Updated semi-rugged notebook computer offers Intel 3rd gen Core i3/i5 power, superior connectivity, optional resistive multi-touch, all at a very fair price
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
On November 27, 2011, Getac announced a substantially updated version of its S400 semi-rugged full-featured notebook computer. The S400 is specifically designed for use in a variety of field applications that require more toughness and durability than consumer products can provide, but not the higher weight and, especially, the higher cost of fully ruggedized construction. Target deployment for semi-rugged systems includes utilities, field service, public safety, as well as military applications and vehicle use.
What do you get with this latest version of the Getac S400? In essence a modern, full-function multi-purpose notebook computer that's significantly more durable than a consumer notebook. And also one that won't weigh you down a lot: The S400 measures 13.7 x 10.15 inches, is just under two inches thick, and weighs about 6.5 pounds. The S400 has a 14-inch LCD display with wide-format 16:9 aspect ratio and WXGA 1366 x 768 pixel resolution, which is the same as the 720p high definition TV standard. Below you can see what the Getac S400 looks like from various angles:
The updated S400 has been thoroughly modernized under the hood. Getac offers two dual core processor options, both from Intel's highly regarded third generation Core processor lineup. You can select either the Core i3-3120M running at 2.5GHz, or the Core i5-3320M running at 2.6GHz and capable of speed bursts up to 3.3GHz. Apart from the difference in clockspeed, the higher-end i5 chip offers Turbo Boost (the ability to boost clock speed when certain conditions are met) and supports a number of advanced Intel technologies that may or may not be needed (virtualization, trusted execution, advanced AES). Expect much improved perforance at lower power consumption, especially in the graphics arena (where ATi E6760 discrete graphics are optionally available to boot). The S400 can support up to 8GB of fast DDR3 RAM and comes with a speedy 500GB SATA hard disk (for certain applications, customers may want to select the optional 128GB or 256GB solid state disk instead). The multimedia bay of the S400 accommodates a Super-Multi DVD reader/writer.
The S400's standard 14-inch display is sunlight-readable, and it will do nicely in most applications. However, Getac also offers an optional even brighter display with Getac's QuadraClear display technology that uses a variety of optical coatings and measures and a very strong backlight to provide exceptional outdoor viewabilty. The 800 nits backlight of this display is several times brighter than that of consumer notebook displays that rarely offer more than about 200 nits. In addition, this display is available with Getac's unique resistive multi-touch technology that, unlike the projected capacitive touch technology used on consumer tablets, can even be used even with gloves (see info page on Getac's multi-touch technology).
For connectivity, the S400 is well equipped, as one would expect from a modern business-class notebook. There are three USB 3.0 ports, a combo USB 2.0/eSATA port (used for certain high-speed external data storage devices), IEEE 1394a "Firewire", RS232 serial, gigabit LAN, VGA video, HDMI, audio in and out, dock, and optional RJ11 modem port and antenna pass-through for units equipped with GPS and/or WWAN. This pretty much means that transferring data, both via high-speed or legacy standards, to and from the Getac S400 will never be a problem.
For expansion, there is a PC Card Type II slot, an ExpressCard 34/54 mm slot, a Smart Card reader, and a memory multi card reader that supports SD cards as well as MMC and MMC+.
On the wireless side you get 802.11a/b/g/n via Intel's Centrino Advanced-N 6235 WiFi module, Class 1 Bluetooth 4.0, optional 3G Gobi 3000 or 4G LTE mobile broadband, and optional GPS.
Since the S400 packs a significant punch with its standard voltage 3rd gen Core i3 or i5 processors, it needs a battery large enough to offer acceptable battery life. To facilitate that, the latest S400 comes with an even powerful 8,700mAH smart Li-Ion battery packing about 96.5 watt-hours of capacity -- plenty enough to expect very good battery life from the S400, especially with the power-efficient new processors.
As far as ruggedness goes, Getac classifies the S400 as "semi-rugged." What does that mean? In terms of specs, a wide operating temperature range of 32 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the ability to survive a three foot drop, and MIL-STD-810G compliance for vibration and a variety of other environmental testing. The unit is IP5x rated, which means it's pretty much protected against dust, but without making any specific claims to protection against liquids other than a water-resistant keyboard and sealed ports and connectors. As far as construction goes, Getac refers to its"KryptoShell" housing material that provides much higher protection than standard consumer notebook housings.
One spec item that caught our attention is Getac's assertion that the S400's thermal design allows it to maintain 89% of its performance even at the upper limit of its operating temperature range (140 degrees Fahrenheit). That's impressive.
Security is addressed via a combination of hardware and software measures, including a finger print reader, a Smart Card reader, TPM 1.2, a cable lock slot, Intel security technologies available through the i5 chip, as well as BIOs, password and software utility settings.
Overall, the updated Getac S400 represents an excellent value for mobile professionals who need a state-of-the-art notebook computer that's tougher than your standard consumer market notebook. It offers excellent performance, has superior connectivity, a large-enough display in the now common 16:9 aspect ratio, enough extra ruggedness and protection to make it suitable for use outdoors and on the road, and attractive options such as a super-bright display with glove-enabled multi-touch and wide area wireless operation via Gobi 3000 or 4G LTE.