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Xplore Technologies XSlate B10

Xplore adds a much more powerful version of its compact, lightweight, and well-connected rugged Windows tablet platform to its growing lineup of mobile solutions for the road
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, with photography by Carol Cotton) — View print version of Xplore XSlate B10 review

Xplore Technologies Corp. of Austin, Texas has been making rugged tablet computers for a couple of decades and they have sold hundreds of thousands of them. It all started with the GeneSys line of ultra-ruggeds. In 2003 came the iX104 family that is now in its 6th generation. In 2013 Xplore introduced the Android-based RangerX tablet, followed by the Bobcat, a Windows version of the same platform. In early 2015 Xplore took over Motion Computing. And now there's the XSlate B10, a updated and much more powerful version of the Bobcat.

The reason for this new product is the emergence of the tablet form factor as a true productivity tool rather than one primarily for data lookup and media consumption. That trend is evident in Microsoft's push into the professional realm with their Surface tablets and, more recently, Apple's introduction of the larger and pen-enabled iPad Pro. Professional and business use means the need for more power and additional functionality, and that is exactly what the new XSlate B10 delivers.

But doesn't the iX104 already provide all the power and functionality one could possibly need? And why not pump up the Android version of the tablet first? Because, in answer to the former, the iX104 is an ultra-rugged with the size, cost and weight to go with it, and not everyone needs one of those. And because, in answer to the latter, Android is still in search of full acceptance in vertical market tablets whereas Windows tablets are charging ahead and many users expect them to be full-function, full-power members of the Wintel universe.

What's different from the original Bobcat

For those familiar with the Xplore Bobcat rugged tablet computer, the XSlate B10 looks virtually the same, but it has been upgraded in several areas:

  • Design: Looking at the new tablet from the front, top and bottom, the Bobcat and the XSlate B10 are virtually identical, except that the XSlate B10 has an attractive carbon fiber bezel and the Bobcat a solid color dark-gray one. Both have roughly the same footprint as Xplore's top-of-the-line ultra-rugged iX104 Windows tablets, but they are only half as thick and weigh less than half as much.

  • Performance: Big difference here. As much as Intel's "Bay Trail" platform remedied the Atom processors' reputation for being agonizingly slow, the "Atom" brand may be forever tainted at least as far as CPUs go, and some customers simply didn't want to have any part of it, not even if the chip was as competent as the "Bay Trail" Atom E3845 in the Bobcat. The XSlate B10 has no such problems. It's powered by a true Intel Core processor, and a very powerful one at that — the "Broadwell" 5th generation Core i5-5350U.

  • Graphics: While the graphics cores integrated into Bay Trail systems, including the E3845, are of the same Intel HD Graphics architecture as those used in Intel Core processors, they are of an older variety and have far fewer EUs (execution units) than what is found in Core chips. The Intel HD Graphics 6000 graphics integrated in the XSlate B10, on the other hand, are of the Intel Processor Graphics Gen 8 generation and include no fewer than 48 EUs.

  • Memory and storage: The Xplore XSlate B10 comes with 8GB of DDR3L RAM. That's twice as much as the Bobcat, and it's of a faster variety. Solid state disk capacity is 128GB, but SSDs up to 256GB are available. There is also an externally accessible microSDXC slot.

  • USB 3.0: Intel "Broadwell" processors, of course, support USB 3.0 for fast transfer speeds. The XSlate B10 takes advantage of that with two external USB 3.0 ports.

  • Wireless: Wireless communications is state-of-the-art with not only 802.11ac WiFi (with up to 867 Mbps, much faster than 802.11n) and Bluetooth 4.0, but also higher accuracy 2.0 meter GPS and optional integrated LTE mobile broadband.

  • Camera: The XSlate B10 provides still/video documentation with a new and higher resolution 8-megapixel camera in the rear, and a front-facing 720p webcam for conferencing and video calls.

  • Display: The 10.1-inch wide-format IPS display remains unchanged. It uses direct bonding and a bright 500-nits backlight to provide excellent outdoor viewability. It also has perfect horizontal and vertical viewing angles.

