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GETAC B300

After an upgrade to Intel's 2nd generation Core processors, Getac's fully rugged notebook computer is faster and more powerful than ever. And its battery lasts even longer.
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer -- photography by Carol Cotton)

The Getac B300 was first introduced in early 2008 to fill the need for a compact, fully rugged notebook computer with long battery life and a display that was bright enough to be read in full sunlight. The B300 was also created to take on its main rivals from Panasonic and General Dynamics Itronix. We reviewed the original B300 and found it to be a superb and cleverly designed rugged machine that was well equipped to take on the established competition.

Time and the competition move on, however, and in late 2010, Getac announced a substantial technology, feature, and ruggedness update to the B300 that included a powerful Intel Core i7 processor, more and faster RAM, larger hard disks and the availability of optional SSDs, an optional display that was even brighter than before, better sealing and a wider operating temperature range, faster and more extensive wireless communication support, as well as faster graphics and an HDMI port. But more was yet to come.

In the Fall of 2011, Getac announced that the B300 was improved once again, this time with a switch from a 45nm Intel 2GHz i7-620LM to a 32nm 2.3GHz i7-2649M processor. The new chip not only has a faster overall clock speed, its system bus is twice as fast, graphics frequency has doubled as well, and the chip can use faster memory. The upgrade also includes three USB 3.0 ports (two doubling as eSATA ports), even longer battery life (up to 30 hours with the dual battery option!), and standard -20F low operating temperature. And 4G mobile broadband technology will be available as well. This review covers the latest version of the Getac B300 as of early 2012.

Getac B300 positioning

When it comes to building mobile computers that can stand up to more abuse than standard commercial equipment, there are several ways to go. If cost is no object you can build a veritable fortress of a laptop, designed to survive the most severe conditions imaginable. If cost is an object, you may go with a toughened-up version of a commercial product. The sweet spot, however, is somewhere between ultra-rugged and semi-rugged—machines that offer all the features and performance of a standard commercial notebook computer, yet are able to absorb the kind of abuse they may encounter on tough jobs in the field, in vehicles, and even on the frontline. And as if meeting those requirements were not difficult enough already, the machines must also be reasonably compact and light. And their batteries must last longer since they cannot always be plugged in.

When you look at the market for standard-size rugged notebook computers, it's primarily a race between offerings from Panasonic, Getac, and GD-Itronix. Dell has ruggedized versions of some of its commercial notebooks, and there are some Taiwan-based OEMs that have been making inroads. Getac, however, is definitely one of the major players, and it's probably fair to say that Panasonic and GD-Itronix are their major competition.

In terms of dimensions, weight and display size, rugged notebooks in this class have 13.3-inch displays with the old 4:3 aspect ratio, and they weigh around eight or nine pounds. The B300 has a footprint of 11.9 x 10.3 inches (the substantial magnesium handle with a group of indicator lights in its base adds another inch and a quarter), and our latest review machine weighed in at 8.75 pounds, including handle and battery. The B300 is also about 2.4 inches thick, so this is no ultra-thin or lightweight. Size and weight, however, are about standard in this class. You don't slip a computer like the B300 into a briefcase, but this fully rugged warrior is really only a couple of pounds heavier than today's commercial full-size wide-screen notebooks.

Rugged notebook computers in this class are also expected to have enough performance to run almost any application well, a display bright enough to be used out in the sun, a multimedia bay for an optical drive or a second battery or hard drive, cover all the bases in wireless communication, and have enough onboard connectivity to hook up to almost anything. There must also be a full-size keyboard, sealing good enough to handle dust and rain, enough ruggedness to survive a drop and getting bumped around in a vehicle, and a warranty that lets you sleep at night. The Getac B300 delivers in all these areas. And with the latest upgrades, it's technologically completely up-to-date.

