If there's one company you'd expect to deliver a successful, well designed slate format Windows 7 PC, it'd be Motion Computing. Specialising in Tablet PCs since the earliest days of Windows XP Tablet Edition, Motion has consistently delivered powerful and light Windows slates. You probably won't have heard of them, though, as they've been niche devices, selling into vertical industries – especially field service, aviation and health.
It’s that heritage that gives Motion's CL900 an edge over the current crop of Windows slates. It's not going to be the cheapest device out there – but it's likely to be the tablet that gives the best value for money. It's also likely to be the one that gets the most out of Intel's Oak Trail generation of Atom processors. Early Atom slates struggled to perform well, but Oak Trail is not only more powerful, with support for many key slate functions (including hardware accelerated graphics), it's also more power efficient, extending battery life significantly.
We sat down with an early production CL900 at CES, and gave it a quick spin. A dual mode touch screen mixes capacitive finger touch with a pen for stylus operation. The pen is hidden away in one of the slate's sides, only popping out when needed. Windows applications ran well, and there's plenty of storage for most usage scenarios, with up to 2GB of RAM and two SSD options: 32GB and 64GB. It’s got all the ports you expect, with USB and SD card support, so you can use the CL900 with any existing peripherals.
Around 50% of the CL900 is battery, which gives it up to eight hours of battery life. That's important for Motion's usual enterprise customer base, who depend on all-day battery life. It's also a lightweight and rugged design, which meets the MIL-STD-810G specification (a four foot drop test). That's a fall from chest height – and when a device like this is in use much of the day by someone standing and filling in forms, it's an investment you want to protect. There's additional protection in its IP-52 rating, which means it'll survive a spill, as well as keeping out dust when in use in the field. The display is durable, too, as it uses Gorilla Glass. Size and weight are also important, and the CL900 weighs in at only 2.1 pounds and is less than 16mm thick.
There's plenty of connectivity, with an optional integrated Gobi mobile broadband module. Adding this to a CL900 gives you GPS, 802.11a/b/g/n WLAN, and Bluetooth 3.0, as well as 3G connectivity (once you plug in a SIM).
This is most definitely an enterprise device. While Motion was demonstrating it with ExoPC's consumer tablet user interface at CES, any relationship between the two companies is still in its infancy, and shipping hardware will almost certainly default to the standard Windows user interface. That’s not a bad thing – the CL900's dual mode screen makes mixing fingers and pen easy, with a responsive, accurate and quick touch action.
We found ourselves liking the CL900 a lot. It's light and responsive with a really high quality screen. It's most definitely built for the enterprise, mixing attractive design with a set of feature that make it one of the toughest PCs around. If you're looking for a business tablet, Motion's CL900 will be well worth a look when it ships in the second quarter of 2011. It won't be the cheapest slate on the market (we're told it’ll cost less than $1000), but it's one that will certainly give you value for money.