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GETAC S400

Latest update to Getac's semi-rugged notebook computer offers Intel "Haswell" Core i3/i5/i7 power, excellent connectivity, optional multi-touch, all at a reasonable price
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer -- photography by Carol Cotton)

In October 2014, Getac announced the latest generation of its popular series of S400 "semi-rugged" notebook computer. The S400 is a full-size, full-featured laptop 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 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. RuggedPCReview.com had a chance to have hands-on with the newly enhanced and upgraded Getac S400, and this review describes the machine, its features, and where it fits in.

Getac S400 positioning

What is the Getac S400 and who needs it? In essence, it is designed to be a more durable and more mobile alternative to the common consumer and corporate notebook computer. It's made for those whose laptops spend more time on the road and outdoors than on desks, but within reason and not to the extreme. The S400 looks a lot like Getac's fully rugged notebooks, but it costs a lot less—about twice as much as a good consumer notebook, but only half as much as a fully rugged machine.

The somewhat lighter build also means that though it's still a large and substantial machine, it won't weigh you down more than necessary: The S400 measures 13.7 x 10.15 inches, is just under two inches thick, and weighs just under seven pounds. To put it in perspective, that's about the footprint of a 15-inch MacBook Pro. The S400 has a 14-inch LCD display with a wide-format 16:9 aspect ratio and WXGA 1366 x 768 pixel resolution.

What sets the S400 apart from a standard notebook is that it's clearly built tough enough to be used outdoors and on the job. The display is much brighter than what you'd find on a standard notebook. There's an integrated handle to carry the device without the need to bring along a bag for it as well. There's a touch screen because that often works well with field applications. All of the ports have protective covers because it can get dusty and wet out there. And everything is sturdy enough to absorb the occasional bump or blow. If the S400 were a vehicle it'd be an offroad-capable SUV, more able to take a beating out there, but not as extreme (or expensive) as a military Humvee.

A semi-rugged notebook in this class is also expected to have enough performance to run almost any application well, a display bright enough to be used out in the sun, cover all the bases in wireless communication, have enough onboard connectivity to hook up to almost anything, and there must also be a full-size keyboard to make typing bearable in the field. The Getac S400 delivers in all these areas.

In terms of competition, the Getac S400 seems squarely aimed at Panasonic's Toughbook 53, or perhaps the other way around as the S400 was there first. There are other contenders as well in the semi-rugged notebook market. Dell has toughened Rugged and Rugged Extreme versions of some of its consumer notebooks, and there are several Taiwan-based OEMs that sell durable and semi-ruggeds under various brand names and sometimes also their own. For customers seeking a semi-rugged from one of the traditional rugged computing vendors, the Getac S400 will definitely be on the short list.

Design and construction

The Getac S400 is a very attractive machine. Its matte black and gun-metal gray color scheme is elegant, has stood the test of time, and exudes just the right degree of toughness. It's a successful combination of industrial design with mechanical-looking details that give the computer a sharp, purposeful no-nonsense look. Note, however, that unlike Getac's fully rugged models, the S400's case is made of what Getac calls "KryptoShell" ABS+PC polymer plastic material, and not magnesium-alloy. Regardless, the S400 looks and feels as tough and solid as the magnesium-clad models. Below you can see the unit from the top and all four sides:

Before I go much farther, I should also mention that while the Getac S400 is definitely a tough machine that can take a beating, it is not designed to be waterproof. Getac calls it "water resistant," but that really just means it can handle a spill onto its keyboard and perhaps a bit of rain. And the protective doors also keep water at bay. But the S400 is not a sealed machine. There are grills and other openings to the inside through which water can get in, and that's why the machine does not carry an IP rating for liquids.

On the bottom of the S400 are two removable ABS+PC plastic covers. Beneath one of them, a vented one, are the unit's two SODIMM memory module slots, populated in our eval unit a single two 4GB DDR3L 1,600MHz SODIMM. Beneath the other sits the separate shock-mount hard drive caddy. To gain full access to the inside of the unit, you need to remove the entire plastic bottom cover. It is secured with about 20 Philips screws, then comes off easy. Since the S400 is not a sealed machine, there is no seal between the housing and its bottom cover. The picture below shows the Getac S400 with its bottom plate removed.

