Built to take a beating, the GammaTech Durabook U12Ci is one tough notebook. Aimed at security workers, health professionals and those who just need a laptop that can take a tumble, the U12Ci is significantly sturdier than your average 12-inch portable. With a flexible, convertible design and integrated stylus that sets it apart from similar devices, the $2,134 GammaTech Durabook U12Ci could be the rugged machine for you.
On the inside, you'll find a solid black plastic frame surrounding the 12-inch display. The bottom of the screen discreetly houses flat utility buttons such as the power key and brightness controls. The right side of the display features a biometric fingerprint sensor, which can be used with the accompanying software to launch applications, log on and off, and more. Flipping the device over reveals the stylus tucked away in the laptop's underside, along with a protective battery cover.
Measuring 12.7 x 9.5 x 1.5 inches and weighing 5.6 pounds, the GammaTech U12Ci Durabook is larger and heavier than the competing 12.7 x 8.7 x 1.2-inch 4.4-pound Dell Latitude XT3 and the lightweight 8.4 x 11.8 x 1-inch 3.6 pound Panasonic Toughbook C2.
The Durabook U12Ci features soft, rubber bumpers on its corners to absorb shock from being dropped. The bezel surrounding the touch screen and keyboard deck are also insulated to add an additional layer of protection and to prevent water damage.
The GammaTech Durabook isn't waterproof, but it's designed to ensure liquid spilled on the keyboard won't reach crucial components inside the PC. Instead, the insulated layer captures fluids that may seep into the device and uses a reservoir system to push liquid to the bottom where it can drain.
The U12Ci also features dust-resistant input/output ports and double- protection smart battery circuitry that prevents damage caused by overheating and voltage surges.
With the notebook turned off and closed, we dropped it twice from a height of four feet; the Durabook survived each without incident. The port covers and bottom slots remained closed during both drops, even when the notebook's underside hit the floor. In addition to working normally, the Durabook U12Ci didn't sustain any physical damage such as scrapes, chips or dents after being dropped.
Once you've enrolled at least one finger, you can configure certain applications to work with your fingerprint. For example, you can launch an application by swiping your finger along the sensor after linking the program to your fingerprint in the Control Center. You can also store email and other Web passwords in the Control Center to enable auto-fill after swiping your finger, and use fingerprint authentication to access encrypted files and folders and turn the notebook on or off.
We found the fingerprint sensor to be responsive during our testing. After swiping our index finger along the sensor, a menu appeared on screen almost immediately, offering options to lock the notebook, register a password for a particular website and access our E-Wallet.
The GammaTech Durabook U12Ci comes with a suite of other security features as well. You can toggle with the notebook's BIOS Utility menu by pressing the Delete key as the computer is booting up. From here, you can change or set administrative passwords, configure Intel's Anti-Theft Technology, and more. The notebook also comes loaded with a TPM 1.2 chip for added security through encryption and Computrace software for tracking down your laptop in case of theft. For those who wish to add an extra level of security, an optional Smart Card reader sits on the right hand side of notebook.
Keyboard and Touchpad
We navigated the Windows 7 desktop and browsed the Web with ease using the U12Ci's 2.8 x 1.5-inch touchpad. Scrolling was a breeze with no noticeable lag, but the touchpad doesn't support the pinch-to-zoom gesture. Two-finger scrolling, however, proved to be fairly smooth.
Display and Touch Screen
The 314 lux display on the Durabook doesn't even come close to the sunlight-readable Dell Latitude E6420's 654 lux touch screen or the Panasonic Toughbook CF-53's 814 lux display. For an additional $341, though, you can purchase a U12Ci with a sunlight-readable display without the digitizer. For both the digitizer and the sunlight-readable option, you'll need to pay $569 extra.
The stylus yielded much more accurate results. Highlighting text and making selections was a cinch. You can even use your own handwriting within such apps as Sticky Notes. In addition, a touch-screen keyboard will automatically appear on the display for programs that don't support handwriting.
The GammaTech Durabook 1.5W speakers offered impressive, high-quality audio. Music sounded rich and defined even when the volume was set to low, and we didn't experience any hollow overtones like with some mainstream notebooks. When listening to "By Your Side, Part 1" by Breakbot, the funky dance beat and vocals sounded crisp and clear.
