The ALGx-P01 rugged notebook from the Handheld Group acts like a handheld device with a full keyboard, with all the advantages and limitations that implies.
The ALGx-P01 rugged notebook line from the Handheld Group caught our eye at the 2011 FOSE trade show, where the company showed an ALGix 7 portable computer sitting partially underwater, with a stream of liquid pouring down onto it.
The ALGx-P01 we are testing is a more traditional notebook design that is solidly built to be rugged. But the ALGx-P01 is a bit different from a traditional notebook. It acts more like a handheld device with a full keyboard added than anything else, with all the advantages and limitations that implies.
The biggest advantage to the ALGx-P01 is its weight, which is half that of most rugged type notebooks. Those of you who recall GCN Senior Editor Rutrell Yasin's report of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with a full-size rugged notebook know that as the air got thinner, its weight seemed to grow.
Handheld ALGx-P01 rugged notebook
Ease of Use: A
Pros: Great form factor; many communications options; light.
Cons: Slow performance; small hard drive; battery not well-secured.
In fact, if we were going to outfit Rutrell again to conquer a mountain, this is the gear we would recommend. It’s light at only 3.3 pounds, and it would let him post blog entries and updates from various parts of his journey. And there is a 2 megapixel camera with auto-focus and an LED light for filming at night, which would be perfect for sending back video, even in harsh and dark conditions.
The other big advantage is the communications options on the ALGx-P01. There is Bluetooth, 802.11 b/g/n and an option for a 3G modem. It also has built-in GOBI technology, so operating anywhere in the world should be fairly effortless. There are two USB 2.0 ports and a serial and network port for connecting peripheral devices or getting the ALGx-P01 into a network. And there is an SD card slot as well, which is nice for backing up or reading data from a second device like a camera.
The biggest disadvantage of the ALGx-P01 is performance. Although the unit we tested had an Intel Atom 2.0 GHz processor, it was breathing heavily trying to support the full Windows 7 Ultimate OS. It was only able to achieve 93.8 on the Passmark Performance Benchmark, which is very slow. Compare that with the full-sized rugged Dell Latitude ATG’s score of 1,565, and you will see the incredible difference.
One benefit of the Atom chip is that it’s easy on the battery. We were able to run the ALGx-P01 for seven hours, 11 minutes on a single charge with constant use. Normal usage patterns where you are not constantly running at full tilt will get you a lot more time, easily carrying you though a standard eight-hour day.
The screen is a big one for such a small notebook, at 10.1 inches along the diagonal. And we’ll save you the suspense: It performed fine in our rugged testing. So did the hard drive, which is small but very secure. For storage, the ALGx-P01 uses a 64G solid-state drive with no moving parts. It also has 2G of memory to help with running programs. In fact, that was the one really bright spot on the benchmark performance test. The drive is fast.
The ALGx-P01 had some problems with the military specification 810F testing. It survived for hours in the high-temperature GCN Rainforest Environment at close to 120 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity levels near 100 percent. And it went overnight in almost freezing temperatures and booted fine and fast the next day. But it had problems with our shock tests.
Shock and awe
For shock, the light notebook had little difficulty surviving drops of up to 24 inches onto two inches of plywood sitting over concrete, landing on all of its sides, facings and corners. We recorded no damage during any of that testing, and the data on the hard drive remained secure.
However, once we hit 36 inches, we encountered an Achilles' heel. On the very first drop from that height, a flat drop onto its back, the battery popped out. The problem was that the battery would not go back inside. There is a tiny plastic clip that holds the battery in place, and this easily snapped during the drop. So the battery would no longer seat properly. The clip is about a centimeter long and, doesn’t look very rugged at all. We were surprised to find such a flimsy part anchoring such an important component. The ALGx-P01 would still boot when plugged into the wall, or when we manually held the battery in place. But in terms of portable functionality, it was done.
Other than the flimsy battery housing, the ALGx-P01 proved itself in terms of ruggedness. If you are not too rough, it would make a good tool for travelers in harsh environments depending on what they need a notebook to do in the field. If you need a thin and light device to communicate from anywhere in the world, you would be hard pressed to find something better than the ALGx-P01. Just don’t drop it.
The full keyboard and large screen make using the device a breeze. It won’t act as a jack-of-all-trades notebook in the field. It’s too slow and has too little hard disk space for that role. But as a mobile device with staying power against the elements, the ALGx-P01 shines. It’s reasonably priced at $3,099 as configured for our testing.
Handheld Group, www.handheld-us.com