Itronix GoBook XR-1 review
Extremely tough and lighter than its predecessor, but battery life isn't as good
Emblazoned across the lid of the Itronix GoBook XR-1 are the words General Dynamics. That's because the giant US ship, aircraft, and weapons maker acquired Itronix in September last year. While computing seems at odds with some of the other products in the company's line-up, the rugged devices Itronix produces fit well with GD's military hardware operation.
The military is exactly the kind of client who might be interested in the GoBook XR-1 (model IX270), along with emergency services and field service engineers. No need to bother with a carry bag - just close the lid, grab the built-in handle and go. At 3.6kg, it feels heavy to carry, but is in fact about what an ordinary notebook weighs once you've put it inside a decent bag.
It's also considerably lighter than its 4.4kg predecessor, the GoBook III (see issue 126, p66). While the XR-1 looks less tank-like and more stylishly rounded, the basic design remains similar, so shaving 18% off the weight is commendable. Materials used in construction include magnesium alloy, aluminium and tough plastic.
One of the reasons we loved the GoBook III was that its 1.8GHz Pentium M could embarrass many non-ruggedised notebooks of the time; traditionally, you had to compromise on performance to get rugged features. The XR-1 continues the same efforts with a 1.82GHz Core Duo T2400, although not quite to the same degree. However, there's nothing wrong with an overall score of 0.80 in our 2D benchmarks: it's certainly fast enough for the jobs it will be doing, and a dual-core CPU will aid the kind of multitasking a rugged notebook could well see in the field.
For any 3D graphics, there's a 128MB (HyperMemory) ATi Mobility Radeon X300, which should cope with Vista if you choose to replacethe XP Professional that's installed. Standard RAM is 512MBof 667MHz DDR2, with a maximum of 2GB.
If you work in harsh environments, you'll appreciate the MIL STD 810F and IP54 compliance. That's confusing at first, because there are several airflow grilles around the case where dust or water could get in but, like the previous design these are isolated from the electronic internals. One disappointment, though, is that the rubber-sealed door over our optical drive and PC Card slot wouldn't stay closed and, in a harsh environment, would have let particles in or been snapped off altogether. The doors over the three USB ports, two audio jacks, serial, Gigabit Ethernet, modem and VGA ports aren't rubber-sealed, and the mini-FireWire connector doesn't have a cover at all. While this won't stop the laptop working, it could prove an annoyance if dirt gets in.
The LCD screen is impressive. Although it's a touchscreen (with two styli on board in case one gets dropped), you can press it, poke it and even give it a good rap with your knuckles without even a ripple in the liquid crystals. At the same time, it remains responsive to stylus and fingernail alike, and the graininess typical of touchscreens is kept to a minimum. Whites are a bit more yellow than a standard screen andthe resolutionis only 1,024 x 768, but, importantly, it's readable in sunlight. Keyboard options include glow-in-the-dark keys or backlighting and, although the keys may rattle a bit, the board is pleasingly firm to type on.
The XR-1 can support up to four radios at the same time: 802.11a/b/g WLAN, Bluetooth, GPS and a GPRS/UTMS/HSDPA card, thankfully doing away with the external antenna of the earlier GoBook III. Underneath the chassis are external antenna lugs and a docking port, so it can also be mounted in-car.