Compact rugged 1.3 lbs. tablet brings Android to field applications (by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
On May 22, 2012, DRS Technologies, Inc. announced that its Tactical Systems division has expanded its product portfolio with two new, thin, lightweight tablets. The new ARMOR X7ad and ARMOR X7et tablets look almost identical and both have 7-inch multi-touch displays, but they are actually quite different: the X7ad runs the Android OS that dominates the smartphone market and is making inroads in tablets, whereas the X7et is based on the more enterprise-friendly Microsoft Windows platform. On this page, we're discussing the X7ad Android version.
First, how do the new tablets relate to the existing DRS ARMOR X7? Primarily in that both are lighter and thinner than the ultra-rugged X7, and that they use the projected capacitive multi-touch technology now deployed in hundreds of millions of smartphones and tablets. In essence, the new tablets split the difference between a traditional vertical market industrial tablet computer and a new-style media tablet. That's actually a big step as makers of rugged outdoor-usable computers initially rejected the hugely popular capacitive touch technology that allows effortless tapping, panning, pinching and zooming because the technology was not designed for use with gloves or in the rain.
And why did DRS introduce two new tablets, one for Windows and one for Android? Because it makes good business sense to cover the bases. As of mid-2012, no one knows whether the primary competition to the Apple iPad will come from Android-based tablets or from tablets running either the current or next version of Microsoft Windows. For now, offering both makes sense.
So let's take a look at the Android edition, which is using version 3.2 of Google's red-hot operating platform. The ARMOR X7ad measures 8.4 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches and weighs 1.3 pounds. That's considerably thinner and lighter than virtually all traditional tablet PCs. There is a micro SD card slot, a mini USB port, an HDMI port, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The tablet is based on a dual-core 1.0GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, the same chip that's also powering recent Android-based tablet offerings from the likes of Asus, Dell, Lenovo, and others. The device has a gigabyte of DDR2 RAM and 16GB of eMMC Flash. We did not see any specifics on the battery other than its 3,700mAH capacity and stated 8 hour battery life.
The X7ad's display measures 7.0 inches diagonally and has remarkably high 1280 x 800 pixel resolution (the Windows version only has 1024 x 600 pixel). That makes for a wide 16 : 10 aspect ratio and, one a 7-inch display, for an extremely sharp picture. DRS also stresses the virtually perfect 178 degree horizontal and vertical viewing angle that's always a great plus in tablets. The transmissive display is protected by the light and tough Corning Gorilla Glass (see Gorilla Glass page), has a 400 nit LED backlight, and DRS considers it outdoor-viewable, which means it has anti-glare and anti-reflective optical treatment.
The X7ad comes with 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth version 2.1, GPS, and there's an optional Gobi 3000 multi-carrier mobile broadband module. There is also an automatic light sensor, a G-sensor and, not available on the Windows version, an e-Compass. The device also includes a 1.3 megapixel webcam and a 5 megapixel documentation camera.
In terms of ruggedness, magnesium/ABS plastic construction let the X7ad survive 4-foot drops, the kind of shocks and vibration encountered on the road, and operating temperatures of -4 all the way to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The device is also sealed to IP65 specifications, which means it's totally protected against dust and also protected against low pressure jets of water (albeit with limited ingress permitted, which we never like to see). That's much tougher and much more rugged than the iPad or any consumer or business media tablet.
We don't know about pricing yet, and we haven't had hands-on with the DRS ARMOR X7ad, but this small, no-nonsense Android tablet will customers quickly give a feel for what Android can do for their operations, and how it'll fit into their overall systems. Android, of course, was built for touch and multi-touch, and all utilities, system software and applications will therefore take full advantage of the capacitive multi-touch screen and functionality.
How do the Windows and the Android versions differ other than in the OS? Well, the Android-based is a little smaller and thinner than the Windows version. It's 0.2 pounds lighter, too, and the slightly smaller dimensions mean there's actually 32% less volume than in the Windows version. In some applications, the higher resolution and longer battery life (8 vs 6 hours) compared to the Windows version may be a real advantage. The Android version, however, offers only 16GB of storage versus a full 40GB in the Windows tablet.
Below is DRS Technologies' intro video for the two new tablets:
Specifications DRS ARMOR X7ad
Added 05/2012, updated 05/2013
Compact rugged tablet
Dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2
1GB DDR2 SDRAM
16GB eMMC Flash
Transmissive LCD with LED backlight, 400 nit, 178° viewing angle horizontal and vertical, Gorilla glass
7.0-inch/1280 x 800 pixel
Projected capacitive multi-touch
Onscreen and optional external
4-foot drop (MIL-STD-810G, Method 516.6 Procedure IV)
-4° to +140° Fahrenheit (-20° to +60° Celsius)
10 to 95% RH, non-condensing
MIL-STD-810G Method 514.6 Procedure I, Cat. 24, Fig. 514.6E-1 & E-2
ASTM 4169-99 Truck Assurance Level II, Schedule E
CD / FCC Class B
UL60950-1 / EN60950-1
Magnesium and ABS composite
8.4 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches (214 x 132 x 21 mm)
1.3 lbs. (600 grams)
3,700mAh "8 hrs."
1.3 MP front-facing webcam, 5.0 MP rear-facing camera