GCN LAB REVIEWS
The little tablet that could
Motion F5v Tablet PC is portable and durable, with a surprisingly large screen
The Motion Computing F5v Tablet PC is a perfect little computer for medical stations and other places where records need to be looked up on the go but where portability is still an issue.
The F5v is very light, coming in at just 3.3 pounds. Besides the savings on weight, the unit is configured well for portability. There is a handle built into the unit at the top of the display so that it can be carried like a tiny suitcase. And there is a docking cradle that you can plug the unit in to, which turns it into a monitor for a more traditional desktop PC setup when using a keyboard.
The tablet we tested had an Intel Core i5 vPro Processor and a price of $1,899. More expensive models with i7 processors and cheaper ones with i3s are also available. The unit we tested had 4G of DDR3 RAM, which is the maximum the F5v can handle. The standard model comes with 2G, though we would highly recommend expanding that to 4G at purchase time. Ours ran the 32-bit version Windows 7 Professional fairly well, and it was able to score a respectable 538 on the PassMark Performance Benchmarks from PassMark Software. That puts it in the middle of the road in terms of tablets we’ve previously tested, though few were quite this portable.
Motion Computing F5v Tablet PC
Pros: Light, large screen; good performance; handle placement makes carrying easy.
Cons: Pen can be less than perfectly responsive; USB port difficult to access.
Ease of Use: A
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The battery life on the F5v is pretty good, lasting more than four hours when running a movie on the screen at 80 percent brightness and 80 percent volume. The battery is hot swappable, so if you buy extras, you can switch them out to extend runtime without charging.
Given the size of the unit, we were surprised to find a 10.4-inch LED backlit display with a native resolution of 1,024 x 768 pixels. Images on the screen looked really good and did not seem less precise because of the Gorilla glass — a durable Plexiglas-like material — used as the covering for the screen. In fact, in many ways, the F5v looked better than tablets that use normal glass in their panels.
A minor disappointment: We didn’t like that there was only one USB port on the unit and that it was placed at a very bad position. There is a little protective tab that covers the power port, but this space is also shared by the USB port. That means that when the unit is plugged in to recharge — and not using the docking station — it’s almost impossible to use the USB port. The power adaptor plug sticks over too far so that most USB drives can’t be inserted into their port.
Beyond that, the port is recessed pretty far into the protective case, so that thick keydrives won’t be able to fit. We have seen this listed on another company’s rugged tablet computer as a feature because it prevents the motherboard from cracking — but it kills a key drive — if the unit is vehicle-mounted and someone hits it against the dashboard. But we don’t think that's the case here, as the F5v does not seem designed to mount on a dashboard. We think the port is simply recessed too far into the protective case.
We had a few performance issues with the stylus pen used for the touch screen. The screen has to be used with the special pen; it’s not designed to recognize your finger. But the pen always seemed to be a little bit off, selecting a point on the screen that was just slightly to the left of the actual point we were clicking. We would recalibrate the pen, but after a while it would drift off track again. Ninety-nine percent of the time this did not matter. It was off so slightly that clicking an OK button would work regardless, but we thought it was worth mentioning. Also, though this was rare, we sometimes had to click more than once to get the F5v to recognize a selection.
One potentially big plus for the F5v is that it’s certified to be mil-spec rugged. However, we were prevented from testing these features by order of Motion Computing because of what happened the last time we tested a Motion product. Last year, we tested the Motion Computing J3500 tablet as part of our rugged roundup. It passed all its mil-spec tests, but it did suffer some cosmetic damage in the process, namely a busted fan cover plate and a dented corner. It still worked fine, but Motion was upset because the beat-up unit could no longer be used with the company's press demo pool. And they said they could not afford to lose an F5v in a similar way.
So we can’t say that it’s rugged. They say it’s rugged, but we did not test it as such. So if it breaks while you’re using it, don’t blame us. We don’t think it will, but we can't certify anything as rugged without proper testing.
The F5v is the little tablet that could. It’s impressive that this allegedly rugged unit works so well and only weighs 3.3 pounds. There are so many places where the F5v could find a home in government, from maintenance workers to nurses, that it’s just a great value and a good tool to carry around.Motion Computing, www.motioncomputing.com