Design and construction

The design of the magnesium-alloy housing of the Getac B300 with its matte black and gun-metal gray color scheme is timeless, elegant and tough. It combines pleasing industrial design with a lot of mechanical-looking details that give the computer a purposeful no-nonsense look. The message is that the B300 is a tool for tough jobs, but a rather attractive one. Below you can see the unit from the top and all four sides:

When they originally designed this fanless machine, Getac engineers faced the challenge of dissipating the heat of a fairly powerful processor. They did this by using a total of almost three feet of copper heatpiping that removed the heat generated by the primary chips. Amazingly, despite switching to a faster chip with a 50% higher thermal design power (25 versus 17 watts), Getac managed to stay with a fanless design, and how they did it becomes obvious once you remove the inside of the bottom cover. It uses the same thermal engineering principles as used in the original B300: heat spreader plates press against the CPU and chipset via thermally conductive material, the heat spreader plates connect to copper heat pipes, and the copper heat pipes are secured to the Magnesium alloy backplate. While the overall thermal design method remains the same, heat is spread (and dissipated) much more efficiently by expanding copper heat piping by about 50%; the B300 uses about 48 inches of copper heat piping versus only about 32 inches in the older unit. Outside, a sheet of thin, hard plastic is glued onto the surface, either to provide additional protection against scratching, or to make for a cooler touch when held in your hands.

Below you can see the original B300's thermal design solution (left), and the significantly beefed-up solution of the new B300 (right) that allowed operating a 2GHz Core i7 processor, and now an even more powerful 2nd generation 2.3GHz Core i7 CPU, without fan. That is remarkable.

The bottom of the unit consists of a contoured magnesium alloy plate with a continuous O-right style seal along the entire perimeter. It is held securely in place by 18 small Philips screws (they come in different sizes and some have washers whereas others do not; standardizing would be better). The whole assembly has an industrial high-tech look that always differentiates Getac machines.

The sole door in the bottom plate has eight rounded corner -- no mere rectangles here -- and is also neatly and precisely sealed via foam pressing against an o-ring-style metal lip. The door is secured with six small Philips screws and provides access to the unit's two SO-DIMM slots (in our unit populated with a single 2GB DDR3 1066/1333 module).

The hard disk caddy (see image to the right) is a remarkably intricate affair consisting of a metal outer housing heavily padded with different types of foam and neoprene. The optical drive in our unit was a Sony Optiarc AD-7717H DVD/CD rewritable drive.

The battery is a powerful 11.1 Volt/8,700mAH 96 watt-hour unit (up from 87 watt-hour in the last generation B300) with a built-in battery gauge that shows charge status via five green lights upon pressing the button next to it. You can't see the charge meter when the battery is installed in the unit, but it comes in handy when you carry spare batteries around. The battery can be removed if the unit is plugged in, but it is not hot-swappable.

As a full-size rugged notebook, the B300 comes with a full complement of ports, all of which are protected either by rubber plugs or hinged doors. The pictures below right show the left and the right side of the B300, both with the doors open and closed.

On the left side of the unit are the Media Bay and access to the main battery. The Media Bay is protected by a hinged door that snaps closed when two hooks engage. A spring-loaded lever releases the hooks. The door seals tightly when closed. The battery compartment has a double-locking mechanism. First you move a small lever to unlock the main lever. Then you move a larger lever to fully release the door. Both levers go hard and it is unlikely that they'll ever open by accident.

On the right side you find access to the hard disk, expansion ports, and a variety of other ports. The hard disk caddy sits behind a double-lock door like the one used for the battery on the other side. The door closes and seals securely, but it cannot be locked, and thus provides potentially unwanted access to the hard disk. On the other hand, military and other customers often require the ability to quickly and easily remove the hard disk. A hinged plastic door with a rubber pressure seal protects the stacked PC Card Type II and ExpressCard 34/54 slots and two USB 3.0/eSATA ports. A compartment next to it has separate microphone and headphone jacks, a IEEE1394 "FireWire" port, an HDMI port, a springloaded SD card slot, and an (unmarked) RF switch that turns all installed radios on or off. Next to that is yet another door that protects and seals the RJ-45 gigabit LAN jack as well an the RJ11 landline jack for those who still use modems.

