GCN LAB REVIEWS
Getac rugged notebook is large and in charge
Sometimes you need a notebook that is not only rugged but has features suitable for a multitude of situations. For these times, the X500 Ultra Rugged Notebook from Getac is just what you need: a full-function notebook that is ready to go into extreme environments.
The entire notebook measures 16.1 inches by 11.4 inches by 2.5 inches and weighs in at a grand total of 12.5 pounds. This weight was not unexpected for a notebook with a magnesium alloy casing that is so huge. Fortunately, it does have two clip rings on the front corners, so you can carry it around without having to maintain a constant grip on the handle. But either way, you are going to be constantly reminded you are carrying this one around.
The 15.6-inch display is actually a touchscreen, which we don’t always see in rugged notebooks. The touchscreen is of the resistive type, with two transparent, electrically resistant layers over the display that are pressed together to complete a circuit.
Getac X500 Ultra Rugged Notebook
Pros: Resistive touchscreen; huge number of ports and slots.
Cons: Low battery life; susceptible to damage at higher drops.
Battery Life: C+
Bigger isn't always better in rugged computers
Getac vs. The Thunderdome
The advantage of this type of resistive touchscreen compared to the normal kind you find in most smart phones is you don’t have to take your gloves off to use it. In fact, we put some gloves on to test it out and were able to manipulate the touchscreen just fine. We also discovered that the touchpad below the keyboard was just a bit less sensitive than is typical, so that gloved hands could use it efficiently. A stylus is included if really precise accuracy is needed, but we were able to perform basic tasks without resorting to it. In a harsh environment, human users of the X500 can remain inside their protection, too.
We were especially impressed to see the array of components and ports that were present on the X500. In many cases, a rugged notebook will have the bare minimum in this department, but not the Getac. We found a multimedia bay that had a DVD-RW drive. There were also slots for a Smart Card, and Express Card, and two Type II PCMCIA cards. We found three USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, both a VGA and an HDMI port, two serial communications ports, headphone and microphone jacks and two gigabit network ports. There is also an 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless adapter and a Bluetooth adapter that could be turned on and off with a single switch. It even has a fingerprint reader, which is a necessity in any government computer so that the dual authentication rules can be followed.
In our performance benchmark tests, the X500 came out with a score of 834.7. Although we considered this to be lower than the average notebook, even a ruggedized one, its Intel Core i7 M 620 2.67GHz processor with 3G of memory was just not enough to achieve higher marks. Real-world performance didn’t seem to suffer too much though; only very high-end applications might not perform optimally.
More power, please
For our battery life test, we put the X500 through our usual worst-case conditions: no power management while a video runs constantly at about 80 percent brightness and volume. The X500 lasted a mere two hours and seven minutes doing this. This is much shorter than was expected, even with the small battery that comes with the notebook. Fortunately, the optical drive bay is multipurpose, and we would recommend that if you don’t need it, you should replace it with an optional second battery. A big computer like this needs a big power supply, and the X500 doesn’t have one natively.
The X500 is certified rugged according to MIL-STD 810G. To test this, we put it through our GCN Rainforest, a glass enclosure heated up to 120 degrees with 95 percent humidity. It came through that environment with flying colors, as it did with our other environment tests.
It only started to show signs of having problems in the upper reaches of our transit drop testing. At 12 and 24 inches, the worst that would happen was the stylus coming out, or one of the port covers opening, or the screen becoming unlatched due to the lack of a latch lock. The rubber pieces at the corners absorbed most of the punishment at these heights.
At 36 inches, a tiny piece of the casing near the screen latch (no more than 3/16 of an inch in its largest dimension) broke off. Also, a small crack developed near one of the hinges. During the last few drops at the 48-inch level, the battery could no longer properly connect, meaning from that point onward we could only boot and operate the notebook while it was on AC power.
However, because we were able to boot it after all of the drops were done, we gave it a passing grade.
Keep in mind that during the certification process, the testers have five notebooks that they can “tag off” with each other during the entire testing procedure. We had just the one. Finding a product that can handle all of the tests in just one go without a scratch is unusual.
Getac is offering the X500 Ultra Rugged Notebook as configured for this review at $6,500. Although this may seem pricey, be aware that touchscreens, waterproof keyboards and magnesium alloys aren’t cheap. We found this price to be within an acceptable range. This notebook would be great for someone who needs feature-rich flexibility in a notebook that’s practically a desktop and has to go out into the harshest environments.