Rugged Tablet and iPad Buying Guide

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The rugged tablets and cases we’ve reviewed can stand up to water, heat, vibration, impacts and dust.

Rugged tablets can help you analyze data, ensure profitability, give customers and prospects what they need. Plus, they can stand up to the rigors of the field, while still helping you manage time spent on rough jobs. But how do you pick the right one for your next job site? There are a few things to keep in mind. 

Should you buy a basic tablet or iPad?  

Before choosing a ruggedized tablet, you may be wondering why a regular tablet with a rugged case is not efficient enough. There are plenty of rugged cases that can work to protect an iPad, for example. They may even be good enough to survive on a construction site, or in other rugged work environments.  

However, these devices, even with rugged cases, still do not perform like a rugged tablet can. For instance, to make an iPad, or other basic tablet, into a usable job site workhorse you’d need more than a case. First of all, cases (and people who put them on) aren’t infallible. An open port hole can lead to dust or water damage. 

You’d need a screen filter to make it more readable in direct sunlight. Even then you’d need to turn the brightness all the way up as well, which will drain your battery in a hurry.  

Rugged Windows tablets often come with GPS and cellular service built in. That means not only do you have the standard operating system used by the rest of the company, but you can stay in touch and track your employees on the site easily. Plus, rugged tablets often offer a stricter level of security, better protecting you and your company’s data.  

Lastly, rugged tablets often come with an optional barcode scanner, which can make data entry and tracking records seamless. No need to purchase a separate device.  

Three rugged tablets to consider

Getac F110 

The fully rugged Getac F110 sports an 11.6-inch display with a LumiBond 2.0 touchscreen that can handle rain, glove or pen modes. It comes with its own hard-tip stylus for capturing signatures or drawings. The Windows tablet is powered by a 6th generation Intel Core i7 processor, which is all the power you could want in a desktop but in a much more compact and touchscreen friendly design. Perhaps best of all is the two hot-swappable batteries, which means it could offer nearly limitless endurance. It comes with TPM, Absolute DDS to block unauthorized access, and NFC/RFID reader, Fingerprint Scanner and a smart card reader. The F110 can be configured with LTE, GPS, WWAN and WLAN for on-the-go connectivity.  
Price: $2,099 
 
Panasonic Toughpad FZ-Q2  
The 12.5-inch display on this semi-rugged 2-in-1 combines the best of a rugged tablet with that of a rugged laptop. This Windows 10 Pro device features an anti-reflective touchscreen with 1920 x 1090-pixel resolution. It’s powered by an Intel Core M5 CPU and comes with 8GB of RAM. The multi-touch capacitive waterproof pen is tethered to the screen so it won’t get lost. The spill-resistant keyboard can keep up with your construction zone messes. You can access and swap out the 128GB or 256GB SSD and battery. It offers a SmartCard reader or a contactless SmartCard reader.  
Price: $2,221 
 
Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 8.0  
If Android fits into your business, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 8.0, with its 1280 x 800-pixel display, may be for you. It’s drop and water resistant. It shrugs off dirt, and it comes with a stylus that docks into the tablet’s protective case. You can remove the back cover to swap out a new battery, which should last up to 12 hours on a charge by itself. The insides are powered by a 1.2-GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm APQ8026 processor, which should offer plenty of oomph for most tasks. It can hold 16GB of data onboard, or you can add up to 64GB more via microSD, but there’s no cellular option on the Galaxy Tab Active 8.0. And you get all this for more than half what a Windows rugged tablet would cost you.  
Price: $523 

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Chayantorn
 

Samantha Donaldson

A web developer and freelance journalist, Samantha Donaldson specializes in cyber security and business, as well as being a Most Valuable Contributor for Red Hat.

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