What's new here is the even fuller commitment to the USB 3.0 standard. USB 3.0 is the next major rev of the Universal Serial Bus that's theoretically up to 10 times faster than USB 2.0 (4.8Gbps vs. 480Mbps). In addition, USB 3.0 allows reading and writing at the same time, uses less power (but can supply more power when needed), and is backward compatible with USB 2.0 (but you need 3.0 cables to take full advantage of the new speed and features). Now what's eSATA that two of the B300's USB ports also supports? Essentially an external version of the internal SATA bus that is almost exclusively used for external hard disks. eSATA is fast, too, maxing out at 3Gbps.

Along the backside of the B300, which is unchanged compared to the original design, are the individually sealed power jack and an also individually sealed USB 3.0 port. The better part of the backside is taken up by a large hinged door that covers two 9-pin DB9 serial ports and a 25-pin video port. The cover has an integrated sliding door that provides access to the expansion bus connector even while the main door is closed. On the right side is a Kensington lock slot, and there are two D-rings for a carry strap.

Most of the doors have metal hinges that are screwed onto the body and the actual door via two Philips screws each, making replacements very easy.

The front of the unit does not have any connectors or ports other than two small speakers to the left and right of the LCD case clasp. There wouldn't be room for anything else as most of the front is taken up the large, impressive looking magnesium handle that is screwed onto the system side of the computer. There are, however, five indicator lights built into the right side of the handle base. They show the status of power, battery, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS.

The B300's 89-key keyboard is full-scale. It has black keys with white labels. Instead of using less legible blue for function key combos, Getac used white for those labels also, but placed them in little white square boxes. Here's what the two versions look like:

Below the keyboard is a small and slightly recessed (so you can feel its boundaries in the dark) touchpad and two mouse buttons. The touchpad is on the smallish side, but it's much more responsive than the one on its arch nemesis, the Panasonic 31. To the right is a fingerprint reader that has its own sliding door.

Both available keyboards have a red backlight that can be set to come on automatically. It's pleasant and clearly illuminates the keys in semi and full darkness. One potential problem is that when viewed from an angle, the red illumination peeking out between keys can overwhelm the actual illumination of the key.

Above the keyboard are five hardware pushbuttons. From left to right, they are:

  • Power
  • P1 function button (turned display on and off on our unit)
  • ECO button for engaging power conservation mode under battery power
  • High-Bright button (turns display to full 1,400 nit power)
  • Light sensor (engages light sensor adjustment of display brightness)

Having hardware buttons to turn quickly off the display and make it super-bright comes in very handy. It's much quicker than fumbling with menus. On the other hand, we wish the power button were elsewhere, as we often inadvertently pushed it, sending the unit to sleep.

Performance

We do not envy the product planners and engineers who must decide what level of performance to bestow upon a rugged notebook. While high performance is always good, it means either a larger battery or less battery life, and it means more heat, which may make a fan necessary. Lower performance means longer battery life and less heat, but then the machine may be considered to be too slow. The challenge then becomes to find a happy medium and balance between performance, size, weight, battery life and heat generation. Then add to that the fact that Intel has been releasing new chips and chip families at a furious pace, thus quickly obsoleting anything running on its older chips.

The latter is likely why Getac yet again updated a machine that was already an excellent performer thanks to a 2.0GHz Intel Core i7-620LM processor (which actually remains available). But with Intel now calling its initial Core i5/i7 chips "previous generation" and the second generation Core chips using a 32 nanometer manufacturing process and now combine processor, memory controller, and graphics on the same die (as opposed to being separate circuitry on one package), Getac felt it had to act. Integrated graphics are faster, too, in the new chips, and there are additional power savings, new chipsets, and additional or improved Intel features (especially in HD video and such). All this made an upgrade almost mandatory.

As a result, the latest B300 models now come either with a 2.3GHz Core i7 2649M or a 2.5GHz Core i5 2520M processor. Our test unit had the i7 chip that can operate at up to 3.2GHz in turbo mode (Intel's turbo mode allows the chip to incrementally overclock itself if certain conditions are met). The picture to the right shows a promo pic of the new "Sandy Bridge" Core processors. The 2649M is part of the "mobile" lineup and, with a thermal design power of 25 watts, is considered "low voltage."

