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TabletKiosk Sahara Slate PC i500

12-inch Windows tablet for business and enterprise
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Update June 19, 2013: TabletKiosk announced that they added two new models to the Sahara Slate PC i500 line of enterprise tablets. The new i535 and i575 models are based on Intel 3rd generation Core vPro processors, which results in substantially greater graphis performance, overall performance, and increased battery life. The new models also benefit from more RAM (up to 16GB), larger storage (up to 1TB HD or up to 480GB SSD), USB 3.0, dual cameras, Bluetooth 4.0, DisplayPort, and a true RS232 serial interface for legacy device support. RuggedPCReview will do full benchmark testing as soon as we can get a unit)

TabletKiosk, headquartered in Torrance, CA and operating an engineering facility in Taiwan, has been providing tablet computers (and only tablet computers) since its founding in 2003. As of early 2012, the company concentrates on tablets in two different size classes. One is the 7-inch class where TabletKiosk offers the eo a7400 (see our full review), the other the 12-inch class with two versions of their Sahara tablet, the Intel Atom-based Sahara NetSlate, and the performance-oriented and Intel Core-based Sahara Slate PC described on this page.

From a design point of view, the Sahara Slate PC will appeal to those who want a tablet computer that can run full Windows, but one with a display large enough so as to use Windows the way it was intended to be used. That means enough screen real estate to have multiple windows and projects open, and a display large enough to keep all of Windows' small check boxes, scrollers, icons and pulldowns from becoming microscopic. That's all possible on a 12-inch display. Even when using the tablet as a desktop replacement on a stand or cradle and with a keyboard and mouse attached, a 12-inch display is large enough for real work. Specs list the display as having a perfect viewing angle in all directions, but we're not sure if it's actually an AFFS+ design (best there is) as in the Sahara NetSlate. TabletKiosk calls it SUNBRITE and it's certainly very readable outdoors, and the semi-matte surface makes for very little reflection.

A 12-inch display, on the other hand, is about as large as you'd want to go with a tablet to keep size and weight manageable when on the go. The i500 measures 11.8 x 8.7 inches, a footprint the same width and only an inch deeper than an 11-inch MacBook Air. The i500 is thicker — just under an inch — but not by that much, and it's remarkably thin for a full Windows tablet with a good number of standard size ports. Weight is close to 3.5 pounds, considerably more than an iPad-class media tablet, but less than most 13-inch notebooks, and certainly less than older rugged and semi-rugged tablets.

Like with their smaller eo tablet, TabletKiosk covers a lot of ground with their Sahara platform. Not only is the Sahara available in a wide range of performance (and price) levels, but it also includes state-of-the-art technologies as they come along. For example, while Windows 7 doesn't need (or even benefits much from) projected capacitive multi-touch, it's available for the Sahara. In fact, customers can specify the old resistive touch, a Wacom pen, projected capacitive multi-touch, or a dual mode panel with both procap and a Wacom pen. And unlike many Windows tablets, there is no bulky bezel around the screen for fingers to bump into; the flush-mounted glass extends well beyond the perimeter of the LCD.

In terms of performance, the Sahara Slate PC can be ordered with two versions of the dual-core Intel Core i7 (the 2.0GHz 620LE and 2.13GHz 640LM) and also a low-power (18 watt TDP) dual-core 1.06GHz Celeron U3405. The i7 chips, of course, offer superior performance and a wealth of integrated Intel technologies that certain users and applications may want or need. That said, both i7 chips date back to what Intel now calls the "previous" (read "initial") generation of modern Core processors. The current third generation offers more speed, faster graphics, and better economy. We also noticed that the fairly loud fan comes and stays on often.

On the storage side, our i500 came with 8GB of DDR3 RAM and TabletKiosk offers a variety of SATA II hard disks or solid state drives. Unless available storage requirements exceed what's available with SSD (up to 120GB for now), we'd recommend SSD over rotating media. It's faster (often MUCH faster) and more reliable. The i500 comes with two slide-in 21 watt-hour batteries, so you can replace one without turning the machine off. Still, even 42 watt-hours isn't all that much for a Core i7 tablet, and we'd recommend the also available extra-life battery said to be good for up to eight hours.

Connectivity is a strong side of the Sahara, with two standard USB 2.0 ports, a USB/eSATA combo port, Firewire, an RJ45 LAN jack, separate 3.5mm audio in and out jacks, docking, a modular expansion port, and even a DisplayPort connector. No legacy serial port, though, and also no card slot. Those are available via adapters, of course, but it'd have been nice to have them on this tablet.

Like TabletKiosk's entire current product lineup, the Sahara slates concentrate on filling the needs of enterprise customers (modularity, compatibility, mounting, peripherals, durability, etc.) rather than being traditionally rugged or even semi-rugged devices. The operating temperature range is a modest 41 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (the actual Sahara desert is more like 0 to 130 degrees) and TabletKiosk doesn't provide drop, vibration, sealing or any other ruggedness specs. Ports do not have covers and there are ventilation slits for the internal fan, so these machines were designed for business, but not business where it rains or the machines get dropped or abused.

As for pricing, it starts at US$1,749, reasonable for this class of machine. Overall, a very sensible, useful and practical design certain to be appreciated by many enterprise customers.

Contact TabletKiosk:

Web: www.tabletkiosk.com
Phone (US): 1 (310) 782-1201
Specifications TabletKiosk Sahara i500
Status Added 01/2013, updated 06/2013
Form-factor Slate PC
OS Windows 7 Professional; optional: Windows 7 Ultimate, Home Premium, ES7, openSUSE Linux 11, Ubuntu Linux
Processor Intel Core i7-640LM
CPU Speed 2.13GHz (2.933GHz turbo) with 4MB L3 cache
CPU TDP 25 watts
Chipset Intel QM57 Express
Graphics Integrated Intel HD Graphics
Standard/Max RAM 2GB to 8GB DDR3 1,066MHz in 2 204-pin SODIMM slots
Disk/drive 320GB - 500GB HD, optional SSD
Card slots 1 SDHC Card
Display type AFFS+ LCD with LED backlight (300 nits) and 180 degree viewing angle
Display size/res 12.1-inch, 1280 x 800 pixel WXGA with SUN-BRITE light reflection technology
Digitizer/pens Projected capacitive 5-finger multi-touch and Wacom active pen
Keyboard/scale NA
Navigation Touch
Operating temperature 41° to 95° Fahrenheit (5° to 35° Celsius)
Sealing unknown
Vibration unknown
Shock unknown
Humidity 20-80% w/o condensation
ESD unknown
Certifications UL 60950-1
Housing unknown
Size (WxHxD) 11.8 x 8.7 x 0.95 inches (300 x 220 x 24mm)
Weight 3.3 pounds (1.5 kg) w/ two batteries
Power Dual external removable 11.6V/1,880mAh 21.8whr Lithium-Ion, optional extended life battery ("up to 8 hours")
Sensors Unknown
Camera None
Interface 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x eSATA/USB 2.0 combo, 1 x RJ45, 1 x 3.5mm audio-in, 1 x 3.5mm audio-out, 1 x 1394a Firewire, modular expansion port, cradle connector, fingerprint reader, optional mag stripe reader
Wireless Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR
List price Starting at US$1749
Web page TabletKiosk Sahara Slate PC i500 web page
Brochure TabletKiosk Sahara Slate PC i500 brochure (PDF)