  • Touch: The XSlate B10 uses projected capacitive 10-finger multi-touch. But whereas the Bobcat only offered switching from finger to glove mode, there are now four modes: touch, glove, wet, and pen only. Unlike the Bobcat, the XSlate B10x includes a Wacom technology active pen for writing, drawing, annotating and anything that needs more precision than finger touch.

  • Battery: The user-replaceable main battery remains at a capacity of 39 watt-hours and a battery life claim up to 8 hours). But there's now a significantly more powerful (59 vs 31 watt-hour) optional external add-on battery that allows hot-swapping and boosts battery life to a full 20 hours.

  • Ruggedness: The XSlate B10 is remarkably rugged for such a light tablet. It can handle 5-foot drops, carries IP65 sealing, and has been tested according to various MIL-STD-810G procedures. New is that the four most often used ports are now sealed on the inside, too. This means water won't leak in even if those ports are left open.

  • HDMI: The tablet has a micro-HDMI-out port, can now also be ordered with an optional HDMI input.

  • Legacy ports: The XSlate B10 has a dedicated RS232 port that links via supplied adapter cable to a standard DB9 RS232 connector.

  • Security: The Trusted Platform Module secure cryptoprocessor is now version 2.0 instead of version 1.2. This adds additional levels of policy authorization and thus extra security.

Design and implementation

As far as physical specifications go, the XSlate B10, like the earlier Bobcat, measures 11.1 x 7.2 inches (281 180 mm) and is 0.85 inches (22 mm) thick. That's a bit larger and quite a bit thicker than consumer media tablets in this class, but much more compact than fully-rugged tablets. With a weight of 2.55 pounds as tested, the new Xplore tablet is significantly heavier than a consumer media tablet, but, again, weighs much less than traditional rugged tablets. In terms of design and build, the XSlate B10 uses a magnesium alloy frame with elastomer edge and corner protection for an elegant and distinctive look that's now enhanced by the high tech carbon fiber bezel.

Rugged computers must also be sealed against dust and liquids, something that's most easily accomplished with as few external ports and openings as possible. However, some onboard connectivity is needed in a tablet to provide functionality in the field, and Xplore has always offered a balance of onboard and docking connectivity. The XSlate B10 is no exception and actually offers excellent connectivity. There are two USB ports of the fast 3.0 kind, gigabit LAN, micro-HDMI, and since there are still a lot of field peripherals using a serial interface, the XSlate B10 also has a native RS232 port.

Below you can see the Xplore XSlate B10 from the front and all four sides:

The front view shows that the machine was primarily designed to be used in landscape mode, but it also quickly snaps into landscape or even upside down mode if the tablet is turned. In terms of hardware controls, there's a physical Windows button in the bottom center of the face. Above the display is the camera as well as dual microphones (the Bobcat only had one). To the right of the screen is a small indicator light that shows battery status.

On the right side is the on/off switch, a small round button that appears to lock and unlock auto screen rotation, and a volume rocker. On the bottom right is a protective door that covers the power and RJ45 LAN jacks. Also visible is a snap-in dock for the tethered 3.5-inch Wacom active stylus.

The Bobcat's Kensington lock slot on the bottom gave way to an expanded 19-pin surface-mount docking connector (the lock slot is now optional with a top carry handle).

Analyzing the overall construction of the XSlate B10 tablet, there's a PCS bottom "bucket" on which is mounted a magnesium alloy midframe to provide rigidity and extra protection. Then comes the LCD assembly and on top of that a rubber protective guard that slightly raises above the display plane along the sides and more on all four corners to provide extra protection.

The main battery (Li-Polymer 7.4V, 5,300mAH, 39.22 watt-hours) is accessible upon removal of a large and now redesigned polymer compartment door on the backside of the tablet. The door is securely held in place by 14 small Philips screws and two larger ones. It has a plastic lip that pushes against a rubber seal, thus making a tight seal.

The battery itself is replaceable. It is screwed onto the tablet's magnesium frame with six Philips screws.

The battery compartment cover has a small cutout under which are the battery contacts for the optional external battery. The external battery now packs 59.2 watt-hours (7.4V, 8,000mAh), for a massive combined 98.4 watt-hours. The more powerful optional battery, of course, is somewhat taller and heavier than the old 31 watt-hour piggyback battery. If an external battery isn't used, the battery contact cutout is covered with a small door with a seal.