In order to get a sense of where the latest B300's performance level stands compared to its predecessors and its major competitors, we installed the CrystalMark benchmark suite that tests various subsystems and then provides an overall score. The results are below, and for comparison we added the prior and the original B300, the last Panasonic 31 we had in our lab (the latest models now have i5-2540 processors), as well as the recently introduced GD-Itronix 8200.

Below are the results:

Getac Benchmarks and Comparisons (PassMark 6.1, 32-bit version)
PERFORMANCE COMPARISON Getac Getac Getac GD-Itronix Panasonic
Model B300 (2012) B300 (2011) B300 (2010) GD8200 (2011) CF-31 (2010)
Processor Type: Intel Core i7 Core i7 Core 2 Duo Core i7 Core i5
Processor Model 2649M 620LM L7500 2655LE 540M
CPU Speed 2.30GHz 2.00GHz 1.60GHz 2.20GHz 2.53GHz
Turbo Speed 3.20GHz 2.80GHz NA 2.90GHz 3.07GHz
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 25 watts 25 watts 17 watts 25 watts 35 watts
BatteryMon min draw 7.5 watts 8.9 watts NA NA 12 watts
ALU 41,711 26,187 14,320 36,356 34,170
FPU 41,151 25,170 16,990 37,233 37,566
MEM 19,969 21,810 10,148 39,157 24,259
HDD 26,096 8,668 6,711 12,520 8,629
GDI 12,452 8,560 2,565 11,740 5,910
D2D 2,388 1,819 4,535 1,518 5,656
OGL 3,425 2,208 1,010 2,438 2,701
Overall CrystalMark 147,192 94,422 56,289 140,962 118,891

As you can see, switching to the latest Intel mobile processors worked well for Getac. Compared to the already quick predecessor version, the new B300's overall performance in our CrystalMark benchmark is up by a good 50%. That is a substantial and very noticeable difference. Note the improved graphics performance scores compared to our prior test machine, and also how much the B300 benefits from its speedy Intel SSD 320 Series solid state disk. The B300 is one fast machine.

Power draw and battery life

What does all of this newly enhanced performance mean for the new B300's battery life? The competition has set the bar pretty high in this class, with the Panasonic 31 and the GD-Itronix GD8200 both reaching well over eight hours of theoretical battery life in our tests. The first generation B300, too, was a power-mizer and managed to reach a theoretical maximum battery life of almost 12 hours, and the prior i7-equipped B300 benchmarked a theoretical maximum battery life of 8 to 10 hours, and around three hours or so in full-power mode with the display set to maximum brightness (which on the B300 is VERY bright).

Running our standard BatteryMon benchmark with the new B300 in ECO mode (radios off, LCD lowest, etc.) we recorded a power draw of as little as 6.5 watts, good for well over 14 hours. We then set the B300 to high-performance mode, with radios on, and the display to normal brightness. This only increased power draw to about 9 watts (the predecessor used 17 watts in this mode), still good for ten hours or so. We then turned on the super-bright backlight, and power draw rose to 21 watts (28 watts in the predecessor). Setting the machine to power saver mode, but leaving the LCD in full-bright mode, reduced draw to 25 watts.

Getac's own G-Manager utility also includes a Battery status screen and it pretty much confirmed the results we'd seen on BatteryMon. G-Manager showed a minimum draw that was a bit higher at around 7.5 watts, and maximum draw of about 23 watts. Given the B300's powerful 96 watt-hour battery, this would translate in a theoretical maximum battery life of about 13 hours, and still a good 4.5 hours or so in full-power mode with the display set to maximum brightness.

Below is a screen capture of the very useful Getac G-Manager utility.

