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We might have chosen different icons for some of the DuraBook's dedicated controls. For example, the media player button is adorned with a large "P," and the lock-screen button's icon -- a key --looks a lot like a microphone. On the subject of media, the unit's two internal speakers put out adequate sound, though not exceptional. And while screen brightness merited its own controls, audio volume and mute functions are handled with FN keys; a two-handed operation for most mortals.
Not as bulky as some of the rugged notebooks we've seen, the DuraBook measures about 11 inches long, by 12.5 inches wide by 2 inches thick. The rubber handle is not uncomfortable, but it's not as wide as we would have liked, and the 5.6 pound unit (without the optional second battery) might start to dig into one's hand after carrying it for a while. The AC adapter, with its "Mickey Mouse" cord connector, adds about a pound. The tested system was not equipped with an optical drive.
Geekbench performance was on par or better than other systems we've tested that were running at 1.33 GHz. With Windows set for maximum performance, testers observed a maximum score from 64-bit Geekbench 2.1.3 of 3286, that's about eight percent better than an identically configured system from Fujitsu we tested most recently. Battery performance was excellent. Starting with a full change on a single battery, testers set screen brightness to maximum, disabled power saving features and played continuous video content stored on the hard drive. Windows shut down after two hours and 36 minutes.
We hope that one day laptop makers will once again realize that the carry handle benefits the user when the computer is on, almost as much as when it's off. Because mobile computers seldom stay put for very long. Yet such convenience features are usually limited to notebooks designated as tough, ruggedized and shock-proof. Even Apple, long the vanguard of user-friendliness, abandoned the handle years ago.
GammaTech manufactures an array of rugged notebooks, docking stations and other devices for this specialized market at prices that make them attractive as alternatives to name-brand products. The DuraBook U12C looks and feels like it would hold up under extreme conditions, and its fit and finish inspire confidence. The CRN Test Center recommends the GammaTech DuraBook U12C.
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