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Motion Computing CL900 tablet computer

Category pioneer Motion Computing presents an inexpensive lightweight, rugged, state-of-the-art Windows-based tablet computer with a high-res 10-inch display and dual input
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

As of early summer of 2011, 25 million iPads have been sold, which clearly indicates an appetite for tablets that far exceeds the modest numbers sold before Apple entered the scene in early 2010 with the effortless elegance of multi-touch. Problem is, the iPad runs iOS whereas computers in the corporate world run Microsoft Windows, an operating system that just doesn't work very well on tablets. The question then becomes whether tablets that are more like the iPad might work better, and still fit into corporate IT. Motion Computing, one of the true pioneers in innovative tablet computers, believes so, and the product to prove it is their CL900. In this review, we examine the Motion CL900 and tell you what it can and cannot do.

What are the challenges facing a Windows-based tablet?

A year and a half after Apple announced the iPad, dozens of tablet computers seek to piggyback on the unexpected massive success of the Apple iPad. That's turned out to be more difficult than it seemed. No one but Apple has the iOS, yet everyone expects competing tablets to be as sleek, elegant and effortless as the iPad. That means competing tablets must use a different operating system, and having the right operating system is absolutely crucial to the success of a tablet.

So unless you're HP and have bought Palm's WebOS, or you're Research in Motion and roll your own on top of the Unix-like QNX, it's either Android or Windows. Android is the hard-charging smartphone OS that Google is now extending to tablets. Windows, well, Windows has to prove it can actually work on tablets, and by "work" I mean not just sort of work in certain vertical applications, but present the kind of truly compelling user experience that people now expect from tablets. That said, Windows still has 90% market share, and out there in corporate America where things need to work across the enterprise, that carries a lot of weight. So Motion chose to go with Windows 7. What challenges is Motion facing?

  • The operating system — Apple's genius was to somehow combine and optimize a touch technology with a user experience that truly resonated with consumers. The effortless elegance of manipulating and operating things by light tapping, dragging, pinching with one or two fingers finally realized the potential of tablets. The problem with Windows is that it was designed for use with a mouse, and no amount of retro-fitting can change that. Windows as we know it is, and always will be, a mouse OS.

  • The pen — iPad-style tapping is great for the iPad, but for a tablet running Windows and Windows software, it is not enough. For that you need the precision of a pen, so Motion needed to add that. They did, but that instantly brings up the fact that pen-based tablets have really never been a great success. That, again, is in part due to Windows' origin as a mouse-based OS.

  • Ruggedness — While Apple's tablet hardware is sleek and sexy, it wasn't designed to get dropped or rained on. But drops and rain and vibration and other abuse happen in the field, and so Motion's tablet must be tougher than the iPad.

  • Display — The iPad has a gorgeous display, but it's clearly designed for indoor use. Outdoors, the glossy display is so reflective as to make it nearly impossible to use it. Motion's tablet must have a display that can be used outdoors.

  • Battery — With a running time of around ten hours, Apple set a new mark for battery life. Two or three hours are no longer enough. So the Motion CL900 also must easily make it through a full shift.

  • Performance — The iPad feels quick and hardly ever lags. A Windows tablet has a much harder job as it must drive a full-function, general purpose industrial strength OS that can bring even powerful hardware to its knees.

  • Cost — The iPad is amazingly affordable. In order to have a chance to compete, Windows or Android based tablets simply must be price-competitive. Highly sealed or ruggedized tablets may be able to fetch a price premium, but tablets that essentially seek to provide iPad functionality in a Windows machine simply cannot cost a lot more.

  • Apps — That's a tough one. The iPad is a giant success despite the fact that it does not really communicate even with Apple's own Mac OS X and it doesn't run any Mac OS software. That's because of apps, all those many thousands of inexpensive iPad applications that do things. That concept simply isn't part of the Windows universe, so Motion had to do something to make the CL900 look like more than just a tablet capable of running Word and Excel.
Overall a very, very tall order, and a pretty thankless one at that as even optimistic projections do not see a big market for Windows-based tablets. Motion, however, does not need to sell millions of tablets. If their CL900 does the job it was designed to do, it'll fill a very profitable niche.