Note that, like the Bobcat, the XSlate B10 does have a small (1.5-inch diameter) fan as part of Xplore's internal thermal management system that presumably also includes heat piping to regulate heating and cooling in extreme temperatures. The fan hardly ever comes on, but its presence can be disconcerting as it looks like liquids can go right into the tablet's interior. That's not the case as the fan is mounted in a compartment that's actually outside of the case, but we'd still rather not have a fan. Xplore commented that the fan makes it possible for the XSlate B10 to maintain full performance over the entire operating temperature range. Given that we've witnessed performance of some fanless designs to drop dramatically when the system gets hot, including a fan makes sense.

The picture below shows the XSlate B10's left side with its large heat exchanger slots and an I/O block that actually has a protective door (Photoshopped out for better viewing of the ports) that can be locked to ward against accidental opening. The I/O block includes two full-size USB 3.0 ports, a headphone jack, the micro-HDMI connector, and the SIM and microSDXC card slots.

As we've noticed on other Xplore products, many of the modules and other important parts inside the machine carry Xplore labels. That gives the device a cohesive, elegant look, as opposed to opening a machine and it looks like components have been assembled from all over the place. Some labels even show an Xplore part number!

Intel "Broadwell" 5th generation Core processor

As stated above, one of the primary reasons why Xplore chose to add the XSlate B10 as a high-end version of the Bobcat is the latter's "Atom"-branded processor. Though the Bobcat's quad-core 1.91GHz Atom E3845 processor belongs to the very competent Bay Trail platform, the chip's Atom designation conjured up bad customer memories of sluggish (to put it kindly) performance of earlier Intel Atom chips. In retrospect, Intel probably should have retired the Atom brand name, or at least not used it for the vastly improved Bay Trail platform, but they did. And products like the Bobcat suffered for it, even though Atom E3845-based systems benchmarked ten times faster than those using the original Atom N270 that was good enough for tens of millions of netbooks, and a full four times faster even than Atom N2600-based devices (and very few complained about their performance).

XSlate B10 vs Bobcat CPU XSlate B10 Bobcat
CPU Intel Core Intel Atom
Model i5-5350U E3845
Code name Broadwell Bay Trail
Lithography 14nm 22nm
Cores/Threads 2/4 4/4
Base Clock Speed 1.80 GHz 1.91 GHz
Turbo Speed 2.90 GHz no turbo
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 15 watts 10 watts
L2 Cache 3MB 2MB
Instruction set 64-bit 64-bit
Integrated graphics HD Graphics 6000 (48 EUs) HD Graphics (6 EUs)
Graphics base speed 300 MHz 542 MHz
Graphics max speed 1,000 MHz 792 MHz
USB 3.0 yes yes
Intel vPro No No

And so while the Bobcat was a spritely performer that actually scored better than the prior gen of Xplore's flagship iX104 (the C5 version), the XSlate B10 has a genuine Intel Core processor, and one of the state-of-the-art 5th generation "Broadwell" variety to boot.

With Broadwell, Intel in essence took its impressive "Haswell" 4th generation and miniaturized it further, reducing manufacturing technology from 22nm to 14nm. That meant room for even more transistors, and Intel used some of those to enhance integrated graphics performance yet again, now supporting DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.3 and OpenCL 2.0. Further, the i5-5350U processor Xplore chose includes HD Graphics 6000, which means 48 graphics execution units, twice the number present in HD Graphics 5500 and thus potentially doubling the gigaflop performance for certain graphics operations.

So this is some serious firepower (and Intel charges six times as much for the i5-5350U than for the Atom E3845). To see how the new Xplore XSlate B10 performs compared to the Bobcat and Xplore's top-of-the-line iX104 machines, both the current and the last generation, we ran the appropriate software version of our standard Passmark Software PerformanceTest 6.1, a suite of about 30 tests covering CPU, 2D graphics, 3D graphics, memory, and disk and then computes scores for each category and an overall PassMark score. And we also ran our secondary benchmark suite, CrystalMark, to cross-check results and get a better idea of single core performance. The results are as follows:

