with Lindsey J. Bertomen
Product Review: Getac V-100
The V-100 ships with Gobi Broadband, which means that it is capable of staying connected to the Internet across multiple mobile carrier signals
I recently tested the GETAC V-100 rugged tablet notebook computer. This MIL-STD-810G notebook computer has real world capabilities of a law enforcement product.
The Getac V-100 is a convertible tablet/full keyboard dual core 1.4 ghz laptop with a ruggedized shell, fully shock mounted hard drive, sealed ports and a tethered stylus. It houses an integrated GPS and WLAN.
I like testing laptops because I like the wide eyed looks my family and friends give me. Sure, I measure the drop distances and drop these things scientifically. However, if they pass the tests without incident, I would be disappointed if I didn’t push the envelope a bit. Who’s to say that someone out there is not going to leave one of these guys on the hood of their car and…well, you get the picture.
Before we get to the boring stuff, the V-100 looks like the unit could even survive my driving, and worked just fine even as I attacked it. I am quite confident that a simple patrol “oops” would not likely generate a memo here.
The first thing the user notices is blazing 1200 NIT backlit screen. I turned it on the first time in a dark room, thinking this was an ordinary laptop. It only took about a half hour or so to stop seeing the afterimages floating in front of me. After that, I figured out how to dim it a little. The V-100 has redefined “sunlight readable.” To put this in perspective, I use a daylight readable screen for writing. It is about 300-400 NITs, which is good for consumer laptops.
The dimming switch is on the front panel edge, along with the power switch and one that orients the display, in case it gets mounted upside down or sideways.
The screen rotates and locks down using the same latch mechanism that locks the machine closed, which looks to me like the latch mechanism on a .30 caliber ammo can. The rear hinge, which allows the screen to rotate, is solidly on the frame. I can attest to this because I dropped it on its corners. Although I would have recessed the edges of the screen so the main frame would hit first when dropped, the design was obviously robust enough for the job.
The V-100 differed from several other rugged laptops I have tested. When I shock tested this screen, the screen never flickered, dimmed, or even noticed my attempt to disrupt its operation. Generally, these devices at least let me know I am testing it. The V-100 didn’t.
The V-100 has several hard drive options, including solid state. For patrol use, I would pick solid state. After all, very little is stored on a patrol laptop except operating system and applications. This will give it an added margin of shock resistance. I must comment, however, that transit drops, moisture, dirt ingress, extreme temperatures, and a screen torture test were easily shrugged.
The hard drive is enclosed in a shock-isolated enclosure. I liked the “swapability” of the hard drive and battery. I did not anticipate that the battery would last all day with the bright screen, and I was correct. When one turned up the 1200 NIT display, the results were fairly predictable. However, a more moderate setting allowed a few good hours of use.
I did not test the hard drive speed, but I used several methods to benchmark the processer speed. The Getac V-100 was average in processing performance but more than adequate for patrol use. It only got lukewarm when charging or under a stress test. It could chug along all day without tripping. This is likely why this unit runs efficiently without a fan: Most engineering uses an under-stressed processor, which also makes the laptop last longer.
The battery box and hard drive box have solid doors with double latches. The SD Card/PCMCIA, USB, ethernet and power slots had gasket sealed pull down doors. I like the double latches better.
The keyboard ...ahhh, the keyboard! Instead of using a membrane cover, the keys are mechanical, making it sensitive and smooth. It is condensed a little, meaning they engineered less spacing between keys. For example, the "Enter" key looks like it is flipped upside down so it fits in the confines of the chassis. Every officer who cranks out a report on it will appreciate the superior engineering, including the way it is backlit.
Incidentally, no one who tried out the V-100 used the touchpad, which was never as good as the touchscreen.
It was a couple of weeks before I was able to talk to George Longacre and Paul Williams, Tech Support Specialists from Stockton (Calif.) PD, who use the V-100’s for Law Enforcement duty. The bright screen was one of the first things I asked them about, for fear of the backlit officer. The night mode in their patrol cars was especially readable.
The second most noticeable feature of the Getac V-100 is the fact that it is much lighter than its contemporaries. When I asked the folks at Getac about this, they explained that this was a deliberate part of the design. They use special tooling and alloys to augment the lightweight CAD design. The V-100’s motherboards and panel parts are custom designed to conserve space and save weight.
A lightweight, yet rugged design is very important for the primary use of this product. The most common application is for officers in the field to dismount the V-100 from the patrol car after the dust clears to take the report.
The dual-purpose mounted/dismounted approach has done two things to benefit the industry. First, this product has a lot of user data out there. For example, the Stockton PD users mount and dismount this machine all day, dragging it into residences and restaurants.
I talked to John Lamb, director of product marketing for Getac. I asked him what was the design philosophy that drove the V-100. He told me that about 80 to 85 percent of Getac products go to government or military. The specs call for a fully sealed, fanless, water resistant rugged laptop. The V-100 meets IP-65 standard against water and foreign object (dust) ingress.
Lamb also told me that Getac has been manufacturing laptops for other companies and has a lot of experience in the rugged design business.
The V-100 touch screen is pressure sensitive, not capacitive. It differs from many touch sensitive screens in that it responds to multi-touch gestures. OK, so this unit has five unique screen features. It has a matte surface, touch screen capable, deciphers multiple touch gestures and responds to stylus input. On patrol, its screen readability alone puts it in the big league.
A pressure sensitive, multi-touch screen has some great advantages for law enforcement and military applications. If the reader wishes to experiment, I suggest putting on a pair gloves (or fake nails) and trying one of the newer cell phone touch screens. Many touch screens require the pads of the finger to touch the screen. The advantage to a pressure sensitive screen is accuracy and versatility. One can knuckle the V-100’s screen, but one can also use a fine stylus point.
A multi-touch screen is perfect for mapping gestures. For example, one can zoom a map or image by spreading the fingers on the screen.
The screen can be programmed for other things. Imagine having a screen where three spread fingers in a vertical slash means “Officer needs help” or similar signal. Combined with the fact that this machine can use a phone card and can report its location, I would say it’s worth every penny already.
The V-100 now ships with Gobi Broadband, which means that it is capable of staying connected to the Internet across multiple mobile carrier signals. With advances in technology and speed, Gobi has streamlined the means for staying connected on patrol.
Longacre and Williams told me that they originally began using Getac portable laptops when the model they were using at the time was discontinued. They adopted the Getac W130, and later the Getac V-100.
They had one incident where a heavy device flew in the air during a vehicle collision. This proves once and for all that things like radios and laptops cannot fly.
After a couple of years with Getac products, the City of Stockton has plenty of information about the V-100. Stockton PD mounts the V-100 like a tablet, and uses a docked keyboard.
They use the units for fingerprinting, report writing, DUI checkpoints, mugshots, warrants and even for specialized gang units. In one incident, a SGT working in a gang unit was reviewing reports. The unit was investigating a series of robberies in the area. When a suspicious vehicle pulled up, the SGT switched from reports to running plates.
The V-100 can locate itself, using wireless broadband and GPS. If the units were never dismounted from the patrol car, this feature wouldn't have a significant advantage. However, these officers take the laptop into the residence, drug lab (this laptop is rated for non-sparking continuous use), or crime scene. This feature just gives the agency another officer safety option.
The Getac V-100 is a superior law enforcement computing product. It proved capable of handling weather and temperature extremes, moisture and my abuse. It has features that make it a logical choice for sworn duty.