The motherboard measures about 13 x 5.7 inches and sits underneath the keyboard. There does not appear to be a metal frame or chassis; instead, everything is mounted onto the very sturdy "KryptoShell" plastic case. Almost all of the unit's external interface ports are edge-mounted onto the motherboard. There are also a number of subsidiary boards. The largest one had connectors for the hard disk, as well as two USB 3.0 and an eSATA port. Overall, the motherboard and interior circuitry is very clean, very solid, and very well laid out. There are no fixes, and everything is properly secured. Very impressive is also the amount of detail on the inside of the case: there are even guides for wires!

The most noticeable part of the motherboard is its copper thermal management system. A small copper heat spreader sits on top of the Core i5 processor. A copper heat pipe then removes heat from the CPU to the fan assembly. Despite the relatively high 37-watt thermal design power of the Core i5-4210M processor, the system apparently can make due without an additional heat sink in the form of a magnesium backplate (as the B300 has). There is also no additional heat piping to the chipset or other chips. The fan does it all. And in a testimony how far Intel has come with thermal management, the Core i5-4210M chip can make do with one heat pipe whereas an earlier generation S400 we tested in 2010 needed two heat pipes to handle the heat generated by its 35 watt Core i5-520M. This for a semi-rugged design advanced thermal management means that, according to Getac, the S400 can maintain a very high level of performance even when it gets hot.

The hard disk caddy (see image to the right) is a remarkably intricate affair consisting of a metal outer housing with different types of padding inside, certainly more than enough to keep the 128GB LiteON LAT-128M3S solid state disk in our eval unit safe and sound. Our tester came without the slide-in and easily removable optical drive Getac offers as an option.

The battery is a powerful 10.8 Volt/8,700mAH 94 watt-hour unit with a built-in battery gauge that shows charge status via four bright LED 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. Battery technology has also advanced since we last had a Getac S400 in our lab. The battery in the 2014 model has almost 10% more capacity, 94 vs. 86 watts. It's a solid unit, weighing 16.5 ounces all by itself.

As a full-size semi-rugged notebook, the S400 comes with a full complement of ports, all of which are protected either by rubber plugs or hinged doors. The pictures below show the left and the right side of the S400, both with the doors open.

On the left side of the unit (top picture) starting on the left are the fan vent with a garage for the 3.5-inch telescopic resistive stylus and its tether anchor point on top of it. To the right of the vent is an I/O block with audio-out and microphone connectors and an HDMI port. Next to that is a master RF switch that turns all radios off. If it's in on position, individual radios can be software controlled. To the right of that is another I/O block, this one with a SD Card reader, two USB 3.0 ports, and a combination eSATA/USB 2.0 port. Both I/O blocks have plastic protective covers that, once firmly seated, provide good sealing.

On the right side of the computer, again from left to right, is the battery compartment with recessed Smart Card and SIM card slots. The battery compartment has a hinged protective door with two springloaded locking levers. It won't open by accident. Next to that a 34/54mm ExpressCard slot. Underneath the slots is the compartment for an optional optical drive. The S400 comes with a plastic insert for when the ExpressCard card slots is not in use. Neither the slot nor the optical drive have sealing, so this part of the machine is vulnerable to liquids.

Along the backside of the S400 (see picture below) are, from left to right, the power connector and another USB 3.0 port underneath a plastic protective door, a serial RS232 DB9 port under a separate protective door, an RJ45 LAN jack and (possibly) an optional RJ11 modem port under a combined door, an additional cutout for another optional port, a VGA connector for external video, and a Kensington lock slot.

The hinged protective port covers are screwed onto the body of the S400 via two Philips screws each, making replacements very easy should they break.

The front of the unit does not have any connectors or ports other than the two speakers to the left and right of the unit. There wouldn't be room for anything else as most of the front is taken up the large, springloaded rubber handle that is screwed onto the system side of the computer. There are, however, no fewer than eight indicator lights built into the left side of the case. They show the status of power, battery, hard disk activity, Num Lock, Caps Lock, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS, and remain visible even when the LCD lid is closed.

