When Microsoft launched the Ultra-Mobile PC, originally codenamed "Origami," we didn't quite know what to make of it. The UMPC was obviously supposed to be a small, inexpensive computing device running full Windows, but early models were slow and too costly. That was a problem that has not been resolved, but we always felt the UMPC would make a very good rugged platform, and obviously the ever-innovative folks at TabletKiosk agreed as they added a "TufTab" model to their UMPC lineup. Why they also chose to call the UMPC line "eo," like the original, pioneering, PenPoint-based eo PDAs of almost 15 years ago, is anyone's guess.
TabletKiosk describes the eo TufTab v7112XT as a lightweight ultra-mobile computing solution designed for business on the go and built tough enough for professionals who are constantly on the road or in non-traditional working environments. And, in fact, the device, available in back and white, uses tough, reinforced plastic and a rubberized casing to provide a sturdy and balanced package for engaging in fieldwork, warehousing, mobile point of sale, data collection and other professions that take place in a tougher-than-usual working environment.
The specs show an IP53 ingress protection rating, but that is qualified with a "front bezel," so the rest of the device may provide less protection. We wouldn't know as TableKiosk's curious policy of demanding a credit card for press eval units and having the press cover shipping charges meant we have not had one in our labs. The operating temperature range is a disappointing 41 to 95 degree Fahrenheit. Apparently, we couldn't use the TufTab during a typical Northern California summer day. No drop or vibration specs are given.
On the tech spec side, the 7112XT is powered by an energy efficient VIA C7-M ULV processor and can run Windows Vista Business, the Window XP Tablet PC Edition or openSUSE Linux. Standard memory is 1GB, the 1.8-inch hard drives start at 40GB and go up to 160GB, and there is both 802.11b/g wireless LAN and Bluetooth 2.0. The device is very small and handy. We're talking a footprint of 8.1 x 5.3 inches, barely larger than a standard movie DVD case, and it's just 1.2 inches thick. Weight is under two pounds.
For security there is a biometric fingerprint reader that works in conjunction with access protection software. The display measures seven inches diagonally with 1024 x 600 resolution, has a 4-wire analog touch screen, and TabletKiosk considers is it sunlight readable. In addition to touch, there is also a Synaptic pointer for navigaation. The device is powered by a 4-cell Lithium 35.5 watt-hour battery pack, good for between three and four hours -- not exactly a lot when you're out in the field. The TufTab 7112 has some nice extra. There is, for example, a 1.3 megapixel digital camera that can also do 30 frames/second VGA video capture.
The price is a problem. US$1,699 is an awful lot for a device that really isn't rugged enough to survive getting banged around on tough jobs. In this price range we'd like to see something a bit more serious.