Fortunately, exploiting niches with singleminded dedication and early adoption of all available new technologies is Motion Computing's specialty. Over the past decade they've succeeded in making good, useful tablets against all odds and strong competition. And now they have a chance to really cash in by applying their decade-long experience in making, improving, and selling tablets that work with the OS that still controls 90% of the market.

What approach did Motion take with their Windows-based tablet?

The iPad's runaway success has pretty much defined what a modern tablet ought to look like (sleek, black, simple), and for the most part Motion follows that recipe. The CL900 looks like a wide-screen iPad, which in a way is too bad because Motion is perfectly capable of distinguishing itself with their own styles and designs, but right now, the iPad is it, and if you want to be part of the tablet wave, and distance yourself from those "old" tablets, you need to look like the iPad. For now at least. So the CL900 is a sleek, glossy tablet with a glass surface and minimal controls. It's a bit thicker than the iPad, but not by much. And though it's in an entirely different dimension as far as ruggedness goes, it doesn't weigh much more, tipping the scale at just a little bit over two pounds, less than any netbook.

Below you can see the Motion CL900 from the front and all four sides:

While a lot of the newly announced tablets have smallish 7-inch screens, Motion gave the CL900 a nice, big 10.1-inch LCD with 1366 x 768 pixel resolution. That's more than the iPad, and more than all of the early iPad copies. And, incidentally, it's also the resolution used on 720p HDTVs, making it perfect for HD playback. The 16 : 9 aspect ratio also makes the CL900 look very wide compared to the iPad with its 12 : 9 display.

Under the hood is one of Intel's new "Oak Trail" Atom processors, the Atom Z670, running at 1.5GHz and capable of full HD video playback and swiftly handling Windows 7, all at minuscule power consumption of no more than three watts. The processor is complemented by the tiny and ultra-frugal Intel SM35 Express chipset (see details here) that can handle SATA, HD audio, as well as HDMI output.

This is not the place to go into Intel chip specifics, so suffice it to say that "Oak Trail" is Intel's System-on-Chip shot at a processor/chipset platform that will establish Intel as a force in the emerging tablet market (which it is not at this point). This also ties into battery life where the iPad also set new standards with its 10+ hour battery life. Between the frugal Atom chip, Motion's power preservation magic, and a comparatively massive 43 watt-hour battery, Motion claims up to eight hours.

Standard storage is via a 30GB solid state drive, with an optional 62GB version also available. Our review unit came with the 62GB version.

What did Motion use for touch? After all, a good part of the iPhone/iPad mystique is that light touch and the way you can use not just one, but two fingers to effortlessly zoom in and out. Multi-touch is clearly a resounding success, as evidenced by the fact that everyone is now trying to copy it. That didn't work well at first, but Android devices with capacitive multi-touch screens are now doing a good job at it. Motion implemented multi-touch on its formidable Windows 7-based J3500 tablet, using Wacom technology, and that worked surprisingly well (see my video demonstration on YouTube). So Motion has experience in making multi-touch work. Interestingly, though, the new CL900 uses n-Trig's DuoSense (see DuoSense page) technology. I've seen DuoSense at work in Samsung's little Galaxy Tab Android tablet, and it performed well (see Galaxy Tab review) and it works quite well on the CL900 also.

Connectivity is always an issue, and one where the iPad also set the standard, although one where iPad users do it Apple's way, or no way. The Motion CL900 is more flexible here. There's a USB port, a micro-HDMI video port, an SD Card slot and also a heavy duty dock, something that Motion has been fine-tuning for many years now. There's 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and BlueTooth, of course. And if you need 3G, there's the optional Gobi 3000 module that, unlike the current iPad's 3G, can connect and communicate with whatever carrier you choose. Also worth mentioning is that the CL900 offers additional expansion potential via yet-to-be-released peripheral modules (see picture to the right). And unlike the original iPad, the Motion CL900 can be had with a camera, two in fact. One faces the user for conference, the other points away for documentation.

