The Gammatech’s U12C Durabook Review

It takes a certain type of laptop to stand up to certain jobs. Most laptops find comfort on a desk, in a padded bag, or possibly in the local coffee shop around the corner. Gammatech sent me a laptop suited perfectly for all those tasks and a whole lot more. Usually the worst that happens to most laptops is polished keys and touchpad, where your fingers have rubbed the finish off. Possibly it could fall victim of a flight off of your bed or the table after you happen to trip over your power cord. Luckily for those accident prone geeks and tech abusers we have companies like Gammatech that fill that void and produce ruggedized laptops for even the worst of conditions.

The military has been using ruggedized laptops for years. Soldiers are probably the number one danger to all things tech, and for a good reason. I have been an Signal/IT tech in the army for over 14 years. I have seen and repaired some of worst cases of computer damage that man or machine can inflict. Any piece of technology that is used in the field needs to meet a certain standard, or the life of that device will be very short-lived. Gammatech is just one of the many manufacturer’s that design and produce laptops that can withstand the dangers of being in soldiers hands. They were nice enough to send a review unit out to me for testing, I put it through the paces over a few weeks time and came up with some interesting results. Of course since this is a review unit I was sure to take special care so that I did not send back a box full of broken silicon, but as you will see the Gammatech U12c can hold its own when put against some harsh conditions.

Loving the tagline “Notebook For The Real World”

The U12c has some very current specs that put it right in line with most laptops available today. Here is the breakdown of the model that I was fortunate enough to get my hands on.

  • Intel Core i5-560UM CPU
  • 2GB DDR3 1333 Memory
  • 60GB SSD
  • 12.1″ WXGA (1280 X 800) Convertible Touchscreen Display(resistive)
  • Intel 6200AGN WiFi
  • Windows 7 Pro

As you can see from the specs alone, the Durabook can hold its own in the 12″ market. Where this device sets itself apart from the rest is the military build specifications, the magnesium clad exterior, and it’s overall rugged and weather resistant casing. There is also a very convenient carry handle that latches the screen closed when not in use and locks the screen in place when you are using it in tablet mode. The top lid of the laptop and the bezel around the keypad are is silver in color and feels smooth to the touch. The screen bezel and the bottom are covered in a black texture finish that felt slightly rough textured but very rigid and durable.

This laptop is pretty much the opposite of a finger print magnet. It certainly is not designed for all the pretty lights and shiny finish, but is much less prone to fingerprints, scratches, nicks and dents that most other laptops fall victim to. The overall feel is pretty solid, and they managed to ruggedize without adding a lot of bulk and heft to the to hybrid little machine.

“Ruggedness” Credentials

– DropMIL-STD 810G, Method 516.4, Procedure IV, 4 feet drop
– VibrationNon-Operating: MIL-STD-810G, Method 514.6, Procedure I, Category 24, Fig. 514.6E-1, Fig. 514.6E-2
Operating: ASTM 4169, Truck Transport, 11.5.2 Random test, Assurance Level 2
– TemperatureOperating: -20°C ~50°C (with SSD)Storage: -40°C ~ 70°C
– HumidityOperating : 20% ~ 90% RH
– Spill ProofOperating: 100cc water drop on all keyboard and touchpad area in 2-5 seconds


The exterior of the machine has a good amount of ports to keep everything connected. Every port or connection is nicely tucked behind a plastic or rubberized cover that prevents dust, dirt, water, and grime from entering the ports while not in use. This is pretty standard on all ruggedized machines, and after opening and closing each one they feel and look like all the covers do a good job of keeping everything protected. On this model I found an Ethernet jack, VGA, SD slot, ExpressCard slot, Kensington lock, 3X USB 2.0, eSata, Mic, Audio, RS232 connector, and a smart card reader. On the screen there was also a fingerprint reader and underneath a docking connector. This should be enough ports to connect whatever you need, and has the capability to be expanded even further with an optional dock. There are also options for 3G WWAN, GPS, and Bluetooth if the requirements are needed.

