Screen and Speakers
The 13.3-inch XGA panel is quite bright, tipping the scale against most of the other notebooks we have reviewed. It is rated at 1400 nit, which works in a sunlight mode from the push of a button. No matter what your previous setting was it goes into its super bright mode that feels like a laser pointer shining in your eyes if the room is dark enough. The display rates average in terms of color saturation and contrast. We used our Gossen light meter to measure the brightness of the screen in both viewing modes. At the standard 100% level, the screen had a max brightness of 291 nit and an average contrast ratio of 96:1. In sunlight mode, the max brightness skyrocketed up to 1320 nit and had an average contrast ratio of 97:1. I feel the screen would have looked better if the panel was completely exposed like on a normal notebook, but since it is recessed with a digitizer and protective panel some quality was lost. Horizontal viewing angles were good with little or no distortion at steep angles. Vertical viewing angles were made limited with colors quickly inverting as you move to lower angles and colors washing out as you go to higher angles.
Our B300 review unit was supplied with a touch display, which worked very well for mild input. Getac includes a mini telescoping stylus which is located above the keyboard for precise input, but I usually just used my fingertip. Compared to most panels you had to push harder to get the surface to detect your input, but this was only a problem with my fingertip, not the stylus.
Screen protection was excellent with a protective layer that can handle flying fists without showing more than a smudge on the surface. The Getac ruggedized notebooks are the only notebooks we have seen in house that have this level of protection to the display panel.
Speaker sound quality wasn’t the best, but Getac was interested in making them durable and waterproof instead of packing the B300 with the latest surround sound system. They were located on the front edge of the notebook, protected by the carrying handle as well as durable speaker grills. For headphone or headset use, there are jacks on the side for both headphones and a mic.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard was easy to type on, much nicer than the rubber membrane keyboard on the Getac M230 we reviewed last year. The keyboard feels similar to the one on my ThinkPad, with the only difference being the perfectly smooth surface instead of the light matte finish Lenovo uses. Most of the keys were full-size except those found on the right side, which were narrowed slightly to make room for dedicated page navigation keys. The keyboard also features a red backlight in 3 levels of brightness for easy nighttime viewing.
The Synaptics keyboard required a heavier touch than I was used to, which was probably related to some coating on top of it to make it more durable than the common touchpad. Increasing the sensitivity helped a bit, but I think it still felt weird. In a day and age when most touchpads are flush-mount or integrated into the palmrest surface, the B300’s version feels a bit strange at first. It is deeply recessed, which might take some transition time to get used to it. The touchpad buttons are rubber coated and require more pressure to activate than most buttons. The rubber cover made them soft to touch, but they still only gave shallow feedback when pressed.
Ports and Features
Port selection for modern and not-so-modern devices is excellent, with two USB, one eSATA/USB combo port, FireWire, two serial connections, one PCMCIA slot, one ExpressCard/54 slot, LAN/Modem, VGA and HDMI-out, and a docking connector. All ports are fully sealed with rubber or metal covers to keep dust, water, and sand out.