A look inside

When you open the iPad, there is virtually nothing inside, just a big battery and a very small system board. That's because everything is proprietary and integrated to the max. Motion's Windows-based tablet, on the other hand, uses a more conventional standards-based design with what the government would call COTS (commercial off the shelf) components. And unlike the iPad, the Motion CL900 opens easily: just undo four long Philips screws and remove the back cover made of PC+ABS, a sturdy plastic material made by Mitsubishi. This opens up a full view of the guts of the CL900.

The entire left side is taken up by the CL900's Lithium-Ion battery. It is a flat, black 14.8 Volt, 2,900mAH, 43 watt-hour Motion-labeled affair that is secured in place with two small screws. Instead of contacts, it uses a connector plug. Replacing this battery is not difficult, but you do have to open the device, so this is not something you casually do in the field. 43 watt-hours is quite a bit. Most current media tablets, including the iPad, have in the mid-20s (see RuggedPCReview.com's media tablet comparison table).

The internal structure of the CL900 is quite intricate. There is an aluminum-alloy internal frame that has the LCD on one side and the electronics on the other. Mounted on it is the CL900's motherboard on the one side and the battery on the other.

On the motherboard you can see three mini-PCIe edge connectors. One is used by a 62GB Toshiba THNSNB062GMCJ mSATA module (see here). mSATA stands for mini-SATA, which is a space-saving, lower voltage SATA connection standard. A second one by a Qualcomm Atheros WB263 802.11 plus Bluetooth module. The third one is a Sierra Wireless AirPrime MC8355 wireless module. The dual mode (HSPA & CDMA) MC8355 provides access to 3G global networks at speeds up to 14.4 Mbps downlink and 5.76Mbps uplink. It has embedded GPS capabilities and uses the Gobi application programming interface. Gobi, of course, is the Qualcomm mobile broadband modem technology that provides wireless technology and carrier independence.

Somewhat unexpectedly, there is a fan that's part of a compact heat spreader removing heat from the CL900's Atom chip and accompanying chipset. In its product brief, Intel mentioned the chip was "for tablets and fanless netbooks," and there's a reason why they phrased it that way: it's much easier to keep things cool in a clamshell design than in a tablet where both the electronics and the LCD are in one case. It's also likely that there's a connection between thermal design and performance. An Intel Thermal Design Guide document (see here) for a similar Atom processor (the N450/D410/D510) warns that "an underdesigned thermal solution that is not able to prevent excessive activation of the TCC (thermal control circuit) in the anticipated ambient environment may cause a noticeable performance loss and may affect the long-term reliability of the processor." So this may have been a wise move by Motion, and the fan is actually virtually unnoticeable. And speaking of the fan, the apparent array of ventilation holes in the back cover is just design decoration.

Also visible in the image above are the CL900's SD card slot and the rear-facing camera module (there are two, one facing front, one rear). There is no user-accessible memory card slot; a number of Hynix RAM modules appear to be soldered directly onto the motherboard.

Note that the external ports of the CL900 rely on their rubber covers for protection against dust and liquids. The connectors themselves are not sealed. This means that CL900 owners must be very careful when things get wet.

Ports

When you look at the four sides of the CL900 there do not seem to be any ports. The only visible port is a small docking connector. The ports are there, of course, but it takes a bit of familiarizing oneself with the tablet to find them. The picture below shows the primary interface block on the left side of the CL900, with the protective rubber cover held open. There is a SDHC card slot, a SIM card slot, a micro-HDMI port, a 3.5mm audio in/out jack, and a standard USB 2.0 port. To the right of that is the covered power jack. To the left of the I/O block are three push buttons, one for power, one for the standard Windows Alt-Ctl-Del, and one to show battery charge via five tiny green LEDs on the front of the tablet.

Problem is, none of these ports and buttons are obvious. You might find yourself trying to pry something open that cannot be opened, and you need fingernails to coax the I/O block or power jack covers open.

What about performance?

