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GammaTech DURABOOK R8300

3rd gen of ultra-rugged, no-compromise notebook for the toughest jobs gets substantial tech update
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, November 2017)

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On November 15, 2017, GammaTech announced a substantial technology and performance update to their DURABOOK R8300. The R8300 — now in its third generation — 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. The R8300 platform now offers Intel 7th generation Core processors, improved graphics capabilities, increased battery life and the comprehensive security offered by Windows 10.

For a bit of background on this tough and rugged laptop, the DURABOOK R8300 represent a class of mobile computers that originated a good two decades ago when pioneering PC makers began beefing up standard notebook computers to make them more suitable for work in the field. Back then, adequate battery life, decent 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. Another example is the R8300's legacy serial port. Many applications in the field still need them.

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 the availability of state-of-the-art Intel 7th generation "Kaby Lake" Core processors. Customers now have the choice of three different of those new processors. Two CPUs from the last generation of the R8300 carry over, the 6th generation "Skylake" Core i7-6500U and i5-6200U. Why? Because Kaby Lake doesn't support the Windows 7 downgrad option anymore whereas Skylake still does. Here's what customers can choose from:

GammaTech R8300 R3 processor options
Available R8300 R3 CPUs Intel Core i7 Intel Core i7 Intel Core i5 Intel Core i7 Intel Core i5
Model 7600U 7500U 7200U 6500U 6200U
Cores/Threads 2/4 2/4 2/4 2/4 2/4
Base Clock Speed 2.80 GHz 2.70 GHz 2.50 GHz 2.50 GHz 2.30 GHz
Turbo Speed 3.90 GHz 3.50 GHz 3.10 GHz 3.10 GHz 2.80 GHz
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 15 watts 15 watts 15 watts 15 watts 15 watts
Smart Cache 4MB 4MB 3MB 4MB 3MB
Integrated graphics HD Graphics 620 HD Graphics 620 HD Graphics 620 HD Graphics 520 HD Graphics 520
Graphics base speed 300 MHz 300 MHz 300 MHz 300 MHz 300 MHz
Graphics max speed 1.15 GHz 1.05 GHz 1.00 GHz 1.05 GHz 1.00 GHz
Intel Stable Image Platform Program Yes No No No No
Intel TSX-NI Yes No No No No
Intel Trusted Execution Yes No No No No
Intel vPro Yes No No No No
Win 7 downgrade No No No Yes Yes

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 top-of-the-line i7-7600U has, but the other processor options 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).

While we haven't tested an R8300 with the new tech specs (see our original full review of the R8300), GammaTech claims 14 hours of running time on a charge now. Given that GammaTech's estimate for the predecessor unit with its significantly less efficient chip was 11 hours, 14 hours may well be possible. And note that the R8300's media bay can accommodate a smaller secondary battery that either boosts battery life by another 6.5 hours or can be used for hot-swapping.

The R8300's processors comes with either integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 (7th gen CPUs) or Intel HD Graphics 520 (6th gen processors) that should provide very good graphics performance on this type display even without a discrete graphics subsystem.

Here are some other keys specs of the R8300:

  • Two slots for up to 32GB of fast DDR4 memory
  • 500GB or 1TB quick-release hard disks
  • Optional 128GB to 1TB solid state disks
  • Dual gigabit RJ45 LAN ports
  • Fast Intel Wireless-AC LAN and dual-mode Bluetooth v4.2 combo

The R8300 meets MIL-STD 810G for shock, drop, vibration, freeze/thaw, gunfire shock, hazardous shock, helicopter integrity, solar radiation, acidic atmosphere, salt fog and more. It is IP65 rated for water and dust resistance (which means full protection against dust, and also against water jets from all directions), adheres to MIL-STD 461F for electromagnetic interference, and ANSI/ISA C1D2 and ATEX Zone 2 requirements for operation in hazardous locations. With extended temperature heater, the R8300 can handle -24° to 140°F (-31° to 60°C) temperature extremes.

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, a variety of Intel technologies, and all the advances Windows 10 brings to the table.

So that's the GammaTech DURABOOK R8300 as of late 2017. While this is a very mature platform that has gone through years and generations of extensive field use and testing across the globe, the latest tech updates bring the platform up to state-of-the-art.

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 Kaby Lake 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
48329 Fremont Blvd.
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: +1-800-995-8946
Tel: +1-510-492-0828
Web: www.gammatechusa.com
Specifications DURABOOK R8300 R3
Status Added 11/2017
Processor With Windows 10:
Core i7-7600U, 4MB cache
Core i7-7500U, 4MB cache
Core i5-7200U, 3MB cache
Win 10 with Win 7 downgrade:
Core i7-6500U, 4MB cache
Core i5-6200U, 3MB cache
CPU speed/turbo With Windows 10:
i7-7600U: 2.80/3.90GHz
i7-7500U: 2.70/3.50GHz
i7-7200U: 2.50/3.10GHze
Win 10 with Win 7 downgrade:
i7-6500U: 2.50/3.10GHz
i5-6200U: 2.30/2.80GHz
TDP all 15 watts
OS Windows 10 Professional, Windows 7 Pro downgrade option
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620 (7th gen)
Intel HD Graphics 520 (6th gen)
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 1 x SD card, 1 x PC Card Type II (or optional Express Card 54), optional SmartCard reader (FIPS 201)
Display type Transmissive LED-backlit 1,050 nits TFT LCD with sunlight-viewable technology, stealth mode and night vision features
Display size/res 13.3" XGA (1024 x 768 pixel)
Digitizer/pens Resistive touch
Keyboard/scale Backlit 88-key full-size sealed, capacitive touchpad; optional rubber backlit keyboard
Housing Magnesium alloy case/high impact resin
Operating Temp -24° to 140°F (-31° 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)
Humidity Mil-STD-810G 501.5: 5% ~ 95%
Salt fog MIL-STD-810G 509.5
Security Administrator/boot password; Computrace ready; Intel vPro; TPM 2.0; Kensington lock; stealth mode; selective I/O disabling; fingerprint scanner; quick release HDD; Smart Card Reader
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 ("14 hrs."); opt. 2nd hot-swap 3,800mAH battery in media bay ("6.5 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 Starting at US$3,199
Web See R8300 on the web
Brochure Durabook R8300 spec page