The GammaTech Durabook U12Ci can certainly keep its cool. After streaming Hulu for 15 minutes, the touchpad and the underside registered 85 degrees Fahrenheit, while the area between the G and H keys reached a slightly higher 86 degrees. We consider anything above 95 degrees to be uncomfortable.
Ports and Webcam
The opposite side houses a Smart Card slot and another USB port, both guarded by the same hard shielding. The back features a Kensington lock slot, a VGA port, an Ethernet port and a dock for the power adapter.
The U12Ci's 1.3-megapixel 1280 x1024 camera captures clear images in fluorescent lighting. Colors appeared bold and bright, and we didn't notice any noise.
However, the Durabook's test scores were mediocre. On PCMark 7, a synthetic benchmark that gauges overall performance, the U12Ci scored 1,733, which is below the 2,238 category average for mainstream notebooks. By comparison, the Panasonic Toughbook's Intel Core i5-2520M CPU with 4GB of RAM scored 2,314, while the Dell Latitude E6420 XFR's Intel Core i7-2620M processor with 6GB of RAM scored 4,147.
The U12Ci took a sluggish 1 minute and 21 seconds to boot Windows 7, falling below the 61-second category average. The Panasonic Toughbook performed the same task in 49 seconds, and the Dell Latitude launched Windows 7 in a speedy 35 seconds.
During the LAPTOP File Transfer test, the U12Ci took 6 minutes and 40 seconds to duplicate 5GB of mixed media, a rate of 12.7 MBps. This is well below the 30.1 MBps category average for mainstream notebooks, and doesn't even come close to the Dell Latitude E6420 XFR's 86.2 MBps or the Panasonic Toughbook CF-53's 28.6 MBps.
During the OpenOffice Spreadsheet test, the Durabook U12Ci matched 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses in 5 minutes and 38 seconds, beating the 6:56 mainstream notebook category average by more than a minute. However, the Panasonic Toughbook (5:01) and Dell Latitude (4:43) completed this test faster.
The Durabook U12Ci ran "World of Warcraft" at 34.7 frames per second on autodetect settings, which is playable, but falls short of the 66 fps mainstream category average. Bumping up those settings to "Full" dropped the frame rate to an unplayable 18.6 fps, failing to meet the 34 fps category average. This showing beats the Panasonic Toughbook CF-53, which ran "World of Warcraft" at 27 fps on auto settings and 12 fps on ultra, but doesn't outperform the Dell Latitude E6420 XFR's scores of 40 fps on auto and 31 fps on ultra.
You can add an extra battery via the charging dock on the bottom of the notebook, which the company says will offer up to 6 additional hours of juice. However, it's a rather bulky addition, and costs $225.
Software and Warranty
In addition to the traditional Windows 7 programs and Protector Suite 2009, The GammaTech Durabook U12Ci comes with IdeaCom Touch Screen software for adjusting touch-screen preferences and a program called AMCAP for capturing images and video via the webcam.
GammaTech offers multiple configurations of the U12Ci. Our $2,134 review unit has a 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor with 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and an LCD digitizer touch screen.
The $1,433 starting version comes with an LCD touch screen without digitizer, an Intel Pentium 987 CPU with 2GB of RAM and a 320 GB hard drive. The most expensive model has a sunlight-readable LCD touch screen with digitizer, an Intel Core i5-1700-3317U processor with 8GB of RAM, and a 480GB solid state drive for $2,979.
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|CPU||1.7 GHz Intel Core i5-3317U|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||1 TB|
|Hard Drive Speed||5,400rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type|
|Optical Drive Speed|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD 4000|
|Touchpad Size||2.8 x 1.5 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone/Mic|
|Ports (excluding USB)||ExpressCard/34|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Ethernet|
|Ports (excluding USB)||eSATA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||VGA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||security lock slot|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Kensington Lock|
|Card Slots||Smart Card|
|Card Slots||SD memory reader|
|Size||12.7 x 9.5 x 1.5 inches|