Performance in a computer is relative. For playing certain games or processing certain types of data, no amount of performance seems adequate. On the other hand, even very modest hardware sold tens of millions of netbooks. Unfortunately, Motion once again faced a difficult task here: customers will expect the tablet to perform as effortlessly as the iPad despite the fact that it runs big, old Windows 7. How did Motion go about it?

By relying on the Atom Z670, which could be described as a second generation Atom core that's more than simply an addition to the Z5xx chips that are now powering numerous industrial/vertical market tablets, panels and other devices. With the Z670 processor, Intel concentrated on offering better video playback (a big weakness in all first generation Atom chips) and even longer battery life. On the video side, this means the Z670 can decode 1080p HD video and output to HDMI. On the power side, though the Z670 itself has a slightly higher TDP (thermal design power) of 3 watts than the Z5xx chips, combined with its SM35 Platform Controller Hub, the chip combo uses less than four watts max. With this combo (see Intel fact sheet), Intel clearly aimed for tablets.

To determine benchmark performance we ran Passmark Software's PerformanceTest 6.1 that runs about 30 tests covering CPU, 2D graphics, 3D graphics, memory, and disk and then computes scores for each category and an overall PassMark score. To further examine the performance of subsystems, we also ran our second benchmark suite, CrystalMark. For comparison, we included two of Motion's higher-end Intel Core i7 based tablets, the F5v and the J3500. We also included what is likely Motion's primary direct competitor, the Fujitsu Q550. And to show how the CL900 compares to Z5xx-based tablets we included three of those (note that Panasonic is replacing the Z540-based Toughbook H1 with the Core i5-based H2).

Motion Computing CL900 Benchmarks and Comparisons (PassMark 6.1, 32-bit version)
PERFORMANCE COMPARISON Motion Motion Motion DLI Fujitsu Panasonic Ruggedbook
Model CL900 F5v J3500 8300 Q550 H1 SR820
Processor Type: Intel Atom Core i7 Core i7 Atom Atom Atom Atom
Processor Model Z670 U640 U640 Z530 Z670 Z540 Z530
CPU Speed 1.50GHz 1.20GHz 1.20GHz 1.60GHz 1.50GHz 1.86GHz 1.60GHz
Turbo Speed NA 2.27GHz 2.27GHz NA NA NA NA
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 3 watts 18 watts 18 watts 2.3 watts 3 watts 2.4 watts 2.3 watts
BatteryMon min draw NA 10.9 watts NA NA NA 6.3 watts 6.5 watts
CPU Mark 199.1 781.4 699.2 248.1 190.7 275.4 248.7
2D Graphics Mark 53.0 184.6 181.5 130.9 36.5 115.7 101.8
Memory Mark 185.4 496.1 502.5 224.4 128.2 242.7 222.5
Disk Mark 687.3 1,040.2 1,004.0 217.8 646.5 284.8 218.6
3D Graphics Mark 36.9 256.0 276.1 18.0 32.4 10.1 18.6
Overall PassMark 236.5 564.9 538.6 171.4 212.9 191.9 167.4
ALU 5,089 23,147 23,294 5,383 5,161 6,149 5,272
FPU 4,155 23,596 21,721 4,472 3,916 5,414 4,571
MEM 4,272 16,552 17,025 3,848 4,128 4,327 3,969
HDD 16,237 24,780 28,029 3,704 15,890 5,156 3,678
GDI 1,507 6,978 6,862 2,173 1,513 1,202 2,806
D2D 879 1,492 1,416 1,075 876 187 1,048
OGL 2,116 1,617 1,694 375 2,158 400 346
Overall CrystalMark 34,255 98,162 100,041 21,030 33,642 22,835 21,690

The results of the benchmark tests pretty much speak for themselves. Looking at the Motion Computing products, the Intel Core i7-powered F5v and J3500 score significantly higher than any of the Intel Atom-based units, even though the Core chips run at a conservative 1.2GHz clock speed. That's because Core processors are vastly more complex (and expensive) than Intel's Atom lines. A look at the thermal design power of the respective chips alone tells the story: the Core processors dissipate a maximum of 6-8 times as much heat as the Atoms. So keep in mind that Intel Atom power usually means "targeted" performance, i.e. enough for the job at hand.

