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Review: Durabook R11 Rugged Tablet With Detachable Keyboard

GammaTech has turned its popular tablet for harsh environments into a 2-in-1 convertible.


After repeatedly dropping the Durabook R11, and then throwing dirt all over it and spraying it with a hose for three minutes, we put the rugged tablet to the real test: attaching it to a keyboard and doing some aggressive typing.

The R11 tablet, made by Fremont, Calif.-based GammaTech, recently was upgraded to serve as a 2-in-1 with the addition of a detachable keyboard—which, naturally, is pretty heavy-duty itself.

Even without the keyboard, GammaTech says the 11.6-inch Durabook R11 is one of its most popular offerings.

That's no doubt because--while it’s still very beefy--the R11 is actually considered thin and light by rugged tablet standards (at 0.79 of an inch thick and 2.73 pounds).

We still found it to be a bit much to hold the tablet with just one hand while typing away with the other for long time periods.

[Related: Review: Dell Precision 3510 Laptop]

On the plus side, if you do attempt one-handed operation for a long time and end up dropping it, chances are the R11 will fare just fine.

We liked the high-brightness LCD display on the tablet a lot—it’s also readable in sunlight--and the touch screen performed well for us when navigating between apps and windows. The R11 was also pretty fast, though it does use the previous generation of Intel processors; ours was outfitted with a fifth-gen Core i5 processor.

Attaching the tablet to the keyboard did take a bit of effort—the tablet must be fit tightly into a holder on the keyboard and then screwed in, just so, in order to connect. Not exactly the easy convertibility that most 2-in-1s are touting these days. The upside is that the tablet and keyboard are held very sturdily in place once you’ve taken the effort to connect them.

The keyboard adds 1.8 pounds, making for a combined 4.53 pounds for the full setup, which won’t be a lot of fun to tote around, but will certainly offer a lot of stability for use in a topsy-turvy environment. (There’s also a strap included for transporting the machine.)

The keyboard features a metal shell and big, rubbery keys, which for us took a little getting used to. They need to be pressed pretty hard and have a very different feel from most keys.

There’s also a trackpad below the keys, which worked well for navigating, but wasn’t very sensitive for clicking. Fortunately there are separate left- and right-click buttons, large and rubbery like the keys, that are located to the left and right sides of the trackpad.

The left- and right-click buttons also came with a bit of a learning curve for us, though we ultimately enjoyed the positioning of the buttons once we got used to them.

All in all, we found the Durabook R11 to be an impressive rugged machine, made much more useful by the addition of the keyboard. All of that rugged usefulness comes with a price tag of $2,697 for the tablet and another $399 for the keyboard—which, we suspect, is mostly going to be justified if you know this thing is going to get dusty, wet and dropped more than a few times in its lifespan.

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