GammaTech Durabook TA10|
Fully-rugged Intel Third Gen Core-powered 10.4-inch tablet computer for heavy field duty
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
On January 28, 2013 GammaTech Computer Corporation, which is the North American/Latin American sales and marketing arm of Taiwanese Twinhead, introduced yet another rugged tablet, the Durabook TA10. This one's a 10.4-inch design geared towards heavy duty field applications in harsh work environments.
The Durabook TA10 comes just a few weeks after the Durabook CA10, but despite similar screen sizes and dimensions, the two tablets are quite different and were designed for very different audiences and applications. While the sleek Intel Atom N2600-powered CA10 (see our analysis of the CA10) was designed to fill the growing demand for a somewhat ruggedized light-duty Windows tablet, the new TA10 is more of a conventional tablet PC, but one that offers substantially more performance than this type of tablet has been able to offer in the past.
What do we mean by that? Well, if you look around you'll see that the majority of Windows tablets introduced over the past three years or so were in the 7-inch display class and powered by Atom processors. The traditional fully-rugged Windows tablets, on the other hand, pretty much stayed with 8.4-inch screens and rather dated processor technology.
With the Durabook TA10, Gammatech clearly seems to address that situation by offering a larger, more powerful alternative to the Atom-powered 7-inch tablets, one with a significantly larger display and significantly more processing power. As is often the case with Gammatech, the specs aren't terribly clear or comprehensive. According to the press release, the TA10 can be had with either a 1.6GHz Intel Core i3-3217UE or a 1.7GHz Core i7-3517UE that can go up to 2.8GHz in turbo mode. The Durabook website also shows a 1.8GHz Core i5-3247U that can also reach 2.8GHz in turbo mode. While all three of those chips are ultra-low voltage designs with a nominal thermal design power of 17 watts, they both pack a punch, offer superior graphics performance, and also include superb power management, as do all Intel Ivy Bridge chips. Which means that the TA10 should make customers in need of a serious performance boost in their rugged tablets very happy.
On the display side, however, there may be some questions. While the 10.4-inch size offers real estate reminiscent of the iPad, and the 1024 x 768 XGA resolution with its conventional 4:3 aspect ratio also reminds of the original iPad and iPad 2, XGA isn't very much in this day and age of retina displays and ever higher resolution. More importantly, while Gammatech shows pictures of the TA10 running Windows 8, the minimum Microsoft itself recommends for Windows 8 is 1366 x 768 in wide format. And while the TA10 does offer multi-touch, it's of the resistive variety that's really better suited for tapping and using a stylus than effortless pinching, panning and zooming. On the plus side, Gammatech does offer an optional duo-touch configuration that adds an active pen.
For wired connectivity, the TA10 does quite well. You get two speedy full-size USB 3.0 ports, a mini-USB port, an RJ45 gigabit LAN jack, and even a legacy RS232 serial port. But no HDMI and apparently no video port. On the wireless side, there's dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n, Class 1 Bluetooth version 4, and optional Gobi 3000 or LTE WWAN. Gammatech also offers a variety of options, including RFID, a 1D/2D imager and a FIPS-compliant fingerprint scanner. Customers can also spec a 5mp rear-facing auto-focus camera in addition to the standard 1.3mp front-facing webcam. Also optional are a variety of sensors: acceleration, gyroscope and e-compass.
As for ruggedness, the TA10 is clearly well prepared. The tablet can handle 5-foot drops, and sealing is at the IP65 level, where the "6" means it's completely dustproof, and the "5" means it's protected against low-pressure water jets from all directions. We'd rather see full IP67, but given the TA10's many ports and slots (an SDHC card and a PCMCIA Type II slot come standard), that'd be asking for a lot. Th -4 to 140 degree Fahrenheit operating temperature range is wide enough for most applications, and Gammatech also supplies ruggedness data for vibration, salt fog, humidity and more. The corners of the tablet are well protected with swoopy rubber bumpers — a low-tech but very effective means of protection. This is clearly a tough machines.
The TA10 can operate with either one or two Li-Ion batteries. Both are externally accessible and fit into the backside of the tablet. Gammatech lists up to 4.5 hours with one battery, and over 9 hours with two. We'd recommend two, both for the longer battery life and for being able to hot-swap batteries while on the job.
As far as price goes, the Durabook TA10 starts at US$2,300, a lot compared to consumer media tablets, but a veritable bargain in the realm of rugged computing machinery where customers are far more interested in the long-term total cost of ownership than the initial purchase price. In addition, Gammatech's mothership Twinhead is pretty much the authority on rugged tablets. Overall, the Durabook TA10 is almost certain to be well-received by a large variety of vertical market and industrial customers who will appreciate its substantial power and larger screen in a traditional tablet form factor, but one that's still manageable in terms of size and weight.