There's another approach to making a tablet closer to being indestructible: Encase it in a protective cover that can absorb the shock of a fall and keep water out. However, the combined system and pad are often bigger and heavier than a fully rugged tablet. For instance, HP sells a version of its ElitePad 1000 tablet that is protected by a rugged plastic case; the tablet ends up weighing more than 3 lb. and is 1.3-in. thick.
Finally, protection doesn't come cheap — most rugged systems can be priced at two or three times as much as their conventional cousins. "But getting a tablet meant for consumers is a false economy at work because it will likely cost more in the long run to use," says VDC's Krebs. "At work, a rugged tablet can quickly pay for its extra upfront cost."
In order to see how well these tablets operate in both normal and stressful conditions, I put each through a series of tests for ruggedness (during which they were dropped, shaken and soaked), performance, battery life, usability and so on. All the tablets survived with flying colors.
Easily the biggest, heaviest and most expensive of the tablets reviewed here, the Getac F110 is built to take a beating. The tablet has a textured polycarbonate case that's built on a firm magnesium frame; around its edge, polycarbonate and ABS plastic bumpers are molded into the case. The screen is made of Gorilla Glass II. The ports are covered, and there's a sealed docking connector on the bottom.
At 3.1 lb. and 1.0 x 12.3 x 8.1 in., the Getac needs a bit of muscle to carry it around. It's roughly a pound heavier than the Flex 10 or the Panasonic ToughPad, and is three times as heavy as an iPad Air 2. As a result, while carrying it, I frequently found myself looking for a table to work on. Getac offers an optional hand strap to help carry it and docks for your desk or vehicle.
The 11.6-in. display offers 1366 x 768 resolution. At 376 candelas per square meter, the Getac is brighter than the Flex 10 but 27% darker than the Panasonic. I also found it less usable in direct sunlight than the Panasonic.
The Getac has a tethered stylus that snaps into a recessed spot in the back of the unit. Because the bumpers rise 0.1 in. above the display, writing or drawing on the screen felt awkward at times. I much preferred the Panasonic's near-flush case.
On the right side is a port door that protects the Getac's USB 3.0, HDMI and audio connectors. It's the only one of the three to have a latch on the door to lock it shut.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.