Keyboard and hardware controls

The S400's 88-key keyboard is full-scale. Here again, compared to the 2011 model there's evident a migration to a slightly increased sealing and ruggedness. While that one came with standard laptop issue beveled keys, the new S400 comes with a water-resistant mechanical membrane keyboard that used to be optional. The keys are black with fat white labeling for maximum viewability in challenging lighting conditions. 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. All those white labels make the keyboard look a little busy, but it works very well, with nice tactile feedback and the right amount of key travel.

Below the keyboard is a flush-mounted area area that includes the touchpad, mouse buttons and fingerprint scanner. The touchpad is optimally sized and very responsive. Its work surface is marked by a slightly raised border so that you can always feel where it starts and ends. The two mouse buttons are also properly sized, and they have a slightly rough powdercoat finish that provides just the right amount of grip. The small fingerprint reader is placed between the two mouse buttons.

Our review S400 came with the optional red LED-based backlight that can be activated and toggled through three brightness settings via a function key combination. It's pleasant and clearly illuminates the keys in semi and full darkness.

One slightly distracting thing with this design is that the red illumination bleeds out around the keys. On the other hand, this also helps delineating the keyboard rather than having the labels just float in space.

Above the keyboard are five hardware pushbuttons (see image below) as is the custom with Getac's current lineup of rugged notebooks. From left to right, they are:

  • P1 starts the G-Manager
  • P2 starts Internet Explorer
  • Blackout mode toggle that turns off backlight and all other lights and illuminations
  • ECO button for engaging power conservation mode under battery power
  • High-Bright button toggles full 800 nit power backlight on and off
  • Power

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, it's not obvious why the G-Manager button is red, round, and separate while the power button is on the side.

Performance

Selecting the right processor and level of performance for a notebook computer means having to make some hard decisions. Fast is always good, but in notebooks fast generally also means a bigger battery, more cooling, and that usually means higher weight and cost. This is where product placement comes in. A semi-rugged notebook probably won't spend as much time away from desks and power outlets as a tablet or fully rugged system, which means that most customers probably value good performance even if it means the machine weighs a bit more. So what did Getac decide for this 4th generation of its S400?

Available S400 CPUs Intel Core i7 Intel Core i5 Intel Core i5 Intel Core i3
Model 4610M 4310M 4210M 4110M
Cores/Threads 2/4 2/4 2/4 2/4
Base Clock Speed 3.00 GHz 2.70 GHz 2.60 GHz 2.60 GHz
Turbo Speed 3.70 GHz 3.40 GHz 3.30 GHz No turbo
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 37 watts 37 watts 37 watts 37 watts
Smart Cache 4MB 3MB 3MB 3MB
Integrated graphics HD Graphics 4600 HD Graphics 4600 HD Graphics 4600 HD Graphics 4600
Graphics base speed 400 MHz 400 MHz 400 MHz 400 MHz
Graphics max speed 1.30 GHz 1.25 GHz 1.15 GHz 1.10 GHz
Intel Flexible Display Yes No No No
Intel Clear Video Yes No No No
Intel Trusted Execution Yes Yes No No
Intel vPro Yes Yes No No

They went for high performance with four dual processor options from Intel's powerful 4th Generation Core processor lineup, codenamed "Haswell." Customers can select either the Core i3-4110M running at 2.60GHz, the Core i5-4210M (installed in our review unit) running at 2.6GHz and capable of speed bursts up to 3.3GHz, then the slightly more upscale 2.7GHz Core i5-4310M that can reach a turbo speed of 3.4GHz, and the top-end is the 3.0GHz Core i7-4610M that can clock as high as 3.7GHz.

What's interesting here is that all of these chips are dual core/quad thread models with the same 37 watt Thermal Design Power (which is an Intel measure of how much heat the cooling system must be able to dissipate). And all of them use the same integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600. So from that perspective there are no major differences between the chip options.

What does separate the available processor choices — and may be more important than the relatively minor difference in processor and graphics speed — is the number of advanced Intel technologies that may or may not be needed. These may be irrelevant to some customers, but essential to others. To see full spec table for these three CPUs, see here.

