This PDA could change your opinion of tablet computing

I'm not ready to join the cult of pen-based computing.

But after spending a few days toting around the stylish Stylistic 1000, I think there's
definitely a future for tablet computers. You can buy this one with a color screen and a
slick Microsoft Windows 95 interface. However, using an electronic pen instead of a mouse
is awkward enough that I'd never make it my only interface. Fortunately, there's a
keyboard port.

Unlike smaller personal digital assistants (PDAs) such as the Apple Newton, the 3
1/2-pound Stylistic 1000 has full desktop functionality. You can hold it like a clipboard
or place it on a folding stand for desk work.

I think Fujitsu made a mistake by not throwing in a compact keyboard; the optional one
is $90. I plugged in my desktop keyboard, which worked without rebooting. An external
floppy drive also is separately priced, at $350.

The $3,495 color Stylistic 1000 has a 100-MHz 486DX microprocessor and a 7.8-inch,
double super-twist nematic LCD screen; DSTN displays have an extra crystalline layer for
stability and readability. The monochrome Stylistic 1000 costs $2,895 with a transmissive
screen and $100 more with a transflective screen.

The pen mouse makes an excellent point-and-click device for filling out on-line forms
or roaming the Web, but you'll need the color display for Internet use--there's nothing
worse than trying to see hypertext links on a black-and-white page.

All Stylistic units come standard with 260M hard drive, 8M RAM, two Type II PC Card
slots and one Type II ATA slot, occupied by the hard drive. There are serial and external
floppy drive ports, plus a port replicator. An infrared port enables wireless data
transmission, handy for meetings and on-the-run data dumps. The infrared driver software
automatically scans for other IR devices.

If you want all the add-ons, a $5,850 package deal buys the color unit with 340M drive,
keyboard, floppy, 16M RAM and desk stand.

Lou Panetta, chief operating officer of Fujitsu Personal Systems, told GCN the
Stylistic's target market is not PDA users but rather heavy computer users constantly on
the go.

This is the most powerful Windows pen computer available today, and the only one so far
preloaded with Win95. It's less water- and shock-resistant than Texas Microsystems Inc.'s
ruggedized Grunt II [GCN, Oct. 16, 1995, Page 1], but the wraparound case is
fairly well-padded. A harsh-environment case is $210 extra.

The battery-equipped pen works just fine. Hold it an inch or so above the screen to
point the cursor. Press down to click or double click. A button on the pen serves as the
right mouse button.

Fujitsu produced this machine's predecessor, the Stylistic 500, in limited quantities
last year. It was used at last summer's Group of Seven economic summit in Canada for
note-taking and information sharing via a conferencing and communications package from Aha
Software Corp. of Mountain View, Calif.

I enjoyed learning to write on the Stylistic with a combination of keystrokes and pen
marks. The keyboard is faster for writing, but the pen is faster for editing. It moves
more quickly and accurately than a mouse, thanks to the screen's built-in digitizing
tablet with 1,016-point-per-inch resolution and 133-point/sec sampling rate.

Besides Windows 95, the Stylistic 1000 comes loaded with Microsoft's Pen Services 2.0
and Communication Intelligence Corp.'s Handwriter recognition system with a set of editing
marks used in most such programs. Mastering the editing marks takes about five minutes.

When you want to write exclusively, the Stylistic 1000 suffers from the same
handwriting recognition problems found in other pen systems. Unless I wrote slowly, the
system missed the first stroke of a letter. In the Writing Palette application, you can
tap on individual letters for a short list of suggested corrections.

The control panel has an icon for adjusting the Handwriter software, with 11 tools to
change the way the pen works. If you change the default settings, the defaults remain in
place for anyone who logs onto the system with a different name.

Your handwriting may be software-corrected depending on context. I tried writing a plus
sign three ways. By itself, "+" was interpreted as "t." When I wrote
"1+1," it stayed a plus sign. When I wrote "you + me," the plus
changed to an ampersand.

You don't always want a computer to correct you like that. If you toggle the setting in
the control panel to enhance recognition of mixed numbers and letters, things like parts
numbers will be recognized correctly; otherwise, a "5" might change to an
"S" midword.

Forms are a far different matter. Communication Intelligence's software provides a
button at each blank that launches an on-screen keyboard you can tap to correct mistakes.

I'm terrible about losing pens. The Stylistic 1000 pen has an eyelet at the top to
attach a string. Oddly, there's no attachment point on the tablet itself. Perhaps Fujitsu
thinks users should tie the pen to themselves instead of the computer.

The Stylistic 1000 isn't a perfect portable, nor is it as compact as some PDAs. But if
you want to run in both environments, it is a powerful and attractive tool.

Fujitsu Personal Systems Inc., Santa Clara, Calif.; tel. 800-831-3183

Price: $2,895 as tested

Overall grade: B+

[+] Windows 95 interface nice for pen navigation

[+] Internal emergency cold-boot floppy connection

[+] Bright, crisp colors

[-] Awkward to use right mouse button on pen

[-] Steep price with all peripherals

[-] Ghosting problem with transmissive monochrome display

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