes me feel good knowing I found a use for the slot, heh). I haven't missed the lack of an ExpressCard at all.

    Usage

    E-book reading with the T4210 was a cinch; in portrait mode at fullscreen view a letter-size textbook fits perfectly in the 4:3 ratio screen. The button arrangement makes it easy to read with my left arm supporting the tablet and gripping it near the buttons, which keeps my right hand free.

    Data Analysis (in MATLAB)

    So far performance is good, definitely not as good as a modern home desktop but it is on par with, if not better than the 3.8GHz Pentium 4 desktop I use in my lab.

    Encoding/decoding (lossless audio, h264 video)

    The T4210 had no problems with FLAC decoding, as expected. It does have some problems with h264 video at 720p and above. Out of the 720p videos I tried, some played somewhat smoothly, while others stuttered a little. 1080p videos were downright unwatchable. The codec used was from CCCP, perhaps better performance might be expected from the CoreAVC codec instead but I have yet to test this.

    General usage

    The T4210 multitasks well with its aged but decent Core Duo T2400 processor. Heavy usage causes some lagginess, but it is very stable on XP Tablet PC SP3 and hardly dies on me.

    Comments on tablet condition

    The T4210 is generally in really good condition. It was in a minor traffic accident which caused the LCD screen to crack (the AC adapter 3-pin plug poked it through the outer chassis), and left some dents in the outer screen chassis. Repairs were costly (~820SGD), and the tablet was returned to me with an overtightened hinge, but I never reported it since it made stylus usage in laptop mode much easier.

    The power jack port is also slightly dented, I can't remember how it came to be that way, I think I set it down a little too hard or something. In any case, its condition has not deteriorated and it is still holding up well.

    With 6-monthly screen-protector changes, weekly wipedowns (with Kleenex) and monthly cleanings (with gauze swabs and 70% isopropyl alcohol) the tablet is still looking really good. However, due to the screen being flush with the bezel, the screen gets really close to the keyboard when closed in laptop mode. If enough pressure is exerted on the screen it starts to scuff the palmrests, causing some small pockmarks on the palmrest edges. From a distance they're not that noticeable, though up close they're probably unsightly to picky people.

    I also reformat and reinstall every 6 months, more out of habit (and maybe some degree of OCD) than necessity. The last reformat might have gone slightly awry, as my SD card reader fails to read some of my SD cards now (a Toshiba 1GB, and a SanDisk UltraII SD Plus 2GB), but reads others just fine (SanDisk ExtremeIII 2GB).

    In addition, the screen has an annoying habit of just switching off irrecoverably when in battery mode. No amount of keyboard/touchpad/stylus input would restore it, and the only way to bring it back is standby->wake. It might be due to my underclocking activities, but I haven't tried undoing the underclocks to see if that fixes it.

    New Fujitsu users should be aware that pressing the PgUp/PgDn tablet buttons too quickly will cause the tablet to lock up and BSOD. It is not recommended to click them more than twice per second.

    My main battery is dead and doesn't provide more than 1 hour's charge on idle, so I'm mainly living off the modular bay battery which still provides 4-5 hours battery life (when reading PDFs). I guess I should have been more careful not to overdrain it too much. Freezing the main battery didn't help restore it. Battery wear isn't covered under the warranty so I guess I'll be buying a new one from janashoes.

    ----------​

    I'll be adding more as they come to mind. If you would like certain issues or questions about the T4210 addressed feel free to PM me or add to this thread as well.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2015
  2. Frank

    Frank Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    That's odd and I don't think that this is normal. It's maybe rather a software failure than a hardware failure.


    What's about battery and wear. Do you use the modular bay battery?
     
  3. atom

    atom Pen Pro - Atomic Member

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    I would think that most tablet users would purchase a stand (or lift) for their tablet and just put it in tablet mode and use a external keyboard/mouse since those would be more comfortable to type on. Guess I was wrong.
     
  4. kureshii

    kureshii Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    Ah, I do that too, at home. Usually when studying. But when web-surfing or watching movies it's in laptop mode. You don't get much pixel width with an XGA tablet :p

    Also, in laptop mode the screen position is higher and I don't have to look down at it, which tires my neck more.

    I updated some parts of the review.

    Possibly screwy drivers on Fujitsu's part, other T4210 users have reported it some time back as well. Yeah, I'm using a modular bay battery. Anyone with a T4210 that has spammable buttons? Everytime I want to scroll a PDF quickly I have to remind myself not to spam it...
     
  5. DRTigerlilly

    DRTigerlilly Tablet Lead Mod (Retired) Super Moderator

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    After using notebooks exclusively for a while, you get used to the size, it's funny now that it's a desktop keyboard that now feels strange for me to type on.

    kureshii, the external keyboard w/ stand is genius idea for wear & tear on the tablet. But since i've already gotten in about 7 mths already on this machine, i think it might be too late for that :)
     
  6. kureshii

    kureshii Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    Yeah, the stand is one of the best investments I made, it only cost about 5USD at time of buying (3 pieces of hinged plastic) but is very portable. In laptop mode it elevates the screen high enough, that it's only slightly below my eye level. That takes off a lot of neck strain, as well as minimising wrist strain (at lower elevation levels) if I'm using the tablet keyboard.

