Motion Computing's latest tablet PC offers a specification to match most commercial laptops, but puts it into a rugged slate format for use in challenging environments. The ability to use gesture inputs as well as a stylus in Windows 7 makes it more usable than earlier Motion tablets.
Rugged; decent specifications; dual-touch screen; integrated camera; GPS; 3G broadband.
Costly compared with laptops of similar hardware; quite heavy for all-day use.
Slate-mode tablet PC with dual-touch 12.1in display, 1.2GHz Core i7 processor, 4GB memory, 160GB hard drive, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional 5-megapixel camera with light, optional Qualcomm Gobi 2000 3G broadband module with GPS, optional second battery pack, Windows 7 Professional.
Motion Computing's line of tablet PCs has been given an upgrade with this new system based on the latest Intel mobile processors, plus a dual-mode touch screen that lets users control it by fingertip or using the traditional digital stylus for input.
Available since June, the J3500 is a rugged device aimed at workers in the field. It meets US military MIL-STD-810G specifications and is IP52 rated against water and dust, with an anti-shock mounting for its display and hard drive. Buyers can optionally specify a Gorilla glass screen and a Flash solid state drive for extra resilience.
As such, the system is not designed to compete with consumer devices like Apple's iPad, but is intended to be used by construction workers, engineers and other roles needing a go-anywhere full-specification PC.
The system is a slate-mode tablet with a 12.1in display running Windows 7 Professional, with XP Tablet PC Edition available via downgrade rights. It can be configured with a number of extras to help with mobile work roles, including a 3-megapixel camera and 3G mobile broadband module with GPS support, plus the ability to fit two internal 30Whr battery packs for longer use while away from mains power.
However, the J3500 is a fairly hefty device to carry around, weighing 1.6kg with a single battery fitted, and at least 1.8kg with two batteries. This makes it too heavy to grip by one edge, and requires you to support it with one hand behind the middle of the case if you are using it while standing.
This could quickly get tiring, but Motion offers a shoulder strap as an accessory to take most of the weight. We suspect the shoulder strap may be essential for workers who need to carry the unit around as part of their job.
Our review unit boasted a strong specification for running most applications, with an ultra-low voltage Core i7 U640 processor at 1.2GHz, backed by 4GB memory and a 160GB 1.8in hard drive. It also has the usual PC connectivity options, including 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
We were impressed with the dual-touch display on our review unit, which supports both multi-touch input using your fingers or the digital stylus that comes as part of the system. We found we could easily navigate around the Windows menus and applications using a fingertip, switching to the stylus when more precision is required or for handwriting input.
The stylus stows away in a slot on the top right edge of the system when not required, and simply pops out if you press it.
Windows 7's tablet PC functions also mean that an on-screen keyboard is never very far away if you need to key in anything. The keyboard hides at the edge of the screen with just a narrow strip showing, but zips into view when you tap it.
The keyboard can also be expanded as required so that the keys are a comfortable size for entering text, and a control toggles it into writing pad mode where you can scribble input using the stylus. The accuracy with which it recognises scrawled input is also impressive.
A system tray icon allows the user to select whether the J3500 will switch screen orientation when you rotate the device, but this did not function when we tried it and we had to resort to manually switching from landscape to portrait mode and back.