Tough Technologies

Xplore Technologies Corp

Being a computer repair technician by trade, one of my jobs has always been to repair the classic desktop, the newly favoured laptop and, as of late, plenty of broken smart devices. These handheld devices, such as smartphones or tablets, can function as a computer for those who aren’t able to have a computer with them wherever they go. The problem with these handheld products, as smart as they may be, is that, even though they are made of tough materials such as tempered glass and titanium, many people are still able to break them just as easily as if they were completely made of plastic…

While conventional phones and tablets are made to look attractive and function well in typical stress free environments, some people need something more.

Today, some people are even getting rid of their home PC in favour of a smart device that can be used to do anything a computer can do and more. However, day after day I have people bring me their smart devices, having dropped them and shattered the back, front or both to the point where glass is missing, leaving holes through to the internal components. Let’s not even get started on how many phones get dropped in the ocean, left in a pocket and washed, stepped on, causing the charging port to no longer function… and the list goes on.

Since 2002, Xplore Technology has been producing rugged tablets for both commercial and military customers who need a more rugged tablet to bring out into the field. Creating “The most rugged tablet on earth,” is the company’s motto and constant goal.

Since its formation, the company has focused on delivering ultra rugged tablets. The tablets have the highest level of durability when it comes to withstanding temperature strain or drops and are designed to be used in harsh environments, from the Arctic to the Sahara and everywhere in between. “Really, [they are] to be used where any normal tablets just couldn’t possibly survive,” explains Jim Plas, the Vice President of Marketing for Xplore Technologies.

Xplore has been highly successful in the rugged tablet market. Recently, the company has begun to expand its available product line and went public to be listed on the NASDAQ as of last November. The first of three new products was released in July: a fully rugged Android tablet called The RangerX which is a 2.2 pound, MilSpec (meeting US defence standards) tablet that is also incredibly cost effective when compared to the traditional rugged tablet.

“Most rugged tablets start anywhere from three thousand to five thousand dollars; this product starts at $1349,” shares Jim. “It’s really helping us to expand into an area of the market that we’ve never played before. It will be followed by a Windows based version with a similar form factor and a price point that is also incredibly aggressive. They will be utilising a Bay Trail processor which is the next generation of the atom processor. These processors have been benchmarked and have performance that is very close to the core processors.”

The company has assembled a group of the best rugged tablet engineers available within the industry. All Xplore Technologies’ products are designed and tested in-house from top to bottom to ensure maximum durability. In the case of the RangerX rugged tablet, Xplore utilizes a magnesium alloy inner-frame that allows for the inside components to flex without breaking, while enduring an enormous amount of shock. The Ultra Rugged iX104C5 series tablet is built using a fully sealed magnesium case that absorbs shock up to 40Gs and can withstands drops up to 6 feet direct to concrete. After the designs are complete, tablets are manufactured by a partner company that also manufactures computers for many other high-end brands.

Using this experienced partner ensures that each tablet is manufactured to exacting rugged standards, including MIL STD 810 for both tablets, IP67 for the iX104C5 series and IP65 for the RangerX. In both cases, as long as the outer case remains intact, the tablet will be resistant to substances that would destroy conventional electronics such as moisture, dust, sand, mud and grime. The IP 67 rating also includes a water resistance of up to three metres for thirty minutes. While the rating does have a lot to do with the design of the product, the manufacturing process is also critical as the product must be made perfectly to specifications to avoid failure in the field.

“We are responsible for designing and implementing the quality control processes that are associated with our manufacturing process as well,” explains Jim. This, again, guarantees that each tablet is built faultlessly to be as rugged as it possibly can.

A video on the Xplore website demonstrates a one pound ball bearing hitting the RangerX screen after being dropped from a distance of four feet. The glass appears to flex rather than shatter, preventing damage. However, the major glass saving feature on this rugged tablet is the series of bumpers on all four corners, put in place to land first and cushion the blow of an accidental drop. If the tablet lands on a relatively flat surface, the bumpers will stop the front of the tablet from touching the ground altogether.

“Unless you’re dropping it on some sort of spike that is sticking out of the ground, the bumpers will prevent the screen from coming in contact with the ground. Either way, we use an enhanced gorilla glass substance that is very difficult to break or crack,” says Jim. “Then for those who really think that they might drop the tablet on rocks or other things of that nature, we do sell a military grade screen protector that further enhances the display’s durability.”

The military requires specialized equipment for use in a huge range of demanding environments. Xplore’s military tablets are designed specifically for battlefield purposes and meet the strictest military requirements for security, communications and durability. Its RangerX tablet, however, is a brand new tablet manufactured to be sold to commercial consumers and is now available on Amazon.

The RangerX was actually taken through a Spartan race: the Reebok Spartan Race World Championship. This event is a series of obstacle races of varying difficulty and distance in which people compete for the fastest time through such course impediments as mud, barbed wire, walls and logs. Over 7000 people were able to use the tablet to check their times and other aspects of the race, most while covered from head to toe in mud. No matter how dirty the screen was, or how dirty the hands that were contacting the tablet, everyone was amazed by how functional it remained throughout.

“We also had one of the racers take it through the obstacle course which is a thirteen mile course – where you’re climbing through mud, you’re running down hills, running up mountains, going through mock barbed wire, and all kinds of other obstacles. He took it through and didn’t really protect it in any way, shape or form. In fact, he played soccer with it down the mountain – which I didn’t really ask him to do! But it survived. These things are amazingly tough, and it’s expected to do very well in the consumer market.”

The most often asked question, according to Jim, is whether or not Xplore Technologies makes a rugged case for an existing tablet, but the answer is no. Instead, parents with children who constantly break their devices; people with jobs requiring a rugged, cost-effective device; and anyone who has bad luck with tablets can now access the new RangerX for a very reasonable price compared to other tablets on the market today.

July 17, 2018, 7:26 AM EDT

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