    And actually the T4210's keyboard is the same size as an external keyboard (ignoring the numpad and arrow keys). They're flatter on the T4210, but I don't find much need for adjusting when switching between the 2 keyboards. The surface area of most keys are the same between the two keyboards.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2015
  7. DRTigerlilly

    DRTigerlilly Tablet Lead Mod (Retired) Super Moderator

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    in my case, I wasn't really talking about the size, more how the keys feel, but good to know.
     
  8. kureshii

    kureshii Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    Well, I’m now 5 years in since my tablet PC purchase, graduated and job-hunting. The T4210 is doing well, much better than I expected, so I thought I’d do a followup on the 2-year review.

    I should add that my usage patterns have changed quite a bit. Now that I have a desktop and a home server, I don’t actually use the tablet PC very much now; its mostly used for large uploads and other things I don’t want to keep my desktop running continually for.

    Build
    Fujitsu’s build quality is really amazing, considering this thing wasn’t carved out of aluminium like some higher-end laptops now are. The colour is starting to yellow somewhat, but it has not started falling apart yet. Still, there're some areas where the flex and bend is getting to it; I get microcracks in some parts where the chassis sees frequent compression/tension (I pick it up with one hand very often)

    [​IMG]

    The keyboard is starting to yellow on one side due to constant heat exposure from the CPU. It does not seem to affect functionality though; the keys still feel almost as good as new. I can say this with confidence because my brother bought a T4410 last year, and the keyboard feels pretty much the same (it also uses the same standard Fujitsu keyboard).

    [​IMG]

    I got a new main battery, but 3 years in it is also dying and can’t hold more than 1.5 hrs charge now. The modular battery still holds about 2 hrs; it is now with another brother who’s on an old Lifebook S. The modular optical drive has been dead for a year now; I bought an external optical drive to replace it. Tablet buttons, USB ports, SD card reader, gigabit LAN, mic/headphone ports, they all still work; I don’t have any PC cards to test PCMCIA functionality.

    The touchpad has been worn shiny in the middle, but still tracks very well (much better than touchpads on retail units I’ve been trying out in stores). The buttons still have that awesome click sound and feel, so sorely missing in modern touchpads.

    Screen
    5 years in, the screen still does not fail to amaze. It is as usual still on the dim side, so forget about outdoors use in bright sunlight. But each time I am forced to use a friend’s laptop with crappy TN panel, I think well of the T4210’s Boe Hydis IPS screen.

    The digitiser still works and tracks as it always has. I have admittedly not used it much, if at all, in the past year or so. But I am glad to still have its functionality when I encounter the occasional situation that requires it, e.g. looking up Chinese kanji on nciku, or annotating screen captures/pictures.

    Performance
    Now that the T4210 has been relegated to desk use, I have clocked it back to 100%. It idles at ~56°C (ambient temperature at ~30°C), and on load that jumps to 67°C. The Core Duo (Yonah core) is definitely starting to show its age, but still holds up well in XP SP3 and Office 2003. Temperatures are taken from RMClock, where I’ve undervolted the CPU to operate between 0.950V and 0.975V.

    The stock Fujitsu disk is rather weak when benched against other, newer hard disks, but still runs well. 80GB is starting to get anemic, but now that I’ve slimmed down my installs and switched to portable apps for most stuff, I manage to keep overall software footprint to about half of the disk. It certainly can use an upgrade, especially with falling SSD prices, but I haven't found any real need or motivation to do so (I also suspect a good SSD will really show how weak a Yonah dual-core is, lol).

    The T4210 runs fine on almost all transcoded 1080p content with the latest CCCP+MPCHC as well as mplayer2; I managed to play up to 22Mbps 1080p files with minimal framedrop, although it stutters on huge bitrate spikes (tested with both 8bit and more recent 10bit encodes). It can’t seem to handle raw BDMVs though, choking when asked to decode 35Mbps of h.264 and TrueHD.
     
  9. mmccord

    mmccord Scribbler - Standard Member

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    Thanks for the followup.

    I can also attest to Fujitsu's reliability. We have some 4010d's that have been in use 50+ hours a week since mid 2005 and are still going strong.
     
  10. monkey13

    monkey13 Scribbler - Standard Member

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    Thanks too for the 5-year review, Kureshii!
    My T4215 is about 4 1/2 years old now, and I can confirm most of your experiences on this model too. They were really well built and designed (most edges are rounded, confortable palmrest etc.)

    Mine hasn't got crack yet, as I used it more on tables. Also haven't used the stylus in a while.
    Still got the factory-installed XP on it, no reinstalls for me, as I felt it not necessary (at first I wanted to see how well a the installation fares over time and because I was pleased with it, I kept it). With some videos, especially silverlight and flash at 720 and up, it gets loud, but not too hot.

    It would be really great if Fujitsu would build the next year's T901 at the same level of quality! I would be definitely in for it, as I plan to upgrade in 2012.
     
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