As always, real world mileage will vary. Minimum draw in a test lab is not an accurate predictor of actual battery life. However, it appears that the power management of the 2nd generation Intel Core chips has once again improved dramatically. Combine that with Windows 7's good power management and Getac's own extensive power management settings, and this latest B300 is significantly more power-efficient than its predecessor. Getac's claim of 13 hours seems possible, and twice that via an optional second battery that goes into the media bay en lieu of the optical drive. Do keep in mind, though, that power settings do affect clock speed.

QuadraClear display technology

Most rugged notebooks will be used outdoors and sometimes in bright, direct sunlight. Standard transmissive LCD displays, however, wash out in daylight, and that's why over the past few years, sunlight-readability has become a major selling point in the rugged notebook sector. RuggedPCReview's former technology editor, Geoff Walker, explained:

"There are really only two practical methods of making a notebook screen readable outdoors: (a) crank up the brightness (measured in nits, which is display-industry slang for "candela per meter squared", or cd/m2) to the point where the light emitted by the screen is sufficiently greater than the ambient light reflected by the screen, or (b) treat the surface of the screen so it reflects much less light, which again allows the emitted light to exceed the reflected light."

As a result, all major rugged notebook makers have introduced their own sunlight-viewable technologies. GD-Itronix was first in giving theirs a name (DynaVue), Panasonic named theirs CircuLumin, and Getac has QuadraClear (see brochure). The term "QuadraClear" stems from the four elements that comprise the technology: a very bright backlight, anti-reflective coatings, linear polarizer, and circular polarizer. All the major players use those technologies, and the difference boils down to a) backlight brightness and b) the extent to which the expensive optical coatings are applied and how the various layers are bonded (the fewer reflective surfaces, the better).

It's difficult to objectively quantify the impact of all those optical treatments but Walker stated that the best currently achievable compound reflectivity is about 0.9% for a touch screen display, meaning that about 0.9% of incoming ambient light is reflected. Assuming this is so, all else being equal, display backlight power then determines the all-important effective contrast ratio which then translates into the degree of real world outdoor readability.

And backlight strength is what sets the B300 apart. A standard notebook backlight is in the 170 to 200 nits luminance range (1 nit = 1 candela per square meter) range. Some manufacturers up the brightness in their rugged products, usually into the 300-400 nits range. GD-Itronix combined its initial DynaVue technology with a 500 nits backlight for excellent results. The latest Panasonic 31 has both optical coating and a very powerful 1,100 nits backlight. Getac offered the original B300 with 500 nits, but beat everyone with an optional superbright 1,200 nits backlight. And now they upped the ante with an optional industry-leading 1,400 nits backlight.

The super-bright 1,400 nits LED light is considerably brighter than the maximum of the standard brightness range. To engage it you push a special button above the keyboard. Turn it on and the screen lights up with an intensity unseen in any regular display. Having that hardware button is also the key to keeping power draw in check: when you need the superbright backlight, switch it on. When you don't need it anymore, turn it off. That's much easier with a button than via menus.

How does it all work in real life? Very well. The pictures below show different scenario comparisons between the B300 and a standard Gateway consumer notebook we use in the lab.

The first picture below shows the two machines outdoors on a bright morning. The B300 is set to use its light sensor to come up with what it considers proper backlight strength. The Gateway is set to its maximum brightness, and it's actually a good display that is far more readable outdoors than most consumer notebook LCDs. However, you can already see one of the B300 display's big advantages: no reflections. The B300 screen has a semi-matte surface and probably a degree of anti-glare treatment. As a result, there are no reflections whereas the Gateway screen almost looks like a mirror.

Below are the two machines in broad daylight and from an angle. The glossy Gateway display is now completely mirror-like and unusable. The B300 display still shows no reflections at all, but it turns a little milky. That's usually a combination of the diffusing effect from anti-glare treatment and the changing viewability of the LCD when viewed from an angle.

The toughest test sunlight-viewable displays must pass is when they directly face the sun. In the picture on the left, the B300's light sensor cranked up the backlight to maximum normal level. The display remains marginally readable, but is on the verge of washing out. This is where using many other notebooks claiming outdoor viewability becomes frustrating. With the B300, you simply push the high-bright button for a much brighter, clearer picture.

