Dell Latitude 7220 Rugged Extreme Tablet, hands on: Fully equipped for harsh environments

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Dell has built a reputation as a supplier of rugged tablets, and the Latitude 7220 Rugged Extreme Tablet is a strong addition to the range. It has undergone military-grade (MIL-STD 810G and 810H) testing (including transit and operating drop-tests), can work in temperatures ranging from -28°C to 62°C, and is IP65 rated for dust and water resistance -- as befits a tablet that's made to survive the toughest of conditions. 

The 11.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) touch screen has a maximum brightness of 1000 nits, so it's fully outdoor readable. It can also be used with gloved hands. The screen sits in deep bezels and has a chunky, rubberised surround that's further bolstered at the corners by an extra layer of protection. The aforementioned drop testing includes transit drops from 1.22m (4 feet) and operating drops from 0.91m (3 feet).

There's a caddy in the top edge for a small, lightweight but serviceable stylus that's tethered nicely to the body. If you don't want the stylus and the tether, both are easily removed.

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Dell's 11.6-inch Latitude 7720 Rugged Extreme Tablet runs on 8th-generation Intel Core (i3, i5 or i7) processors with 8GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage. It's highly configurable, with multiple options for connectivity and accessories.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

As you'd expect given all the protection, the Latitude 7220 Rugged Extreme Tablet is chunky for its 11.6-inch screen size. It measures 312.2mm wide by 203mm deep and is 24.4mm thick (12.3in. x 7.99in. x 0.96in.). It's heavy too, starting at 1.33kg (2.93lbs). None of these measurements are as relevant as they would be if you were selecting an everyday tablet or laptop -- in fact, the extra size and weight to some extent indicate the degree of protection for the innards.

This protection extends to putting the ports and connectors behind hinged covers. These all sit on the right edge (in landscape mode), and comprise a mini serial (RS-232) port behind its own hinged cover, the power connector (again behind its own cover), and then, all behind one cover: USB-C with DisplayPort; USB 3.0; 3.5mm headset jack; and MicroSD card slot. 

Beneath the screen (in landscape mode) there's an array of eight buttons, three of which are user configurable. The non-configurable buttons are volume up and down, screen brightness up and down, and auto-rotate toggle. All of these buttons light up an eerie green when one is pressed.

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On the back there's a smartcard reader and a fingerprint scanner, plus a removable cover for an optional hot-swappable secondary battery (£20.15 ex. VAT). Both the primary and secondary batteries are 2-cell 32Wh Li-ion units.

There is an optional 'all or nothing' camera setup that comprises a 5MP camera and Windows Hello IR camera on the front, and an 8MP camera at the back. Both the main cameras have sliding privacy covers, although the IR camera does not. A keyboard is also optional, but I was not sent one to complete the test kit.

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As befits a fully rugged tablet, all ports are well protected behind hinged covers.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet  

The design is extremely modular, allowing for plenty of configuration options. You can leave out the cameras, for example, saving you £28.60 (ex. VAT), or specify 802.11ax wi-fi (Wi-Fi 6) instead of 802.11ac; a shoulder strap will cost you £15.46 (ex. VAT), while a soft handle is just £10.02 (ex. VAT).

Playing around with other specifications can be more expensive. Moving up from the base 8th-generation Core i3-8145U processor to the top-end Core i7-8665U adds £207.35 (ex. VAT), while storage upgrades from the base 128GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Class 40 SSD can mount up: a 256GB drive adds just £29.25 (ex. VAT), but opt for a 1TB drive and you're looking at £324 (ex. VAT). Meanwhile, mobile broadband (Snapdragon X20 LTE) adds £103.35 (ex. VAT) to the cost.

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF)    

Even at the base price, where the Core i3-8145U processor is teamed with 8GB of RAM and an 128GB SSD, the Dell Latitude 7220 Rugged Extreme Tablet will set you back £1,791.40 (ex. VAT; £2,149.68 inc. VAT) or $1,899. Start adding in extras and the price really mounts up. But that's the way with rugged tablets, and the extremely configurable nature of this one, along with its ultra-bright screen, stylus, programmable buttons and excellent protection certainly make it fit for purpose.

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