Review: Rugged Tablets

Break me if you can: 4 rugged tablets put to the test

These four tablets -- three Windows and one Android -- will take a licking and keep on ticking.

Review

Rugged Tablets

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Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 8.0

Rugged tablets aren't just for Windows anymore -- take, for example, Samsung's Galaxy Tab Active 8.0, which currently runs on Android 4.4 (Samsung says it plans a software upgrade to 5.0 in the coming months).

The Galaxy Tab Active's plastic case is built on a sturdy internal frame, and there's protective silicone edging that can be removed to get to the battery. While it doesn't have the MIL-STD 810G rating that the Windows tablets boast, it carries an IP67 rating for dust and water protection. And the 1.1-lb. tablet survived the same ruggedness tests that I put the other units through.

samsung active b copy Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 8.0

Its screen was on a par with the Flex 10 at 319 candelas per square meter; in use, it wasn't nearly as bright as the Panasonic Toughpad. And I found that it was the hardest of the four to use in direct sunlight.

There are buttons for turning the system on and off and adjusting the volume on the right side; it has an audio jack, micro-USB slot and a 3-pin POGO charging port on the other side. The three Android control keys are on the bottom front.

At the top of the case is a place to slide in the Galaxy Tab Active's C-Pen, although there's no easy way to tether it to the slate. The 8-in. screen offers 1280 x 800 resolution.

The whole back panel can be snapped off, revealing the 4450mAh battery pack, which is replaceable. The battery was able to power the system for eight hours and 40 minutes of continuously playing online videos over a Wi-Fi connection, which should translate to more than a day's worth of normal use.

In addition to 1.5GB of RAM, the Galaxy Tab Active tablet has a micro-SD card slot for taking the system beyond its 16GB of solid state storage. It also has a Near Field Communications (NFC) chip, so you can transfer data by putting it near another NFC-equipped system.

Because -- at 5.0 x 8.4 x 0.4 in. and 1.1 lb. -- it's so much smaller and lighter than its rugged Windows cousins, I found the Galaxy Tab Active to be the easiest to grasp, hold and write with.

Bottom line

The Galaxy Tab Active slate comes with a one-year warranty. If your company is looking into Android apps for work, this is a survivor that can handle being dropped, spilled on and shaken.

Conclusions

While I admire the thought, care and engineering that has gone into these rugged tablets -- as well as their ability to shrug off my torture tests -- all rugged tablets are not created equal.

Starting with the smallest, lightest and least expensive of the four, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active is the closest to a consumer slate. Still, it proved to be more than tough enough when I tried to break, drown or shake it apart. It's designed for companies that want to use Android apps in the workplace and not have to continually replace broken equipment.

It may be the most mobile of the three Windows tablets, but the Mobile Demand xTablet Flex 10 isn't fully waterproof. Still, its $695 price tag makes it a good choice for a business that wants a Windows tablet for semi-mobile workers.

By contrast, the Getac F110 is fully rugged, and I love its three-year bumper-to-bumper warranty. It's got a nice big screen, but the 1,368 x 768 resolution display was second best for viewing images and video. It's also a heavyweight at over three pounds and is the most expensive of the three Windows tablets at $2,900 -- so it's probably best to go for this one if you really need something that will take a beating.

That leaves Panasonic's Toughpad FZ-G1, which weighs a reasonable (for this class of tablet) 2.2 lb. Its combination of a heavy-duty frame, magnesium case and hardened screen mean that it can take a beating and come back for more.

On the other hand, the fact that its screen blanked out after being dropped from 4-feet onto concrete was a little annoying, although the system survived without any damage. All in all, chances are that the Toughpad can survive whatever your employees mete out and be the value choice in the long run.

Features table: 4 rugged tablets

  Getac F110 MobileDemand xTablet Flex 10 Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 Samsung Galaxy Tab Active
Dimensions 8.1 x 12.3 x 1.0 in. 7.4 x 10.8 x 1.0 in. 8.4 x 10.9 x 0.9 in. 5.0 x 8.4 x 0.4 in.
Weight 3.1 lb.. 2.0 lb. 2.2 lb. 1.1 lb.
Construction Internal frame with polycarbonate case and silicone bumpers Plastic case with silicone bumpers Internal frame with magnesium alloy case and silicone bumpers Internal frame with plastic case and silicone edging
Mil.Std 810G/IP65 certified Yes / Yes Yes / No Yes / Yes No / Yes (IP67)
Processor* Intel Core i7 4600U Intel Atom Z3770 Intel Core i5 4310U Qualcomm APQ 8026
RAM/Storage* 4GB / 128GB 4GB / 128GB 8GB / 128GB 1.5GB / 16GB
Screen size/resolution 11.6 in. / 1366 x 768 10.1 in. / 1920 x 1200 10.1 in. / 1920 x 1200 8 in. / 1280 x 800
Operating System* Windows 8.1 Pro Windows 8.1 Windows 8.1 Pro Android 4.4 (KitKat)
Removable battery? Yes No Yes Yes
Warranty/Accident coverage 3 years / Yes 1 year / No 3 years / No 3 years / No
Price* $2,900 $695 $2,389 $700
* Reviewed unit; could vary depending on model

Performance ratings: 4 rugged tablets

  Getac F110 MobileDemand xTablet Flex 10 Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 Samsung Galaxy Tab Active
PassMark PerformanceTest 8.0 2,258.1 537.6 2,179.5 N/A
Screen brightness (cd/m²) 376 322 480 319
Battery Life (hours: minutes)* 7:40 5:15 6:11 8:40
*Continuously playing videos

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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