GCN LAB REVIEW

General Dynamics Itronix GD 8000

Laptop PC good for mounting in a vehicle, but it could get out of the car, too

Pros: Perfect backlit keyboard and good performance; survived humidity and temperature extremes; good use of vertical space for vehicle mounting.
Cons: Handle and clasps broke during shock testing.
Ruggedness: B
Performance: B
Ease of use: A
Features: A
Value: B
Price: $4,250

The GD 8000 is a fully rugged laptop PC that seems tailored for use within vehicles, although it’s also tough enough to survive most conditions outside.

The GD 8000 we tested had an Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400 processor and 4G of DDR III memory. It scored a respectable 452.1 on the Passmark Performance Test 7 benchmark, which puts it at the lower-end of the spectrum for this review but with more than enough performance to handle most applications, including geographic information system and Global Positioning System programs. The GD 8000 has GPS, personal-area network, wireless local-area network and wireless wide-area network capabilities all built into the system, so communication shouldn’t be a problem if users are anywhere with some type of signal. And it’s Gobi 2000 ready.

One of the most interesting features of the design is that it has a 13.3-inch display set up in a 4 by 3 ratio. Resisting the urge to move to widescreen is good in the rugged market because most military and police applications are still designed for a traditional screen orientation. The GD 8000 is also one of the tallest units, reaching to just less than 13 inches in height. This could be a nod to the workspace of a typical vehicle, where there is extra vertical space but moving too far horizontally intrudes on a passenger's personal space. The screen uses DynaVue technology, so it looks good in bright sunlight — another feature that is helpful inside a car. And the backlit blue keyboard is one of the most readable we’ve ever seen in total darkness.

In our worst-case scenario battery life test, the GD 8000 lasted 4 hours, 45 minutes with a movie constantly playing on the screen. Normal use with power-saving tools activated should get a typical user even more runtime. That’s not a bad score given that the GD 8000 actually has a cooling fan working in conjunction with a low-voltage processor.

Because the GD 8000 is more or less designed for vehicles, operating temperatures are important. On the low end, the GD 8000 can survive at 22 degrees Fahrenheit, something it easily did in our testing. Without solid-state drives — ours had a normal 150G drive — you can’t get much lower than that without parts freezing up. The GD 8000 withstood an overnight stay in our 28-degree test chamber.

On the hot side, the GD 8000 also fared well, though the heat did affect performance slightly. In our GCN rainforest environment, where the temperature is 120 degrees and the humidity is close to 100 percent, it kept on computing without fail. However, it scored about 30 points lower on the benchmark when hot, a sign that it was sweating a little bit.

The GD 8000 didn’t do as well on the drop testing, despite claims of being able to perform above the normal 36-inch height limit for military specifications. We recorded damage to the GD 8000 in drops as low as 10 inches. We performed the tests according to the mil-spec, with two inches of plywood sitting over concrete at the end of the drop. Specifically, a small mounting bracket that looked like a screw popped out at 10 inches. At 24 inches, the cover over the PCMIA slot broke off. None of this damage affected the GD 8000’s performance, so it passed the shock test. But compared to the Panasonic Toughbook 30, which came through every rugged test without so much as a scratch, the damage to the 8000 is notable.

The GD 8000 is a good computer that could easily fit into almost any vehicle. The 7.9-pound laptop PC could also be carried if needed, though it’s not as rugged as the Toughbook 30 outside. But with a government price of $4,250, it’s less expensive, too.

General Dynamics Itronix, 800-441-1309, www.gd-itronix.com

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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