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Break me if you can: 4 rugged tablets put to the test

Brian Nadel | March 4, 2015
The gold standard for ruggedness is the Military Standard 810G rating (also known as MIL-STD-810G), a set of protocols that the U.S. Department of Defense uses to assess mobile computers.

With a 2,179.5 rating on the PerformanceTest 8 benchmark, it came in surprisingly close to the Getac's faster processor (likely a result of the ToughPad's additional RAM). On the downside, the tablet got noticeably hot at times.

The ToughPad's 4400mAh battery pack powered the tablet for six hours and 11 minutes of continuous playback of videos from a USB key, which should translate to a full day of work. Panasonic has an optional 9300mAh battery pack replacement that sticks about 0.2 in. out of the slate's bottom.

Panasonic offers a variety of accessories for the tablet, including desk and vehicle mounting hardware, an optional RS-232 serial port, a bar code scanner, a smart card reader, a magnetic stripe reader, and a charger that can handle three batteries.

My favorite, though, is the $350 snap-on iKey Jumpseat Keyboard that can turn the tablet into a keyboard-centric notebook. It adds a USB port, is just as rugged as the tablet and has backlit keys. The combo weighs 4.2 lb.

Bottom line

Although its three-year warranty unfortunately doesn't include accidental damage, Panasonic ToughPad is a good choice for those who want a tablet that is as close to indestructible as is possible.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 8.0

Rugged tablets aren't just for Windows anymore — take, for example, Samsung's Galaxy Tab Active 8.0, which currently runs on Android 4.4 (Samsung says it plans a software upgrade to 5.0 in the coming months).

The Galaxy Tab Active's plastic case is built on a sturdy internal frame, and there's protective silicone edging that can be removed to get to the battery. While it doesn't have the MIL-STD 810G rating that the Windows tablets boast, it carries an IP67 rating for dust and water protection. And the 1.1-lb. tablet survived the same ruggedness tests that I put the other units through.

Its screen was on a par with the Flex 10 at 319 candelas per square meter; in use, it wasn't nearly as bright as the Panasonic ToughPad. And I found that it was the hardest of the four to use in direct sunlight.

There are buttons for turning the system on and off and adjusting the volume on the right side; it has an audio jack, micro-USB slot and a 3-pin POGO charging port on the other side. The three Android control keys are on the bottom front.

At the top of the case is a place to slide in the Galaxy Tab Active's C-Pen, although there's no easy way to tether it to the slate. The 8-in. screen offers 1280 x 800 resolution.

The whole back panel can be snapped off, revealing the 4450mAh battery pack, which is replaceable. The battery was able to power the system for eight hours and 40 minutes of continuously playing online videos over a Wi-Fi connection, which should translate to more than a day's worth of normal use.

 

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