HANDS ON: XPLORE TECHNOLOGIES XSLATE B10

Jan 6 • Features, Hardware • 3083 Views • No Comments on HANDS ON: XPLORE TECHNOLOGIES XSLATE B10

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Next up in our Hands On series reviewing some of the  key contenders in the rugged device sector is Xplore Technologies’ X Slate B10 rugged tablet.

It’s been a very busy year for Xplore Technologies. With neighbours and fellow rugged tablet manufacturers Motion suffering from the closure of a parts supplier,  Xplore made the bold move of launching a takeover. It was a definite case of the little fish eating the bigger fish and a move that caught many in the industry by surprise.

However, whilst certainly a bit of a shock from an outsider’s viewpoint the coming together of the two companies certainly makes sense on a product level. Xplore has established a reputation as being the company to go to for ultra-rugged devices with their XC6 range, which are fully submersible, drop tested to the highest existing standards and are pretty much the most rugged tablets out there. Needless to say Xplore was a name well recognised in defence circles.

Motion’s devices on the other hand sat more towards the larger fully rugged sector, so whilst devices such as the Motion F5M could still take a pounding, they are more geared towards the average field based worker, who needs a tablet that can cope with being shunted about from vehicle to work-site but still provided both the computing power and range of peripheries needed to get an engineer through the day whether it be on the road or back at HQ.

So whilst there was some crossover in technologies the two companies actually complement each other very, very well and are now a major player in the rugged tablet space (in fact only Panasonic now have a bigger market share).

So with the potential for cross development spanning both sets of R&D talent it was with excited anticipation when I received the demo unit to put it through its paces. Just how much influence would both the design team at Motion and their counterparts in Xplore have in the look, feel and performance of this new device – the first device to come out of the Xplore stable since the merger? Would it be a Motion looking tablet or Xplore, or perhaps like most babies a mixture of both parents?
Let’s get hands on and find out…

What the manufacturer says…

Designed to meet the needs of the mobile professional who requires a supremely rugged Windows-based PC that can weather any environment, the XSlate B10 addresses both processing and connectivity concerns directly.
The powerful and fast XSlate B10 accelerates through workflows in the field, in real time, resulting in a more efficient and productive workforce that reduces errors and costs, while improving customer experience

First impressions…

Well she’s certainly got her mother’s eyes.  Whilst this is the first tablet to come to market since Xplore’s  acquisition of Motion there is no denying that the XSlate B10 is very much from the same stable as the Bobcat, which we reviewed last year – check out our report here.

Whilst this is the first tablet to come to market since Xplore’s acquisition of Motion, there is no denying that the XSlate B10 is very much from the same stable as the Bobcat.

In fact the comparisons to the Bobcat could run so deep that this device must surely be viewed as part of the same product line in all but name.

And for me this is no bad thing. I felt the Bobcat was a well-made, aesthetically-pleasing device especially when held up against the F5M which always feels a little clunky to me because of the moulded integrated handle. Yes, I know it’s a functional inclusion, and many will appreciate the ease with which the F5M is carried around but if I’m honest I’m glad that Xplore have stuck with the detachable hand-strap, in the same manner as they opted for in the Bobcat.
The handle also acts as a neat holder for either of the two styli that the device comes with.

When it comes to the feel of the tablet again one need look no further than the Bobcat for an easy comparison. Both devices appear to share exactly the same chassis, including a magnesium alloy mid-frame to add further strength.

When reviewing the Bobcat, I pointed out that the design had a feel of something akin to a ‘more -robust-than-average’ consumer tablet to it. Given the shared body, this remains true of the XSlate as well. The XSlate we received had a lot more optional extras than the Bobcat we reviewed and these certainly add to the bulk of the device even if they do add functionality. However, this is the price you pay for customisation and any of Xplore’s competitors would face the same challenge in terms of keeping additional accessories sleek and unobtrusive.

Optional extras certainly add to the bulk of the device even if they do add functionality…

If we look at base models, I’d have to say that the device is by no means the most cumbersome rugged tablet in the world even if it doesn’t quite match up to the sleek lines of the Getac T800.

Like the Bobcat, the X-Slate B10 feels sturdy and with a base weight of 1.09 kg it’s in a similar weight bracket as Panasonic’s FZ-G1 and significantly lighter than the Getac F110 – both of which would be comparable devices to the XSlate.

Finally, when it comes to button layout control power, volume and a screen orientation lock all remain on the right hand side whilst a Windows button remains front facing in the centre.

