Xplore the possibilities of a rugged tablet

The lab steamed, froze and baked the Xplore ix104 but couldn't discourage its performance.

This implacable Tablet PC takes a licking and keeps on ticking under extreme heat, cold and moisture

Xplore Technologies Corp. has ruggedized a Tablet PC that, unlike most first-generation tablets, can weather the elements and take an occasional bump.

The iX104 was the first rugged slate-style tablet the GCN Lab has reviewed. Its robust exterior matched the robust internal specifications.

Inside the rugged slate, a 2.5-inch, shock-mounted 40G hard drive spun at 4,200 rpm. It sat beside 32K of L1 cache memory and a large 512K L2 die.

An 800-MHz Pentium III processor running Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition with 500M of synchronous dynamic RAM was more than up to performing most tasks, even though it wasn't a Pentium 4 or even a 1-GHz processor.

Because of its ruggedness, the tablet took up a little more room than a standard slate design. It weighed 4.45 pounds and measured 11.2 by 8.25 by 1.6 inches.

We tested its ruggedness by placing it in an enclosed area with a humidifier, in a freezer and in a hot car exposed to the sun with the windows closed. The tests simulated real-life conditions for the tablet in the hands of, say, a law enforcement officer.

After the tablet stayed in each of these environments for 45 minutes, we ran processor- and memory-intensive operations such as photo and graphics editing and watched for computation delays.

Stick a fork in it

After 45 minutes at 39 degrees Fahrenheit, we noted no processor slowdown despite working with large image files and spreadsheets when we took the tablet out of the freezer.

Likewise, the humid environment had no effect on processing. That didn't surprise us because of Xplore Technologies' claim that the unit can be submerged in a foot of water for up to 30 minutes.

But we did see slightly lower performance after the unit had baked for 45 minutes in a 95-degree car.

The 10.4-inch TFT XGA touch screen could reproduce 16 million colors at a resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels. The pen designed for the touch screen was a little difficult to use at first because ruggedization made the screen thicker than an average tablet's. But the iX104's ruggedness made that minor inconvenience bearable.

In testing, we were impressed by the battery life. The unit ran continuously for about two and a half hours before it needed a recharge.

The only flaw we saw is that the iX104 had only one Universal Serial Bus 2.0 port. With only one drive spindle and no built-in optical drive, a single USB port isn't enough for this workhorse.


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