TEN HUT! Ok not really, but that’s what I thought as I opened this interesting pen-based Gammatech T7Q’s box. This tablet is not your normal every day tablet computer; in fact, most people would never want to carry this device. However, there are many who have a business where this device might be just the very thing they need. The Gammatech T7Q should be right at home with construction crews, delivery persons, geographic information system engineers and more.
How durable is it?
The Gammatech T7Q is made for situations where it may be dropped, possibly get wet, or be jostled around in a truck; it will even operate properly in a salty marine environment. Gammatech has allowed me to do three types of tests with this tablet: a drop test, followed by a vibration test, and the last was to pour water on it.
I dropped this on my carpeted floor in my office, and after I picked it up, the tablet booted right up. It didn’t even get one scratch on it after 3 drops. It would probably be fine even if you dropped it on concrete, although I wouldn’t try it with this as it’s a loaner, and it has to go back. But take it from me: this tablet is built to take it.
I ride a bus daily, and since this tablet wouldn’t fit in my backpack with the other gear I normally carry, I just sat it on the seat next to me. Anyone who has ever ridden public transit can tell you that buses reverberate with all sorts of vibration. I even had the device on while it sat next to me, and it suffered no ill effects. This tablet would be right at home being jostled in a truck.
For the water test, I took a cup of water and poured it over the tablet; I dried it off with a towel and let it sit over night. The next day I turned it on, and it booted just fine. Note: Gammatech certifies this as being IPX5 compliant when it comes to spill resistance. IPX5 is supposed to “take water projected by a nozzle (6.3mm) against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects” according to Wikipedia. That sounds pretty good and should definitely be able to handle occasionally getting a little rain on it or a cup of coffee being spilled near it. That said, even though it can take that, I wouldn’t recommend it! Tests are usually done under ideal conditions, so I would still try and protect this from inadvertent contact with water, but the occasional splash should not cause an issue.
How does it perform?
The hardware in this tablet is also unique. It came with not one but two batteries. This gives this tablet a pretty amazing run time of nearly 10 hours. That’s thanks to its power-sipping Atom-based processor which is also its weak point. Let’s look at the full specs as reviewed:
- Intel® Atom Processor N2600 (1.6GHz) / N2800 (1.86GHz)
- One 204-pin DDRII, SO-DIMM Socket
- m-SATA SSD 32GB to 64GB
- 2GB Ram
- Microsoft Windows® 7.
- 7” WSVGA (1024x 600 resolution) TFT LCD with resistive touch screen panel, LED backlighting
- Sunlight readable screen
- One 5pin USB interface connector besides the SD card slot
- Integrated 5.0 Mega-Pixel camera
The parts inside are mainly beefier versions of the insides of most netbooks. Since it’s based on the Atom processor, it’s not the speediest device there is. If the application you want to run on this is a processor intensive one, then the tablet will have some issues. However, if you are doing data collection, credit card processing, taking notes in the field, or even looking up cad drawings it should be fine. At least there are 2GB of RAM and an SSD drive in the default configuration, which makes the Atom run a bit better than I remember.
This tablet also includes some unique hardware. It has a rear facing camera, a GPS and a barcode reader. Pictures that you take with the included application can be geotagged, which might be nice for the construction industry. The above picture of my radio was taken with the T7Q. It’s not as good as most cell phone cameras in my opinion, but it’s good that it’s there. You won’t win photo contests with this camera, but at least you can get a picture.
The barcode reader works like a regular user input device, so it can insert the contents of any barcode scanned into any text field. I was able to scan codes into Notepad and into a web page as well. So you should be able to use this barcode reader with any in-house application including web-based applications.
The top of the tablet has a SD slot as well as a port where many of the optional peripherals can be plugged in. You can also get an optional LTE module allowing this to be used away from your office location.
The screen is a resistive type, and you will want to use the included stylus because of this; fingers do not work well on this screen. The stylus itself comes with a tether, and there is no place on the tablet to store the stylus. The tablet enhancements that come built into Windows 7 actually work quite well when using it with the stylus. The screen also promises to be sunlight readable, but that all depends on how high you have the brightness turned up. I was able to see it on the couple of days I used it outside, but it’s still not as easy as when you are viewing the screen inside. It won’t win any beauty contests but it’s more than sufficient for the type of uses this tablet should see. Oh and it also has a screen protector pre-installed, so you don’t have to mess with getting the first one on. Usually I am not a fan of screen protectors, but in this case it’s actually a necessity since you will be using it primarily with a stylus.
Oh and one more note about the hardware: it does not have a headphone port. Since this tablet is more likely to get use at the job site versus an indoor environment, this should not be an issue. If it is, you can always plug in a USB sound device into the one USB port on the T7Q.
Of course I do need to do my standard, “will it run Linux?” test. The answer is yes it does, but with some caveats. The latest Ubuntu will not boot on this tablet, because it does not support PAE, which is a technology used to allow 32 bit PC’s address more than 4GB of ram. I tried booting both the 64 bit and the 32 bit Ubuntu 12.04 Live disk on the T7Q and got nowhere. I was able to boot an old version of LinuxMint on it, but the digitizer on the tablet did not work correctly. It probably can be corrected if I actually wanted to do a full install, but since this is a loaner unit, I will be reverting it back to factory before I send it back. Gammatech ships no physical media with the T7Q, relying instead upon a restore partition on the SSD to get it back to the base install. You probably would be able to get Linux fully working on this if push came to shove, but out of the box it isn’t as nice as it should be. I’d give it about an 8 out of 10 with 10 being fully compatible.
While this isn’t your normal every day tablet, It’s still a pretty compelling device for those who need the durability and options that the T7Q has. At work, I showed this to our asset management team manager (they have to scan barcodes on PC’s in the field), and he thought it would be something they could use. They currently deploy devices based on Windows Mobile that require them to download the data to their application. The T7Q eliminates that letting them use the WiFi connection to upload the data instantly to the server as it’s scanned.
Other areas this might work include the retail space for scanning UPC codes for inventory, a terminal for a shipper like UPS, in construction, and just about any other environment where you would want to use a tablet style computer. Check out the Gammatech T7Q at.
Pricing: Starts at $2,399
What I Like: VERY durable
What Needs Improvement: Heavy, but the kind of durability you get makes it worth the extra weight; expensive