That said, compared to systems based on earlier Intel Atom Z-Series processors, the CL900 performs quite well. That's helped by the stellar performance of its speedy Toshiba solid state disk, and also by the Z670 processor's remarkable ability to handle OGL, a cross-platform API widely used for 2D and 3D computer graphics in CAD, flight simulation, virtualization and so on.

Overall, the CL900 is quick enough. Reaction isn't always instant, but that's the case for almost any Windows-based system. And it can power through OGL applications quicker than even Motion's Core-based products.

Display

More so even than for standard notebook and desktop computers, the quality of the display and its suitability for the work at hand are among the most important properties of a tablet computer that may be used outdoors and at times in direct sunlight. Which means it must be bright enough to be clearly seen from all directions, and it must be able to cope with the reflections that make computing outdoors a challenge.

To see how the Motion CL900 display fares outdoors, we compared it to the iPad. While the iPad display is just about perfect indoors, it generally gets dissed for its (lack of) outdoor performance. That's somewhat unfair as the iPad is actually bright enough for outdoors. The real problem is that it is so glossy that reflections make it impossible to see the screen. The CL900 must be doing significantly better if it is to fulfill its purpose as a mobile business tablet.

And it does. While the iPad's display is a bit like a black mirror with a super-glossy finish, the Motion tablet display's surface could be described as a muted semi-matte. No one likes reflections on a computer screen, so why aren't they all matte? Good question. Until a few years ago, almost all displays were matte, but then the industry decided that high gloss was more attractive. Lore has it that the trend began in Japan where super-glossy displays running video "popped" more in the display windows, attracting attention and standing out. Apparently the public agreed as almost all notebook displays these days are glossy. Outdoors, however, glossy displays quickly become unreadable because there's a lot more sharp contrast outdoors than indoors.

To see how the semi-matte CL900 display does outdoors we took a series of outdoor comparison pictures between the Motion tablet and the iPad on a bright and sunny California summer morning. The first picture below shows the tablets in partial shade. Both are plenty bright enough to be very readable, but the glossy iPad display is far less readable due to distracting reflections.

The second picture below shows the tablets in partial shade, but from an angle. Again the iPad has mirror-like reflections. The CL900 doesn't have reflections, but there's a small price to pay here: semi-matte displays tend to diffuse light and assume a slightly milky look from certain angles. This was a huge problem with older matte displays, but it's mostly been resolved now. As is, the CL900 remains quite readable.

A look from the other side repeats the experience. The iPad reflects its surroundings, messing with the viewer's brain and making the display essentially unreadable. The CL900 again has some milkiness to it, but the screen remains very readable.

The picture below presents the tablets at an extreme angle. Motion early on recognized the importance of a display that remains viewable from all angles, without any color shifts or chromatic aberrations at all. In their F5 and J3500 models they achieve that by using the incomparable Hydis AFFS+ technology. The CL900 display is not quite in that class. It has a perfect viewing angle without aberrations rotating around its long axis. The viewing angle is also almost perfect when rotating the display around its short axis, but there are color shifts.

The acid test for any outdoor-viewable display is exposure to bright, direct sunlight. That's where the various optical coatings must do their thing, eliminating as much reflection as possible while the backlight needs to be strong enough to still generate enough contrast to retain a degree of viewability. Again, Motion's decision to stay away from a fashionably glossy display surface pays off: the lack of mirror-like reflection makes the CL900 significantly easier to see and use.

The bottom line here, and it's an important one, is that Motion succeeded in making available a very workable compromise between "pop" (i.e. a sharp, bright, contrasty picture) and good reflection control outdoors. The display is not quite at the level of Motion's F5 and J3500 products, which is not surprising considering the much lower price of the CL900.