Xplore Technologies XSlate B10 Benchmarks and Comparisons
PERFORMANCE COMPARISON Xplore Technologies Xplore Technologies Xplore Technologies Xplore Technologies
Model XSlate B10 (2015) Bobcat (2014) iX104 XC6 (2014) iX104 C5 (2011)
Processor Type: Intel Intel "Broadwell" Core i5 Intel "Bay Trail" Atom Intel "Haswell" Core i5 Intel "Previous Gen" Core i7
Processor Model 5350U E3845 4300U 620UE
CPU Speed 1.80GHz 1.91GHz 1.90GHz 1.06GHz
Turbo Speed 2.90GHz No turbo 2.90GHz 2.13GHz
OS Software Windows 8.1 (64-bit) Windows 8.1 (64-bit) Windows 8.1 (64-bit) Windows 7 (64-bit)
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 15 watts 10 watts 15 watts 18 watts
BatteryMon min draw 4.5 watts 4.7 watts 7.0 watts 10.5 watts
CPU Mark 3,845.5 1,924.9 3,505.4 1,019.6
2D Graphics Mark 416.9 149.2 395.8 223.1
Memory Mark 1,241.2 397.1 1,491.2 798.1
Disk Mark 4,946.9 2,513.9 8,780.7 2,634.3
3D Graphics Mark 460.1 158.0 460.8 254.7
Overall PassMark 2,364.7 1,133.8 3,081.7 1,007.6
CrystalMark ALU 45,380 25,808 41,937 21,636
CrystalMark FPU 43,737 21,815 41,146 20,734
CrystalMark MEM 48,348 25,613 45,937 15,880
CrystalMark HDD 44,328 36,177 52,605 31,549
CrystalMark GDI 15,505 4,931 13,115 8,082
CrystalMark D2D 5,395 3,616 7,748 1,215
CrystalMark OGL 5,414 3,305 12,210 1,640
Overall CrystalMark 208,107 121,265 214,698 100,736

The results are impressive. After all is said and done, Xplore XSlate B10 is overall roughly twice as fast as the already quick Bobcat. The XSlate B10 is actually even a processing performance match for the top-of-the-line iX104 XC6. The latter's overall edge in the PassMark benchmark suite is solely based on its dual-disk RAID test numbers. And the XSlate B10 is also more than twice is fast overall than the last-gen iX104 C5. Whatever performance concerns anyone might have had about the Bobcat platform are certainly gone now.

What that means is that the XSlate B10 is a high-performance tablet for virtually any job, even complex, demanding ones. On the computing power front it can do almost anything what the no-holds-barred iX104 C6 can do, albeit at a lower level of ruggedness (and at a considerably lower cost).

What if it gets hot?

Oh, and one more thing. The XSlate B10's operating temperature range is -30* to 140*Fahrenheit. Having seen more than our share of rugged devices that performed like champs in the lab just to wilt outside in the summer sun, we decided to see what the XSlate B10 can do when it gets hot. On a hot NorCal summer day it can get up to 110 or more. In Arizona we've seen close to 120, and if you let a unit sit around in the sun, it can easily reach temperatures that are 10 to 20 degrees higher.

But what if the temperature gets to the unit's upper operating limit, and beyond? Would it still perform at or near the levels observed in the lab? And if so, how close?

To find out we cranked a General Electric oven up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit (77 degrees Centigrade), waited until we had a steady temperature, then put the XSlate B10 in the oven and let it bake for 15 minutes. Then we started our CrystalMark benchmark suite and ran it with the XSlate B10 inside the oven at 170F.

BENCHMARK CrystalMark CrystalMark
Temperature 74°F 170°F
CrystalMark ALU 45,380 40,875
CrystalMark FPU 43,737 44,162
CrystalMark MEM 48,348 46,811
CrystalMark HDD 44,328 44,045
CrystalMark GDI 15,505 15,814
CrystalMark D2D 5,395 5,097
CrystalMark OGL 5,414 6,662
Overall CrystalMark 208,107 203,466
Performance 100.0% 97.8%

The best result at room temperature was an overall 208,107 CrystalMark score. At 170F, the XSlate B10 scored a 203,466. That's a full 97.8% of its room temperature benchmark score, and well within the +/- 2.5% deviation we usually see when we run the same benchmarks multiple times.