*other modular port bay options available

Laptop Configuration

Using the U12C as a standard laptop felt like using any other. The keyboard was spread out enough and was easy to type on and had and the keys felt nice as I typed. Windows 7 ran like a champ on the hardware and all the sites I loaded up and software I ran was without any issues. The viewing angles were also pretty nice and the built-in speakers were better than average for a small form factor laptop. The touchpad and buttons gave me no problems and the webcam picked up images in decent lighting the same as many higher end laptops. I ran a few movies, some flash sites, and did some standard productivity on as a test and really felt pretty comfortable from a daily use standpoint. I think with the Intel Core series ULV processors, connectivity options, and overall ease of use, you could pretty much throw most business oriented tasks at this little machine and not skip a beat.

Tablet Configuration

For me this is the make or break point of having a hybrid tablet machine. Having used some of the best that the Army offers in this configuration, I was hoping to find something that stood out over the Panasonic, Dell, and other mil-spec machines that I have used. The screen is a really important factor for me. I often need a screen that if viewable in sunlight, has decent touch sensitivity, and has enough juice to last a while in the field. As you saw above GammaTech included a stylus that stores nicely in the side of the machine and is tethered with a strong piece of cord which was a great idea. The screen is resistive, which you might think is older technology and is not as sensitive as the newer screens available such as the one on your smart phone. This is for a good reason, this screen is made so that you can touch it with gloves on. That is good news for anyone that plans on using this machine as it is intended. I calibrated the screen and tested with both the stylus and with gloves. The sensitivity has a slightly slow feeling, but the overall control is great and it allows you to navigate pretty easily either way. Compared to some of the resistive screens I have used, this one is pretty solid. The anti reflective finish on the screen is also polarized, this helps cut down glare and makes it pretty usable in sunlight. Not quite as good as a e-ink screen or Pixel-Qi, but for the intended operation is quite nice.

Using the tablet folded down is pretty easy. With the screen latched you obviously no longer have access to the keyboard, so Durabook made some hard buttons that let you easily access some things that your normally would need to the fish through a few menu’s to get to. There are 4 buttons on the left side allowing you to + or _ brightness, place the machine in to standby, and a power button. There are also 4 buttons on the right side. There is a stealth button that turns off all lights and sound, a custom programmable button, a LCD orientation button, and a button connectivity menu button. I found these all very helpful, especially if you use the U12C in a tablet configuration often. The biometric fingerprint reader worked as expected, after registering a fingerprint it worked without a hitch and adds that extra level of security that some companies require.


After a few days of use and some testing with my Army unit the Durabook passed the field test with flying colors. Because it was a review unit (and it will need to be returned), I didn’t test too much against the elements or put it through some of the more rigorous field tests, but the device looks to be a solid contender in the small ruggedized class. I especially enjoyed using it in the tablet configuration and really liked the hard buttons put on the screen. This would be perfect for anyone in construction, military, field operations, first responders, or anyone who just needs a rugged machine with some good specs and great portability. The screen help up pretty well to all the touch inputs and was viewable well outside in sunlight. There are quite a good assortment of ports and expandability options as well as a few configurations as far as hardware. I would have liked to see an included USB CD-Drive, especially with use in the military since we still rely heavily on CD based programs and storage.

Be sure to check out Gammatech’s site for more products and information. Thanks to Gammatech for sending us this unit for review.


MSRP: ~ $1400 as tested

What I Like: Solid chassis and military spec durability; Excellent use of hard buttons in tablet configuration; Solid touchscreen and daylight viewable display; Plenty of ports for expandability and connectivity; Hardware runs windows 7 without issue; Stylus included

What Needs Improvement: No optical drive included (although now pretty cheap on the market); No USB 3.0; Power adapter was not military spec, so it could be subject to potential damage from the elements
U12C product brochure (165K pdf)

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