Ultra-rugged tablet, with CAC reader, ready for the field
- By Greg Crowe
- May 21, 2013
Most government agencies don’t require their tablets to be especially durable or tough, since the day-to-day use of them doesn’t involve being outdoors, or in any environment where ruggedness would be necessary. But there are exceptions. First responders and other emergency personnel, such as the New York City Fire Department, need tablets that can withstand all of the abuse that their jobs will dish out.
The iX104C5-M2 from Xplore Technologies is a rugged tablet with an integrated Common Access Card (CAC) reader, so it’s set up for Defense Department authentication. With this module it measures 11.2 inches by 8.25 inches by 1.6 inches and weighs 7 pounds. Although this is significantly bigger and heavier than a typical tablet, the extra material is what makes the iX104C5-M2 as tough as it is.
We found the 10.4-inch XGA capacitive touch display to be very bright and clear. The screen could be used with either a finger or the provided pen. We were able to see what was on the screen in all but direct sunlight, and even then we were able to make things out pretty well. The Intel Core i7 processor and 4G of memory runs the Windows 7 operating system with agility, letting users run several applications at once. It has all of the expected communications and peripheral ports: two USB 2.0, VGA, RJ-45 Ethernet port, speaker/microphone and a microSD slot.
The iX104C5-M2 is one of the most rugged tablets we have reviewed. It has passed more Military Standard (MIL-STD) 810G specifications than we have seen in any device. It went the distance in the following test methods: Transit Drop, Vibration, High and Low Temperature, Thermal Shock, Blowing Rain, Blowing Sand & Dust, Humidity, Salt Fog Spray, Functional Shock, Crash Shock, Bench Shock, Altitude, Contamination by Fluids, Fungus and Solar Radiation.
It actually exceeds the specification for a few tests – for example, this tablet will withstand drops up to seven feet onto plywood and to four feet over bare concrete. In addition, it has an Ingress Protection rating of IP67, which means it is tight against any dust and can handle being submerged in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. Although we were unable to duplicate every single MIL-STD 810G test, the iX104C5-M2 passed the ones we performed with flying colors.
Of course, what will interest agencies the most are the security features of the iX104C5-M2. Off to one side of the front of the tablet is a biometric fingerprint reader, which is a rarity in the tablet form factor. But what makes this tablet unique is the CAC reader integrated into the back. The tablet can be set up to require a swipe of the appropriate CAC before allowing access to the machine. We have seen this technology coupled with larger PCs, but it’s still pretty rare with tablets.
Xplore Technologies has set a retail price for the iX104C5-M2 of $5,299. That’s a higher price than other rugged tablets out there, but for a tablet this durable and with these security features, it is in the range of what we would consider to be the right price. This tablet would do well for any job where equipment is exposed to extremely harsh environments and DOD credentials are required.
Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.