Tool Review: GammaTech Durabook with GPS and Barcode Scanner

March 5, 2013
Tablet PC combines ruggedness with long battery life and shop-focused functionality.

GammaTech's Durabook Tablet PC, No. T7Q, meets Military Standard 810G for drop, shock, spill, salt, fog and freeze/thaw resistance; and meets IP-65 for protection against dust and water. The unit weighs only 3 lbs and comes with ergonomic hand straps. It offers users the choice of two processors: the Intel Atom processor N2600 (1.6GHz), or the Intel Atom processor N2800 (1.86GHz), both of which are made specifically for ultra-mobile devices. Comes with Intel NM10 and GMA 3650 graphics chipsets, a DDR3 slot that offers 2GB of system memory and a m-SATA SSD drive.

The review

Lou Fort, lead technician at Huntingburg, IN-based K.A.R.S. Inc., was sent a Durabook from GammaTech and was at first not quite sure what to do with it. He uses computers for email and looking up information in repair databases - the one he uses has GPS and a bar code scanner. Suffice it to say, this is not his every day automotive tooling.

Nonetheless, Fort was able to make use of the computer and some of the things such as the barcode scanner: "I can't say that I thought that having a Durabook in my arsenal, as a tech in my own right, over a laptop is much of a timesaver at all. However, a shop on the other hand, set up with the right software, could potentially save lots of time putting the barcode scanner, camera and GPS to use."

Set up was typical of any other computer, but all the drivers needed for the barcode unit camera and GPS were already installed on the unit. All Fort had to do was simply turn it on.

The more Fort grew accustomed to the unit, the more things he found about it that he liked. "The one feature I enjoyed the most was its impressive battery life. With the two batteries, the unit will stay powered up for close to 10 hours," he says.

"I also made use of the 'barcode' scanner, once I figured out how to use it without dedicated software, to quickly grab VIN numbers off doorjamb stickers. For some reason it seems like the older I get the more automakers are using smaller and smaller fonts, making it harder and harder to read the VIN off the sticker. So having the 'barcode' reader grab the VIN and displaying it in a larger font was nice."

Fort said he was also impressed with the GPS feature, because it was able to get a signal and pinpoint his location even while inside the shop. 

Fort found there was a learning curve to some of the features on the device.  "Figuring out how to use the barcode scanner, without dedicated software and the GPS module was a bit of a challenge," Fort admitted. "Also I was unable to get the 'Auto Light Sensing' feature, for automatic display brightness adjustments, to work as I felt it should."

Fort also made some suggestions on how to improve the tool. "First, I would have the corner pad strap attachment rings come with a strap," he said, counting out a list. "Next, I would add a holder for the stylus. Then, I would put a raised section around the buttons on the front, they are way to easy to push just picking the unit up."

The verdict? "Due to its ruggedness, I give the Durabook a 9. Not having a place to store the stylus and those pesky strap clips keep it from a 10," explained Fort. "The long battery life and ease of use with a docking station add to its usefulness."

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