LaPorte, Indiana based DLI was founded in the early 1990s as a manufacturer and reseller of wireless data collection devices. The company carries mobile computers, rugged ultra-mobile tablets, handhelds, scanners and vehicle mounted computers. The DLI 9000 shown here was introduced in May of 2012 as a ruggedized tablet solution with capacitive touch and the ability to run either Windows or Android.
The DLI 9000 is both a timely and also a daring product. Timely because it addresses the considerable demand for a iPad-style tablet solution that's more rugged and more durable than Apple's sleek and slender but consumer oriented megahit. And timely also in its use of capacitive touch, the technology that allows the effortless tapping, panning, zooming and pinching popularized by the iPhone and iPad. Somewhat daring, however, because the various versions of Windows 7 supported by the DLI 9000 were not designed for capacitive touch and in all likelihood require custom software to really shine, though the DLI 9000 also supports the touch-friendly Windows Embedded 8. Speculative a bit also because Android, which the DLI 9000 supports as an alternate to Windows, has only just begun to make inroads in vertical markets.
All that said, DLI's bet with this new tablet seems like a solid one. Tens of millions are familiar with the iPad form factor and capacitive multi-touch, and providing that form factor and technology in a Microsoft Windows platform is certain to find demand. Then there's the upcoming Windows 8 with its much more touch-optimized Metro interface that should work very well on this tablet. And then there is the fact that the DLI 9000 can serve as a solid hardware platform to investigate Android. Add it all up and introducing the DLI 9000 looks like a smart move at the right time.
In terms of hardware specifics, the DLI 9000's 10.35 x 8.1 inch footprint is just a bit larger than the iPad. It's also a bit thicker (0.6 inches instead of 0.37 inches) and heavier (2 pounds instead of 1.45), as you'd expect from a ruggedized version of a media tablet. The 9.7-inch display with 1024 x 768 pixel XGA resolution is the same size, format and resolution as the original iPad and the iPad 2.
Under the hood you find an 1.5GHz Intel Atom Z670, a second generation single-core design that's part of Intel's "Oak Trail" platform. It's an improved successor of the first generation Z5xx "Silverhorne" processors that offers HD video playback support and works in conjunction with the tiny and ultra-frugal Intel SM35 Express chipset that can handle SATA, HD audio, as well as HDMI output. This is the same processor/chipset combo used in two other new-style ruggedized tablets, the Motion CL900 and Fujitsu Q550. For storage, there is a 64GB SATA micro SSD.
While the DLI 9000 may well turn out to have appeal in a wide variety of business applications, DLI introduced it specifically as a mobile payment processing system. To that extent, the 9000 is available with a 5-in-1 payment module that includes a magstripe reader, a debit pin pad, contactless payment, EMV Smartcard reader, and 1D/2D CMOS barcode scanning. The optional 5-in-1 module screws onto the back of the tablet (see below).
For wireless connectivity, the DLI 9000 offers dual-band Cisco CCX4-certified 802.11a/b/g/n, Class 2 Bluetooth, ublox GPS, and optional Gobi3000 WWAN for wireless broadband technology and vendor independence. On the wired side there is a USB port, an HDMI port, as well as I/O and antenna pass-throughs to a cradle. There are also two cameras, one facing forward (1.3mp) for conferencing, the other (2mp, LED illuminator) on the backside for documentation.
While both Motion and Fujitsu hedged their bets by offering both touch and a pen, the DLI 9000's capacitive digitizer is touch only. For Windows 7 users that means configuring the interface (and custom software) for touch as much as is possible. There are also four programmable function buttons as well as scanner and camera triggers.
As the "rugged mobile tablet" description suggests, the DLI 9000 was designed for use in the field where conditions can be rough and accidents can happen. The impact-resistant housing provides IP54 sealing which means the device is protected against dust and also against water spray from all directions (though both with limited ingress permitted). The operating temperature range is a wide 0 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. The tablet can survive multiple 4-foot drops to concrete, and also the degree of shock and vibration commonly experienced in vehicles.
The 9000 is undoubtedly a valuable addition to DLI's unusually broad lineup of tablet computers, each providing a unique set of tablet functionality. What the 9000 adds is the familiarity of the iPad form factor, screen size and capacitive multi-touch digitizer, but in a Windows platform, and with processor technology that also allows exploring Android.