Do note, though, that both available processor options are considered "standard voltage," which in Intel speak means that while they generally offer higher performance than "low voltage" and "ultra low voltage" versions, they also generate more heat, which is why the S400 has a fan whereas, for example, the Getac B300, does not.

In order to get a sense of how the S400 performs compared to other Getac models and some competing products, we installed Passmark Software's PerformanceTest 6.1 that runs about 30 tests covering CPU, 2D graphics, 3D graphics, memory, and disk and then computes scores for each category and an overall PassMark score. We also ran our second benchmark suite, CrystalMark. The results are below, and for comparison we added the original Getac S400 we tested in 2011, the new Getac V110 and F110, as well as the economy-priced Gammatech semi-rugged S15H, Dell's 6430 ATG (which has since been replaced with their Latitude 14 Rugged) and the business-oriented Fujitsu Lifebook 733.

Below are the results:

Getac S400 Benchmarks and Comparisons
PERFORMANCE COMPARISON Getac Getac Getac Getac Dell Fujitsu GammaTech
Model (year tested) S400 (2014) S400 (2011) F110 (2014) V110 (2014) 6430 ATG (2013) Lifebook 733 (2013) S15H (2014)
Processor Type: Intel Core i5 Core i5 Core i5 Core i5 Core i7 Core i5 Core i5
Processor Model and Core gen 4210M (4th) 520M (1st) 4300U (4th) 4300U (4th) 3520M (3rd) 3230M (3rd) 4300M (4th)
CPU Speed 2.60GHz 2.40GHz 1.90GHz 1.90GHz 2.90GHz 2.60GHz 2.60GHz
Turbo Speed 3.20GHz 2.93GHz 2.90GHz 2.90GHz 3.60GHz 3.20GHz 3.30GHz
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 37 watts 35 watts 15 watts 15 watts 35 watts 35 watts 37 watts
BatteryMon min draw 9.5 watts 11.6 watts NA 3.2 watts 6.8 watts NA NA
CPU Mark 4,181.8 2,184.6 3,516.6 3,517.1 4,141.5 2,721.3 4,375.4
2D Graphics Mark 602.9 248.3 488.5 545.8 617.2 466.1 613.5
Memory Mark 1,126.9 600.7 1,183.6 1,000.4 1,494.5 940.6 1,774.7
Disk Mark 3,528.7 1,361.3 3,943.7 3,625.9 3,733.9 436.7 883.8
3D Graphics Mark 283.4 369.0 349.6 349.8 433.5 300.1 563.4
Overall PassMark 2,156.1 1,049.3 2,061.6 1,973.2 2,272.4 1,092.7 1,831.1
ALU 50,889 32,927 43,631 42,076 54,067 47,514 51,183
FPU 48,941 32,348 40,249 40,030 51,407 44,977 50,385
MEM 31,275 20,424 30,680 29,364 46,038 28,122 50,614
HDD 41,129 25,304 40,662 41,277 44,299 13,828 22,882
GDI 17,582 7,201 15,019 16,081 18,832 15,739 19,791
D2D 7,122 1,781 6,897 7,493 13,420 2,168 8,534
OGL 14,083 1,886 11,438 12,600 37,083 6,406 15,858
Overall CrystalMark 211,021 121,871 188,576 188,921 265,146 108,833 219,247

The benchmark results show what we already felt during subjective testing: the S400 is a very quick machine. Overall, it was roughly twice as fast as the last S400 we tested three years ago. That is a very noticeable difference. Its excellent results were aided by the 128GB LiteOn Solid State disk installed in our test machine. If speed matters, solid state storage trumps hard disks every time (albeit at a higher cost per GB).

Compared to the Getac F110 tablet and V110 convertible laptop, the difference is primarily that the latter two use ultra-low voltage processors to maximize battery life whereas the S400, as a laptop that will more often have access to a power outlet, uses standard voltage processors. That gives the S400 a performance edge.

Measured against the semi-rugged competition, the new Haswell-powered S400 is now state-of-the-art performancewise. If maximum performance matters, go for a model with solid state storage, the top-of-the-line Core i7 processor, and, if it is still available for the S400 (the specs don't mention it), a discrete graphics card would further boost 3D and OGL performance.

