Getac is an established player in the rugged computing market, with a strong portfolio of products designed for use in the harshest of conditions. The V200, which was announced last autumn, is a convertible Tablet PC with impressive specifications that include an Intel Core i7 processor. The starting price is steep, at £2,995 (ex. VAT): our review sample had 3G, GPS, a RAM upgrade and a digitizer screen, boosting the price to a hefty £3,583 (ex. VAT).
The Getac V200 is extremely solidly built. Considering its screen measures just 12.1in. across the diagonal, the V200's 2.7kg weight and 31.4cm by 22.2cm by 4.9cm is astonishing. The depth is the real surprise, both the lid and base sections being far thicker than you'd normally expect from a notebook. This is, of course, because the Getac V200 is 'fully' rugged.
The 12.1in. Getac V200's ruggedness is evident in its 4.9cm thickness and 2.7kg weight
And we do really mean rugged, as the V200 meets MIL-STD-810G and IP65. MIL-STD-810G is set by the US military and covers factors such as the ability to function in high and low temperatures, withstand rain (including wind-driven rain), and handle free-fall drops from as high as four feet (1.2m).
IP65 is an internationally agreed standard covering a range of intrusions to an object by solids and liquids. An object meeting the IP65 standard is protected against dust and water, the latter not including immersion or powerful jets but including enough water to constitute a serious outdoor rainstorm. The Getac V200 is certified to operate in temperatures ranging between -20°C to 60°C / -4°F to 140°F and for storage at temperatures ranging between -51°C to 71°C / -60°F to 160°F.
With these factors in mind, the chassis is all-important. The magnesium alloy casing is solid and sturdy, and the lid section would not bow at all under pressure from our hands. The base section is similarly tough. Every port and connector is protected by a solid rubber cover that's designed with a large lip so it can easily be opened by gloved hands. There is a very solid sprung clasp to the hold the two sections of the chassis together, and again this is designed for easy use with gloved hands.
The on-off switch is on the front edge of the chassis, which is also where you'll find a bay of five shortcut buttons providing quick access to a number of services. One takes you to a settings screen designed for touch-based input, with icons large enough to cope with even if you're wearing gloves. One automatically ups the screen brightness to its maximum, one turns Wi-Fi on and off. Another button takes you to the lock-down screen, while the final one calls up an on-screen keyboard.
This keyboard is rather small, and is harder to use if you're wearing gloves. The same goes for all of the native Windows interface.
The 12.1in. screen has a native resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels, which is a little less than the 1,366 by 768 more usually seen in a 12in. notebook. The slightly narrower, taller format doesn't cater well for multiple working windows, but does give you a little bit more height than usual. The display is designed to be readable in sunlight, delivering 1,200 nits of brightness. Horizontal viewing angles are great, but they're not brilliant in the vertical plane.
The screen is finger-touch responsive, and there's also a small telescopic stylus in a housing on the bottom right of the screen bezel, secured by a lanyard. The screen has multitouch support, which means you can pinch to zoom. This comes into its own when web browsing. The touchpad does not support multitouch gestures, although it does incorporate vertical and horizontal scrolling.
The screen swivel mechanism is a one-way hinge, and the screen can be locked down in place facing outermost using the solid clasp mentioned earlier. Getac supplies a strap that fits to the underside of the chassis and helps you hold the Getac V200 securely in one hand if needed. There's also a carrying handle that fits onto two toggles at the left and right front edges of the chassis.
The keyboard is well made and solid, although we were constantly befuddled by the small Enter key and space bar. The buttons beneath the touchpad are large and have a rubbery finish, which makes them easy to hit accurately if you're wearing gloves. A backlit keyboard is an optional extra.
There is a 2-megapixel webcam above the screen. Unusually, this is on a rotating pivot, so it can be easily turned to face outwards if necessary.
Getac says the V200 is the first rugged notebook to run an Intel Core i7 processor. The 2.0GHz Core i7-620LM processor can be supported by up to 8GB of RAM — our review sample had 4GB, upgraded from the base 2GB complement. The operating system on our review unit was Windows 7 Professional 32-bit, but you can also opt for Windows Vista Business.
The system's 320GB hard drive has full shock protection (80GB or 160GB SSDs are also available). Connectivity options are exemplary: Gigabit Ethernet, a 56Kbps modem, Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth (2.1+EDR) are all present as standard. GPS and mobile broadband (Gobi 2000) are available as optional extras.
Unfortunately, a fingerprint scanner and a smartcard reader are optional rather than standard components. A notebook like this, which is going to spend most of its life in the field and need top-end security systems, really ought to offer these as standard. There's no optical drive, but arguably that's not a problem as the system is likely to be configured at base and used as a locked-down, sealed system in the field.
There's a good range of ports and connectors, which are grouped together under rubber covers. Front left is a cover protecting an SD card reader, a PC Card slot and ExpressCard slot. Behind this another cover protects the modem and Ethernet connectors. The third cover on the left edge protects a USB 2.0 port and a USB/eSATA combo port. Finally on this edge, the power input has its own protective cover.
On the right edge you'll find the hard drive and battery, each very securely housed but also removable. The back edge carries a second USB 2.0 port, a pair of audio jacks, a VGA connector and a serial port, each behind its own protective cover.
Getac provides a utility for configuring a quintet of control buttons
Getac provides a range of applications. Its own camera software copes superbly well in difficult lighting conditions, even managing to display the reviewer clearly when sitting with a window to the rear — something many notebook cameras fail to do. There are also utilities for reconfiguring the five buttons mentioned earlier, and for adjusting various system configuration settings.
Performance & battery life
The Getac V200's Windows Experience Index (WEI) is a superficially disappointing 3.3 (out of 7.9). This is not as bad as it might seem, though, as the WEI corresponds to the lowest component score, which was for Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero). Graphics are handled by Intel's integrated HD Graphics.
The remaining component scores are all very respectable. Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) scored 4.9, RAM (Memory operations per second) 5.5, while Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) and Processor (calculations per second) both scored 5.9. This adds up to very decent performance with mainstream workloads, with the only question mark against the graphics subsystem.
The V200's 7,800mAh battery can be supplemented by a second battery either of the same capacity or a 5,200mAh option. Either way, the V200 can be configured with what Getac calls its LifeSupport Battery Swappable Technology. This gives you a full 2.5 minutes of backup time during which you can swap a spent battery for a freshly charged one. Sadly this was not implemented in our review sample so we could not test it.
We tested the battery by playing video continuously from a USB drive having selected the Balanced Power setting. The battery lasted for 3 hours 40 minutes. If other power sources, such as a vehicle, are available this might be enough for a full day's operational use; otherwise, it might be advisable to buy a second battery.
Sound is delivered from a pair of speakers on the thick front edge of the chassis. The volume is perfectly loud enough for sharing content with others in a group, although quality leaves a little to be desired: the bass is light and there's a little too much treble in the mix. However, in a rugged notebook like this, sound quality is unlikely to be a key issue.
The Getac V200 is certainly rugged, with a solid chassis and exemplary protection for ports and connectors. The rotating webcam and LifeSupport battery swapping capability are ideal features for use in the field, and the ability to configure both GPS and mobile broadband is welcome.
The Getac V200 is probably too heavy for many people to want to use standing up for very long, but as a table-top tablet or for vehicle-bound use its size is probably ideal. The V200 is very expensive though, and the absence of a fingerprint scanner as standard and the lack of screen rotation controls on the bezel are disappointing.