|The market for a
rugged PC is a very specialized one, but MobileDemand has found
a niche there. The price for any of the ruggedized Tablet PCs
doesn't put them at the top of most average consumers' wish
list, but if you're in the market for a machine that can put up
with almost all the abuse you can give it, be sure to check out
the xTablet T8600.
The screen warranty
alone tells the story of a company that isn't afraid to stand
behind its product. The 3 year warranty covers up to 2
screen replacements per year. To me, since a screen is one
of the more expensive parts on a Tablet, that warranty means
that MobileDemand isn't afraid that the screen is going to
I'd like to see the T8600 running Windows
Vista, but for most companies, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition fits
in nicely with the rest of their network.
There are several companies using this machine
that you'll recognize - in fact, you might have seen them in
action if you've been in long lines at Disney World recently.
These Tablets help move the lines along by scanning in tickets
faster than putting them through the ticket machines. Anheuser
Busch uses them for controlling inventory and deliveries of
their products. FEMA also uses them. To me, the most
important use I found was that the City of New York uses them
with GPS to pinpoint the location of their firefighters,
critical if a firefighter finds himself in trouble.
The specifications are more than adequate for
most companies and service organizations. These Tablets
can be ordered in many different configurations, including with
a bar code scanner, a mag stripe reader, or both.
An indoor/outdoor screen is a must if you'll
be using the unit in either bright light or outdoors. The
screen clarity is excellent, whether using in a darker room or
the brightest sun. The systems came with a screen protector, not
because the screen needs much additional protection, but to keep
someone from inadvertently using a ballpoint pen rather than a
stylus. The first photo shows the two units side by
side. The white background is a bit friendlier to
sunlight, but both screens are fully visible. For more detail on
a larger image, just click the thumbnails of the photos.
As you can see from
the photo, this shot was taken under bright lights (that isn't
the flash) to show the visibility in the brightest lights. The
wide-viewing angle is exceptional as well.
The numeric pad makes inventory control a
snap. It's much easier than using an onscreen or
attachable keypad. Everything is right on the Tablet.
One other thing of
note is the secure strap on the back of the machine. This
gives firm control in almost any position while holding the unit
in one hand while writing, using the keypad or scanning bar
Police and fire
departments, ambulance companies and other medical organizations
will appreciate the sturdiness of the xTablets as they meet or
exceed all military requirements of
Any company that deals with delivery,
inventory or any other field use will appreciate the ease of use
with this Tablet, while those who pay for them will reap the
benefit of the lower cost of ownership over traditional consumer
Tablet PCs. For example, a driver can have the unit in its
mobile mount, grab it and use the barcode scanner to scan
inventory, then return to his office, then move the Tablet to
its dock or use wireless and download the information directly
onto another networked computer. No longer will there be a
need to decipher a driver's handwriting, then enter all the
information again. It improves efficiency and saves time
Check out some of the mounting options here.
Here are some views of the connections on the
sides of the units, as well as the bar code scanner and mag
Battery life is excellent. I've gotten well
over 5 hours with everything enabled, so for those who don't
need all-the-time connectivity, I wouldn't be surprised to see
the battery last for an entire 8 hour shift. The company
claims 7 hours without any power control.
Sounds good so far. But, as with
anything, it's not perfect. The negative on the xTablet T8600 is
the weight. Although it's only 4.5 pounds with the
extended battery, balancing it for any length of time with the
hand strap made it feel a lot heavier. Then again, to be
fair, I'm not used to holding a Tablet on my hand, but usually
carry it more on my arm. There's a 2 point and a 4 point
harness available, and I think either of these would help
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