Shake, rattle and roll: We test 3 rugged tablets (with video)

We dropped, sprayed and shook three Windows 10 tablets from Getac, Panasonic and Xplore. Here's how they fared.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

Xplore Xslate R12

Xplore's Xslate R12 breaks new ground among rugged systems by delivering a lighter system that is just as strong and durable as the big boys.

xslate r12 Xplore

Xplore Xslate R12

The Xplore starts with a strong magnesium-aluminum frame and a solid central plate that runs from corner to corner. This is covered with a thick acrylic butyl styrene (ABS) plastic skin with a dimpled pattern on the back that's easy to grip. Its rectangular shape has chamfered corners that give it the look of an alien spaceship.

Like the others, it has soft silicone rubber edging to absorb the impact of being dropped, and sealed doors to keep water and dust out. Its 12.5-in. display is protected by Corning's reinforced Gorilla Glass 4.

It's MIL STD 810-G certified with an IP54 intrusion rating, which is not as stringent as the IP65 rating that the other two systems have -- this means the laptop isn't completely dust-safe (although dust should not interfere with its operation) and that it can handle water splashes but not a full spray (although it handled our spray without problems).

The tablet measures 0.8 x 12.9 x 8.2-in. and weighs 3.0 lbs.; when you factor in the AC adapter, it has a travel weight of 3.8 lbs.

The Xplore's 12.5-in. screen can show 1920 x 1080 resolution. The display put out 711 candelas per square meter of illumination, which was the lowest of the three systems, but by such a small margin that I couldn't tell the difference. As was the case with the others, it remained readable in direct sunlight.

The Xplore includes a stylus with push-in slot on the right side for stowing the pen and a coiled tether that keeps it at hand.

Below the screen is a Windows key. On the left side are three programmable haptic buttons; as long as the screen is on, they glow an iridescent green.

On the tablet's back is a power button (on the left) and volume on/off (on the top). There's also a button on the left that performs a Control-Alt-Delete operation to get to the Windows Task Manager. The format is actually easier to get used to than it sounds.

It has the best cameras of the trio: A 2-megapixel front-facing camera and an 8-megapixel back-facing cam.

With a pair of sealed speakers on the bottom edge of the tablet, the Xplore outdoes both the Panasonic and the Getac in sound reproduction with loud and rich audio. It offers three microphones (two up front and one in the back) that can remove echoes from calls and audio recordings.

The Xplore is the only tablet of the group equipped with an Intel Core i7 7500U processor; it runs between 2.7GHz and 3.5GHz. Like the others, it has 8GB of RAM (its maximum) and 256GB of SSD storage.

Unlike the two others, it does not offer Intel's vPro management extensions. XPlore is planning to offer the vPro-equipped Core i7 7600U processor sometime this year, so you might want to wait for that. It does have a second-generation TPM that should make remote log-ins more secure. There is an easily accessible fingerprint scanner on the right edge of the system.

The review unit also came with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. You can also purchase an optional $250 LTE mobile data card to connect.

There is one USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, an audio jack and a connection to an external antenna. There is also a microSD card slot; unfortunately, you have to take the battery out to get to it. The system kept its cool quietly, although its fan does start up occasionally.

Test results

Behind a locked cover is a 3,080mAh battery pack; it ran for 4 hours and 20 minutes in PCMark 8's battery test, in the same range as the Getac and 25 minutes less than the Panasonic. It outlasted the others on the video-playback tests, running for 6 hours and 53 minutes. And it's got a nice feature: Want to know how much more time you have on the battery? Press a dimple on the back, and up to five LEDs next to it light up to show the system's charge status.

Even though the Xplore has the newest and fastest CPU, it rated a PCMark score of 3,253, slightly behind the Getac.

It came through the torture tests of six drops, being sprayed with water and shaken in a pile of sand, with no damage or parts that separated themselves from the system.

The Xplore offers a variety of options, including docks for desks and vehicles, and a module that adds a barcode scanner and RFID reader.

Software includes Windows 10 Pro and Xplore's Know Your Tablet app, which includes documentation and a link to the company's accessories page. It also shows the configuration specs as a plain-text Notepad file, and there's a link to the company's support page, if anything goes wrong.

Bottom line

While the Xslate R12 may not be as tough as the Getac or Panasonic tablets, Xplore has reinvented the rugged tablet with the Xslate R12 by making it thinner, lighter and easier to use without sacrificing a large screen, ruggedness or battery longevity.

Conclusions

Rugged tablets come in all sizes these days, from the 10.1-in. Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 and the 11.6-in. Getac F110 to the 12.5-in. Xplore Xslate R12. Since they all scored well on our torture tests, it's clear that all three will survive difficult environments.

Size is everything for the compact Panasonic. It's solidly made and is very configurable, but doesn't offer an Intel Core i7 processor, which could be an issue for higher-end tasks. It's a lot of rugged machine in a small package, but again, if you need to deal with large spreadsheets or similar apps, its 10.1-in. screen could feel cramped.

Next up is the Getac F110, which has an 11.6-in. wide-XGA screen that pales in comparison to the other two full HD screens. The system's heavy metal design means that it weighs more and is larger than the other two, even the Xplore, which has a bigger screen.

The Xplore establishes a new smaller, lighter design standard that meets the requirements of Mil Std. 810G. By combining a tough magnesium-aluminum frame with a thick ABS plastic skin, Xplore has produced a ruggedized tablet that is easier to use and carry. That said, its IP54 rating gives me pause -- the difference between it and the tougher IP65 rating means it might not be for every rugged situation.

Ruggedized tablets: Specs

How we tested

The three Windows tablets were put through our usual battery of performance and battery tests, including PCMark 8 performance and battery tests, and a video rundown test.

There were also put through several tests to check on their ruggedness:

  • Each was dropped three times from 29 in. (to simulate being pushed off a desk) so that the bottom of the system would hit the floor.
  • Each was dropped it three times from 60 in. onto a carpeted floor.
  • A pressurized paint sprayer was used to douse each with 6.5 oz. of water for five minutes.
  • Each was put on a shake table, covered it with sand and shook for five minutes.

Ruggedized tablets: Test results

Related:
1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
First look: Office 2019’s likeliest new features
  
Shop Tech Products at Amazon