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Xplore Technologies iX104C3

Xplore brings tougher security to its ultra-rugged tablet
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Xplore Technologies has long been one of the major players in the ultra-rugged mobile computer department. Unlike others, the company has concentrated on rugged slates for certain vertical markets without getting sidetracked with multiple product lines. As a result, the iX104 represents ruggedized computing technology at its best. And, in our experience, what sets Xplore apart is that the company makes ultra-rugged computers that combine exemplary industrial design with special attention to technological aspects that really matter. Xplore's AllVue display, for example, is a compelling example. The screen is brighter, clearer and visually more stable than competing offerings.

But what is new with the iX104C3, introduced in July of 2006? The machine looks almost the same as the iX104C2, and it mostly is. The difference is an emphasis on security. In the past, data loss pimarily happened via disk crashes. That remains a danger, but there are now so many viable backup options that the real threat is simply theft. And with more machines being wirelessly connected and present at job sites in increasing numbers, illegal access to data and documents is a concern as well.

As a result, Xplore chose to beef up security in this new model. If you look at the right side of the computer on the image above you'll see a finger print scanner centrally mounted between the hardware controls. It replaces the iX104C2's joystick slew control. Xplore claims the machine is the first-ever rugged pen tablet with such a scanner which is used in conjunction with security authentication biometric software. The company also decided to switch from completely internal slots and bays to user-accessible ones, thus making it possible to remove critical data storage components. The PC Card slot and OEM radio bay are now user-accessible, as is an optional 80GB or heated 120GB hard drive.

The sole minus of these changes is that the ingress protection rating dropped from IP67 (able to survive in a foot of water) to IP65. That's likely due to the addition of user-accessible compartments and perhaps the finger print reader. It should have almost no impact on real-life functionality.

On the technology side, the only discernable difference is the move from a 1.1GHz to a quicker 1.4GHz version of the Intel M 738 processor. Overall, the changes and addition of the finger print scanner are appreciated and add to the already considerable appeal of this rugged mobile slate computer. If you're interested in this machine, make sure to consider the AllVue display option as well as the superb dual mode digitizer.
--Conrad H. Blickenstorfer

Specifications Xplore iX104C3
Added/changed Added: 11/2006; updated: 8/2008
Form-factor Rugged Tablet PC slate
Processor Intel Pentium M 738
CPU Speed 1.4 GHz
Chipset Intel 855GME - 400MHz
Standard/Max RAM 512MB/2048MB
Disk/drive 40GB shock-mounted/optional 80GB and heated 120GB
Card slots User-accessible PC Card Type II/III and OEM radio bay
Display type Indoor/outdoor TFT or optional AllVue for enhanced outdoor viewing
Display size/res 10.4-inch/1024x768 16M colors
Digitizer/pens Active electromagnetic (Wacom), strengthened and coated glass and optional resistive touch digitizer
Keyboard/scale External
Operating Temperature -20 to 60 degree C (-4 to 140F)
Sealing IP65
Thermal shock 3F < 9F / minute over -4 to 140F
Transit Shock 4-foot drop to concrete, all surfaces, edges and corners
Vehicular vibration MIL-STD 810F method 514.5C-17
Humidity MIL-STD 810F method 507.4 (0 to 95% non-condensing)
Housing Triple layer Magnesium housing with bumpers
Size (WxHxD) 11.2 x 8.25 x 1.60
Weight 4.95 lbs.
Power Li-Ion (7.4 V/5,700mAH, 41 watt-hours) "up to 3.5 hours"; optional 55 watt-hour extended life battery for up to 5 hours
Interface 2 USB 2.0, gigabit LAN, VGA, fingerprint scanner
Interface Via xDock: 2 IUSB, FireWire, CRT. 2 RS232, 1 coax, audio in/out, virtual printer
Wireless wLAN, wWAN, Bluetooth, GPS optional, all can be used simultaneously
List price Starting at $3,300
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