Monday, August 11, 2008

GeTac E-100

By Danny Dumas
$2,880 as tested

Between sky-high gas prices and food shortages, it's only a matter of time before we descend into a Mad Max-esque dystopia. Rather than panic, I've set myself to the vital task of finding doomsday ready gadgets before the big one hits. Today I take a look at the GeTac E-100 ultra-rugged UMPC to see if it really has the DNA to be my choice for on-the-go post apocalyptic computing.

GeTac clearly had utilitarian users in mind with the E-100, which makes for a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to function. On the bright side, this surprisingly light UMPC is military certified to withstand splashes of water, dust, humidity, shock, and even freezing temperatures. And like every other rugged gadget these days, it's all business with a gray magnesium alloy chassis and shock-dampening rubber accents. Even common vulnerabilities like exposed ethernet and USB ports have been sidestepped with a bevy of watertight rubber stoppers. So, in terms of my usual spill, drop, and dust tests the E-100 finished with flying colors. In fact, my review unit was able to smoothly stream Southpark episodes while taking repeated tumbles down a flight of stairs.

But it was when I looked under the hood that I found kinks in the armor. The Intel A110 processor and the 945GU chipset made for an efficient, if not dated core for this unit. Paired with the stylus-based Windows XP Tablet environment, it wasn't a terrible computing experience, but not necessarily a remarkable one either. Mission critical applications like Office ran at a reasonable clip in a number of bumpy environments, but for the E-100's price I was expecting a little more "oomph." The 100GB shock resistant ATA hard drive and 1GB of RAM tilt the balance a little bit, but honestly, even the unassuming Eee PC comes stock with Intel's newer Atom chips.

Of course, I could probably use the E-100 to smash an Eee to smithereens. And isn't that truly what this device is about? Mediocre specs aside, this rough and tumble UMPC performs solidly in a number of harsh environments and boasts a host of connectivity options. Is it a poster child for rugged rockstar horsepower? Hardly. But it's a solid workhorse, and sometimes that's all you really need. —Terrence Russell

WIRED Rock solid construction, ergonomics, and field performance. Responsive 8.4-inch touchscreen looks phenomenal in direct sunlight. Web ready with 802.11b/g, gigabit ethernet, and SIM card slot. Waterproof combination SmartCard/PCMCIA slot. Decent battery life at 3.5 hours (Wi-Fi on). 100GB hard drive has its own heater for cycling up in freezing conditions.

TIRED Too little processing given the amount of buck. Near three grand price tag? Seriously? No option for a solid state drive?! Recessed USB and headphone jacks are a hassle to plug into. Tinny speaker is more of an afterthought. Lose the stylus and you're S.O.L. Looks that only a Fed Ex driver could love.