Cameras

Like most tablets, smartphones and notebooks these days, the Motion CL900 has integrated imaging capabilities via two cameras. One of them faces to the front and has 1.3 megapixel resolution. This one is for video conferencing. The other faces to the rear and has 3.0 megapixel resolution. That one if for documentation. Our review machine didn't have a specific app that truly showcased the cameras. We had to use Microsoft Silverlight to set a default camera, and the only way to use it was through ExTOUCH Photo Paint, a basic demo app without any image control features. Even that, however, was enough to show that the CL900, unlike a lot of mobile computing hardware, has a pretty good documentation camera (click on the sample pics for a larger version):

What this means is that the Motion CL900 can actually be used to take reliable, readable pictures on the job. It also has excellent macro functionality. You can get as close as an inch or so of an object.

Software

Now what about software and operation. After all, it's the iPad's simple, intuitive and totally touch-centric user interface that makes it so much fun and so easy to use. This is undoubtedly the biggest issue facing Windows-based tablets. Yes, Microsoft baked touch operation into Windows 7 and also offers a few touch demo applications called the Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7 (see here). However, a demo is all that it is. The challenge of making Windows 7 truly touch friendly is basically insurmountable as there are simply too many tiny check boxes, sliders, text links, etc., etc. to make it work. Motion did its best to optimize the Windows interface for touch by making scroll bars and sliders wider, but there's only so much that can be done. The good news here is that the CL900 runs full Windows 7. The bad news is the same.

That said, Motion added some software that shows how a tablet could work.

There is, for example, EXOPC (see here), a touch-oriented user interface where each screen may contain as many as 77 circular icons. Each icon can either trigger an action or bring up another page. The round icons can be dragged around. Icons for loaded but inactive apps are lined up in a vertical control zone along the right edge of the display. Flipping it off the edge closes it. A control zone on the left side of the screen has function buttons and controls to adjust sound and brightness, show battery level and time, etc. There's even an EXO store with a surprising number of very decent apps, many of them free (supposedly over 2,500). EXOPC is entirely useful. You can even watch movies on Netflix that way. Below is a screen shot of the EXOPC interface.

Another included piece of software to make using Windows 7 easier on a tablet is ExTOUCH (see here). This is basically a helper application that makes it easier to launch applications, switch between apps and perform basic Windows operations such as cut and paste, etc. ExTOUCH also automatically optimizes Windows user interface components so that they are easier to operate via touch. There are also a few ExTouch apps, such as a finger-friendly calculator and ExTOUCH Photo Paint, an app that Motion uses to showcase the CL900's cameras. You can take a picture, then annotate it. [See ExTOUCH manual]

Finally there are the usual Windows Tablet apps. Over the years, for example, Microsoft quietly improved recognition and the Input Panel and recognition engine included in Windows 7 work quite well. You can now even do something which the old Apple Newton MessagePad introduced, and that is scratching out a word, the way we all do when we write on paper. So those who try handwriting recognition on the CL900 will be pleasantly surprised (see screen snap to the right).

The CL900 also comes with Microsoft Journal, a handy electronic inking notepad that, depending on your style of work, can be a very useful productivity tool. Journal lets you write notes in electronic ink, do drawings, convert handwritten notes to text, email your notes, and so on. There are different size and color pens, highlighters and also an eraser. See the screen snap to the right for an example.

The latest implementation of the clever Snipping Tool is much quicker and less intrusive than prior versions and lets you quickly snag part of a page, screen or window and then annotate it with ink before saving it as a PNG, GIF or JPG file or emailing it somewhere. Below is a picture of a snippet of text from a webpage that was captured and then annotated and highlighted for discussion.

We also downloaded the aforementioned Touch Pack for Windows 7 that includes a few games and utilities, including the pretty impressive Microsoft Surface Globe where you can pinch, rotate, and pan a world map to your heart's content, sort of like what more and more TV News people do with their maps. On the Motion CL900 this all works quite well, coming close to the smooth, effortless way things happen on an iPad.

