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Break me if you can: 4 rugged tablets put to the test

Brian Nadel | March 4, 2015
The gold standard for ruggedness is the Military Standard 810G rating (also known as MIL-STD-810G), a set of protocols that the U.S. Department of Defense uses to assess mobile computers.

The system's 10.1-in. screen (1920 x 1200 resolution) has chemically hardened glass and an oil-resistant coating that keeps fingerprints to a minimum (but seems to attract a lot of dust to the surface). Overall, the Flex 10's screen looked dull in direct sunlight compared to the others. It also was the least bright of the three Windows tablets (and roughly equivalent to the Galaxy Tab Active) at 322 candelas per square meter of illumination.

The speaker in the back is open to water seeping in; unlike the other two Windows tablets, the Flex 10 isn't IP65 rated. As a result, it is more appropriate for uses that involve only occasional outdoor activities or exposure to moisture.

The system's case has an on/off button, volume keys and a prominent Windows key on the bottom front panel (when holding the tablet horizontally); you need to firmly press your thumb on it to get it to work. The Flex 10 lacks the program start-up button that's on the other Windows tablets.

It comes with a front-facing HD camera and a back-facing 5-megapixel camera; there is no geo-tag feature for its images. I found that its video wasn't as clear as that offered by the others.

It leads in terms of ports: The Flex 10 comes with a micro SD card slot as well as one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port. It also has an HDMI and an audio connector. There's a stylus that can be tethered to the unit. The unit itself doesn't have a slot for the stylus; instead, the tablet and the pen slide into a flexible cloth sleeve.

The review unit came with a quad-core Atom Z3770 processor that runs between 1.5GHZ and 2.4GHz; the company is planning to move to the newer Z3775 processor within a couple of months. It was also equipped with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of SSD storage space.

After I dropped, spilled on and shook the system, the Flex 10 was unscathed, although the silicone edging came loose (but it was easy to push it back). The benchmark score of 537.6 was lower than that of the other two Windows systems I tested.

The Flex 10's 7400mAh battery powered the system for five hours and 15 minutes of continuous playback of videos from a USB key, the shortest of the three Windows tablets. It does have one advantage: It uses a micro-USB port for charging and comes with an AC adapter that's the smallest of the bunch.

It includes Windows 8.1 with Bing, and comes with a one-year warranty; an extra year of coverage costs $95.

Bottom line

The Flex 10 sells for an attractive $695. Although it's not as fast or as watertight as the other tablets reviewed here, for the money, the Flex 10 offers a good amount of ruggedness.

 

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