When we took the XSlate B10 out of the oven, everything worked as it should. The (very quiet) fan had been running full speed at 170F, and it instantly slowed down to an almost inaudible level as soon as we removed the tablet from the oven. Impressive indeed.

Battery power and power draw

Our XSlate B10 evaluation unit came with the standard 37 watt-hour battery, the same that powers the Bobcat. Xplore claims the same 8 hour battery life for both the Bobcat and the new XSlate B10. Given that the XSlate B10 has twice the performance, can this be possible?

As always with Windows devices, we used PassMark's BatteryMon utility to measure power draw. Using the Windows 8.1 "Power Saver" setting and the backlight at its lowest setting, we saw as low as 4.5 watts in a dark office. That would translate into a theoretical battery life of 8.2 hours with the standard internal battery. With brightness cranked up to maximum, power draw rose to 5.7 watts (theoretical 6.5 hours).

In high performance mode, with the backlight at its lowest setting, we saw as low as 6.4 watts, which means about 5.8 hours. With brightness cranked up to maximum, it was around 8.3 watts, still good for a theoretical 4.5 hours.

Do note that the XSlate B10 comes with a special Windows-based BIOS Setup Utility that allows setting the startup configuration (things on or off when the system boots), the boot sequence, security settings, quiet mode (audio, display, radios, etc.), and also LCD. In the LCD tab screen brightness can be set to manual or ambient light sensor control, and also low and high night vision mode. These settings are all quite important because they can also determine the brightness range that's available to a particular LCD illumination scheme.

Overall, despite its impressive performance capabilities, the XSlate B10 is also amazingly power-efficient. The minimum observed power draw is actually less than what we had found in the original Bobcat tablet. That's due both to the Broadwell platform's sophisticated power conservation technologies and also due to the proper drivers, utilities and system integration.

Finally, the usual qualifier: battery life is as relative as gas mileage in a car, or more so. In power saver mode and with the computer quickly going into stand-by, a modern computer running Windows 8.1 and using a Broadwell-class processor with all sorts of power savings technologies can easily last a shift or probably much more.

Superb sunlight-viewable display

Rugged tablet computers will be used outdoors and that includes bright, direct sunlight. Standard transmissive LCD displays, however, wash out in daylight, and that's why over the past few years, sunlight-readability has become a major selling point in the rugged notebook sector.

The current standard as far as outdoor-viewable display technology goes is a combination of a bright backlight, anti-reflective coatings, linear and circular polarizers, and—to reduce the number of reflecting surfaces—direct bonding of as many of the LCD assembly's layers as possible. All the major players in the rugged/outdoor arena use those technologies, and the difference between approaches boils down to the presence and extent of those expensive optical coatings, how they are applied, how the various layers are bonded, and backlight brightness. All of the major rugged tablet and notebook makers uses variations of these sunlight-viewable technologies.

Xplore had a good sunlight-viewable display when no one else did, and also gave its tablets the best available displays. The XSlate B10 continues that tradition with a truly terrific display that measures 10.1 inches diagonally, has 1366 x 768 pixel resolution (16 : 9 aspect ratio), and a bright 500 nit backlight. 1366 x 768, to many known as 720p, is more than the original iPad and works fine with Windows 8.1 on this size screen. The display uses IPS LCD technology, which means it offers perfect viewing angles from all sides. Direct-bonding of layers and special optical coatings minimize reflectivity, making the screen quite sunlight-readable and thus suitable for work both indoors and outdoors.

We shot some pictures comparing the XSlate B10 with an Apple iPad Air 2. Xplore often invokes the iPad as an example of how many companies have fully adopted the tablet PC form factor, but require a far greater degree of ruggedness than an inexpensive media tablet can provide. The iPad's display is excellent, quite bright, and both the iPad and the XSlate B10 have glossy display surfaces.

The picture below was taken outdoors on an overcast Eastern Tennessee mid-afternoon, with the devices placed in a partially shaded area. This is where effective anti-reflective treatment comes into play. Both displays remain bright and vibrant.