What it all means is that running Windows on a tablet is a very different thing than just getting an iPad or an Android tablet. There is just no easy way to make Windows 7 act like a touch-friendly OS. It is not. However, you do have the full power and leverage of full Windows 7 available to you, and that includes huge customization potential. It's easy to see using a product like the CL900 with just EXOPC. It's equally easy to see how ExTOUCH can really help the Windows mouse-centric interface become much more touch-friendly. And it's definitely easy to see custom applications that both take full advantage of the CL900's impressive tablet hardware as well as of the fact that this is still standard Windows with all of the advantages that entails.

Is the Motion CL900 really a rugged tablet?

Motion didn't design their new CL900 to be an iPad killer or competitor. The whole point of this new tablet is trying to provide users in the field an experience that comes close to what they've learned to expect from their iPhones and iPads. And for that it must be something the iPad isn't. Rugged.

Let's look at the specs. Motion quotes an operating temperature range of 41 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. That precludes operation in freezers or arctic environments, but it is good enough for most outdoor deployments.

In terms of sealing, the CL900 carries an IP52 rating, where the "5" means it's pretty much dust-proof, and it's also protected from water spray onto its surface from angles up to 15 degrees. That's actually not very waterproof and most rugged devices carry at least an IP54 rating, but this is the current spec. But honestly, we wouldn't push it here.

In the field, tablets get dropped, and so the CL900 is designed to survive 4-foot drops, which is about the height from which a tablet drops when you hold it in your hands. Motion also lists altitude (up to 15,000 feet), humidity (8-80%) specs, and vibration (MIL-STD-810G highway truck vibration and minimum integrity vibration tests). Motion also provides a long lists of safety and regulatory requirements that the CL900 meets, and additional ruggedness criteria are probably covered in there.

Another thing to be mentioned under ruggedness is Gorilla Glass, the funny-sounding super-tough surface from Corning that makes the display much more durable and scratch resistant. And from my own experience with it, I can add that it is very smudge-resistant, too, something that certainly comes in handy. The picture on the right shows a Gorilla Glass demonstration, and if you want to read more about Gorilla Glass, here's our coverage of Gorilla Glass.

So the Motion CL900 is quite tough and rugged, much more so than consumer tablets. And I am sure Motion thought about the many trade-offs between size, cost, weight and ruggedness long and hard before deciding on the CL900's specs. They have a decade's worth of experience listening to their customers to back up their decisions.

Docks and accessories

Motion offers a variety of docks and accessories for the CL900 tablet. They are designed to provide protection and extra functionality. Available are:
  • The CL900 Docking Station lets you position the CL900 at a convenient (but non-adjustable) angle for use in office situations. The dock has an RJ45 Ethernet port, three USB 2.0 ports, and power. As the picture to the right shows, the dock can make the CL900 the centerpiece of an office/desktop computer (we often use our netbooks this way).

  • A form-fitting silicone slip cover, similar to the sleeves people use for their smartphones.

  • A portfolio carrying case that serves as a tablet stand.

  • A Carry Sleeve with shoulder strap.

What can you expect from the Windows 7-based Motion CL900

The CL900 from Motion Computing is a modern tablet computer for those who need or want to use Microsoft Windows 7, and who need something considerably more rugged than consumer media tablets. The elegant device is very well executed, beginning with the sleek overall design, to the nearly invulnerable Gorilla Glass surface, to the more than adequate Intel Atom Z670-based underpinnings, to connectivity and expandability.

As long as the challenges of using Windows in a tablet are clearly understood, the application potential for a ruggedized tablet such as the Motion CL900 is almost limitless. Out of the box, no Windows-based tablet will be as smooth and effortless to operate like an iPad, but the Motion CL900 offers a very competent hardware platform that can be used and customized to get media tablet-like functionality in a full Windows 7 platform.

The hardware components are all there. The 1.5GHz second generation Atom processor is quick enough and capable of running full HD video. The n-Trig DuoSense digitizer provides touch and multi-touch (in apps that support it) as well as a battery operated pen when more precision is needed.

Motion chairman and founder David Altounian puts it this way: "Motion's new CL900 will enable users to take advantage of connected applications, while also supporting uninterrupted productivity in remote or disconnected areas. We've combined our trademark rugged design and robust solution set with the connectivity and portability of a tablet that is designed and built for business."

