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GammaTech DURABOOK U12Ci

Compact ruggedized convertible 12-inch notebook
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

The GammaTech Durabook U12Ci was announced in June of 2012 as a tech upgrade to the U12C platform. Designed with a centrally located rotating display hinge, the U12Ci can be used either as a standard notebook or as a tablet by rotating the display case and folding it down flat, with the display facing up. Acer initiated this type of design a decade ago with one of the original Tablet PCs. Rugged implementations from Panasonic, Getac and others followed.

Those who monitor the rugged computing market with all of its complex OEM/ODM/reseller relationships know that GammaTech Computer Corporation is a branch of Taiwanese Twinhead, which is a respected behind-the-scenes OEM to a number of major resellers (though Twinhead also sells under its own brand). Twinhead and GammaTech models are essentially the same though the naming is sometimes slightly different. For a while the cool "Durabook" brand name disappeared, but it is back now. The "i" in this latest Durabook U12C seems to refer to the availability of Intel third generation "Ivy Bridge" Core processors in conjunction with the also brand-new HM77 chipset.

Being able to order the U12Ci with Intel 3rd generation processors was big news. Thanks to new 22nm processing technology and other innovations, the third generation of Intel Core processors has lower power draw, much better integrated graphics performance in every respect, as well as native support of USB 3.0 and PCIe 3.0 via the also new "Panther Point" chipset. What does that mean? For one thing, though these U12Ci models feel significantly quicker, Gammatech upped expected battery life for the standard battery to 4.5 hours (9 hours with secondary battery). And anyone who needed discrete graphics before may find that the 3rd gen's own graphics are more than adequate. For storage, there are a variety of shock-mounted 2.5-inch SATA 3.0 hard drives or SSDs. There's also an optional internal mSATA to support Intel Rapid Start Technology for fast resume. RAM now goes up to 16GB of DDR3.

What stays the same is that the U12Ci, as the "12" in the name implies, is a compact rugged notebook with a 12.1-inch wide-format display with 1280 x 800 pixel resolution. The system comes with a touch screen, but also supports an optional dual input panel that provides both resistive touch and an active digitizer. Optionally available is also a sunlight readable version of the display with enhanced brightness, anti-reflective properties and other optical treatments.

Measuring 12.9 x 10.9 x 1.6 inches and weighing 5.5 pounds, the U12Ci is reasonably compact and lightweight. It has a full-size spill-resistant 86-key keyboard.

The U12Ci has good onboard connectivity that can be customized via adding one of four available I/O modules. Standard connectivity consists of a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0/e-SATA combo port, VGA, RJ45 gigabit LAN, and a docking connector. There is also an ExpressCard 34 slot and an SDHC card reader. I/O modules can add a USB and a serial port; a USB port and a Smart card reader; Gobi 3000 with GPS, or discrete GPS; or a second 2-megapixel camera (the system comes with an integrated 1.3-megapixel webcam).

Integrated wireless includes single band 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth Class 2 version 4.0 via an Intel Centrino Wireless N 135 PCI-e card. WWAN and/or GPS are available via the above-mentioned I/O module options.

The U12Ci uses a magnesium alloy case that's 20 times stronger than the commonly used ABS plastic. The spill-resistant keyboard and additional sealing protect against common accidents. The machine is drop-resistant and able to survive multiple drops from four feet. Generous anti-shock mounting protects the LCD and hard disk. Ports are protected and literature claims dust and spill resistance, but there is no official IP rating. Operating temperature is an impressive -4 to 121 degrees Fahrenheit.

The press release mentioned that the U12Ci starts at less than US$1,000, which makes the machine an exceptional value in the semi-rugged/rugged class.

Specifications DURABOOK U12Ci
Status Added 07/2012, updated 08/2013, 03/2014
Processor Intel 3rd Generation Pentium 987 or Core i5-3337U processors
CPU Speed 1.5GHz, 1.7GHz
CPU Thermal Design Power 18-35 watts
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4000
OS Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit)
Chip set Intel HM77
Standard/Max RAM 2GB/16GB in two 204-pin DDR3 SODIMM slots
Disk/drive Shock-mounted 2.5-inch SATA 3.0 HD or SSD; optional internal mSATA to support Intel Rapid Start Technology
Media Bay I/O Module slot for one of four available modules
Card slots 1 SDHC Card, 1 ExpressCard 34, optional Smart Card
Display type TFT LCD
Display size/res 12.1"/1280 x 800 WXGA with LED backlight, optional sunlight-viewable
Digitizer/pens Optional dual resistive and digitizer touch panel
Keyboard/scale 86 keys, spill-resistant
Housing Magnesium alloy and PC+ABS
Operating Temp -4° to 122°F (-20° to +50°C)
Sealing IP NA; spill-resistant
Humidity Operating 10-90%
Altitude Unknown
Drop MIL-STD-810G, Method 516.6, Procedure IV (26 4-foot drops to 2" plywood over concrete)
Shock MIL-STD-810G, Method 514.6, Procedure I, Category 24, Fig. 514.6E-1, Fig. (Non-operating) ASTM 4169, Truck Transport, 11.5.2 Random test, Assurance Level 2 (Operating)
Size (WxHxD) 12.9 x 10.9 x 1.6 inches (328 x 277 x 41 mm)
Weight 5.5 pounds (2.5kg) with standard battery
Power 6-cell 5,200 mAH Li-Ion ("4.5 hrs."); optional second hot-swappable 6-cell 5,000 mAh battery ("9 hrs.")
Security Kensington lock, TPM1.2, Computrace ready, fingerprint scanner, stealth mode, optional: 2nd SSD for Data Backup, Smart Card Reader
Interface 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0/e-SATA combo, gigabit RJ45, VGA, audio in/out, dock; I/O modules can provide 2 USB + 1 RS232; USB + Smart Card; Gobi 3000; GPS; 2nd 2-mp camera
Wireless Optional: Intel Centrino Wireless N 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 EDR Class 1, WWAN (Gobi 3000 (3G + GPS), GPS
List price Inquire
Contact www.durabook.com
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