The RangerX is a tough tablet: but why?
Despite appearences tablets were around long before Apple and Arm blew up an iPhone to make the iPad. But pre-iPad tablets were niche products, popular chiefly with professionals in the vertical industries. Doctors, quantity surveyors - anyone who needed to be able to interact with a computer outdoors or on the move might find a tablet useful.
But old school tablet PCs were little more than laptops without keyboards. They tended to be bulky and heavy to hold for any length of time. Battery life was an issue, as was heat in operation. The iPad solved those problems, but it and its subsequent rivals are different beasts altogether - they are better at media consumption that full-spec PC creative work.
As a consequence traditional tablets still exist. And bridging the gap is the new generation of Windows tablets and Ultrabooks offer a compromise option: powerful PCs in portable bodies. They offer portability and power, but are expensive and liable to break if dropped. You wouldn't want to write off the £1,000 you spent on a Surface Pro because you dropped it during ward rounds.
Off to one side is the RangerX. This is an Android tablet, with a healthy specification: ICS, ARM Cortex-9 chip, 1GB RAM. It has two cameras, 32GB storage onboard storage and SIM and SD Card slots. But unlike most other Android tablets it has a thick, tough case and a screen optimised for work outdoors. If you need an Android tablet for the building site or Army manouvres this is the tablet for you (although, I have to ask, does anyone need an Android tablet in those circumstances?)
RangerX: build and design
The RangerX is like a consumer tablet, only thicker. It's a whole 22mm thick, which is a lot for an Android tab but far from outrageous for a ruggedised device. It's pretty light for all that bulk however, weighing in at just 990g. By way of comparison the Nexus 10 is 8.9mm thick and weighs in at 603g.
The 10.1in display is framed by a white bezel that is far from the thickest we've seen. This in turn is surrounded by a thick black rubbery frame. It's not pretty, but it is pretty effective at toughening up the RangerX, as we'll see.
Below the screen set into the bezel is a rubber home button. At the top is the front-facing camera and a microphone for video calling. To the right of the display is a battery monitor that glows green when the tablet is powered up. Around the outside of the grey rubber shell is an array of ports and buttons including screen lock, volume rocker, power button and -port, and behind sturdy plastic doors SD card-, USB- and HDMI-out ports. The overall effect is of a chunky and sturdy, if quite plasticky, tablet.
Around the back, however, things get really interesting. As well as the 5Mp read-facing camera there is a leather and velcro hand strap and a thick digital pen attached via a coiled wire. Across the back is screwed in an extra layer of protection in the form of a thin plastic sheet.
Holding the RangerX using the supplied handstrap is comfortable, although you'll find you hold it in your weaker hand in order to utilise the digital pen. And quickly those 990g add up. I wouldn't want to have to operate the RangerX for too long in this way.
The RangerX runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. It's a tablet optimised version of Android, but it's not the latest version and it doesn't include the Android app store 'Google Play'. That's a blow, as Google Play also offers music, movies and games. Instead you are limited to the Amazon App Store - it's better than nothing, but not what we'd like to see.
The RangerX is a solid, but not a spectacular, performer. In the GeekBench 2 test of general speed it scored an average of 1414 points. That's decent, but nothing like the performance of the Nexus 10 (2505) or the iPad 4 (1769). In general, however, we found general performance to be decent and the iPad and Nexus 10 are outstanding products.
We couldn't run our normal graphics benchmark because we needed Google Play in order to access it.
And while we are confessing, we haven't yet run our battery tests on this preview model of the RangerX. The RangerX is quoted as having 10-hour battery life, from its 10,000mAH, 35.5 watt-hour battery. It should charge via mini USB, and you can take out and replace the battery. We'll update this review when we've tested it in operation.
The cameras are about what you'd expect. Making video calls with the front-facing webcam is of a decent quality. And the rear-facing snapper is a decent tablet camera, no more no less.
The RangerX's multitouch display is bright and clear. It's a 10.1in 1366x768 WXGA display, which gives it a pixel density of 155ppi. These days that's not more than decent - the Nexus 10 has a pixel density of 300ppi, for instance. The display has an 800:1 contrast ratio and a 16:9 aspect ratio, so it should be good for watching movies (if you can find any to watch outside of Google Play).
We found the capacitative touchscreen responsive to both touch and the passive pen. The 178-degree viewing angle is decent, but the screen is glossy and reflective. This would seem to negate the benefits of a rough tablet - it's all very well being comfortable that your tablet can handle the rigours or a war zone, but if you can't see the screen in direct sunlight it's not much use.
RangerX: how tough is this tough tablet?
The RangerX is dust- and water-resistant, and can survive a drop from 4ft, according to Xplore. Naturally we sprayed it with water and dropped it on to carpeted and wooden floors, all to no obvious adverse effect.
We were disappointed though, that when we dropped the RangerX on to a hard floor from around 4ft a tiny mark appeared in the screen. For general use the RangerX is pretty tough, however.
See also: the 10 best tablets in the UK.