When your workplace ranges from the desert to the sea, when conditions can go from bad to worse at any time, you need equipment that can withstand anything—that’s where fully rugged PCs come in. Designed for use by military and first-responders, rugged tablets like the Xplore Wildcat M2 may not boast the smartphone-thin designs of consumer tablets, but they can be dropped, tossed, splash, and smashed, and keep going. Sometimes, that’s all you really need.
First and foremost, the Xplore Wildcat M2 is built to be tough. Designed with front-line military personnel and first-responders in mind, the Xplore Wildcat is built to meet an array of military ruggedness standards, which outlines an array of conditions that would destroy other tablets. Drop, shock, temperature, altitude—even business rugged systems offer some protection against these; but the Xplore Wildcat goes much farther, withstanding blowing dust, salt-water spray, 7-foot drops onto concrete, fluid contamination, even bizarre hazards like fungus or solar radiation. This is a tablet design for sea spray and sand storms, made to be taken into the sorts of punishing environments that would leave a normal system mangled.
As with all highly ruggedized devices, the Xplore Wildcat is anything but slim. Rubber seals cover ports, while chunky rubber bumpers cover every corner. A sturdy handle is attached to one edge of the tablet with a tough nylon strap, a stylus clip (along with a tethered stylus) runs along the bottom edge, and a multi-layered magnesium chassis protects the tablet with tank-like armor.The result is a tablet that measures 1.6 by 11.2 by 8.25 inches (HWD)—more than an inch and a half thick—and weighs a beefy 5.4 pounds.
The stout tablet features a 10.4-inch touch display, with dual-mode input supporting both finger touch and stylus use. The display, like the rest of the tablet, is made to be used in the field, with full sunlight readability. Additionally, the small display offers 1,024-by-768 resolution. Sound is also optimized for use outside the office, with stereo speakers and a noise cancelling microphone. The tablet also features a removable battery with warm-swap capability—you’ll be able to swap out batteries with only a brief break in workflow, without having to power down the tablet.
Rubber port covers on the side of the tablet protect an array of features, most of which will be familiar to any laptop or tablet user. Pull open one cover and you’ll find connections for AC power, two USB 2.0 ports, and connections for headphones and microphone. Pull back the other cover and you’ll find a Serial/VGA port and Ethernet port. A Kensington lock slot lets you secure the tablet from theft, and business features like TPM, Intel Anti-Theft, and Computrace are all standard.
Under the removable battery if a microSD card slot (secured behind a tool-free access panel) and another secure cover protects a SIM card slot, which is necessary for the optional GOBI 3000 WWAN. Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi are standard. There are also a few specialized sensors and tools built in, like a fingerprint reader for easy secure logins, an optional high-accuracy (sub-meter) GPS, and a 3 Megapixel rear-facing camera that can be used to scan barcodes as well as snap photos and shoot video.
It’s also equipped with a 160GB solid-state drive (SSD). While it doesn’t provide a lot of storage space, it’s enough for installing the programs it needs from day to day and storing work related files. The Xplore Wildcat comes with Windows 7 Pro installed, but very little else. It’s much like the rest of the system, designed with a clear purpose in mind, and nothing superfluous added to it. Xplore covers the Wildcat M2 with a generous three-year warranty and also adds Xplore’s own tech support, called X-Care.
The Xplore Wildcat M2 is built to survive all manner of nastiness and be stable in all conditions, but it’s not necessarily to be the fastest thing around—it’s equipped with an Intel Core i7-620UM (a dual-core processor from early 2010) paired with 8GB of RAM. Despite the mildly outdated hardware, the Xplore Wildcat M2 scored 1,704 points in PCMark7 and 1.34 points in Cinebench. By comparison, the recently reviewed Kupa UltraNote X15 Ultra business tablet scored 4,487 points (PCMark 7) and 2.73 points (Cinebench R11.5).
But, to put this in better perspective, it’s worth noting that many utilitarian tablets opt for Intel Atom processors, which offer longer battery life, but significantly less processing power, and are limited to running Windows at 32-bits instead of the 64-bits required by some software. The Xplore Wildcat M2 may only have scored 1.34 points in Cinebench, but Atom powered alternatives scored much lower, like the business-rugged Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 (0.18 points) or the tank-like Panasonic ToughBook CF-U1 handheld, which scored 0.24 points. By comparison, the Intel Core i7-equipped Xplore Wildcat M2 is a speed demon.
The processor’s integrated graphics solution provides limited graphics rendering capabilities, but for most tasks—data entry, communication, and the like—it will do the job just fine. For more complex graphics tasks, the Intel HD Graphics won’t cut it—for example, you’ll have no luck working with AutoCAD.
The one area where Atom-powered alternatives have the advantage, however, is in battery life. The Xplore Wildcat M2 lasted 3 hours 29 minutes in our battery rundown test. The warm-swappable battery can be swapped out quickly, but it doesn’t quite compare to the dual hot-swappable batteries found in the Panasonic ToughBook CF-U1 handheld, which could be swapped with no break in workflow, and lasted a full 9 hours with both batteries.
Most of the reviews we write center on performance and features. Rugged PC devices are no different, but the feature that matters most becomes the ability to survive and repel the sorts of hazards that would ruin other tablets. With a heavily protected design, an array of features, and solid performance that tops any Atom-powered competitor, the Xplore Wildcat M2 is an easy pick when you need a tablet PC that won’t quit in rough conditions.
|Processor Name||Intel Core i7-U620|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 7 Professional|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics, Intel HD Graphics|
|RAM||8 GB, 8 GB|
|Processor Speed||1.07 GHz|
|Primary Optical Drive||External|
|Screen Size||10.4 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||160 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc