Getac B300 Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (20,798)

The Getac B300 ruggedized notebook is aimed towards a more demanding consumer, like the police, military, remote research companies, or anyone that might destroy a normal notebook throughout the course of daily business. The B300 offers an Intel Core 2 Duo L7500 processor, optional 500 NIT touch screen, and optional integrated GPS and 3G WWAN housed inside a super rugged chassis with built-in carrying handle. How well does this notebook hold up in our extra-ordinary daily activities? Read our full review to find out!

Getac B300 Specifications:

  • Windows XP Professional
  • Intel Core Duo Processor L7500 (1.6GHz, 4MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB)
  • 13.3″ XGA Touchscreen (1024×768, Matte finish)
  • 2GB DDR2 System Memory (2 Dimm, 4GB max)
  • Intel X3100 Integrated Graphics
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 4965AGN Network Connection
  • Optional Connections:
    • Optional GPS (with internal antenna)
    • Optional Bluetooth(v2.0 class 2)
    • Optional EV-DO/GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA
  • 120GB Fujitsu 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • 8X DVD+/-RW with Double Layer Support
  • External Connections: AC Input, 2 USB, Firewire, 2 Serial, Docking Connection, 2 PC-Card, VGA, LAN, Modem, Parallel, IR, and Headphone/Mic
  • 11.1v 7800mAh Battery (12 hours estimated)
  • Dimensions:11.9” x 10.35” x 2.36”
  • Weight:8lbs 7.3oz
  • 90W AC adapter
  • Price starting at: $3,249

Build and Design
The design of the Getac B300 is industrial, with massive rubber bumpers, deep grooved alloy lid, rugged port covers, and its own carrying handle. I love this type of design that looks as if nothing could harm the notebook short of a semi trailer truck running over it. The panels are lined with stainless steel screws holding every edge of the body together. I can count 23 screws on the display cover alone. The only splash of color to break up the grey and black panels is the Intel Centrino sticker and indicator lights.

Build quality is fantastic, exactly what you would expect from a notebook designed for military and law enforcement environments. Every single feature down to the touchpad buttons has been designed to withstand impacts or water infiltration without skipping a beat. All ports are covered and sealed through the use of rubber caps or hinged panels to keep out dust and water. The battery and hard drive are accessible without the use of a screwdriver, having only a locking quick release panel covering them for swapping in the field.

The onboard carrying handle attached to the palmrest section of the B300 is one of my favorite parts. It pops out when you need to transport the notebook, and is every bit as rugged as the notebook itself. When you are finished you pop it back into place and it becomes an extension to the palmrest. Using the B300 as my primary computer I became more worried about damaging other stuff carrying this around than the notebook itself. Accidentally swing a backpack into a wall and it might just bounce off without causing harm. Accidentally swing this into a wall and you are likely to leave a huge dent in your wall.

The GETAC B300 is rated for the following test specifications:

Temperature
According to IEC 68-2-1,2,14 / MIL-STD-810F, Method 501.4, 502.4

  • Operating: 0˚C (32˚F) to 55˚C (131˚F)
  • -20˚C (4˚F) to 55˚C (low temperature option)
  • Non-operating: -40˚C (-40˚F) to 70˚C (158˚F)

Humidity
According to IEC 68-2-30 / MIL-STD-810F, Method 507

  • 45% to 95% RH, non-condensing

Altitude
According to IEC 68-2-13/ MIL-STD-810F, Method 500.4

  • Operating: 15,000ft
  • Non-operating: 40,000ft
  • Altitude change rate: 2,000ft/min

Shock
According to IEC 68-2-27/ MIL-STD-810F, Method 516.5

Drop
According to IEC 68-2-32 / MIL-STD-810F, Method 516.5

Vibration
According to IEC 68-2-6 / MIL-STD-810F, Method 514.5

ESD
According toIEC1000-4-2

Enclosure
According to IEC 529, NEMA, MIL-STD-810F, Method 506.4, 510.4 IP 54 compliance

Regulation
FCC, UL, CUL, TUV, CE, CB, CCC, PSE, WHQL, BSMI, e-Mark

Other
MIL-STD 461E (option), MIL-STD-3009 “Night Vision” (option)

What most of these ratings mean for the average user is the notebook won’t break when you drop it, won’t care if you spill something on it, doesn’t care if it shakes around in a car under daily use, and really doesn’t mind if you say mean spirited things to it.

Display
The 13.3” XGA panel is quite bright, tipping the scale against most of the other notebooks we have reviewed. It is rated at 500nit, 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. 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 mode limited with colors quickly inverting as you move to lower angles and colors washing out as you go to higher angles.

