A rugged laptop with a light touch
Getac's B300 laptop PC shines in any any kind of outdoor setting
- By John Breeden II
- Aug 28, 2008
IT SEEMS EVERYONE is trying to make
a rugged laptop PC that's suitable for military
or civilian agencies whose employees
need to work in the field ' where a field
might actually be a field.
Although it doesn't promote
itself as heavily as some
companies, Getac has been
around for more than 20 years.
And the company's B300 laptop
PC is built to be around for at
least 20 more, under all kinds of
The GCN Lab has reviewed so
many rugged laptop PCs over the
years that it's surprising to find one
with innovative features. The B300's
most intriguing features are an LCD
that is readable under all lighting conditions
and a keyboard that is usable
even in the absence of light. So whether
it's high noon or the middle of the night,
you'll be able to use the B300.
The importance of a rugged laptop's
LCD is often overlooked. But what good is
a laptop if the sun washes out your
screen? The B300's 13.3-inch screen has
an ECO light sensor that measures the
ambient light and adjusts the
screen brightness accordingly. It often results
in a dimmer screen than normal, but
the savings come in increased battery
life. The second mode ' or the third, if
you count the default normal screen
setting ' is sunlight readable, which
is like a turbo boost for the brightness
control. When you press that
button, the screen becomes almost
uncomfortably bright for indoor
use, but it looks great when you
A lot of manufacturers add
sunlight coatings to their
screens to make them easier to
see outdoors, but none has
gotten it quite right. Even
when they come close, the
trade-off is decreased visibility
in a typical office setting.
When you come
back inside with the
B300, you simply push a button to return the screen to
normal or ECO mode.
The screen has you covered for use in
extreme brightness, and the keyboard
has you covered in the dark. By holding
the function key down and pressing Escape,
you turn on a backlight under the
keyboard. The faint red glow is not even
visible in office lighting, but in the dark,
the keys are easily readable. And the
glow does not carry far, which could be a
plus for warfighters or others who need
to use the B300 at night but might not
want to advertise their position.
The B300 is also hardened against
damage from other aspects of the environment
and passes the
military's tough Mil-Std
810F specification tests.
Companies are allowed to
use as many as five laptop
PCs to pass militarygrade
testing, but we only
had a single B300 to test,
and it survived everything
we threw at it. It's built
like a tank.
It went through 26
drops from as high as
four feet onto plywood
sitting on concrete. Each
time, the B300, with its
drive and magnesium alloy case, was
fine and didn't even have a scratch to
show that it had been in combat. The
7.7-pound unit destroyed one of our
plywood boards. Even vulnerable parts
on the B300, such as the carrying handle,
have been hardened, especially
when locked into place.
The B300 withstood being opened in
our GCN Rainforest Test Environment
for more than three hours with humidity
close to 100 percent and the temperature
hovering at 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
When we removed the steaming B300
from the test chamber, it was still running
fine. All of the ports leading into the
unit were protected from moisture by
plastic covers with rubberized stoppers.
For security, the B300 comes with a
Trusted Platform Module security system
and a fingerprint scanner. The
scanner, like everything else on the
B300, is protected by its own plastic
cover ' the first we've seen for a scanner.
Once you log in, you can cover it
and use the laptop in a harsh environment
without risking any damage to
your log-in device.
The battery life for the B300 was surprisingly
good at 4 hours and 32 minutes
in our worst-casescenario
testing, in which
we play a movie the entire
time. With typical use,
that time should increase.
The one slight negative
for the B300 was its performance
in our Pass-Mark Performance-Test
6.1 benchmarks. The 1.6
GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
L7500 processor backed
by 512M DDR2 RAM was
only able to achieve a
score of 452.9 in our testing.
That was higher than
the scores for most of the
ultraportable laptop PCs we have tested
this year but well below those of business-
class laptop PCs.
The $4,675 price tag, minus a 5 percent
discount for government purchases,
also leaves the B300 in the realm of
specialist computers. Granted, rugged
laptops typically cost a lot, but that
price seems high. However, if you need
something rugged, the B300 could be a
laptop PC you can't afford not to have in
your arsenal.Getac, 949-699-2888 ext. 203, www.getac.com.
John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.