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GammaTech DURABOOK R8300

Ultra-rugged, no-compromise notebook for the toughest jobs gets substantial tech update
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, September 2016)

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On October 12, 2016, GammaTech announced a substantial technology and performance update to their DURABOOK R8300. The R8300 — the first fully rugged notebook computer sold under the DURABOOK brand — is designed and manufactured specifically to operate and survive in extremely harsh environments such as, among others, those routinely encountered by the military, in public safety deployments, and by the utility sector.

Right upfront, please note that unlike tablets that continue exploring and breaking new technological ground, ruggedized notebooks such as the DURABOOK R8300 represent a very mature class of machines, one that goes back a good two decades when pioneering computer makers began beefing up standard notebook computers to make them more suitable for work in the field. Back then, adequate battery life, acceptable performance, and outdoor usable displays were almost insurmountable obstacles. Those issues have long since been resolved. Between new display technology, Intel's successive generations of ever-faster Core processors, and the maturity of ruggedization technology, hardened notebooks such as the R8300 allow computing anytime and anywhere.

That said, procurement and deployment life cycles, enterprise integration and support requirements, as well as legacy peripheral, accessory and application issues demand a higher degree of design and connectivity continuity and compatibility than is the case in consumer technology. In the R8300 that's evident, for example, in the 4:3 aspect ratio of the 13-inch display and the 1024 x 768 pixel XGA resolution that are no longer new, but optimally support a vast library of vertical market software.

In terms of design and execution, the R8300 remains absolutely first class. The magnesium alloy case and internal frame and structure make for an exceedingly solid machine, and also a complex one with numerous carefully conceived and executed details. For all its toughness, though, the R8300 is fairly compact, measuring 12.0 x 11.5 x 2 inches, including an integrated carry handle, and weighing just under eight pounds.

The latest generation of the R8300 benefits from a substantial performance upgrade. GammaTech switched from third generation "Ivy Bridge" Core processors all the way to sixth generation "Skylake" chips. And while GammaTech usually offers a default chip and perhaps one processor option, R8300 customers now have a choice of no fewer than four. Here's what customers can choose from:

GammaTech R8300 Processor Options
Available R8300 CPUs Intel Core i7 Intel Core i7 Intel Core i5 Intel Core i5
Model 6600U 6500U 6300U 6200U
Cores/Threads 2/4 2/4 2/4 2/4
Base Clock Speed 2.60 GHz 2.50 GHz 2.40 GHz 2.30 GHz
Turbo Speed 3.40 GHz 3.10 GHz 3.00 GHz 2.80 GHz
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 15 watts 15 watts 15 watts 15 watts
Smart Cache 4MB 4MB 3MB 3MB
Integrated graphics HD Graphics 520 HD Graphics 520 HD Graphics 520 HD Graphics 520
Graphics base speed 300 MHz 300 MHz 300 MHz 300 MHz
Graphics max speed 1.05 GHz 1.05 GHz 1.00 GHz 1.00 GHz
Intel Stable Image Platform Program Yes No Yes No
Intel TSX-NI Yes No Yes No
Intel Trusted Execution Yes No Yes No
Intel vPro Yes No Yes No

The difference between the chips is relatively subtle, but can be important if the availability of certain integrated processor options matters. Here's a brief explanation of Intel technologies that the i7-6600U and i5-6300U have, but the i7-6500U and i5-6200U do not:

  • vPro provides extra security and management capabilities that are required in many enterprise deployments (see Wiki Intel vPro).

  • TSX-NI Transactional Synchronization Extensions New Instructions) helps make parallel operations more efficient via improved control of locks in software (see Wiki TSX).

  • SIPP (Stable Image Platform Program) allows deployment of standardized, stable image PC platforms for at least 15 months (see Intel SIPP), and

  • Trusted Execution technology provides security capabilities such as measured launch and protected execution, and may thus also be an enterprise requirement (see Wiki Trusted Execution Technology).

In addition, Skylake processor technology also brings Intel Authenticate, Intel's new enhanced hardware security that strengthens identity protection.

While we haven't tested an R8300 with the new tech specs (see our original full review of the R8300), GammaTech claims 11 hours of running time on a charge. Given that GammaTech's estimate for the predecessor unit with its significantly less efficient chip was eight hours, 11 hours may be conservative. And note that the R8300's media bay can accommodate a smaller secondary battery that boosts battery life by another few hours.

The R8300's processors comes with integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 that should provide very good graphics performance on this type display even without a discrete graphics subsystem.

