Rugged laptops never fail to impress when it comes to party tricks. Manufacturers love to show them being dipped into fish tanks or closed inside freezers. One of the more fun videos over the years showed a laptop falling off the back of a military vehicle and the vehicle backing up over it—an abuse the laptop took on the chin, in part because, like its peers, it had the physique of an old Yellow Pages.
Rugged device maker Getac says it's out to ditch that old compromise—extreme ruggedness but in an unlovably large chassis. On Oct. 15, Getac introduced the V110, calling it the thinnest and lightest rugged convertible on the market, and the F110, dubbing it the "thinnest and lightest fully rugged large-screen tablet."
The V110 features an 11.6-inch display and a full-size, backlit, waterpoof-membrane keyboard that Getac says is 56 percent larger than the competition's and further has an "unmatched premium feel and increased durability." It measures 12 by 9 by 1.3 inches and weighs just over 4 pounds.
The F110 also has an 11.6-inch display, which is larger than that of most tablets but better for using with Windows 8. It weighs 3 pounds, measures 12 by 8 inches and is less than an inch thick.
"No one's ever really challenged this industry," John Lamb, Getac's director of marketing, told eWEEK. "It used to be that manufacturers updated their products every three years."
The reason for this, he explained, is that rugged devices, in order to receive their military specification ratings, have to go through "enormous" verification processes. Manufacturers would rather largely leave their designs alone than undergo the verification ordeal again.
The V110 and F110 run fourth-generation Intel chips (Haswell), which enabled Getac to cut 25 percent of the chips off the motherboard and reduce the size of the board itself by 33 percent.
On the V110, another factor that contributed to its slimming down was a redesign of its predecessor's six-cell battery into two, three-cell batteries. Each three-cell slips into a slot on either side of the laptop; together, they look a bit like hands slipping into a winter muff. Further, one can be slipped out and replaced while the other keeps the laptop running, enabling the V110 to potentially "keep going forever," said Lamb.
Also removable are the flash storage units. The V110 has a removable storage drive that's 78 percent smaller and lighter than previous options, while the F110 has a removable door on the back of the tablet that provides access to the storage module.
The latter is a key feature for military customers who, if they can't remove a drive, have to destroy a machine entirely.
Both new devices offer the option of built-in, multi-carrier 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) on a single chip, and both support next-generation 802.11ac WiFi.
Regarding connectivity, Getac added in a statement: "New Bluetooth 4.0 technology boosts performance in the field. A brand-new 3D antenna design captures eight bands, improving both signal strength and throughput while reducing drop-offs."
Additionally, for vehicle deployments, three pass-through antenna ports can be added, enabling users to simultaneously connect high-gain GPS, WWAN and WLAN roof-mounted antennas.
Both devices also feature LumiBond display technology, which is said to offer better readability outdoors and better contrast and crisper colors "than on any other rugged laptop display."
Getac says it also responded to customer requests to make its machines still more rugged. They now can perform in conditions as cold as negative 20 degrees F, instead of just negative 4 degrees.
The F110 will begin shipping in November, followed by the V110 in December.
"This is an industry that hasn't been very visionary," Lamb added. "But we're doing things differently."