If a 500nit screen is not bright enough for you, Getac also offers this notebook with a 1200nit screen … for viewing your laptop on the surface of the sun. Our B300 review unit was supplied with a resistive 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.

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 still felt weird. 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.

Performance
The Getac B300 was equipped with a low voltage L7500 Core 2 Duo processor for lower power consumption and low thermal output. Designed without a cooling fan which would allow dust and water infiltration the system had to be designed with a slower processor. For most daily activities you don’t notice any slowdowns or lag. Decoding movies would be limited to very light 720p video or standard definition movies. Gaming is out of the question, but this computer is designed for a completely different consumer group.  Boot times with Windows XP were more than acceptable, with few preinstalled applications to slow the system down.

Before running any benchmarks we updated the system with the latest Windows updates and patches, including SP3.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Getac B300 (Intel Core 2 Duo L7500 @ 1.6GHz)
52.328 seconds
Dell Latitude E6400 (Intel Core 2 Duo P9500 @ 2.53GHz) 30.497 seconds
Toshiba Satellite U405 (Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.1GHz) 37.500 seconds
Lenovo ThinkPad T400 (Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 2.8GHz) 27.410 seconds
HP Pavilion dv4t (Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 2.8GHz) 26.972 seconds
Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz) 34.628 seconds

 

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Getac B300 (1.6GHz Intel L7500, Intel X3100) 3,283 PCMarks
Dell Latitude E6400 (2.53GHz Intel P9500, Nvidia Quadro NVS 160M 256MB) 5,780 PCMarks
Toshiba U405 (2.1GHz Intel T8100, Intel X3100) 3,052 PCMarks
Lenovo T400 (2.80GHz Intel T9600, ATI Radeon 3470 256MB GDDR3) 6,589 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, NVIDIA 9200M GS 256MB) 5,463 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9300M GS 256MB) 5,173 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 measures video and gaming performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Getac B300 (1.6GHz Intel L7500, Intel X3100) 533 3DMarks
Dell Latitude E6400 (2.53GHz Intel P9500, Nvidia Quadro NVS 160M 256MB) 1,818 3DMarks
Toshiba U405 (2.1GHz Intel T8100, Intel X3100) 539 3DMarks
Lenovo T400 (2.80GHz Intel T9600, ATI Radeon 3470 256MB GDDR3) 2,575 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, NVIDIA 9200M GS 256MB) 1,741 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9300M GS 256MB) 2,211 3DMarks

*All 3DMark06 benchmark tests are set at 1280 x 800 screen resolution.

HDTune storage drive performance results:

 

Speakers and Audio
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.

Ports and Features
Port selection for modern and not-so-modern devices is excellent, with three USB, FireWire, two serial connections, two PCMCIA slots, LAN/Modem, VGA, and a docking connector. All ports are fully sealed with rubber or metal covers to keep dust, water, and sand out.

Our B300 also included a GPS receiver which worked well indoors, getting a lock on 10 or more satellites on my desk. Getac included a fingerprint reader on the palmrest located under a sliding panel to keep out water and debris. This was one of the coolest implementations of a fingerprint reader we have seen on a notebook.

Battery Life
With the system set to the laptop/portable power profile, system brightness to 70%, and wireless active the system managed 8 hours and 55 minutes before it shutdown. With the system locked into a low power state and screen brightness reduced the estimated battery life increased to 12 hours and 30 minutes. With wireless disabled the time jumped by another 30 minutes. Using the sunlight mode adds roughly 15 watts of power consumption to any mode you are in, bringing your battery life down to a measly 4 hours.

Heat and Noise
System noise was non-existent since Getac uses a passive cooling system on the B300, with no fans. The thick metal chassis becomes the heatsink for the processor, which in the case of the B300 means one massive heatsink. Heat output was minimal through the case with it feeling mildly warm after hours of use. There were no real hot spots on the bottom and the top half was always cool. The external temperatures shown below are listed in degrees Fahrenheit:

Conclusion
The Getac B300 is designed to handle any situation short of a direct mortar attack. It is fully sealed against water, dust, and sand when all the ports are covered. The B300 is everything we expect when we hear the term “rugged notebook” with its thick metal chassis, attached carrying handle, impact resistant display, and passive cooling system. Battery life is phenomenal thanks to the low-voltage Intel L7500 processor, reaching almost 9 hours in our tests and able to reach an estimated 13 hours with more options scaled back. If the price was $2,000 less I would be all over it to make the B300 my next work notebook.

Pros:

  • Solid chassis with built-in carrying handle
  • Impact resistant screen
  • Great battery life
  • Things don’t damage this notebook, this notebook damages other things

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Limited screen resolution


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