Additional new technology specs include:

  • Two slots for up to 32GB of fast DDR4 memory (compared to just 16GB of DDR3)
  • 500GB or 1TB quick-release hard disks
  • Optional 128GB to 1TB solid state disks
  • Dual gigabit RJ45 LAN ports
  • Faster Intel Wireless-AC LAN and dual-mode Bluetooth v4.2 combo
  • Beefed up security with TPM 2.0 and Windows 10

As before, the R8300 is meeting MIL-STD 810G for shock, drop, vibration and temperature; IP65 for water and dust resistance (which means protection against water jets as opposed to just spray, but still with limited ingress permitted); and MIL-STD 461F, ANSI/ISA 12.12.01 (formerly known as UL1601 - Class 1 Division 2), and ATEX Zone 2 for operation in hazardous locations.

Security includes TPM 2.0, different levels of passwords, optional fingerprint reader, a Kensington lock slot, CompuTrace theft recovery and data protection agent in BIOS, FIPS201-compliant Smart Card reader, and also a variety of Intel technologies.

So that's the GammaTech DURABOOK R8300 as of late 2016. While this is a very mature platform that has gone through years and several generations of extensive field use and testing across the globe, the tech updates bring the platform up to state-of-the-art, with its processor technology leapfrogging even marketleader Panasonic.

Keep in mind that an earlier version of this machine was sold by General Dynamics Itronix as the GD8200, which will certainly make it interesting to customers who seek to replace aging GD8200s. Updated with Intel Skylake technology, the solid-as-a-rock DURABOOK R8300 offers superior pedigree, performance and versatility, making it a virtually indestructible work horse in any number of deployments that rely on tough, rugged computers that will not break or fail.

GammaTech Computer Corporation
48303 Fremont Blvd.
Fremont, CA 94538-6510, USA
Tel: +1-800-995-8946
Tel: +1-510-492-0828
Web: www.gammatechusa.com
Specifications DURABOOK R8300
Status Added 02/2014, updated 04/2014, updated 10/2016
Processor Core i7-6600U, 4MB cache
Core i7-6500U, 4MB cache
Core i5-6300U, 3MB cache
Core i5-6200U, 3MB cache
CPU speed/turbo i7-6600U: 2.60/3.40GHz
i7-6500U: 2.50/3.10GHz
i5-6300U: 2.40/3.00GHz
i5-6200U: 2.30/2.80GHz
TDP all 15 watts
OS Windows 10 Professional, Windows 7 Pro downgrade option
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 520
Standard/Max RAM 8/16/32GB 204-pin DDR4 SODIMM in two slots
Disk/drive Shock-mounted, quick-release 500GB or 1TB hard disk, or 128GB to 1TG solid state disk
Optical media Super-multi DVD-RW drive in media bay (can be used for 2nd battery)
Card slots Optional PC Card Type II or Express Card 54, optional SmartCard reader (FIPS 201)
Display type Transmissive LED-backlit 1,050 nits TFT LCD with sunlight-viewable technology
Display size/res 13.3" XGA (1024 x 768 pixel)
Digitizer/pens Resistive touch
Keyboard/scale 88-key full-size sealed, capacitive touchpad; optional backlit keyboard with 10 levels of brightness
Housing Magnesium alloy case/high impact resin
Operating Temp -22° to 140°F (-30° to 60°C)
Sealing IP65
Drop MIL-STD-810G Method 516.6, Proc. IV (26 x 48-inch drop, operating)
Shock MIL-STD-810G, Method 514.6, Proc. I; ASTM 4169, Truck Transport, 11.5.2 Random test, Assurance Level 2
Altitude Operating: 15,000ft (MIL-STD-810G 500.5 Procedure II)
Salt fog MIL-STD-810G 509.5
Security Pre-boot/supervisor/user passwords; TPM 2.0; Kensington lock; optional fingerprint scanner, Smart Card, CompuTrace, Intel vPro, Intel Anti-Theft; Stealth mode; selective I/O disabling
Certifications FCC, CE, CUS, CB
Size (WxHxD) 12.0 x 10.6 x 2.4 inches (305 x 267 x 61 mm)
Weight 7.9 pounds (3.6 kg)
Power 9-cell 11.1V, 7,800, 86 watt-hr Li-Ion ("11 hrs."); opt. 2nd 3,800mAH battery in media bay ("12 hours")
Interface 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0, 2 x RJ45 gigabit LAN, 1 x 9-pin serial RS232, 1 x VGA (optional HDMI) audio in/out, dock, 2 speakers
Communication Intel Dual-Band AC8260 801.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi + Bluetooth 4.2 module, optional Gobi 5000 LTE, optional GPS
List price Inquire
Web See R8300 on the web
Brochure Durabook R8300 spec page