Current display technology, however, remains a compromise. Glossy screen surfaces make for a pleasant viewing experience with great contrast, vibrant colors, and have none of the murky diffusion of "matte" display surfaces. Unfortunately, even with the best current anti-reflection measures primarily reduce internal reflection. The display surface itself remains very prone to almost mirror-like reflections in high contrast settings. There's just only that much that can be done.

Overall, the XSlate B10's display gets very very good to excellent marks. Xplore had a head start in offering outdoor-viewable displays in their rugged tablets, and they've improved it with every generation of their tablets. The 500-nits brightness, while no match for the iX104's 1,300 nits, is quite adequate, there's good internal reflection control, and the viewing angle is close to perfect, something that always makes any display much more pleasant to use. And while we detected a yellowish hue on Xplore's iX104 XC6, the XSlate B10 has none.

Multi-touch vs. gloves and rain

Like the Bobcat, the XSlate B10 uses projected capacitive touch, the same touch technology hundreds of millions love on their smartphones and tablets. Procap enables that effortless, smooth tapping, panning, pinching and zooming pioneered by the iPhone and iPad, something tablet users today instinctively expect from a tablet.

Unfortunately, using fingers to tap and zoom on apps specifically developed for capacitive multi-touch is one thing, but doing work on a Windows computer is another. Almost all Windows software was developed for use with a mouse and really doesn't work very well with finger tapping. Microsoft found that out the hard way with Windows 8 and truly making the still giant Windows universe suitable for touch remains a work in progress.

And then there are other issues. While capacitive touch works wonderfully well when finger-tapping on a clean, dry screen, using it outdoors on the job with gloves on or in the rain is generally a no-go. Since most XSlate B10 customers will use their tablets outdoors, Xplore tried to provide their newest tablet with special "glove" and "wet" modes via the control utility shown below.

Getting capacitive multi-touch to work with gloves and in wetness isn't easy. The problem is that the technology is based on measuring the capacitance between two electrodes. If a glove gets between the finger and the display surface, the touch controller can't sense the finger and thus can't measure the capacitance. That can, to a degree, be fixed by increasing the sensitivity of the touch controller. That way the finger can be senses even if it's the thickness of the glove material away from the touch surface, and I think that's what Xplore did with the "glove" mode. Xplore spent considerable time getting this to work right, and once we had installed the most recent version of their Mode Switcher app, operating the tablet with gloves on (the ones shown in the picture below) worked just fine. You obviously don't have the same dexterity with gloves on as you have with your bare fingers, but the B10 did respond to touch and multi-touch.

But what about "wet" touch? That's (quite) a bit more tricky because you can't measure touch capacitance between two electrodes when it rains onto the surface. Water is an excellent conductor and water sprayed or falling onto a touch screen will completely mess up measuring capacitance between electrodes. One approach, at the cost of losing multi-touch and just having touch, is using self-capacitance where the capacitance between one electrode and the ground is measured.

So how does Xplore's "wet" mode work? We don't think it's self capacitance. Instead, we think "wet" mode provides touch functionality by significantly decreasing the sensitivity of the touch controller and using a special screen protector that makes water pearl and bead enough so that there isn't uncontrolled conduction between different parts of the display surface. We could be wrong, but that's how it felt.

Below are two brief videos that demonstrate using the XSlate B10 in glove mode (left) and wet mode (right).

The Mode Switcher's "pen" mode comes in handy when all else fails. It disables touch so that the touch controller isn't confused by false signals from liquids. Instead, the tablet only responds to the electromagnetic signals of the Wacom pen. Below is a picture of the pen which doesn't need batteries and is about 3.5 inches long.

The Wacom system adds cost and a bit of weight because it needs a sensor board behind the display. Why didn't Xplore get a narrow tip capacitive pen instead, a technology that has vastly improved and seems destined to replace active electromagnetic digizers? Because, said Xplore, even improved capacitive pens still can't handle rain, and they also do not have pressure sensitivity, which the Wacom pen has (and some Xplore customers requested).


Unlike consumer electronics where you buy a product and that's that, vertical market computing gear is always part of a system and entire infrastructure. That includes accessories that aren't one-size-fits-all, but which are made and optimized specifically for the product. Shown below are just three of Xplore's catalog of accessories for the XSlate B10: an office dock, a charger that can handle six batteries at once, and a handy kickstand.


