Tablets may be a relatively new plaything for consumers, but they have a long track record in vertical markets such as field sales, healthcare and construction. Motion Computing is an established tablet manufacturer, whose new CL900 is a Windows 7 tablet that promises up to eight hours of life from a single battery charge. Prices start at £757 (ex. VAT).
The Motion CL900 is a solidly built tablet whose desktop footprint is comparable with other 10.1in. devices, although it's quite thick. It measures 27.67cm wide by 17.92cm deep by 1.54cm thick and weighs a relatively hefty 950g (compare these dimensions to the Wi-Fi+3G iPad 2's 24.12cm by 18.57cm by 0.88cm and 613g). The CL900's weight was quite an issue for us, and we wouldn't want to hold this tablet in one hand for long periods.
The CL900's chassis is tough, with an aluminium alloy internal frame and an exterior rated to IP-52 standard against dust and moisture ingress. The exterior will also cope with a number of chemical disinfectants and cleaning solutionswithout damage. The CL900 will survive drops of four feet (1.22m), making it MIL-STD-810G compliant. The edges of the chassis are covered by rubber strips; where there are ports and connectors, these strips lift to allow access.
The CL900 is a tough (IP-52 and MIL-STD 810G rated) 10.1in. Windows 7 tablet with support for finger- and stylus-based input
The screen is measures 10.1in. across the diagonal and has a native resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels. On a regular touchscreen notebook or tablet, these specs would deliver a clear, sharp and pleasing display. However, the CL900 supports stylus input via a digitiser pen, and the additional screen layer required for this is perceptible as narrow stripes that some people may not appreciate. Viewing angles are reasonably good, but the screen is slightly reflective, which can hamper viewability at times. The Gorilla Glass screen helps the CL900 withstand knocks and bangs.
The Motion CL900 has front and rear cameras, with 1.3-megapixel and 3.0-megapixel resolutions repectively. Neither camera has a flash.
The Motion CL900 is built around a 1.5GHz Intel Atom Z670 processor. This is the CPU codenamed Lincroft that underpins the Oak Trail platform, which Intel designed for tablets and other low-power devices. It has a TDP (Thermal Design Power) of just 3W, which is one of the reasons Motion Computing can claim eight hours of battery life for the CL900.
The CL900 comes with 1GB of DDR2 RAM as standard, although our review unit had 2GB. For storage, there's a 30GB SSD, with a bigger 62GB drive available as an option. Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth (3.0) are integrated, while mobile broadband is optional. The operating system is Windows 7 Professional 32-bit.
The edges of the CL900's chassis are covered by rubber strips, which lift to allow access to ports and connectors
The ports, buttons and connectors are ranged round the tablet's edges. On the top there are two microphones and a speaker, while the bottom has a docking connector.
The right edge carries a button that releases the storage compartment for the digitiser pen. Irritatingly, the pen's lanyard can't be stowed when the digitizer pen is not in use.
On the left side, one rubber cover protects the power connector, while another provides protection for a USB port, a headset/microphone combo jack, a SIM card slot and an SD card slot. We found this cover a little tricky to remove, and you may find it very awkward if you have short fingernails. The on/off switch is on this edge too, along with a battery gauge and a button that takes you to the lock-down screen.
It's often said that Windows is not suited to the tablet format, and we have to agree. Small icons designed for cursor precision rather than fingertip control are one issue; a slow loading, relatively resource-hungry operating system (compared to iOS and Android in particular) is another. But many companies are tied into the Windows ecosystem and run complex, expensive, bespoke applications. For such organisations, moving to a more finger-friendly OS with a lighter footprint is out of the question.
QuickNav offers one-touch access to key features via a vertical toolbar
The challenge for tablet manufacturers like Motion Computing is to make Windows as usable as possible. To that end, Windows has been augmented a couple of third-party applications. QuickNav gives access to key features by putting a vertical toolbar on-screen that provides one-touch access to the cameras, GPS (in certain models only), voice recorder, a barcode scanner, the calculator and QWERTY keyboard as well as to documents, images and other files. It works reasonably well, although standard on-screen Windows shortcuts could do the same job.
A second application, exTouch adds some more usability features such as quick application launching, a couple of apps (an alternative calculator and an app for drawing on camera-captured images) and flick controls that can be implemented using fingertip or digitiser pen.
Motion Computing has always provided a good range of accessories with its tablets, and makes no exception with the CL900. Among the available extras are a docking station, a silicone slip cover, a portfolio case that doubles as a landscape-mode stand, a 'swivel' portfolio case that supports both a landscape- and portrait-mode stand, a carry sleeve and a USB keyboard. Beware, though, that adding a bunch of these will boost the price considerably.
Performance & battery life
The Windows Experience Index (WEI) for the Motion CL900 is not really comparable with the ratings we report from regular notebooks, as this tablet is a specialised device rather than a general-purpose computer. The CL900's WEI of 2.2 (out of 7.9) corresponds to the lowest component score, which was for Processor (Calculations per second).
The remaining scores were slightly more respectable: 3.0 for Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance), 4.2 for RAM (Memory operations per second), 4.3 for Graphics (Desktop performance for Windows Aero) and 5.9 for Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate). Even so, if you're expecting even mainstream performance levels from this Windows 7 tablet, you're likely to be disappointed.
The CL900 has a non-removable 43Wh Li-ion battery that Motion Computing claims will power the device for eight hours. We tested this by choosing the Optimized power scheme and playing movies continuously from a USB stick. Under these conditions we got 5 hours and 13 minutes of uptime. This is a demanding test, so you should be able to get a full 8-hour day on battery power if you stick to relatively undemanding workloads.
There is a single speaker on the top of the chassis, and maximum volume is fairly quiet; sound quality could be better, too. This is not a tablet you'll want to use for delivering multimedia presentations.
The Motion CL900 is aimed at specific vertical markets rather than the general business sector (don't even begin to think of it as a consumer device). It's quite heavy, but the trade-off is a rugged build quality that's not found in run-of-the-mill Windows 7 tablets.
Motion Computing could have gone further in helping make Windows more finger-friendly via its own or third-party software overlays. To be fair, though, CL900 will often be running bespoke tablet-optimised software. Lack of CPU and graphics performance may be an issue for some potential buyers, but battery life is good and there are plenty of useful accessories on offer.