Fujitsu LOOX F-07C review
When the iPhone was introduced way back in 2007, it not only brought a new way of thinking about smartphones, but also helped to dig a deep, gravelike hole in which the beloved UMPCs and MIDs that Pocketables used to cover would reside.
But even with Android and iOS and even QNX starting to fill the hole that the dying UMPC devices created, there may still be a market for those two categories of products. Fujitsu obviously thinks so, anyway, and released its LOOX F-07C UMPC/smartphone hybrid. It runs both Windows 7 and Symbian. Obviously, Windows 7 makes it a UMPC and Symbian runs the phone side of things. But how does that all work out in the long run?
Well, read on to find out.
The F-07C has some killer specs for such a small device (and one that makes phone calls, to boot!). Its screen is a 4-inch SVGA (1024 x 600) LCD display. Driving that display is a 1.2GHz Intel Atom Z600. Unfortunately, that is underclocked to a mere 600MHz. Thankfully, though, Fujitsu has bumped up the speed a bit by including 1GB of RAM and a 32GB SSD.
Design and Quality
Let's start on the front for the design. Here's the bottom of the device, if you're holding it in portrait mode. To the left is the CLR button, which will hang up phone calls, as well.
In the middle is the Windows LED indicator. When lit, the device is in Windows and is sleeping or getting ready to switch in/out of Windows.
On the far right, the power and pick up call button lives. This three function bottom is quite nice, and the Windows indicator really has no other function than to let you know that the device is doing something with Windows, so you can't accidentally boot up into Windows if you slide your finger over it.
Up on top, there is a 1.7MP front facing camera and a few more LED indicators. The one on the far right is a red LED. It lights up when you start to charge the device.
Here's the top of the back. Again, "top" only works if you're holding the device in portrait mode. If you were holding it in landscape, then the camera (and this entire side) would be to your left.
Speaking of the camera, Fujitsu included a relatively mundane 5.1MP one. It works, of course, and really, it was probably kept at only 5.1MP to keep costs down.
About a quarter of an inch below the camera sensor, you'll find the speaker grille. It's loud, but it isn't the clearest phone speaker I've ever heard. After you get past about 75% volume, music, speech, and simple system noises are crackly and, frankly, quite annoying. That's really unfortunate; on the phone side of things, using the speaker for speakerphone at over 75% volume wouldn't be very clear and would, in turn, make using the speakerphone pointless.
Here is the battery cover. Fujitsu LOOX branding covers it up, and there's a little engraving of the Bluetooth logo, as well, letting you know that the F-07C is perfectly capable of pairing up with your favorite wireless headset. It sure beats using the speakerphone, so while it's a pretty obvious addition, it certainly is a needed one while you're on the go.
The left side of the F-07C houses nothing other than one port: the dock connector. It is accessed by sliding that plastic door down, and then you simply slide the device into the dock with the port facing down. I'll show you that a little later when we get to the dock itself, but it is part of the design.
The right side houses the rest of the exterior buttons, and we'll start at the bottom. The button on the left is the camera button. When I went into the camera app in Symbian, I was expecting it to be a two-stage button; that is, if the button is pressed down a bit, the camera is focused. Then, when the button is fully depressed, it will snap a picture.
Unfortunately, that's not the case. Whether it was Fujitsu, Symbian, or even the camera that decided a two-stage camera shutter button wasn't a viable solution doesn't matter. The point is that it's not there, and it's disappointing because of it. What's worse is the fact that Symbian doesn't allow for any "touch-to-focus" functionality, so whatever the device decides to focus on is what will be focused on in the final picture.
Finally, the top of the right side houses both the lock/unlock button (left) and the "New Task" button, which allows for you to quickly perform common tasks, like dialing a number or checking your email.
All in all, the F-07C is pretty loaded in terms of buttons. Unlike some devices that have buttons all over the place, some of which don't have a clear purpose in living on the device, Fujitsu did put many on their pocketable PC, but they all make sense and are very straightforward.
One very nice (extra) feature that Fujitsu thought of was a desktop dock for the F-07C. This dock charges the device and shows it off nicely on your desk, sure. But its true awesomeness comes from what you don't immediately see.
Here, you'll find the dock connector. To connect the F-07C to the dock connector, simply slide open that previously mentioned door (found on the left side of the device) and slip the device in. It's a fantastic fit and it looks fantastic on your desk.
While it's in this position, the device is still able to be used. The screen slides up to reveal the keyboard and trackball, so you can actually do productive work while it's charging.
Of course, if you aren't into using the keyboard that's included on the device, maybe you're more interested in using your own. Thankfully, Fujitsu thought of this as well and put lots of connectivity into the dock.
As you can see above, the right side of the dock houses two full-size USB ports. When your device is plugged into its dock, you can connect a USB keyboard (or any USB device) and use it as you would on your primary desktop. It works pretty well, too, and I found myself plugging in my Apple keyboard and Logitech Performance Mouse MX to control Windows a lot more than simply using the included input devices.
Flipping to the back, another pair of USB ports can be found, as well as a full-size HDMI port. Unfortunately, I was severely unimpressed with the way the F-07C handled HDMI output.
I have an Acer H233H 1080p monitor on my desk. I use HDMI to run the display from my MacBook Pro, so I thought I'd just try it on this device, too.
Things looked fantastic for the first second. After that, I started to believe that it would've been better for Fujitsu to leave it out. Every half-second, the entire desktop slid to the right at a rapid rate, making it 100% unusable. It really reminded me of what would happen with an old film movie: the pictures keep moving up and down, but the concept is the same, just with the F-07C's picture sliding to the right.