Overall, the superbright setting accessible via button push is a great idea that makes the B300 usable in situations where lesser displays wash out. Yes, it takes a lot of power to operate the display at full brightness, but that's what the on-off button is for.

A couple other comments about the display. You can adjust the backlight in 16 steps via keyboard brightness buttons, and via 64 steps in the Windows control panel. However, being able to totally turn off the backlight via a single button, and turning it to super-bright also via a single button is extremely useful. Where the display could stand improvement is in its viewing angles. The horizontal viewing angle is good enough, with just some milkiness when viewed from the side. The vertical viewing angle, however, is still too narrow, with chromatic aberrations as you change the angle. This used to be a common problem with TFTs, but there are now technologies that provide perfect viewing angles in all directions, and we hope Getac will employ those soon.

Wireless and expansion

As is, the Getac B300 comes with a Bluetooth Version 2.1 with EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) class 2 module and Intel Centrino Advance-N 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi.

An integrated GPS receiver is optionally available, and for Wide Area Network communication, there is an optional Gobi 2000 module that supports just about any radio and provider worldwide.

As far as expansion goes, there is one PC Card Type II slot and one ExpressCard 34/54 slot. There are a number of options here as you can also opt for two adjacent PC Card Type II slots (or one Type III), or a PC Card slot and a Smart Card reader. There is also an SD reader that was able to read our 32GB cards and thus apparently is of the SDHC variety.

Additional expansion is possible via the B300's Media Bay. It is located on the left side of the computer. Our unit came with the Sony Optiarc rewritable drive. Depending on needs and applications, that can be replaced either with an optional second battery or an optional second hard drive.

Security

Like most mobile hardware these days, the B300 offers various levels of hardware and software security to prevent unauthorized access as well as theft.

Our system included Infineon Technologies' Infineon Security Platform Solution, a very comprehensive security setup that works in conjunction with the B300's Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2 hardware to create and manage computer-generated digital certificates. Combined with software, these certificates can be used to:

  • Send and receive secure email,
  • Set up the browser for client identification,
  • Sign Word macros,
  • Encrypt individual files or entire folders, and
  • Create secure network connections.
To use TPM, you have to enable TPM support in the BIOS and then configure the system.

Our test system also came with fingerprint registration software that works with the B300's fingerprint scanner.

All of this can get pretty involved. Some users may never implement TPM, fingerprint scanning or even passwords, whereas others may be set up in accordance with their company's IT security procedures, or they may configure an individual system for maximum security.

Over all this, don't forget physical security and get a Kensington locking cable to use with the Kensington slot on the backside of the unit. It is inexpensive insurance against theft.

Getac G-Panel

The new B300 comes with an updated version of the Getac G-Panel that combines a number of special utilities and helper apps that make using the unit quicker and simpler than going to the standard Windows control panels, which can be a cumbersome process.

  • Summary provides a one-look summary of all major data, including battery status, CPU load and clock speed, wireless LAN signal strength, free RAM and so on. You can also drill down for more detailed and technical data.
  • Battery shows % left in a large numeral, plus just about any other battery statistic you may want. It also shows the current power consumption. With the backlight at its 1,400 nits maximum, the reading was about 28 watts, with the backlight at minimum and ECO mode engaged, that dropped to 9.5 watts or so.
  • ECO displays and controls power savings settings. You can customize the settings and even have certain features such as Bluetooth, WiFi or the touch screen turned off.
  • Light Sensor shows you the profile chosen (normal, bright, dark). It also shows environment luminance in Lux as measured by the light sensor.
  • Monitoring lets you graphically view about a dozen parameters such as CPU clock, load, voltage, temperature; free RAM, LAN stats, etc. They pop up in their own windows, and the only additional wish I'd have is being able to set the graph upper and lower limits.
  • GPS Status shows satellites and summary GPS data.