Power draw and battery life

What does the substantial performance mean for the S400's battery life? The competition has set the bar pretty high in this class, with Panasonic claiming up to 15 hours for an i5-equipped Toughbook 53 with a long-life battery. That said, Panasonic decided to go with ultra-low voltage processors for the Toughbook 53 whereas Getac uses higher performance standard voltage chips.

As is, the S400's 10.8 Volt, 8,700mAH Li-Ion pack is good for 94 watt-hours, which is at the high end of what is usually available for notebooks.

We tested power draw by running our standard BatteryMon benchmark. With Windows Power Options set to Power Saver, radios off, and the display backlight set to its lowest setting, we saw a minimum of about 8.6 watts and values generally in the low 9 watt range. That's theoretically good for well over ten hours. Turning WiFi on hardly made a difference. Turning backlight up to its very bright maximum increased power draw to about 19.5 watts, still theoretically good for almost five hours of running time. Setting Power Options to High Performance and screen brightness up all the way didn't have a noticeable impact on power draw. Running full-screen 1080p video this way resulted in 21.5 watts, and a theoretical worst-case runtime of about 4.5 hours. What's interesting here is that the S400 we tested in 2011 used over 31 watts when running HD video, and also used more power at Windows Full Power settings. What that means is that the Haswell processor a) has significantly more advanced power management, and b) it can decode HD video on the fly with hardly breaking a sweat.

Getac's own G-Manager utility also includes a Battery status screen and it pretty much confirmed the results we'd seen on BatteryMon. On a full battery, G-Manager showed a minimum draw that was around 9.5 watts, and suggested a remaining run time of 9 hours on 83% battery capacity. 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 (we've seen standard voltage i5/i7 processors draw less than ultra-low-voltage versions). However, between the very good power management of Intel's Haswell processors, Windows' much improved power management, and the Getac S400's extensive power management settings, if the situation requires it, the S400 can run a good long time on a charge. Do keep in mind, though, that power settings do affect clock speed.

Bottomline here is that the new Haswell-powered S400 is significantly more energy efficient than predecessor models. Between that and the powerful battery, this laptop can run well beyond a full shift on a charge. Do note, however, that boosting the backlight to its highest setting greatly increases power draw, so users should keep an eye on that.

Display

The Getac S400's 14-inch display is large enough to allow working without squinting, and its 16:9 aspect ratio gives the computer a modern look (a lot of older rugged laptops still use the squarish 4:3 aspect ratio). The display's 1366 x 768 pixel resolution is legacy by now, but just high enough for most work. It is also the same resolution used for 720p HD video, so the display is well suited for multimedia. In terms of screen real estate, compared to the 1024 x 768 pixel XGA resolution that was the gold standard in rugged notebooks for many years, it's like getting getting an additional third added on the side.

Display size, though, isn't everything. Most rugged notebooks, including the S400, 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. The currently most popular way of making a notebook screen readable outdoors combines various optical treatments to control internal reflection with a strong backlight. Getac uses that approach in the QuadraClear technology used in several of its high-end rugged computers.

The base-model S400 does not use QuadraClear, and the display that comes with, while described as "sunlight readable," has a backlight that is only slightly brighter than that of a standard consumer notebook. Our eval machine, however, came with the optional 800-nit display and that's an entirely different story.

A standard notebook backlight is in the 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. Industrial monitors used outdoors generally have 400 to 500 nits. High end rugged notebooks offer anywhere from 500 to over 1,000 nits, with Getac offering as much as 1,400 nits in its B300 ultra-rugged. What this means is that the 800 nits backlight of the S400's optional display is much brighter than any consumer notebook.

Since a powerful backlight is hard on the battery, how do you best use the S400's strong backlight? Getac came up with a handy solution with a special button above the keyboard. Push it and the screen lights up with high intensity unseen in any regular display. Having that hardware button is also the key to keeping power draw in check: when you need the extra-strong backlight, switch it on. When you don't need it anymore, turn it off. That's much easier with a button than via menus or function keys (both of which are also available in the S400).

How does it all work in real life? Very well. The pictures below show different scenario comparisons between the S400 and a business-class Fujitsu Lifebook notebook we use around the lab.