Ruggedness—providing mobile computers that can operate in and survive harsh environmental conditions—is the core of Xplore's business. In general, unlike consumer electronics that are designed for style, low weight and lowest possible cost, rugged equipment is conceived and built around ruggedness. And that may mean more bulk and weight and less style.

The XSlate B10, however, is a rather elegant device, and it had to be. The industry has pretty much converged around a style that borrows the general size and form factor of consumer tablets, with attention to good looks and as slender a profile as is possible. That makes achieving ruggedness more difficult.

As is, Xplore says the XSlate B10 successfully passed the MIL-STD-810G transit drop test of 26 5-foot drops to plywood over concrete while operating. The tablet can start up in temperatures as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit and operate in temperatures as low as -30 and as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to +60 Celsius), enough for virtually any conceivable deployment. And lets not forget that in our tests it retained full performance even at a sizzling 170F.

Sealing is important in a rugged machine as dust can gum up the works, and water can render a computer inoperable or destroy the electronics completely. Xplore claims IP65 for the XSlate B10, where the "6" stands for being dustproof and the "5" for the ability to handle low pressure water jets from all directions. As is shown in the picture on the right, our test XSlate B10 easily survived a good hosing.

The XSlate B10 does have a fairly large number of exterior openings for all of its slots, ports, connectors, and batteries. That means a large number of seals that must be in perfect condition, and protective doors that must have intact seals and must be closed carefully. Xplore knows that and, in response, sealed some of the unit's ports from the inside. That way, frequently used protective doors can remain open and accommodate cabling while still providing full sealing.

As always, your particular application will make the ability to pass some of those tests either vital or meaningless. Xplore provides more, and more thorough, ruggedness testing specs than most, so anyone interested in the XSlate B10 should examine them closely and also check with Xplore for additional test results.

Bottom line

With the light and handy Windows-based XSlate B10, Xplore Technologies not only complements its line of ultra-rugged iX104 Windows tablets, but provides an enhanced and significantly more powerful version of its existing Bobcat tablet. With this Intel Core processor-powered version the company adds a formerly missing piece that further broadens and expands Xplore's reach in the rugged market. Given the rising popularity of Windows tablets, there is substantial opportunity for an enterprise-ready product that offers business and industry the full Windows tablet experience in a more powerful, more versatile and more advanced version.

Though visually almost identical to the Android-based RangerX and the Windows-based Bobcat at first sight, this is a far more powerful device. An Intel 5th generation "Broadwell" Core processor provides the kind of performance many field professional need for complex work, without giving up the platform's handy 2.5 pound design with a tough magnesium alloy frame, polycarbonate housing, and elastomer corner and edge protection. With a footprint barely larger than an iPad, the XSlate B10 fits virtually anywhere.

The XSlate B10's 10.1-inch 1366 x 768 pixel sunlight-viewable IPS display with near perfect viewing angle from all directions is bright and easy on the eyes, indoors and out. It does a decent job controlling reflection and remaining usable even in bright sunlight. Using the popular capacitive multi-touch technology, Xplore also provides special "glove," "wet," and "pen" modes. The latter for use with an included active Wacom pen that does not need batteries and provides the kind of precision needed for certain applications.

Thanks to the powerful Intel Core processor with advanced integrated HD 6000 graphics, 8GB of fast DDR3L memory, solid state disk, and USB 3.0, the XSlate B10 is is roughly twice as fast as he Bobcat tablet and can now handle complex tasks that previously required the company's top-of-the-line X104 XC6 units. Wireless communication is state-of-the-art with 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, uBlox GPS, and available 4G LTE mobile broadband.

With the XSlate B10, Xplore Technologies now offers mobile professionals not only the choice between Windows (Bobcat) or Android (RangerX) in the same compact, elegant and lightweight form factor, but also a high-end Windows version for those who need the extra performance of a Core processor-based device.