One nice addition on the XSlate missing from the Bobcat is a fingerprint sensor, adding an additional layer of security where required.

Processing power
There really is very little difference between the two siblings under the hood. With its Intel Core i5-5350U processor capable of 2.9Ghz of boosted processing speed (there is also an option for – Intel Core i7 vPro) coupled with 8GB memory, the XSlate sits right at the top of the tree amongst rugged tablets. Only its stablemate, the Motion F5M, is built to a higher specification and even then, that would only be for the very top customisation level.

The XSlate also comes out ahead of the competition when it comes to the graphics card as well – one area that the Bobcat was lacking in compared to the competition. In fact the X-Slate’s Intel Integrated HD 6000 Graphics Card is one of the best performing cards on the market currently and with this alongside its superior CPU then the XSlate should be able to handle pretty much any program that is thrown at it.

Operating system
Officially the XSlate B10 comes with the option of Windows 7 or 8.1 although as soon as we booted it up and logged into the device it automatically offered us a free upgrade to Windows 10.

Particularly interesting is the announcement of the XSlate D10 – basically the B10 but in Android flavour

Particularly interesting, however, is the announcement of the XSlate D10 – basically the B10 but in Android flavour. Whilst most users will be suited with Windows, there is certainly a large enough appetite for Android based mobile devices. With Connected Vehicles looming on the horizon it could well be that the Android version of this tablet becomes a more appealing option despite it being more closely specced to the Bobcat than the impressive B10.

The Ins & Outs
The shared chassis means the XSlate B10 has an identical I/O set up to the Bobcat – a major plus point in our opinion.  The standard models in both tablets are identical apart from the XSlate’s having an optional HDMI-in socket.

Like the Bobcat, the B10 comes with two separate USB3.0 ports  – a feat unmatched by all of their competitors. It can sometimes be something of a challenge to fit in ports left, right, and centre and most rugged tablet manufacturers tend to shy away from this challenge so it is great to see Xplore include two USB ports again.

Like the Bobcat, the XSlate B10 comes with two separate USB3.0 ports – a feat unmatched by all of their competitors.

The B10 also has a MicroSD slot, providing the option of expanding the 128GB internal memory (upgradable to 256GB) and also a potentially useful means of transferring files developed in the field onto a desktop at any point.

Should your engineers need to give presentations of the work being undertaken at any point then the micro HDMI out will allow them to easily share directly from the B10.

Other ports on the B10 include a RS232 serial Ready Port, headphones/speakers mini-jack stereo port plus DC power input.

Connectivity:
Connectivity is of course vital for the field engineer and this is yet another area in which the X Slate excels, again sharing a number of its systems with the Bobcat. These include the latest standard in mobile internet including an 802.11ac wireless LAN (wifi) receiver, providing both 2.5GHz and 5GHz bandwidths and enhanced speeds. A 4G LTE mobile broadband receiver is optional giving fast connectivity outside of WiFi coverage provided that is mobile network connectivity.

The integrated GPS has improved accuracy and Bluetooth 4.0 allows the device to be paired with other tools being used by your team.

Finally, the XSlate has options for including Near Field Communications (NFC) reading capability and Barcode scanning both of which can be useful tools when updating parts inventory.

Ruggedness:
As one would expect from a manufacturer of ultra rugged tablets, the X Slate is absolutely ready for even the most clumsiest of field engineers. With a MIL-STD 810G certification the tablet is both water and dust resistant and can operate in a range of temperatures ranging from -20°C through to 60°C which should cover all but the absolute extreme of field service environments.

The XSlate is capable of surviving a 5 foot fall and thanks to its lightweight rugged magnesium mid-frame the LCD and electronics are also particularly well protected should the device be accidentally dropped on more than one occasion.
Battery Life:
Finally the battery life of the X Slate is certainly capable of lasting an engineer throughout their day. The full battery life is listed as up to 8 hours however with the inclusion of shot swappable batteries could potentially last for up to 20 hours with moderate usage.

Conclusion:

Having given the Bobcat a relatively good review it is impossible to not give the X Slate anything but a glowing recommendation.

The device is good looking, the buttons intuitively placed and the processing power is right at the top-end of the spectrum. It’s also highly certified in terms of ruggedness and has great connectivity specifications. Overall this is a fantastic tablet for somone working in a reasonably hostile environment but needs a powerful device with lots of CPU power.

Ultimately what the XSlate does is take the strong form factor of the Bobcat and delivers a truly high-end tablet to further increase the competition with Panasonic.

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