Designed for professionals working in unforgiving, on-location environments, GammaTech’s U12Ci Durabook provides a great deal of protection and versatility to mobile and tablet computing. Pretty and light, it is not.
By Chris Eaves
July 30, 2013
Job foreman. Building inspector. Jeep salesman. Rugby equipment manager. Any of them would probably do well with the GammaTech U12Ci convertible laptop/tablet. Featuring a drop-, shock-, spill- and dust-resistant chassis with a battery protection system, this computer is designed for taking in abuse and shrugging it off like a champ.
Armed with Windows 7 and a swivel top that converts the unit from a notebook to a very heavy and bulky tablet, this machine falls into a unique spot in the overall computer landscape. In the process, it excels at nothing, nor fails at anything – except maybe style.
This laptop/tablet is packed with loads of hardware features designed to provide a rugged, mobile computing platform. Powering the unit is an underpowered dual-core Intel Core i3-3217u at 1.8Ghz. Memory is a healthy 8Gb of DDR3 SDRAM from Kingston that clocks in at 667Mhz in a dual 4Gb configuration. More powerful and power-consuming i5 and i7 versions are also available if anything more than simple Office tasks and web surfing is needed.
For an ultra-durable laptop, one might expect an SSD in the standard build, but GammaTech instead stocks the unit with a 5400 RPM SATA300 Western Digital HDD with 320Gb of space. For professionals who are likely to be turning the unit on and off as they move from location to location, the SSD would offer more stability and improved start-up times. GammaTech seems to acknowledge this shortcoming by offering an optional mSATA SSD for fast resume operations.
Integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics provide minimal, albeit acceptable GPU power for this kind of machine, and 2 GB of dedicated RAM that runs a very modest 1280x800 XGA display. A low-end 1.3 megapixel webcam tops that 12.1-inch resistive and digitizer display (more on how that touch screen performs in a moment).
A full assortment of ports gives this ultra-tough convertible a great deal of flexibility, with USB 3.0, gigabit Ethernet, eSATA/USB2.0, and VGA ports all well protected. As is standard, most flavors of WiFi are supported, including b/g/n, as well as Bluetooth (2.1).
Powering it all while on the go is a six cell 5000 mAh battery that provides a meager 2.5 hour run-time during a standard-load battery test – think constant web surfing, playing videos and other such activities. Using the machine in a less intensive manner – say casually reading, typing and the like, you can stretch the battery life to over 5 hours. Swapping to an SSD instead of the spinning platter will increase run-time, too, as will knocking back the screen brightness.
Running a full series of performance tests on the unit yielded mediocre results and were disappointing, even for an Core i3. Keep in mind, though, that the intent of this machine isn’t to wow you with top-of-the-line performance but rather to provide you with a rock-solid platform for on-the-go computing.