Gracing the scales at a mere 997g, the LifeBook P1610 is the flyweight of laptops, but it still packs an impressive punch for its weight class. Its convertible form factor gives it an edge over other ultra portables, as does a range of features typically reserved for larger machines.
What we like most about the P1610 is its versatility. Twisting the display 180 degrees and folding it onto the keyboard (which also changes display orientation to portrait) turns it into a Tablet PC, and this functionality is well-matched by the pre-installed Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005 operating system.
Unlike most other tablets, the P1610 uses a passive digitiser, much like a PDA. This means users don't need to use a special stylus to write on the display or tap on buttons and menus, and writing on the screen is also a more natural experience. A round slot on the right-hand edge of the keyboard houses the plastic stylus, that has a nifty retractable head to prevent pressing down too hard on the display.
Perching the P1610 on a forearm feels comfortable, but its underside does get a tad warm. We found the screen size to be equivalent to a mid-sized notepad, ideal for scribbling notes using the included Windows Journal program. Although the P1610 doesn't use an active digitiser, it's still smart enough to distinguish between the pressure of a palm resting on the screen and stylus movements.
One of the main issues with the P1610 is its keyboard. For users with small hands, it's barely large enough to touch-type on, and this is made worse by the shorter depth and travel of the keys. In lieu of a touch pad, a small track pointer is nestled between the G, H and B keys, coupled with two mouse buttons.
The touchscreen measures 8.9in, with a native resolution of 1280x768. Considering notebook screens that are three inches larger usually stick to a more conservative 1024x768 resolution, it's easy to see why the P1610's display is on the small side. The resolution can be reduced to 1024x768, but this artificially stretches text and icons. We also found the viewing angles to be poor unless users are looking at the display head-on, or at a slight angle in notebook mode.
As to be expected for a notebook this size, the P1610 isn't performance-driven. Sitting in the engine room is a 1.2GHz Intel Core Solo U1400 processor, paired to 512MB of memory (upgradeable to a maximum of 1GB) and an 80GB hard disk. An optical disk is also missing, but a PC card slot, SD card slot, two USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet and modem ports and an external monitor port are included. Wireless connectivity is taken care of with 802.11a/b/g WLAN and Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR.
The World Bench 5 benchmark returned a score of 61, which is about average for a Core Solo processor. Integrated Intel graphics mean the P1610 is not a gaming machine by any stretch of the imagination, reflected in the low 3DMark2001 score of 3919.
A notebook this tiny is bound to get carted around more often than a heavier machine, so it's good to see that security and durability are both well-catered for. The integrated fingerprint scanner and Trusted Platform Module chip work together with the OmniPass program to tie user names and passwords to registered fingerprints. The P1610 also features a sturdy magnesium alloy casing and shock-mounted hard drive.
Most ultra-portables boast extra-long battery life, so the P1610's three-cell battery is disappointing. Obviously, those wanting to use the P1610 away from the office are best off springing for the six-cell battery.
Accessories included in the box are a soft cloth for cleaning the screen - essential as the glossy coating chronically picks up fingerprints - and a black neoprene pouch that fits the P1610 like a glove. A respectable range of software is thrown in, including a one-year subscription to Norman Virus Control, Norman Personal Firewall and Acronis True Image 9 Personal Edition. Standard warranty is two years nationwide pickup and return.