Rugged GoBook gets more rugged

GCN Insider | Trends and technologies that affect the way government does IT

How would we make a pretty darn good rugged notebook even better? Off the top of our heads, we'd make it lighter and cheaper. Tom Turner, CEO of Itronix Corp. (now part of General Dynamics, www.itronix.com), said his team has accomplished the former in its new GoBook XR-1 line of systems, which ships next month. The XR-1 comes in at 6.8 pounds, down from the 8-plus pounds of previous GoBook systems.

'We're using SATA drives to help reduce the footprint, and radios have gotten smaller,' Turner told us. 'And not everything has to be all magnesium [encased] to get the full benefit of a rugged system.'

But it may be a long time before we'd ever call a GoBook inexpensive, if only because of the sheer amount of stuff (multiple radios, fingertip scanner, smart-card support, Trusted Platform Module 1.2, etc.) the company crams into its fully rugged systems. The XR-1 starts at $4,300 and comes with a 1.83-GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 512MB or RAM, a 40GB hard drive (in a titanium alloy case) and an ATI graphics processor. Those specs definitely put the GoBook XR-1 on par with mainstream, nonrugged notebooks.

It's also more rugged than before, which contributes to the price premium. Hard drive and LCD heaters now come standard so it will boot up in extreme cold (the heaters draw extra battery juice, so keep that in mind unless you can dock the system in a squad car or other location). Turner said Defense Department customers wished they could close the side door when their CAC cards were installed, so the company made it so. And it turns out that earlier GoBooks could only be considered MIL-STD 810F rugged when their port doors were closed (dust could enter that way). So the Itronix/General Dynamics team designed ports that are sealed from the inside.

Which bring us to the most prominent change in the new GoBook XR-1: Rather than sporting the Itronix name, it had the General Dynamics logo. Turner, who is now also VP and general manager of General Dynamics C4 Systems' computing technologies division, said the whole line of GoBooks would eventually be renamed under the General Dynamics brand.

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