Touchscreen

Our B300 came with the optional resistive touch screen that can be operated either with a supplied small telescopic stylus that sits in its own garage at the upper left of the keyboard, or with a finger.

The touch screen can be calibrated using 4, 9, or 25 points, the doubleclick area can be adjusted, and it can be set to mouse or digitizer mode. There is less functionality, though, in this utility compared to that of the original B300 that also let you map the display so that only part responded to touch, a useful feature for custom applications.

Via Windows 7, the B300 has inherent access to a wealth of pen and touch functionality. There's the hugely useful Snipping Tool, and you can use handwriting recognition via the Windows Input Panel. You can also use just about any other software designed for use with a pen, though keep in mind that resistive touch does not sense the pen floating above the display like an active digitizer does. Also, ink doesn't go on as smoothly in recognition mode even with the powerful new processor.

Ruggedness

The Getac B300 is a rugged computer capable of absorbing rough handling and demanding environmental conditions. The magnesium-alloy housing with its protective rubber bumpers on all four corners on top, large rubber bumpers at the bottom front and smaller bumpers at the bottom rear protect the unit from casual damage. The thick (and easily replaceable) bumpers on top not only provide excellent impact protection, but also keep the machine from getting scratched.

As for environmental specs, the B300 has an operating temperature range of -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, making it suitable for use in virtually any operating environment from freezers to desert.

In terms of listed ruggedness testing results, Getac's web documentation on the B300 is sparse, only stating that the unit is MIL-STD 810G and IP65 compliant, and can be ordered with optional compliance for UL1604 Class 1 Div. 2 (Groups A-D), salt fog exposure, MIL-STD 461F (electromagnetic interference) and MIL-STD 3009 Night Vision.

The pictures on the right are screen snaps from Getac's ruggedness demonstration videos (see here). While the videos are impressive and real, we would like to see more detailed specs listed, and the supporting documentation available on the website.

As far as sealing goes, the Getac B300 carries an IP65 rating (as opposed to the original version's IP54). The "6" here means that the unit is now totally protected against dust, with no amount allowed; and the "5" means that it is protected against low pressure water jets from all directions, and not just water spray. Limited ingress permitted, though.

We still have some reservations about the port sealing technology, which depends entirely on exterior protective doors. There is no additional sealing that keeps dust and moisture out should the seal of a protective door fail, or the user forget to properly close and secure a door. Sealing all I/O openings in the housing with silicone glue or similar would provide a second barrier. We also feel that the various types of locks and levers used should be re-examined for smoother operation and tighter fit.

Bottom line: Faster, more power-efficient, more modern

Getac didn't need to update its ultra-rugged B300 notebook computer so soon after a major overhaul just over a year ago, but we're glad they did. Equipped with 2nd generation Intel Core processors and updated ancillary technology, the B300 is faster and more power-efficient than ever. This well-conceived, well-executed design that's both pleasing to the eye and able to withstand the punishment of hard use in the field remains a primary, and now even stronger, contender in the full-size rugged notebook market.

Amazingly, even with the significantly more powerful 2.3 GHz Core i7-2649M processor, the B300 still does not need a fan. It runs in complete silence, and, thanks to an elaborate heat piping system, doesn't even warm up much. Other technology updates include faster DDR3 RAM, faster graphics as part of the new Intel chips, more and faster storage, updated WiFi, and a move to the much faster USB 3.0 interface technology.

Despite the significant performance improvements, battery life is actually even better than that of the predecessor machine. Thanks to Getac's ECO mode settings (and a slighly higher capacity battery), we saw as much as 14 hours. Battery life will be less under heavy use, but it's significantly better than before. There's a media bay that can accommodate a second battery of equal capacity. Ruggedness is exceptional with a very wide operating temperature range, IP65 sealing, and adherence to numerous military standards.

A stunning feature of the B300 is the incredibly strong backlight of its 13.3-inch display. In everyday use it's a standard transmissive LCD with some coatings that provide a good degree of outdoor viewability. But turn on the super-intense 1,400 nits backlight via pushbutton and the display is brighter than any other we've seen.

