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Xplore Technologies
iX104C5 DMSR-M2

Invincible Common Access Card reader-equipped rugged tablet for military and government
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

On March 27, 2013, Xplore Technologies introduced a new version of their ultra-rugged tablet computer, the iX104C5 DMSR-M2, where DMSR stands for Dual-Mode Sunlight-Readable, and M2 refers to the second-gen military edition. In essence, this is a specialized model for military and government personnel that require additional hardware security on top of the various security hardware, software and firmware measures already inherent in modern computing technology. What the new M2 model adds is an integrated common access card (CAC) reader. With the reader, in order to get access to critical data, a U.S. government issued ISO 7816 smart card must be inserted.

Before we go into detail on the new model with the CAC reader, anyone interested in a comprehensive assessment should refer to our full review of the iX104C5 platform. The DSMR-M2 version is the same machine except for some minor technical deviations, which are all reflected in the specs on this page.

Overall, at the time we did our full review, we concluded that as a "5th generation product, the C5 is a very mature and field-proven platform. Its magnesium alloy case is virtually indestructible as well as dust and waterproof. About the size of a standard sheet of paper and weighing about 5.5 pounds, the C5 is still light and handy enough to be taken almost anywhere."

But on to the DSMR-M2 version: Why is the ability to read CAC cards and to provide data access only with such a card important? Because it's mandated in directives and policies such as the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12, see here) that requires that all federal executive departments and agencies use secure and reliable forms of identification for employees and contractors. A chip in the CAC contains personal data, such as fingerprint images, special IDs and digital certificates that allow access to certain federally controlled systems and locations. As a result, both Federal agencies and private enterprise are now implementing FIPS 201-compliant ID programs.

But what exactly do all those card terms mean? What's, for example, the difference between a CAC and a PIV card, and how do they relate to Smart Cards in the first place? Well, the term "smart card" is generic. It's simply a card with a chip in it. The chip can then be used for data storage, access, or even application processing. A CAC is a specific type of smart card used by the US Department of Defense. A PIV (Personal Identification Verification) card is also a FIPS 201-compliant smart card used by the Federal government, but it's for civilian users. Then there's also a PIV-I smart card where the "I" stands for "Interoperable," and that one is for non-Federal users to access government systems.

Below you can see the externally accessible CAC reader on the backside of the Xplore tablet.

The way a CAC works, specifically, is that once it's been inserted into the CAC reader, a PIN must be entered and the reader then checks via network connection with a government certificate authority server, and then either grants or denies access. The CAC stays in the reader for the entire session. Once it's removed, the session (and access) ends.

What this means is that only computers that have a CAC reader can be used for certain military and other governmental work. And the new Xplore iX104C5-M2 provides that reader. It's built directly into the chassis where it is secured and protected.

I had a chance to talk with Xplore Technologies representatives prior to the release of the new model. They said they created this new version specifically to meet the requirements of the Department of Defense, the Air Force, and Homeland Security. According to them, the potential market for CAC-equipped ruggedized tablet is 50,000-100,000 units. Considering that a rugged Xplore tablet lists for over US$5k, that would value that market at between half a billion and a billion dollars. Xplore's competition, of course, will step up to bat as well, and not all CAC-equipped computers will require the superior ruggedness and portability of an Xplore tablet,. But it's easy to see why Xplore, a company with roughly US$30 million in annual sales, would throw its hat in the ring. Even winning a small percentage of the estimated value of this market could have a sizable impact on Xplore.

