Review: Motion Computing's Vertical-Focused F5

The F5 from Motion Computing is a semi-rugged tablet PC that offers mobility and durability in one package. Weighing a little above three pounds, this tablet features an Intel Core Solo U1400 1.2Ghertz processor, one Gbyte of memory, and a 10.4-inch touchscreen with 1024x768 resolution. Memory can be upgraded to two Gbyte at time of purchase. While the default configuration comes with a shock-mounted 40 Gbytes hard disk drive, the F5 comes with a SanDisk 32 Gbyte solid state drive option. For some business settings, such as a construction site, or for highly mobile professionals, such as field technicians, solid state drives are not a luxury. The non-solid-state models have an internal accelerometer to detect drops and shocks to minimize data loss.

Motion Computing intends the F5 to be used in various verticals, including government, retail, utilities, distribution, and construction. The F5 tablet can be used by field service technicians, engineers, appraisers, and inspectors. It seems very suited for the health care segment, as well, especially for keeping track of patient records.

Pricing starts from $2699 to $4000, and varies by system configuration, such as disk drive and operating system. The F5 is available with either Windows Vista Business or Windows XP Tablet PC Edition pre-installed. All F5 tablets come with WiFi, 3G, and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, with an option to add the wireless broadband from Sprint.

Input is done using F5's digitized pen, which is tethered to the tablet by a string for safekeeping. The screen is sensitive to the pen, but not to regular touch, which can be both a plus and minus, depending on the situation. The OS supports handwriting recognition, and is also capable of voice-recognition.

Sponsored post

The F5 has a magnesium-alloy internal frame with both the upper and lower faceplates coated with a chemical-resistant resin to protect against scratches and heavy-duty cleaners. The unit is IP54 rated and designed to withstand exposure to dust and moisture, which is useful in a hospital setting, and meets the MIL-STD-810F military specs for drops.

The tablet itself has an integrated handle on top to make it easy to carry. A flat lunchbox, if you will. The display has a View Anywhere technology, which makes it easy to use under all types of lightning, whether it's bright sunshine or fluorescent. The colors were bright and vivid and the small screen size was not an issue. The display can be rotated 0, 90 and 270 degrees, as well.

The F5 has an integrated 2.0 megapixel camera as well as an RFID reader. A barcode reader can be added as an option. Healthcare professionals can use the built-in bar code and RFID reader located on the corner of the handle to scan prescriptions, track equipment, and monitor patients. The handle makes it easy to hold the tablet while scanning or shooting pictures and video for visual record.

There are no input ports -- USB, VGA-out, or Ethernet -- on the F5 itself, although there are three USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet port, and a VGA port on the external docking station that comes with the F5. The F5's battery is charged via the docking station, and there is also a charging bay for a spare battery. To install or view files from an external device, the F5 must be docked. Not having input ports on the F5 itself doesn't seem like a loss, since the goal of the unit is mobility without wires and peripherals making a mess.

The docking station also means that the F5 can be used both as a standard tablet as well as a desktop (or wall-mounted) unit, which can be convenient.

There's always concern about how easily portables can be stolen and privacy data compromised. Towards that end, Motion Computing integrated AuthenTec's AES1610 fingerprint sensor as a security feature to protect data. It also comes with an integrated RFID passive tag so that it can be tracked.

The F5 has single-core processors, which does take a hit on performance. The test unit came with Windows XP tablet edition and 2 Gbytes of memory, which helped, but this is still a two-year old CPU that's powering the tablet. The tablet scored 1027 on the Geekbench software from Primate Labs for performance. Considering the processor, reviewers were dubious as to how well Vista would run on this unit. On the green front, battery life is decent, and it draws very little electricity when plugged in. The F5 drew less than 11 watts when idling. The battery was fairly standard, clocking a little over 1.5 hours on running a video off the hard drive with all power-saving features turned off. For mobile purposes, such as scanning bar codes, taking pictures, and entering notes, the battery lasted a little more than four hours.

The protective coating on the F5 meant the unit was never too warm to hold. It was quiet the entire time -- reviewers didn't even notice when the fan kicked in.

Motion Computing partners with value-added resellers, independent software vendors, and independent hardware vendors. The company also has distribution relationships with Avnet, Synnex, Seneca Data, and TechData.

Motion Computing's partner program has three tiers: Partner, Preferred Partner, and Most Valued Partner. The levels are determined by revenue targets. At the lowest tier, MPs have no revenue requirements, but are required to submit point-of-sale reports to Motion Computing semi-annually. MPPs have annual Motion Computing sales of $100,000 to $1 million, and MVPs have more than $1 million. MPs and MVPs submit point-of-sale reports to Motion Computing monthly. Each tier is expected to meet infrastructure requirements, as well, ranging from a mere Web presence to having national or reigional sales capabilities and offering level1 support.

Depending on size, geography, and capability, partners have access to sales tools, support, and dedicated representatives. Partners who meet certain revenue goals are invited to participate in lead distribution programs, incremental marketing co-op programs, and custom-tailored exclusive promotions.