GoBook II is rough and ready

The GoBook II's improved battery clips and swing-out handle protect it well against breakage from drops.

With earlier weak points fixed, this notebook PC takes a licking and keeps on computing

The Itronix GoBook II notebook PC combines speed and versatility with enough ruggedness to survive severe testing by the GCN Lab staff.

Our review unit had a 1.7-GHz Mobile Pentium 4 processor and 512M of double-data-rate synchronous dynamic RAM, expandable up to 1.02G. That's plenty to compete with most nonrugged desktop replacement notebooks.

The GoBook II speedily opened all the applications we tried, even memory-intensive Adobe Photoshop. And it was a virtual Swiss Army knife of current wireless technologies. It integrated IEEE 802.11b and Bluetooth plus wireless WAN connectivity via PC Cards for Code Division Multiple Access 1xRTT, Cellular Digital Packet Data and General Packet Radio Service.

It could keep one WAN connection up at the same time as Bluetooth and 802.11b. A field worker, for example, could stay connected whether inside the office, walking around the building or out in the field.

The GoBook II's Common Radio Module architecture was designed to smooth upgrades to future wireless technologies. That's a top concern for buyers, because rugged notebooks' high prices mandate long use.

OK on Mil-Spec tests

The GoBook II passed the lab's Mil-Spec 810F tests with no damage except for superficial scratches.

A previous GoBook we tested had a battery door closed by plastic clips, which tended to break in drop tests of 10 inches and 24 inches onto plywood-covered concrete.

The GoBook II also arrived with plastic clips on the battery door, but before we began testing, Itronix sent a new door with metal clips that survived all drops.

Another problem with the earlier model was a fragile O-ring that connected the handle to the case. After it broke in our earlier tests, Itronix rebuilt the ring with solid metal. Itronix engineers challenged us to try breaking it with a hammer.

We declined to do so, but the handle seemed solid enough.

The GoBook II got rid of the ring altogether. The handle attached by large metal screws with a layer of shock-absorbing rubber. After drop-testing it to land on all its flat surfaces and corners, we saw no damage other than scratches.

Another weak point in most notebooks is the display connection. The GoBook II had three circular protrusions that grabbed a bar on the LCD. All the construction was metal. Repeated opening and closing did not loosen the LCD. It stayed where we positioned it and didn't slip out of place.

Water test

The GoBook line has always held up well to heat and humidity testing. So did the GoBook II. Fan-blown water failed to faze it, probably because every opening except the processor's exhaust port was sealed with rubber. We also poured water directly onto the keyboard with no harm.

We kept the GoBook II open and running for more than three hours inside the lab's 5- by 5-foot rain forest chamber, which has heaters and a boiling-water humidifier. When we removed the damp, hot notebook, it was still running.

In contrast, nonrugged notebooks generally survive only about two hours inside the chamber.

We found two minor flaws. First, the power cord seemed prone to pop out unexpectedly. It plugged in just below the carrying handle, and whenever the notebook was moved, the handle bumped the power cord.

Second, the GoBook II ran a bit hotter than most notebooks we have reviewed. Possibly the sealed external access points shut off air circulation to the processor. Performance tests also showed a slight dip, probably from heat buildup, after the notebook had been running for several hours.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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