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Rugged laptop goes miniature

A rugged notebook is usually big and bulky, but General Dynamics Itronix is out to prove that size doesn't matter.

Rugged doesn't necessarily mean big and bulky anymore when talking about notebooks and handhelds, and General Dynamics Itronix is out to prove that maybe size doesn't matter.

Itronix, known for making rugged notebooks, appears to have taken a page from "Honey, I Shrunk the Computer" with this week's release of the GoBook MR-1, its smallest computer to date, designed for rugged ultra-mobility.

Built specifically for field workers who may deem a standard-size notebook too large and heavy, the MR-1 weighs in at two pounds, while keeping a standard clamshell notebook form factor. The notebook runs full Windows XP Pro and will run Vista by the end of the year, giving users and IT management a familiar interface to input and support, said Jamie Skogstad, the mini-computer's product marketing manager.

Reducing size often results in sacrificing function, but the MR-1 is as powerful as it is small, Skogstad said, with the ability to leverage multi-threaded applications and graphics found in field-deployed workforce environments like public safety, military and field services.

Inside, it has a 1.2 GHz Intel Core Solo ULV Processor, up to 1 GB of RAM, 3D Intel Extreme Graphics with up to 128 MB of graphics memory, and a battery life option of three or six hours.

The rugged clamshell measures 4.5 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches, with a 5.6-inch-wide LCD display screen. Navigation options include touchpad and stickpointer, and office dock and vehicle mounting options are available.

"For many, notebooks are too large and cumbersome," Skogstad said. "But traditional handhelds are too small."

According to David Daoud, research manager with IDC, mobile workforces and managers are looking for smaller devices that also have built-in toughness.

"We are seeing market interest in smaller, more portable devices that still have all the functionality of a full-fledged notebook," Daoud said. "The GoBook MR-1 is likely to find a receptive audience among the highly mobile workforce in segments such as government, utilities, communications and field services in need of a fully functional PC in a ruggedized ultra-small form factor."

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Along with shrinking down the standard rugged laptop format, Itronix added its new DynaVue touchscreen display as an option to improve outdoor viewing, which in turn enhances battery life and processing power.

DynaVue balances between display brightness and contrast and increases contrast ratio to provide color and improved visibility to details, even in bright sunlight. Using a single cold-cathode fluorescent lamp for brightness control, it doesn't drain the battery. DynaVue also meets the military standard for electronically generated airborne displays for direct-sunlight viewability.

The MR-1, like the other rugged devices in Itronix's arsenal, withstands extreme temperatures -- hot and cold -- and has been designed to survive drops and vibrations. It has been vehicle-mount and crash tested.

The MR-1 features several embedded wireless connectivity radios and standards including WWAN, WLAN, PAN and GPS and supports 3G, EVDO and seamless roaming.

For security, it supports several authentication options and has a removable 40 or 80 GB hard drive and a fingerprint reader. It also features file and folder locking.

"It's nearly identical to our rugged notebooks," Skogstad said, "just smaller in form factor."

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