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General Dynamics Itronix Ruggedized GD6000 Laptop Review

by The Review CrewMay 30, 2010

When is rugged too rugged? General Dynamics Itronix realized that a majority of fully-rugged notebooks were rarely being taken out of vehicles—and customers were paying for protection they didn’t need. That’s why the company has a “vehicle-rugged notebook,” the GD6000. This notebook can withstand the rigors of being in a car, including vibration, drops, dust, and the occasional coffee spill. $3,545 may seem like a steep price point, but the premium is worth it for those who want their investment to last beyond the three-year warranty.

Design

From the outside, the GD6000 looks like a fully rugged notebook, and bears more than a passing resemblance to the GD8000. The entire system is gray and black, with the exception of the keyboard, which has black type on white buttons. The GD6000 is not going to win any style points—the Dell Latitude E6400 XFR has more of a “rugged chic” look—but neither is it going to shatter any mirrors, unless you throw it at one.

At 10.2 x 12.1 x 2.2 inches and weighing 6.2 pounds, this isn’t a notebook you’re going to tote around much, but a metal handle and rubberized grip running along its spine makes carrying the system easier. The fully rugged 14-inch Dell E6400 XFR weighs 9.0 pounds, while the semi-rugged Panasonic Toughbook 74 weighs 6.0 pounds.

Heat

As its more spacious chassis undoubtedly allows for greater air circulation, the GD6000 stayed very cool during our tests. After playing a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the temperature of the touchpad reached 83 degrees Fahrenheit, the space between the G and H keys was 86 degrees, and the middle of the underside measured 95 degrees. We consider anything greater than 100 degrees to be uncomfortable.

Keyboard and Touchpad

As mentioned above, the keyboard on the GD6000 is white with black lettering; this makes the keys easy to see in dimly lit environments, even without backlighting. However, for those times then it’s too dark, two lights embedded in the display hinge provide more than enough illumination, even in a pitch-black room. The keys themselves were a little shallow when it came to travel, but they were comfortable and responsive to type on.

Considering the size of the deck, the 2.3 x 1.6-inch touchpad was on the small side, but it offered smooth operation. The two mouse buttons below were nice and snappy, but you can only press them toward the outer half.

Display and Audio

The GD6000 uses a 13.3-inch, 1024 x 768-pixel touchscreen. That resolution is on the low side, but we like the 500-nit brightness, which is paired with General Dynamics’ DynaVue technology to make the panel easily viewable in sunlight. The display sports a traditional 16:10 aspect ratio, which provides more vertical real estate to fit more information on the screen.

We could only tilt the display back about 28 degrees before the image started to degrade. Horizontal viewing angles were much better; people sitting on either side of the system could see the screen easily. However, the coating kicks back plenty of reflections in brightly-lit areas.

The GD6000’s resistive touchscreen can be used with either your finger or the included stylus, which is a nice feature. The glossy screen created too much friction when using our finger; we had to press firmly for the display to recongize any of our movements. When we did get it to work, though, the GD6000 was responsive as we spun the globe in Google Earth. The screen does not support more than one finger input at a time, so multitouch gestures are out.

Two integrated stereo speakers above the display were decently loud; while this isn’t an entertainment system, we were also impressed with their fidelity when listening to music or watching movies.

Ports

With the exception of the headphone jack, mic input, and a Kensington lock slot on the left side, all of the GD6000’s ports are on the back: VGA, Ethernet, modem, two USB 2.0, and a serial port. These are covered by rubber seals to protect them against the elements, but accessing them is made difficult not only by their placement on the rear, but also by the carrying handle. The right side of the notebook has an ExpressCard/54 slot, PC Card slot, and the optical drive. Unlike a fully rugged system, such as the Dell E6400 XFR, the ports and slots are not protected by hinged covers.

The GD6000 does not come with a webcam.

Green Testing

The GD6000 took 1 hour and 5 minutes to charge its battery to 80 percent, and another 46 minutes to completely recharge. During that time, the notebook drew an average of 52.9 watts. Its LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Rating (total watts divided by the battery life) of 27.1 is well below the mainstream average of 44.4, and more on a par with thin-and-light notebooks (26.1). Lower scores are better.

Configurations and Warranty

As the GD6000 is designed for enterprise users, there are plenty of customization options, including a solid state hard drive, a hard drive heater, Smart Card reader, up to 4GB of RAM, a nine-cell battery pack, and various software bundles. Pricing depends on the number of units ordered.

The GD6000 comes with a three-year limited parts-and-labor warranty and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Monday through Friday) tech support. Customers can upgrade to 24/7 tech support with an agent assigned to their individual accounts, but the price varies on a client-by-client basis.

Verdict

When you’re driving around all day in a vehicle, having a fully rugged notebook is overkill, but a business rugged system won’t cut it, either. At $3,545, the GD Itronix GD6000 is just right, costing about $700 less than the GD8000, a fully rugged system with lower performance numbers. While notebooks such as the $5,137 Dell Latitude E6400 XFR are best for those working in the most extreme of environmental conditions, the GD6000 offers a good mix of protection and portability for a reasonable price.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.

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