The first picture below shows the two machines outdoors on a wintery afternoon. The Lifebook is set to its maximum brightness, and it's actually a decent display with a matte finish that eliminates all harsh reflections. The far more glossy S400 display does show reflections, but its big advantage is instantly obvious: the screen is super-bright.

Below are the two machines in the same spot in partial shade in partial shade, and viewed from an angle. The matte Fujitsu display convinces with its lack of reflections, but again the S400's very bright display is instantly obvious.

The next picture clearly demonstrates why sometimes there simply is no substitute for a strong backlight. The Getac S400 sits in direct, strong sunlight as evidenced by the harsh shadow. Yet, with its backlight up to the max, the display remains readable, and actually even more so in real life than what the camera captured.

A couple additional comments about the S400 display. While we described it as glossy above, its reflections are actually more muted than those of most consumer laptops and tablets. Like most glossy displays, it's prone to smudges and fingerprints.

The very strong backlight can really save the day, but it must be used wisely as it draws a lot of power. There is currently much debate about backlight strength. Too little, and even the best screen quickly becomes unreadable outdoors. Too much and battery life will take a substantial hit.

Viewing angles are important. The horizontal viewing angle of the S400 screen is very good, without any color shifts even when viewed at extreme angles. The vertical viewing angle is also wide, but there are considerable color shifts 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 consider this soon.

Wireless and expansion

As is, the Getac S400 comes with an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 that provides 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Class 1 Bluetooth Version 4.0.

An integrated SiRVstarIV dedicated GPS receiver is optionally available, and for Wide Area Network communication, there is an optional 4G LT module that supports for use with the Verizon and AT&T networks.

As far as expansion goes, there is one ExpressCard 54 slot and a standard SD Card reader that replaces the multi-card reader in the unit we tested in 2011 (there's simply no more demand for MemoryStick cards).

While the S400's optical drive is removable, the space where it sits cannot be used for other options as is the case in some of Getac's other models.

Security

Like most mobile hardware these days, the S400 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 S400'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 S400'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.

Additionally, depending on the processor, S400s can be configured with Intel vPro, a set of technologies to remotely access and control computers securely.

Getac G-Panel

The new S400 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.

  • System 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 800 nits maximum, the reading was almost 20 watts, with the backlight at minimum and ECO mode engaged, that dropped to 9 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.
  • Antenna lets S400 users manage antenna settings for the optional GPS module.
  • 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.

Ruggedness

The Getac S400 is a semi-rugged computer that Getac says was designed "to meet or exceed MIL-STD-810G temperature, shock, humidity, altitude and vibration specifications." Getac also claims a 3-foot drop on six faces while the unit is operating. That's up from 2.5 feet in our 2011 test unit. The difference between 2.5 and 3 feet may sound subtle, but it can be the difference between surviving a fall from a desk or not.

As for more specific environmental specs, the Core i5-equipped S400 has an operating temperature range of -6 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, making it suitable for use in a significantly wider temperature range than our prior test unit which had a 32 to 133 degrees range. Note that the low temperature feature is not standard on all models.

As far as sealing goes, the S400 carries an IP5x rating, where the "5" means that the unit is protected against dust (but with limited amounts permitted) and the "x" means that there is no IP rating on protection against water. That's because Getac designed the S400 to handle common occurrences such as spills onto the keyboard and keypad, and most ports have protective covers, but there are also fan and other openings that preclude conventional water ingress resistance testing.

Getac's statement that the unit meets or exceeds MIL-STD-810G temperature, shock, and vibration specifications including a 3 foot drop on six faces is somewhat vague, but Getac undoubtedly can produce more detailed test documents. What is clear, though, is that the S400 feels very sturdy and very trust-inspiring. While its looks probably suggest it is even tougher than it is, this machine seems plenty capable of handling the likely abuse encountered in its intended deployment in, as Getac outlines, "utilities, field service, public safety, as well as military applications including vehicle and office use".

