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TabletKiosk Sahara Slate PC i575

12-inch Windows enterprise tablet gets major technology update, higher performance, better battery life while preserving backward compatibility
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

On June 19, 2013, TabletKiosk announced that two new models had been added to its flagship line of 12.1" enterprise-grade Tablet PCs. Of the two, the new Sahara Slate PC i575 is powered by a 3rd generation Intel Core vPro processor, offering improved performance, greatly enhanced battery life, and a number of hardware embedded security features. The lower-end Sahara Slate PC i535 uses an Intel Celeron 1047UE, but otherwise largely offers the same enhancements. This is major news for TabletKiosk and its enterprise customers, as both new models represent major technological steps forward while completely preserving compatibility with existing accessories and peripherals -- a major consideration for enterprise customers.

The new models are welcome news for enterprise customers as well as anyone in the market for a competent enterprise-grade Windows tablet. When RuggedPCReview.com examined the Sahara Slate PC i500 in January 2013, we found it "a very sensible, useful and practical design" but cautioned that its microprocessor dated back to what Intel now calls the "previous" (read "initial") generation of modern Core processors, and that third generation "Ivy Bridge" chips would "offer more speed, faster graphics, and better economy." And that is exactly what TabletKiosk now makes available with the new models.

What does that mean for customers? We have not had hands-on with the new unit yet, but RuggedPCReview has benchmarked other products with the exact same Core i7-3517UE processor that powers the new Sahara i575, and so based on those results, here are our estimates of the performance users can expect from TabletKiosk's new top-of-the-line Sahara Slate PC i575:

TabletKiosk Sahara new vs. old
Model i575 i500
Processor Type: Intel Intel Core i7 Intel Core i7
Processor Model 3517UE vPro 640LE
CPU Speed 1.70GHz 2.0Hz
Turbo Speed 2.80GHz 2.80GHz
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 17 watts 25 watts
CPU Mark est. 3,183 1,826
2D Graphics Mark est. 477 297
Memory Mark est. 1,060 753
Overall PassMark est. 1,500 817
CM ALU est. 42,000 28,270
CM FPU est. 39,300 27,794
CM MEM est. 34,000 23,090
CM D2D est. 2,100 1,604
CM OGL est. 6,000 2,266
Overall CrystalMark est. 169,000 104,435

Yes, a big improvement. And particularly impressive given that the new 3rd gen processor actually runs at lower base clock speeds and has a lower maximum thermal design power. Yet, it's significantly more powerful, and it is much more power-efficient. We don't have estimated battery life yet, but the difference between old and new should be quite substantial. Overall bottomline figures will depend on the choice of storage, with rotating media generally significantly slower than solid state disks.

The new processor, of course, is only part of the story. TabletKiosk took this opportunity to improve the Sahara Slate PC not only on the CPU front, but in several other areas as well. Maximum RAM has doubled to 16GB, and as any Windows user knows, more RAM is always better. Maximum hard disk storage has doubled as well, to a full terabyte. That would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago, but now there are many scenarios where this much storage is almost mandatory. Those going with an SSD also have options up to 480GB.

Ancillary benefits of the switch to third generation Core processor technology include native USB 3.0 support, DDR3L support, and SATA III support. That, again, means more speed, higher performance, lower power. On the graphics side, while Intel began experimenting with integrated graphics in the initial generation of Core processors, it really wasn't until the "Ivy Bridge" third generation that everything fell into place, and the new Slate PC i575 benefits from that. We're still not talking the equivalent of a discrete third party graphics card, but quite close to it. And the DisplayPort video-out drives external monitor resolutions up to 2560 x 1600 pixel, and with cable lengths up to 50 feet.

As for the i535 Celeron-based version, it's a viable alternative. While Celeron processors used to be Intel's low-end and largely to be avoided, that has changed in recent processor generations. Celeron's are now based on the same lithography as Core processors, and often look like somewhat stripped versions of Core i3 chips, i.e. more than good enough for many applications. Like Core i3 chips, though, Celerons do not have the Turbo Boost feature, and other Intel technologies are missing, so customers should examine what they may or may not need. >For a side-by-side comparison of the two processors available in TabletKiosk's latest, see here.