Xplore XSlate B10 highlights:

  • Elegant, functional, compact design that's also impressively rugged
  • Much higher performance with Intel 5th generation "Broadwell" processor, at least twice that of the Bobcat
  • Full performance maintained over entire operating temperature range
  • Powerful Intel HD 6000 graphics with twice the execution units of other Broadwell CPUs
  • Nicely optimized projected capacitive 10-finger multi-touch
  • Mode Switcher app provides good glove touch operation and even a degree of rain touch
  • Included active Wacom technology pen for when precision is needed
  • Bright sunlight-readable display with good reflection control
  • Wide viewing angle from all directions
  • Very good battery life
  • Rugged enough for numerous outdoor jobs
  • Elegant new carbon fiber bezel
  • Fan quiet and non-intrusive, doesn't come on often
  • Often used ports are now sealed from the inside as well
  • Excellent onboard connectivity: cameras, microSD card, USB 3.0, HDMI, serial
  • 801.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, 4G LTE mobile broadband provide excellent connectivity
  • Optional external battery can boost battery life to 20 hours
But keep in mind:
  • Internal battery on the small side, making optional external battery advisable, but that adds size and weight
  • We'd prefer a fanless design (but the fan facilitates full performance over the entire operating temperature range)
  • Micro ports and connectors inherently fragile, microSD cards easy to lose

-- Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, September 2015

Xplore Technologies XSlate B10 Specifications
Type Rugged Tablet PC slate
Introduced September 2015
Processor Dual-core Intel "Broadwell" i5-5350U
CPU speed 1.80GHz
CPU turbo speed 2.90GHz
Thermal Design Power 15 watts
Graphics Integrated Intel HD Graphics 6000 (Mobile Gen8 with 48 EUs)
Display Chipset Integrated into processor
OS Windows 7 Professional (64 bit) or Windows 8.1 Professional (64 bit), presumably Windows 10
Memory 8GB DDR3L 1600MHz
Display 10.1-inch/1366 x 768 pixel sunlight-readable IPS 500 nits direct-bonded TFT, 178-degree viewing angle all sides, automatic light sensor, NVIS compatible
Digitizer Projected capacitive multi-touch with glove and wet touch modes, Wacom active pen
Keyboard Onscreen; optional external
Storage 128GB SSD SATA 6Gbp/s drive; optional SSDs up to 256GB
Expansion slots 1 Micro SDXC card slot, MicroSIM card, optional CAC reader
Housing Lightweight magnesium alloy frame, polycarbonate housing, contoured bumper protection and rubber door protection for ports
Size 11.1 x 7.1 x 0.86 inches (281 x 180 x 22 mm) base unit without rubber bumpers
Weight 2.55 lbs as tested w/o handle or pen
Operating temperature -30° to 140°F (-34° to 60°C)
Ingress protection IP65 (IEC 60529)
Altitude 40,000 feet for 1 hour, operating. MIL-STD-810G, Method 500.5, Procedure II
Humidity 95% - non-non condensing, operating
Salt Fog Unknown
Drop Operating: 5 foot (152cm) drop 26 times onto plywood over concrete
Vibration Est: Minimum integrity testing, non-operating: MIL-STD-810G, Method 514.6, Procedure I: Figure 514.6 E-1, Category 24
Intrinsic safety ATEX, ANSI/ISA 12.12.01 Class 1 Div 2, A, B, C, D
Power Li-Polymer 7.4V, 5,300mAH, 39.22 watt-hours ("up to 8 hours"), optional external battery Li-Polymer 7.4V, 8,000mAH, 59.2 watt-hours ("combined up to 20 hours")
Cameras Integrated 8 megapixel camera with flash (rear), integrated 720p HD camera (front)
Interface 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x RJ45 gigabit LAN, 1 x Micro HDMI-out, 1 x native serial RS232 port, dock, audio in/out, optional HDMI input
Wireless Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 + Bluetooth V4.0, 2-meter GPS, optional: 4G LTE, NFC, CAC, 1D/2D barcode scanner, fingerprint scanner
Price Starting at US$2,799
Web page Xplore XSlate B10 page
Brochure Xplore XSlate B10 spec sheet/brochure
Warranty Standard 3-year warranty, 4 and 5 year options, optional xDefend program
Contact Xplore Technologies
14000 Summit Drive, Suite 900
Austin, TX 78728, USA
Toll Free: 1-888-449-7567
Phone: 1-512-336-7797
Fax: 1-512-336-7791

(copyright 2015 RuggedPCReview.com)