Finally, the left side has one simple port: the charging port.
The 4-inch display has a resolution of 1024 x 600. That's a ridiculously high resolution for such a small screen, and because of that, text and pictures are incredibly crisp.
The PPI works out to be 297. Comparing that to the iPhone 4/4S' 326, you can just imagine how wonderful it looks in person. Windows has never looked better to me. There's only one downside to having such a small yet high-resolution display: icons, text, pictures, etc. are very small.
Since the F-07C's screen is, in fact, touch-enabled, it would've been nice for Fujitsu to enlarge a few UI elements so people with fat fingers (like myself) would have an easier time pressing buttons. There's an included skin for Windows, but it's all in Japanese and it's not very functional, anyway.
Keyboard and Input
One thing that you'll really want while you're using Windows on such a small screen is a keyboard, preferably a good one. Thankfully, the F-07C has a great one.
The rubbery keys are situated above a very nice brushed metal backing, so typing is a real joy. The keys offer enough tactile response to let you know that you've pressed a button, but they're aren't too hard, so typing quickly and accurately is very easy.
As you can see in the picture, the keyboard also lights up with a very nice, very white backlight. It's a good choice, that white light: it allows for the different colored keys to be seen clearly. The different colors let you know what Fn key to press for various characters. For example, Fn1 is blue, and that key enables symbols and some webpage navigation functionality, as well. Those symbols are marked blue, too, just like the Fn1 key, so you simply line up the correct Fn key with whatever symbol you want to type.
Meanwhile, the Fn2 button lets you use your function keys and enables caps lock. The two Fn keys open up many more possiblities for keystrokes on such a small keyboard; added functionality in a smaller package is always greater, especially when it works as well as it does here.
To the right of the keyboard is a nice little trackball. It's neatly tucked away inside a concave space. It feels really good to set your thumb in that space and roll away. As a plus, the ball never clogs up with dirt and other junk so unlike your old BlackBerry Curve or Mighty Mouse, you shouldn't have any difficulty using the trackball as your main tracking device.
Clicking down on the trackball simulates a left-click, but if you are worried that even the slightest press will move your cursor's on-screen position, then you might want to use that silver button above. It also simulates a left-click, as shown on the key itself, but it doesn't move the cursor at all.
I actually found that using that key in conjunction with the trackball was very effective, and overall a very enjoyable experience. Given e nough time to play around with the device, I was able to get pretty darn accurate with where I needed to get the cursor and click when I got there.
Unfortunately, performance and overall daily usability is the category in which the F-07C is quite lackluster. It most likely is due to the disappointing 600MHz Atom that runs the show here, but regardless, it's depressing in some tasks.
In general, browsing the web is pretty enjoyable. I found myself using IE9 more on here than I used the Android browser on my Dell Streak or even Safari on my iPhone 4/4S. My sites loaded up quickly and looked very nice on the display, mostly because it doesn't have some funky resolution that would mess up the webpage's design.
Scrolling is also very smooth. . . on pages without Flash. 600MHz, it seems, isn't the best speed to conquer Flash's power-hungry demeanor; on sites with Flash content, regardless of how much, the F-07C slowed to a painful crawl.
Since most websites are still dependent on Flash ads and other media that runs on Adobe's software, there are quite a few websites that won't always load the quickest. Pocketables happens to be one, unfortunately. For an example of its true speed, Pocketables takes about half a minute to fully load, while Google's homepage takes less than 3 seconds. (As a point of reference, my DSL connection's download speed was consistently 1.02Mbps. Obviously, load times will vary based on your connection speeds.)
F-07C as a Phone
Let me start off the Symbian section by being completely blunt: it sucks.
Symbian's UI is getting very dated, no matter how much it is updated by Nokia. Not only does it suffer from having mid-2000s style icons, a horrible font, and numerous other UI oddities, but there are also some serious usability issues.
For example, the mail app is incredibly unuseful; each message is cluttered with information that would normally be spaced apart from the message itself. And speaking of formatting. . . there is none.
Luckily, though, phone calls were very clear and always went through. I used a family member's full-sized AT&T SIM and got four bars of EDGE all around my little town. While I have AT&T 3G coverage here, I usually get just one bar of it (if I'm lucky) and it is hard to find that specific area of the city the coverage decides to jump to for that particular day.
In the unboxing of this device, Arthur stated that a T-Mobile SIM card worked for calls only; I found this to be true, but it may be due to the fact that I don't get 3G reception very often.
Fujitsu included a 1400mAh battery. While it's not particularly beefy, it definitely isn't bad compared to the competition, either.
While running Symbian, I managed to get through about an entire day (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) with a full charge, but not much more. This was with an AT&T SIM installed and using Internet Explorer on Windows 7 very lightly. Bluetooth was on, but WiFi was not, under Symbian; it simply doesn't work.
Battery life takes a turn for the worse when running Windows 7, though. I was lucky to get a mere two hours with 7's "Balanced" battery profile. That's not the worst part though, as there is something in the device that causes the battery meter to fluctuate wildly. One minute, it would read 100%; the next, 30%. It actually gets so bad that Windows, if the battery "hits" lower than 5% battery, will shut down and the phone will switch to Symbian.
While the UMPCs that we all used to know and love are pretty much extinct, there are still a few companies out there in the world that know there's a niche market that's still interested in them. The LOOX F-07C by Fujitsu might not be the best one we've ever seen; it's a phone and a PC, so there are obvious limitations on either end. But I think it's enough to spur on another generation of UMPCs, especially since Windows 8 is right around the corner.
If you're still interested, you can pick up the Fujitsu LOOX F-07C from Conics for around $1400.