The price is right as well. The CL900 starts at US$899, a real bargain for a ruggedized device that runs full Windows 7 and will likely have a much lower total cost of ownership than consumer tablets.

For well over a year now, the iPad has owned the tablet market, fundamentally changing user expectations in the process. The jury is still out on whether Apple's monster home run can be leveraged and expanded on, or if its magic is unique. Motion smartly analyzed the situation and decided to bring much of what makes the iPad unique to those who need to run Windows. Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, July 28, 2011

Motion Computing CL900 Tablet PC Specifications
Added/changed Added 1/2011, updated 05/2011, full review July 2011
Type Rugged tablet computer
Processor "Oak Trail" Intel Atom Z670 processor 1.5GHz, 3 watt TDP
OS Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Professional
Memory 1GB or 2GB 800MHz DDR2
Chipset Intel SM35 Express
Graphics Intel GMA600 @ 400MHz
Display 10.1" 1366 x 768 pixel wide-format LCD with LED backlight and Corning Gorilla Glass
Digitizer/Pens N-trig DuoSense/1 (pen uses AAAA battery, good for about 18 months)
Keyboard Onscreen keyboard + optional external
Storage 30 or 62GB SATA 2.0 Solid State Disk
Slots 1 SD Card, 1 SIM
Housing ABS+PC housing over aluminum-alloy internal frame
Temperature 41 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (5-43 degrees Celsius)
Enclosure Class IP52
Humidity 8 to 80% without condensation
Drop 4-foot drop per MIL-STD-810G
Vibration MIL-STD-810G, Method 514.6, Proc. I Cat. 4, Fig. 514.6C-1; MIL-STD-810G, Method 514.6, Proc. I Cat. 24, Fig. 514.6E-1
Altitude Up to 15,000 feet operating
Safety AS/NZS 3260:1997 and 60950-1 (2nd Edition); FCC/ANSI C63.4; UL, CUL, CE (IEC/EN60950-1; 2009 +All); IEC/EN 60950-1 2nd Edition (2009); CAN/CSARSS-102; FCC OET65 Supplement C; ETSI EN 62311:2008; LVD (73/23/EEC); EU Directives 2002/95/EC, 2002/96/EC, 2006/66/EC and amendments; Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) Article 59.1 of Reg No. 1907/2006 of the European Parliament /REACH; California Proposition 65; Technical Instructions for Safe Transport of Dangerous; Goods by Air (ICAO Doc #9284); Emergency Response Guidance for Aircraft incidents involving Dangerous Goods (ICAO Doc #9481)
Regulatory AS/NZS 3548:1995 Class B, 4268; AS/ACIF S042.1 and AS/ACIF S042.3 (WCDMA/HSDPA); AS/ACIF S042.1 and AS/ACIF S042.3 (GSM/EDGE); CAN/CSA ICES-003 Class B, RSS-210 Issue 7, RSS-132 and RSS-133 (1xRTT/EVDO); CENELEC EN 55022 Class B (CISPR22), 55024 (CISPR24), EN 61000-3-2, 61000-3-3; ETSI EN 301-893, 300-328, 301-489-1, 301-489-7, 301-489-17, 301-489-24, 301-511, 301-908; FCC Part 15 Subpart B Class B, 15 Subpart C (2.4Ghz), Subpart E (5Ghz), Part 22 H and Part 24 E (1xRTT/EVDO); R&TTE (89/336/EEC) and (99/5/EC)
Size 10.9" x 7.1" x 0.6"
Weight 2.1 pounds incl. battery pack
Power 43 WHr Lithium-Ion ("up to 8 hours")
Communication 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, combined audio in/out jack, dual array mics; optional Gobi 3000 integrated mobile broadband with GPS
Interface 1 USB, video-out (micro-HDMI), power, dock, front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera, rear-facing 3.0-megapixel camera
Price starting at US$899
Warranty 1-year standard, multi-year options
Web page motioncomputing.com