Oh, and as of May 29, 2013, the iX104C5 platform is also compatible with Windows 8. Our tester had Windows 7, which will likely remain the OS of choice for most Windows users for some time to come. We were tempted to test Xplore's claim that the units can withstand complete submergence in 36 inches of water for up to 30 minutes, but didn't know if that would apply to devices with the CAC reader. --Conrad H. Blickenstorfer -- June 2013

Specifications Xplore iX104C5 DMSR-M2
Status Added 3/2013, updated 5/2013
Product type Rugged Tablet PC for military
OS Windows 7 Pro (32/64-bit)
Windows 8 Pro (32/64-bit)
Processor Intel Core i7-620UE with 4MB L3 cache
CPU Speed 1.06GHz (2.13GHz turbo)
Thermal Design Power 17 watts
Chipset Intel QM57 Express
Standard/Max RAM 4GB to 8GB DDR3 (up to 1,333MHz)
Disk/drive 160GB mSATA SSD drive with integrated heater
Card slots 1 microSD card slot, SIM card, and OEM radio bay with two miniPCIe slots
Display type Sunlight-readable "AllVue" 1,000 nits TFT, 160-degree viewing angle all sides, automatic light sensor, NVIS compatible
Display size/res 10.4-inch/1024x768 pixel
Digitizer/pens Dual-Mode auto-sensing finger touch and active pen
Keyboard/scale External
Operating Temperature -30° to 140°F (-34° to 60°C)
Sealing IP65 or IP67 (up to 30 min submerged in 36 inches of water)
Altitude 50,000 ft (15,240 m) operating
Salt fog 5% saline, 48-hr exposure
Transit Shock Operating: 4 foot (122cm) drop 26 times onto concrete; also operating 7 foot (2.1 meter) drop 26 times to plywood over concrete
Security SO 1716-x compliant CAC reader, Biometrics/Fingerprint reader, TPM 1.2, Intel Anti-Theft, Kensington lock slot, opt. Computrace
Humidity 3%-95% - non-non condensing, operating. Five 48-hour cycles per MIL-STD-810G, Method 507.5, Procedure II
EMC/ESD Electrostatic Discharge per EN55024: +/-8 kV (Direct), +/-15kV (Air); various other EMC testing per EN55024
Housing High-density, hardened magnesium alloy chassis with contoured bumper protection and rubber door protection for ports
Size (WxHxD) 11.2 x 8.25 x 1.6 inches (base unit without rubber bumpers)
Weight Starting at 5 lbs; 5.44 lbs as tested with 10-cell battery, WiFi
Power 7.4V/9,250mAH 68.5 watt-hour 10-cell Li-Ion smart battery ("up to 6.5 hours"), warm-swappable (6-cell bridge battery)
Interface 2 USB 2.0, gigabit LAN RJ45, 1 Serial RS232/RS422/RS485 (VGA replacement option), dock, audio in/out, fingerprint scanner
Interface Via xDock: 2 USB, FireWire, CRT, 2 RS232/422/485, 1 coax, audio in/out, virtual printer
Wireless Intel Centrino Advanced N6205 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi with two antennas, CAC Reader, dedicated 50-channel WAAS/EGNOS 2-meter GPS (sub-meter optional)
List price Starting at US$5,299
Contact Xplore Technologies
Web iX104C5 DMSR-M2 product page
Brochure Xplore iX104C5 DMSR-M2

Xplore Technologies iX104C5 Benchmarks and Comparisons
PERFORMANCE COMPARISON Xplore Technologies DRS ARMOR
Model iX104C5-M2 X10xg
Processor Type: Intel Intel Core i7 Intel Core Duo
Processor Model 620UE U9300
CPU Speed 1.06GHz 1.20GHz
Turbo Speed 2.13GHz No Turbo
OS Software Windows 7 (64-bit) Windows 7 (32-bit)
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 18 watts 10 watts
BatteryMon min draw 10.2 watts 9.5 watts
CPU Mark 1,978.5 737.2
2D Graphics Mark 250.0 123.2
Memory Mark 827.7 318.9
Disk Mark 1,607.3 1,572.2
3D Graphics Mark 245.3 114.8
Overall PassMark 1,069.1 601.9
CM ALU 21,559 12,030
CM FPU 21,233 10,621
CM MEM 16,013 9,499
CM HDD 28,031 27,110
CM GDI 7,137 4,940
CM D2D 1,710 778
CM OGL 2,775 1,029
Overall CrystalMark 94,458 66,607


Above is a completely unretouched image of a iX104C5 DMSR-M2 tablet outdoors. The bright color display is among the very best for sunlight/outdoor use.