But there's more yet. When we examined an older Sahara i500 just a few months ago, we were a bit disappointed not to find any cameras. Well, TabletKiosk fixed that. The new i575 has a 2mp front camera from video conferencing, and a 5mp rear-camera for documentation, and that one can shoot full 1080p HD video.

And TabletKiosk thought of another seemingly little thing that may well matter in many applications: the new models have a true serial interface controller and DB9 serial port. While there are USB-to-serial converters, USB and serial are inherently different in the way they provide power (USB uses +5V, serial +5V, +12V, and -12V) and that can pose problems because converters may not support the voltages properly, and/or they may also not have the proper hardware flow control for a particular serial interface application. With a true serial controller, that's never an issue.

The picture below shows the backside of the i575 with its docking connector port in the center, the dual battery compartments, and the rear-camera with its LED illuminator.

Just as important as what has changed in the new i575 is what hasn't changed. The design, form factor, and overall configuration remain the same. That means there's virtually complete backward compatibility with the significant number of older Sahara Slate PCs deployed out there in the enterprise. Accessories, peripherals, docks all stay the same, and nothing is obsolete. That's a BIG issue in enterprise deployments where there's nothing more annoying than to have to replace the whole ancillary infrastructure for every new model.

One thing that certainly didn't have to be replaced in the i500 Series is the AFFS+ 12-inch display. It is large enough for real work, and it has a perfect viewing angle in all directions. It uses what TabletKiosk calls its SUNBRITE sunlight enhancement technology where a degree of sunlight reflection enhances screen brightness. The i500 we recently tested had that display and it was certainly very readable outdoors, and its semi-matte surface made for very little reflection.

What also continues is the wide range of available touch and digitizer technologies. Projected capacitive multi-touch is available for the Sahara. But customers can also order resistive touch. Or they may opt for a dual mode panel with an active Wacom pen and either projected capacitive touch or resisitive touch. 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.

Overall, like they do with their smaller eo tablet, TabletKiosk covers a lot of ground with their newly enhanced Sahara platform. Not only is the Sahara available in a wide range of performance (and price) levels, but TabletKiosk future-proofs its products by upgrading them with state-of-the-art technologies as they come along.

As for pricing, the new i575 Intel Core i7-based model starts at US$2,149 (4GB RAM, 500GB HD), reasonable for this class of machine. If cost is an issue, the Celeron 1047UE-powered i535 version (2GB RAM, 320GB HD) starts at US$1,749.

Specifications TabletKiosk Sahara i575
Status Added 06/2013
Form-factor Slate PC
OS Windows 7 Professional, Windows 8 Ultimate, Linux
Processor Intel Core i7-3517UE
CPU Speed 1.7GHz (2.8GHz turbo) with 4MB L3 cache
CPU TDP 17 watts
Chipset Intel QM77 Express
Graphics Integrated Intel HD 4000 Graphics
Standard/Max RAM 2GB to 16GB DDR3 dual channel in two 204-pin SODIMM slots
Disk/drive 320GB to 1GB HD, optional 64GB to 480GB SSD
Card slots 1 SDHC Card
Display type Sunlight-enhanced AFFS+ LCD with LED backlight and 180 degree viewing angle
Display size/res 12.1-inch, 1280 x 800 pixel WXGA with SUN-BRITE light reflection technology
Digitizer/pens Capacitive multi-touch OR resistive OR dual mode Wacom active pen and either resisitive or procap touch
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 11.1V/1,880mAh 20.7whr Lithium-Ion
Sensors Unknown
Camera 2mp front-facing and 5mp rear-facing with LED flash and 1080p HD video capability
Interface 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x eSATA/USB 2.0 combo, 1 x DB9 RS232 serial, 1 x RJ45 gigabit LAN, 1 x 3.5mm audio-in, 1 x 3.5mm audio-out, 1 x DisplayPort (up to 2560 x 1600 pixel), modular expansion port, cradle connector, fingerprint reader, optional mag stripe reader
Wireless Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth v4.0
List price Starting at US$2,149 (i535 model starting at US$1749)
Web page TabletKiosk Sahara Slate PC i535/575 web page
Brochure TabletKiosk Sahara Slate PC i535/575 brochure

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.

Contact TabletKiosk:

Web: www.tabletkiosk.com
Phone (US): 1 (310) 782-1201