Bottom line

The 4th generation Getac S400, introduced lat 2014, should undoubtedly be seen as one of the primary and most competent contenders in the semi-rugged notebook market. It is an attractive, modern and very well executed design that provides Intel "Haswell" Core i3/i5/i7 power and sophistication, and excellent connectivity to numerous applications where a standard consumer notebook just won't hold up. Yet, despite its tough and rugged appearance, the S400 is a fairly compact machine that weighs only about 7.5 pounds.

Equipped with a 2.6 GHz Core i5-4210M processor and a speedy solid state drive, our S400 test machine provided excellent performance. The S400 does have a small fan, but is very quiet and doesn't warm up much. The machine can accommodate up to 16GB of fast but frugal DDR3L memory, larger solid state and rotating disks, and it comes with Bluetooth, WiFi and optional 4G LTE WWAN for wireless technology. Dedicated GPS is optionally available as well.

Despite the excellent performance, the S400 offers very good battery life thanks to a large 94 watt-hour battery, Getac's ECO mode settings, and a combination of Windows and Intel Haswell Core processor power savings technologies. There's an optional optical drive, but no multi-purpose media bay. "Semi-rugged" design essentially means the ability to survive a reasonable degree of shocks, vibration, spills, etc., without incurring the extra cost and weight of full ruggedness.

The 14-inch wide format display offers reasonably high resolution (1366 x 768 pixel). Our review unit had the optional 800 nits sunlight readable LED multi-touch display that we highly recommend for anyone who intends to use the machine outdoors a lot.

Overall, the Getac S400 is an excellent value that offers very good performance, long battery life, great connectivity, and enough ruggedness for many tasks in an elegant package that fits right into Getac's lineup of tough and rugged machines. Starting price is just US$1,699, but some of the desirable options can add up quickly. -- Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, November 2014

Getac S400 semi-rugged notebook Specifications
Type Semi-rugged notebook
Introduced Introduced October 2014, as update to S400G3, full review 11/2014
Processor Intel Core i7-4610M, 3.0/3.7 GHz, 4MB L3 cache
Intel Core i5-4310M, 2.7/3.4 GHz, 4MB L3 cache
Intel Core i5-4210M, 2.6/3.2 GHz, 3MB L3 cache
Intel Core i3-4110M, 2.6GHz, 3MB L3 cache
Thermal Design Power 37 watts (all)
Chipset Mobile Intel
Graphics Integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600
Display Chipset Integrated into processor
OS Windows 7 Professional, Windows 8.1 Professional
Memory 4GB DDR3L 1600MHz, expandable to 16GB in two SODIMM slots
Display 14.0-inch/1366 x 768 pixel TFT with semi-matte surface; optional 800 NITs sunlight-readable LED TFT
Digitizer Optional multi-touch technology (with 800 noits sunlight-readable option)
Keyboard Full-scale water-resistant mechanical membrane keyboard; optionally available: water-resistant backlit mechanical keyboard
Storage 500GB SATA hard disk; optional 128GB or 256GB SSD
Expansion slots 1 x ExpressCard 54mm, 1 x Smart Card, 1 x SD card reader
Housing Getac "KryptoShell" ABS+PC material
Size 13.7 x 10.15 x 1.93 inches (348 x 258 x 49 mm)
Weight 7.5 lbs. as tested, with battery, handle
Operating temperature -6° to 140° Fahrenheit (-21° to 60° C)
Ingress protection IP5x
Drop 3-foot drop on six faces (operating)
Humidity 95% RH, non-condensing
Other environmental MIL-STD 810G certified for vibration, temperature, shock, altitude, humidity
Power Li-Ion (10.8V, 8,700mAh, 94 watt-hours)
Interface 3 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0/eSATA combo, 1 x RS232, 1 x RJ45 gigabit LAN, 1 x VGA, 1 x HDMI, mic, audio out mini-jack, docking, power; optional: RF antenna pass-through for GPS/WWAN
Wireless options Intel dual-band Wireless-AC 7260 (802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth V4.0 Class 1, optional: 4G LTE (Verizon, AT&T) and SiRVstarIV GPS
Price Starting at US$1,699
Contact GETAC us.getac.com
Contact S400 spec sheet (PDF)
Warranty 3 years limited
Contact GetacSales_US@getac.com
us.getac.com
949.681.2900 Getac, Inc.
43 Tesla
Irvine, CA 92618

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