Review: Xplore RangerX Rugged Android Tablet Is Out Of This World


Xplore RangerX

Since the January update of its RangerX rugged Android tablet, durable-device maker Xplore has turned an adequate tablet into an outstanding platform for building applications for field deployment. The company enabled its IP65-compliant slab to permit gloved operation, updated the operating system to Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and gave it access to the Google Play Store.

For review, Xplore sent the CRN Test Center the latest edition of its RangerX, which came prepopulated with gigabit Ethernet and HDMI input in its option slot. Resellers also can opt to use the slot instead for a Common Access Card (CAC) reader, the secure ID of choice for central intelligence, the Department of Defense and other government agencies.

On the subject of military ruggedness, the market recently has seen a flood of MIL-STD 810G conformant laptops; the EliteBook Folio 1040 from Hewlett-Packard and GammaTech's Durabook SA14 come quickly to mind. But only a handful of ruggedized device platforms run Android, which embedded researcher VDC recently characterized as the world's fastest-growing embedded operating system. It estimates that by 2015, worldwide shipments of Android-based devices will increase by more than 71 percent in medical machines and by 47 percent in military communications devices.

At about 2.2 pounds, RangerX is most comfortable to hold with two hands or with one of its optional straps for the hand or shoulder. RangerX measures 11.1 inches long by 7.2 inches wide and is a beefy 0.85 of an inch thick. A magnesium alloy chassis extends to its four corners, where extra-thick rubber protects areas that are historically most vulnerable. A protruding bezel helps prevent damage to its toughened glass from a face-down drop. With the exception of a single home button, all device controls (power, rotation lock and volume) are along the right edge, in easy reach of the index finger. The right side also is home to the power input (behind a weatherproof flap) and a minimalist speaker.

The bottom edge finds a Kensington lock port and a docking connector for which Xplore offers several vertically oriented docks and accessories. The real action is along the left edge, where we find (from rear to front) the headset jack, micro HDMI output, Micro SIM slot, Micro USB (OTG) port, micro SD slot (for up to 128 GB) and a full-sized USB 2.0 port. There's also an on-off switch for the battery. These are all behind a single weatherproof door. Behind a second door is the option slot. As long as the connectors don't bump into each other, we tend to favor the clustering of connections on one side of a device for its convenience, consistency and neatness. The tested unit included no adapter cables.

Surrounding the 10.1-inch IPS panel is an inch-wide white plastic frame where fingers and thumbs can rest without causing unwanted input into the 10-point touch screen. A super-bright 500-NIT backlight illuminates the 1,366-x-768 pixel display adequately; we had no trouble viewing everything indoors or out, even in bright sunlight. The bezel also is home to an HD face camera, two mics, an ambient light sensor and multicolored LED for power and battery-charging status. There's also a 5 MP main camera with LED flash. Standard equipment includes Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and an FM transmitter. There's a 4G LTE option.

The RangerX is built around an ARM-based SoC with two Cortex A9 cores clocked at 1.5GHz, plus a PowerVR SGX544 GPU. The device runs Android 4.2.2 on 1 GB of two-channel memory and 32 GB of flash memory. Another 32 GB can be added by resellers via a second SD slot hidden within the cabinet (in addition to the 128-GB external slot). It's all powered by a replaceable 10,000 mAh battery that's rated to deliver 10 hours between charges. We got five hours and 10 minutes of continuous video streaming and web surfing with the screen cranked to full brightness.

With its IP65 rating for ingress protection, the RangerX is designed to repel dirt, dust, sand, water and moisture. And its MIL-STD 810G rating means it's also tough enough to endure dozens of drops from four feet onto hard surfaces and operate in temperatures from -4° to 140° Fahrenheit, at a 15,000-foot altitude, with continuous vehicle vibration and a 20G shock.

This is one rugged Android tablet. For its durable design, versatile configurations and forward-thinking choice of operating system, the CRN Test Center recommends the Xplore RangerX for solution providers building apps for cable and utility companies, retail, warehouse, telecommunications, shipping and logistics, transportation and military operations. The starting list price is $1,349, about half that of comparable Windows-based tablets.

PUBLISHED JUNE 18, 2014