Pros: Fully rugged design; Daylight readable screen; Built-in GPS; Lots of expansion options; Backlit keyboard
Cons: Extremely expensive; Finicky cursor controls; Short battery life with standard battery
Verdict: This fully rugged ultra-mobile PC can take a beating and boasts a sunlight-readable display.
The General Dynamics Itronix GoBook MR-1 is one tough little notebook. Engineered to meet or exceed the military standard (MIL-STD-810F) for drop, shock, vibration, and temperature, it is well suited for field workers. While its $5,649 (as configured) price tag will give most consumers a severe case of sticker shock, the cost is not as big a factor for its target audience, who need a system that can be used outdoors and take a good amount of abuse.
Weighing in at 2 pounds and measuring 6.6 x 4.8 x 1.6 inches, the GoBook MR-1 features a durable magnesium alloy clamshell chassis, shock-absorbing materials, and sealed ports to protect interior components. The device has an odd shape thanks to a GPS antenna (a $375 option) jutting out of the top left side of the brushed aluminum lid and a legacy keyboard slice (a $199 option) attached to the front edge of the keyboard deck. The slice contains a TPM security chip, an RS232 serial port, and a USB port.
The 5.6-inch display has a native resolution of 1024 x 600 and has touchscreen capabilities. The screen is bright and offers good viewing angles, but you may want to bump up the font size to Extra Large--the Windows default size can be tough on the eyes. Thanks to Itronix's DynaVue screen technology, the display looks just as good in bright sunlight as it does indoors, a must for field-service personnel. The touchscreen was responsive, but with such a small screen it's easy to hit the wrong icon accidentally, especially if you have bigger fingers. Luckily, the GoBook MR-1 also comes with a stylus.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Like the rest of the unit, the keyboard deck is water-resistant and conforms to the IP54 specifications, meaning it will repel both rain and dust. The full QWERTY keyboard is understandably small but the keys are well spaced and comfortable for thumb-typing. We love the addition of a dedicated Ctrl+Alt+Del key, as well as a Zoom button that magnifies the screen 1.5 times. If that's still not big enough you can hit Ctrl+Alt+M to increase the image up to ten times the original screen size.
On the upper right portion of the deck are a small touchpad and a joystick cursor controller; the left and right mouse buttons are off to the left. In between are a four-way direction pad and the power switch. The touchpad is responsive and smooth, but we found the joystick controller to be stiff and prone to cursor drifts.
All keyboard keys and controller buttons are backlit for optimal nighttime use. Standard ports are limited to a single USB port and a docking connector located on the rear of the unit. In addition to the optional slice on our review unit, Itronix can configure the GoBook MR-1 with a PC Card slice or a Multi-I/O slice ($399 each) if you require a PC Card slot or additional USB and FireWire ports. Docking options include an in-dash vehicle dock ($610), a mini office dock ($129), a remote I/O module for vehicle dock ($280), and a vibration-resistant pedestal mount dock ($739).
Under the hood is a 1.2-GHz Ultra Low Voltage Intel Core Solo U1400 processor, 1GB of system memory, and Intel's GMA 950 graphic engine. This is a relatively low-end processor, so we weren't surprised by its lackluster performance. On our PCMark05 benchmark test (which measures Windows XP application performance) the MR-1 turned in a score of 1,434, more than 500 points below the average for a UMPC. Its score of 899 on 3DMark03 (which tests Direct X9 performance) was more than 300 points above average, but you still wouldn't want to use this device for graphics-intensive tasks.
Even with a single-core CPU, the GoBook MR-1 multitasked well. We encoded about 2 hours worth of music in iTunes, which took 12 minutes and 49 seconds to complete--nearly twice the amount of time of a dual-core notebook. With a Windows Defender full scan running in the background, the system needed only an additional minute and a half to complete the encoding process. We also watched a video clip while running a Windows Media Encoder test and did not notice any stutter or lag.
A shock-mounted 80GB hard drive comes loaded with Windows XP Professional and has a heater to keep things running in extreme weather conditions. The system needed 1 minute and 5 seconds to boot Windows XP, which is a bit on the slow side. You can order the GoBook MR-1 with a 32GB or 64GB solid state drive for an extra $700 or $1,549, respectively. The slow rotational speed of the hard drive (4,200-rpm) is to blame for the system's subpar score of 8.0 MBps on the LAPTOP Transfer Test (copying a 4.97GB folder of mixed media).
The GoBook MR-1 held up just fine while undergoing our durability testing. We performed three consecutive drop tests onto a carpeted floor from a height of 36 inches, making sure the notebook landed on a different edge each time. The GoBook MR-1 started up as usual after each drop and we found no evidence of damage. Likewise, the unit passed our water test with flying colors; we spilled a total of three ounces of water on three different areas of the keyboard with no adverse effect.
GPS and Wi-Fi
We fired up the GPS radio using Leadtek's WinFast Navigator software (included) and had to wait 23 minutes for the system to acquire a 3D fix, which means that at least four satellite signals have been locked in. Subsequent launches were much faster; we obtained a 3D fix in less than a minute in most cases.
In addition to GPS, our review unit came with an integrated 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi adapter ($225), which performed well, delivering throughput of 19.0 Mbps and 13.2 Mbps at distances of 15 and 50 feet from our access point, respectively. You can add mobile broadband connectivity for $799 (EV-DO or HSDPA) and Bluetooth for $145.
Surprisingly, the GoBook MR-1's battery lasted just 2 hours and 41 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi); for a machine that's going to see a lot of use far from an outlet, we would expect a longer runtime. Users can also purchase an extended battery ($299) that the company says will provide up to 6 hours of juice.
With a base price of $4,450, the GoBook MR-1 is wildly expensive to begin with, and that's before adding in staples like Wi-Fi and a sizable hard drive. However, this UMPC is a good fit for military personnel, first responders, and other outdoors workers who require an extremely durable ultra-mobile notebook, at any cost.
|CPU||1.2-GHz ULV Intel Core Solo|
|Operating System||MS Windows Vista Basic|
|RAM Upgradable to||1 GB|
|Hard Drive Size||80GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||4,200rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive|
|Graphics Card||Intel GMA 950|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||serial|
|Warranty/Support||Three-year limited, one-year battery, two-way shipping for covered repairs/24/7 toll-free phone|
|Size||6.6 x 4.8 x 1.6 inches|