In late December of 2010, GammaTech Computer Corp. announced the GammaTech U12C rugged convertible notebook computer. This class of notebooks has a display with a centrally located rotating hinge that lets you use the computer as a standard notebook and also as a tablet by rotating the display case and laying it flat, with the display facing up. Acer initiated the design back in 2001 with one of the original Tablet PCs. Rugged implementations from Panasonic, Getac and others followed.
Those who follow the rugged computing market with all of its complex OEM/ODM/reseller relationships will know that GammaTech USA and Twinhead of Taiwan are either the same company or have a very close relationship. In addition, Twinhead is an important OEM to a number of major resellers, though they also sell under their own brand. Twinhead and GammaTech models often seem the same, though the naming tends to be slightly different. For example, the U12C described here is listed as the U12C on Twinhead's website. What it all means is that the GammaTech/Twinhead lineup is more confusing than it could be, and even more so now that GammaTech appears to have dropped the cool "Durabook" brand name though it still shows up on some webpages. There's likely a story there, but we're not privvy to it.
As is, the GammaTech U12C, as the "12" in the name implies, is a compact rugged notebook with a 12.1-inch wide-format display with 1280 x 800 pixel resolution. The system comes with a touch screen, but also supports an optional dual input panel that provides both resistive touch and an active digitizer. Optionally available is also a sunlight readble version of the display with enhanced brightness, anti-reflective properties and other optical treatments.
Measuring 12.9 x 10.9 x 1.6 inches and weighing 5.5 pounds, the U12C is reasonably compact and lightweight. It has a full-size spill-resistant 86-key keyboard.
Unlike older GammaTech/Twinhead models that were often close to, but not quite at, the technological state-of-the-art, this new model is fully up-to-date with an Intel i5-540UM processor. This is an ultra-low voltage version of the i5 running at 1.2GHz, and capable of reaching up to 2.0GHz in the processor's TurboBoost mode. This processor's Thermal Design Power is just 18 watts, much lower than that of standard voltage notebook processors. GammaTech suggest a battery life of about four hours. The U12C uses the i5 chip's integrated graphics.
For storage, there are a variety of shock-mounted 2.5-inch SATA hard drives or SSDs. There's also an internal SSD data backup option.
The U12C has good onboard connectivity that can be customized via adding one of four available I/O modules. Standard connectivity consists of two USB 2.0 ports (one providing e-SATA functionality), VGA, RJ45 gigabit LAN, and a docking connector. There is also an ExpressCard 34 slot and an SD card reader. I/O modules can add a USB and a serial port; a USB port and a Smart card reader; HSDPA, Gobi 2000 or GPS; or a second 2-megapixel camera (the system comes with an integrated 1.3-megapixel webcam).
Integrated wireless includes 802.11b/g/n WiFi via an Intel WiFi Link 1000 PCI-e card, and optional Bluetooth Class 2 version 2.1 with EDR. WWAN and/or GPS are available via the above-mentioned I/O mdoule options.
The U12C uses a magnesium alloy case that's 20 times stronger than the commonly used ABS plastic. A spill-resistant keyboard and additional sealing protect against common accidents. The machine is drop-resistant and able to survive multiple drops from four feet. Generous anti-shock mounting protects the LCD and hard disk. Ports are protected and literature claims dust and spill resistance, but there is no official IP rating. Operating temperature is 32 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. For operation in freezer environments, certain system configurations can handle -4 degrees Fahrenheit.
The press release did not include pricing, but Twinhead/GammaTech's lineup usually undercuts the competition in price, so the new machine is likely economy-priced as well.