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Motion Computing J3500

  • Editors' rating
    7.8 Very good

Pros

  • Fast Core i7 CPU with 4GB of RAM
  • Capacitive 'dual touch' display
  • Intel vPro support enhances manageability and security
  • Two hot-swappable batteries
  • Plenty of options, including integrated mobile broadband
  • Solid, ruggedised construction

Cons

  • No front-facing camera
  • No flash card reader
  • Relatively heavy
  • Adding options results in a pricey system

Motion Computing, the US-based Tablet PC specialist serving vertical markets such as healthcare, construction and field-service workers, recently announced its upgraded C5v and F5v — respectively a Mobile Clinical Assistant and an outdoor-oriented system. Now it's the turn of the company's flagship slate tablet, the J3400, which retains the same chassis but gains a raft of enhancements and becomes the J3500. Key upgrades include a vPro-equipped Core i7 processor, a dual-mode (pen and finger) capacitive touch-screen and a 3-megapixel camera. When we reviewed the J3400 in March last year, we noted the lack of a front-facing camera and SD card slot, the hefty weight and the high cost once a number of options are added to the basic offering. So how have things changed with the J3500?

Design
The J3500 looks identical to its predecessor. It's a ruggedised 12.1in. widescreen (1,280 by 800) slate-style tablet measuring 32.3cm by 23.1cm by 2.3cm and weighing 1.81kg with both 30Wh batteries fitted. The livery is, appropriately, slate-grey, and there's a sensible rubberised finish on the rear to guard against slippage on a shiny surface.

Motion Computing J3500: same chassis, upgraded components — including a 'dual touch' screen that you can operate using stylus or finger

For customers, an advantage of the J3500 retaining the same chassis as the J3400 is that the optional accessories are interchangeable. These include the £237 desktop FlexDock, which incorporates a battery charging bay alongside an array of connectors (four USB, Ethernet, DVI-D, DisplayPort, audio in/out). We had another option, the £34 Mobile Keyboard (included in the price quoted above), that incorporates a stand to hold the tablet in landscape mode and provides a two-button touchpad. When folded flat, the Mobile Keyboard can attach magnetically to the back of the system unit.

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One of an impressive roster of accessories, the Mobile Keyboard doubles as a stand and provides a two-button touchpad

Like the J3400, the J3500 is a 'ruggedised' system, tested to MIL-STD-810 standard (the latest revision G in the J3500's case); it also resists the ingress of dust and moisture to IP-52 level. It's not fully rugged, but will withstand more than an average level of wear, tear and general rough handling.

With the system in landscape mode, the controls are on the right-hand side, in the screen bezel. From the top, they are: microphone and ambient light sensor, camera button, Motion QuickNav button, Motion Dashboard button, Escape button and a four-way directional pad. Motion QuickNav is a large finger-friendly on-screen keyboard/application launcher, while Motion Dashboard is a convenient utility for tweaking display, audio, pen & tablet, wireless, power and security settings.

On the left-hand side, behind protective hinged rubber flaps, are audio and Ethernet (RJ-45) ports, a pair of (quite closely spaced) USB connectors and a VGA connector. The power input is also on this side. At the top of the right-hand side is a slot for the digitiser stylus and next to it a removable cover protecting an ExpressCard/34 slot and a SmartCard slot; these are followed by the power button, a fingerprint reader and finally a Ctrl-Alt-Del button and a battery status LED.

At the back is a 3-megapixel camera (upgraded from 2 megapixels on the J3400), a docking connector and a pair of battery bays, beneath one of which is a SIM card slot for the integrated mobile broadband/GPS module. Although the recently announced C5v and F5v gained front-facing VGA-resolution cameras, this feature is still missing from the J3500.

Perhaps the biggest change in the J3500 is the introduction of a 'dual-touch' capacitive screen that accepts both stylus input (the only option on the J3400) and finger-driven operation. The system runs Windows 7 and so supports multitouch gestures like pinch-to-zoom and hold-and-tap (for right-click), while 'palm rejection' and stylus recognition functionality helps to guard against false input. We had the Hydis AFFS+ screen; alternatives are a dual-touch TN (Twisted Nematic) display or a stylus-only AFFS+ screen with extra-tough Gorilla Glass and outdoor-optimised ViewAnywhere technology.

Features
The J3500 is powered by a 1.2GHz Core i7 640UM processor, which includes 4MB of Level 2 cache, vPro management technology and integrated Intel HD Graphics. An alternative CPU option is the 1.06GHz Core i5 520UM. The chipset is Intel's QM57 and the operating system is 32-bit Windows 7 Professional, with a Windows XP Tablet PC Edition downgrade option available.

Storage comes in the shape of a 128GB Samsung solid-state drive (SSD), whose lack of moving parts and low power consumption are particularly well suited to this class of device. A 64GB SSD option is also available, or you can specify a shock-protected 160GB SATA hard drive.

The J3500 is likely to spend most of its time on a wireless network connection, to which end it has Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) and an optional mobile broadband/GPS module (Sierra Wireless Gobi 2000, present on our review sample). Bluetooth (2.1+EDR) is also integrated, and there's a Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45) port for those occasions when wired connectivity is available.

Performance & battery life
The Windows Experience Index (WEI) for our J3500 configuration is a moderate 3.4 (out of 7.9). However, the WEI corresponds to the lowest subsystem score, which in this case is Graphics (Desktop performance for Windows Aero). This is closely followed by the Gaming graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) score of 3.5. The integrated Intel HD Graphics scores aside, the J3500 rates pretty well, with scores of 5.5 for Memory (RAM), 5.6 for Processor (Calculations per second) and 6.9 for Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate). It's no surprise that the 128GB SSD delivers the best subsystem score and overall we found the J3500 admirably responsive in use.

To get a feel for battery life, we first measured the system's power consumption (using a Voltcraft VC940 Plus multimeter) under a variety of power plans and operating conditions. We took measurements with the system loaded (running Passmark Software's Performance Test 7.0) and idle, under two power regimes — 'High performance' (HP) and 'Power saver' (PS). The average power draw results were as follows: Idle/PS 11.8W; Idle/HP 15.45W; Load/PS 19.29W; Load/HP 25.95W. Dividing these figures into the 60Wh provided by the system's pair of 30Wh batteries gives the following battery life estimates: Idle/PS 5.08h; Idle/HP 3.88h; Load/PS 3.11h; Load/HP 2.31h.

Given that the 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo-equipped J3400 delivered battery life estimates of 2.7h-5.8h, it's impressive that Motion Computing has extracted similar battery performance (2.3h-5.1h) from more powerful hardware. However, to be sure of a full day's work away from mains power, you'll still be advised to invest in and carry a third (hot-swappable) 30Wh battery.

Conclusion
Like its predecessor, the Motion Computing J3500 is a very capable, customisable and accessory-laden slate tablet. It comes in the same ruggedised chassis, and delivers very similar battery life from a set of upgraded components. As before, there are one or two wish-list features missing, and the price is on the high side — especially if you add options and accessories.

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