My nephew Kevin is becoming a very accomplished musician, currently at a University developing his talent in classical, jazz and popular styles. He spent last summer performing with his college Jazz Ensemble in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic to sold-out music halls. When he was a boy, he announced “When I’m a grownup, I want to be a musician!” To which his Dad responded, “You have to pick one or the other.”

Sometimes, working in the rugged tablet industry, I can identify with the oft-referenced – but not always accurate – notion that you can’t always have something both ways. For example, there’s a wide misperception that a tablet computer is either going to be a thin, sexy consumer device, or a rugged tank – heavy and bulky, with an industrial look. But that’s simply not true. Just like a musician can be a talented grown-up, it is possible to create a rugged tablet that has the looks and style of consumer devices while having the impeccable strength and durability to survive in the harshest of environments and the heaviest of hands.

Consider Zebra’s ET51 WLAN and ET56 WWAN tablets. They offer a choice of 8.4” and 10.1” screens and boast similar dimensions to their 8” and 10” consumer tablet counterparts. The difference is that the ET51 and ET56 deliver the necessary rugged protection and allow for all-day use with features like a removable battery – qualities not offered by comparably-sized consumer devices.

Or, while larger and heavier than the ET5’s, consider the Zebra XSLATE™ R12. Even though it has the largest screen (12.5”) found in a rugged tablet form factor, it is housed in a slim and sleek enclosure that makes it one of the most aesthetically appealing tablets on the global market today. The product looks so good that, when people first see it, their instinct is to question its ruggedness bona fides. Zebra’s sales team and solution engineers often have to demonstrate that it indeed meets MIL-STD-810G specs – including 4’ drops – as well as IP54 dust and water resistance ratings. Not only is it rugged, but people are impressed to learn that it’s also certified to C1D2 standards, meaning it is one of the safest large-screen mobile computers that workers can use in explosive-prone Hazardous Locations (HazLoc). Even more, it weighs just 3 pounds and comes standard with a long runtime battery, one of the brightest outdoor viewable screens in its class (1000 nit) and a host of I/O connections that no consumer-grade tablet ever has offered.

In fact, a number of independent publications have reviewed the XSLATE™ R12. Computerworld even went so far as to compare it to two other rugged tablets in its size class to see if it lives up to its spec sheet promises. You can see how it compares to other rugged devices in the full review here. But what I will emphasize is that, while all three large-screen rugged tablets technically passed Computerworld’s drop and ingress tests, the XSLATE™ R12 was the only one without a conditional “but” attached to its survival rating. It is the only rugged tablet that passed without any parts falling off the unit, and without any I/O ports getting plugged up from penetrating water or dust. Make sure that you view the video, it is short and to the point – and proves the point that looks can be deceiving.

PC Mag also named the XSLATE R12 its Editors' Choice tablet pick, which is rarely-awarded to rugged tablets. It found the R12 to be the fastest rugged tablet, with a PCMark 8 Work Conventional test result of 3,282 points.  And it said the R12 is the “best Windows tablet you can buy”, which is a bold recommendation considering how many rugged and non-rugged tablets it looks at every day. And since these accolades from Computerworld and PC Mag were published, the R12 has gotten even better – Zebra improved the screen brightness (it had been 800 nits and is now 1000 nits) and upgraded the CPU options to include an Intel Core i7 with VPro.

Again, it just proves that you don’t have to compromise – or sacrifice – what you want, no matter how many different things you want. The wide range of 8” to 12.5” rugged-to-the-core tablets now available with the enterprise-specific features (and sleek, lightweight design) you are looking for means that you don’t have to make an “either/or” decision anymore between aesthetics and performance. Even better, the total cost of ownership (TCO) for rugged tablets is lower than the TCO of non-rugged tablets. (Use this calculator to run the numbers yourself.)

In other words, it is possible to appeal to workers’ preference for “consumer-like” device designs with a durable enterprise-grade tablet that offers the security, flexibility, I/O and wireless connectivity, and long-term scalability you need to improve your organization’s mobile workflows and gain a performance edge.

Now I just need an example of a talented grown-up musician. Other than Kevin.

Field Operations, Manufacturing, Public Sector, Warehouse and Distribution, Healthcare, Transportation and Logistics, Retail,
Bob Ashenbrenner
Bob Ashenbrenner

Durable Mobility Technologies, LLC, under the direction of Bob Ashenbrenner, works with Zebra Technologies to develop future-proof mobility solutions for customers across multiple field service and industrial sectors. As an industry consultant, Durable Mobility Technologies, LLC, is focused on optimizing rugged tablet-based solutions for mobile workers of all kinds, including utility and public safety professionals. Ashenbrenner is particularly committed to helping customers identify mobile devices that survive a tough work day, run all the software and tools needed today, and will remain flexible and scalable to adapt to evolving technology applications as business needs dictate.

Ashenbrenner has more than 25 years of computer engineering and engineering management experience, with 18 of those specific to mobility and the field requirements that enable real work to happen. He was previously a Solutions Architect with Xplore Technologies and Motion Computing for 13 years. In that role, Ashenbrenner led the development of a suite of rugged mobile tablet computer, services and software, with an emphasis on supporting the whole mobile work environment.