Overall, the latest Getac B300—now even faster and more power-efficient—is a superb and very cleverly designed rugged machine that's well equipped to take on the competition. And even this latest version remains fully backward compatible with all earlier B300 peripherals -- Conrad H. Blickenstorfer

Getac B300 2011/2012 2010/2011
Type Rugged notebook Rugged notebook
Introduced Fall 2011, as update to existing B300 September 2010, as update to existing B300
Processor Intel Core i7 i7 2649M with 4MB L3 cache Intel Core i7 620LM with 4MB L3 cache
CPU speed 2.3GHz (3.20GHz with Turbo Boost) 2.0GHz (2.80GHz with Turbo Boost)
Thermal Design Power 25 watts 25 watts
Chipset Intel ??? Intel QM57
Graphics Intel HDi Graphics 3000 Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD
Display Chipset Integrated into processor Integrated into processor
OS Windows 7 Professional Windows 7 Professional
Memory 2GB/8GMB DDR3 1066/1333MHz 2GB/8GMB DDR3 800/1066MHz
Display 13.3-inch/1024x768 pixel sunlight-readable TFT with 700 nits backlight. Optional: 1400 nits sunlight-readable "QuadraClear" display with optional night vision feature 13.3-inch/1024x768 pixel sunlight-readable TFT with 700 nits backlight. Optional: 1400 nits sunlight-readable "QuadraClear" display with optional night vision feature
Digitizer Touch screen (opt.) Touch screen (opt.)
Keyboard Integrated, full-scale with waterproof backlit mechanical membrane; optional backlit waterproof rubber keyboard Integrated, full-scale with waterproof backlit mechanical membrane; optional backlit waterproof rubber keyboard
Storage Shock-mounted SATA 250/320/500GB HDD; optional 80/120/160GB SSD (ours had an 80GB Intel SSD 320 Series) Shock-mounted SATA 250GB HDD (5400 rpm Toshiba MK2565GSX); optional 80 or 160GB SSD
Expansion slots 1 PC Card Type II and either 1 Express Card 34/54mm, 1 Smart Card reader, or a second PC Card Type II; SD Card, 1 SIM 1 PC Card Type II and either 1 Express Card 34/54mm, 1 Smart Card reader, or a second PC Card Type II; SD Card, 1 SIM
Housing Magnesium alloy, sealed ports Magnesium alloy, sealed ports
Size 11.9 x 10.35 x 2.36 11.9 x 10.35 x 2.36
Weight 8.75 lbs. as tested, with battery, handle and optical drive 8.6 lbs. as tested, with battery, handle and optical drive
Operating temperature -4 to 140 F -4 to 140 F
Ingress protection IP65 IP65
Drop/shock/other MIL-STD-810G; optional: MIL-STD 461E, salt fog compliance MIL-STD-810G; optional: MIL-STD 461E, salt fog compliance
Power Li-Ion (11.1V, 8,700mAh, 96 watt-hours); optional media bay battery (8,700mAh) ("up to 13/26 hours") Li-Ion (11.1V, 7,800mAh, 87 watt-hours); optional media bay battery (7,800mAh) ("up to 11/22 hours")
Interface 1 USB 3.0, 2 USB 3.0/eSATA, RJ11, gigabit RJ45, 2 Serial, dock, 1394a, audio in/out, video (VGA and HDMI), fingerprint scanner 2 USB 2.0, RJ11, gigabit RJ45, 2 Serial, dock, 1394a, audio in/out, video (VGA and HDMI), fingerprint scanner
Wireless options Intel Centrino Advance-N; Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR Class II, optional 3G Gobi EV-DO, GPRS/EDGE, UMTS, WCDMA, HSDPA; optional GPS Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300; Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR Class II, optional 3G Gobi EV-DO, GPRS/EDGE, UMTS, WCDMA, HSDPA; optional GPS
Price Inquire Starting at high US$3,000s
Contact GETAC us.getac.com GETAC us.getac.com
Warranty 5-year bumper-to-bumper 5-year bumper-to-bumper

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