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Xplore Technologies iX104C4M

Rugged tablet computer based on mature field-tested technology and configured for military use
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Xplore Technologies has long been one of the most innovative players in the ultra-rugged mobile computer market. They are fully and exclusively focused on rugged Tablet PCs for certain vertical markets and their iX104 line represents ruggedized computing technology at its best.

On January 20, 2010, Xplore announced the launch of an addition to the iX104C4 family, a military version. So how does one take an industrial market computer and retrofit it for military use?

"It was a significant undertaking engineering a COTS product to meet the stringent requirements of battlefield conditions. This milestone achievement is one that we are very proud of and further complements our product portfolio," said Mark Holleran, President and Chief Operating Officer of Xplore. "The need for rugged battlefield computing devices continues to grow. Based on customer input and that of our key partners, we developed the iX104C4M to be a computing tool addressing the difficult extremes of most military situations -- whether for command and control or situational awareness, in a vehicle, on the flight line or in a tank," said Holleran. "We recently debuted the product at the AUSA Conference in Washington, D.C. It was demonstrated in a network of partner booths including VT Miltope, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems and was very well received by the end users who took part in the demos."

With the iX104C4M, Xplore provides a very rugged box built around the ubiquitous Intel Core Duo U2500 chip, Xplore's most excellent AllVue Xtreme LCD technology for optimal viewing in all lighting conditions, NVIS compatibility, MIL-STD-461F (electromagnetic interference) compliance, ability to operate in extended thermal ranges, all packed into a compact package that can be used as a mobile tablet or mounted via customizable solutions in military vehicles such as MRAP/M-ATV, Buffalo, and Stryker. Xplore says the machine passes stringent MIL-STD-461E RE-102 and RS-103 tests, which cover radiated emmissions and radiated suceptibility in equipment mandated to meet military and aerospace requirements.

RuggedPCReview.com conducted a full review of the standard iX104C4 that the military version is based on (see here), so here are some of ther basics:

What we have here is a tablet computer with a super-tough triple-layer magnesium housing, one of the best sunlight-viewable display technologies, and the availability of both dual-mode digitizers (electromagnetic and touch), or just electromagnetic. The ultra low voltage Intel Core Duo U2500 processor with its accompanying 945GME chipset is no longer new, but it's a proven workhorse used in a good number of rugged computing machinery, and its very low thermal design power of just 9 watts means you don't need a giant power pack to get decent battery life.

Designed to run Windows Vista Business or the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, comes with a gig or two of DDR2 SDRAM and either a high-speed 120GB disk with hard drive heater, or an optional Solid State Disk (SSD). SSDs are still more expensive than rotating media hard disks but offer speed and ruggedness advantages. Wireless communications systems include an 802.11AGN WiFi module that can take advantage of the much quicker "N" protocol while remaining compatible with legacy 802.11b/g networks. Xplore also supports EV-DO Rev. A and HSPA as well as Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR. All radio systems can be operated at the same time.

On the security side, the machine includes a fingerprint reader with associated softwre and a TPM 1.2 module. The Trusted Platform Module technology employs hardware that stores cryptographic keys for a variety of encryption levels. The iX104C4M also has user-accessible internal slots, thus making it possible to remove critical data storage components -- an important security consideration.

Rugged computers must be sealed against dust and liquids, something that's more easily accomplished with as few external ports and openings as possible. However, some onboard connectivity is needed so as not to impede functionality in the field, and Xplore has always offered a very rational compromise of onboard and docking connectivity. The iX104C4M is no exception. You get two USB 2.0 ports, gigabit LAN, and an RS232/422/485 port.

--Conrad H. Blickenstorfer

Specifications Xplore iX104C4M
Added/changed Added 1/2010
Form-factor Rugged Tablet PC slate for military
OS Windows XP Tablet PC or Vista Business
Processor Intel Core Duo U2500, 2MB L2 cache
CPU Speed 1.2 GHz
Chipset Intel 945GME - 533MHz with up to 128MB video memory
Standard/Max RAM 1024MB/2048MB DDR2
Disk/drive 5400rpm 120GB IDE HDD with hard drive heater or user-accessible 32GB Solid State Drive
Card slots User-accessible PC Card Type I/II, 1 mini-PCI Express
Display type Transmissive TFT or optional AllVue Xtreme for enhanced outdoor viewing, 100 brightness levels
Display size/res 10.4-inch/1024x768 16M colors
Digitizer/pens Active electromagnetic; optional dual Mode (active + touch), strengthened and coated glass and resistive touch digitizer
Keyboard/scale External
Operating Temperature -20 to 60 degree C (-4 to 140F)
Sealing IP65 equivalent, MIL-STD 810F method 510.4 Procedure 1 and 2, MIL-STD 810F method 509.4 Salt fog, MIL-STD 810F method 505.4 Procedure 2 Solar radiation
Thermal shock MIL-STD 810F Method 503.4 Procedure II - Cyclic
Transit Shock 4-foot drop to concrete, all surfaces, edges and corners
Vehicular vibration MIL-STD 810F method 514.5C-3 Composite wheeled vehicle (7Hz to 500 Hz)
Security Fingerprint scanner, TPM 1.2
Humidity MIL-STD 810F method 507.4 (3 to 95% non-condensing)
Housing Triple layer Magnesium housing with bumpers
Size (WxHxD) 11.2 x 8.25 x 1.60
Weight 5.0 lbs.
Power Li-Ion (7.4 V/5,700mAH, 41 watt-hours) "up to 3.5 hours"; optional 7.4 V/7,600mAH 56 watt-hour extended life battery for up to 4.5 hours
Interface 2 USB 2.0, gigabit LAN, RS232/422/485, fingerprint scanner, optional VGA
Interface Via xDock: 2 USB, FireWire, CRT, 2 RS232/422/485, 1 coax, audio in/out, virtual printer
Wireless 802.11AGN, Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR; optional: HSPA, EV-DO Rev. A; all can be used simultaneously
List price US$6,999.00
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