GammaTech’s Durabook U12C Review – Healthcare Gadget Friday

As I mentioned in last week’s post about the PhoneSoap – Charge and Sanitize Your cell phone (UPDATE: The Kickstarter project is fully funded and PhoneSoaps are going to production.) post, I’m going to try and reserve Friday for what I’m calling Healthcare Gadget Friday. Today we’re going to look at the GammaTech Durabook U12C.

Here’s the official description of the GammaTech Durabook U12C:

GammaTech’s Durabook U12C is the perfect companion for mobile power users on the go. The U12C features a 12.1″ WXGA Touch Screen with Digitizer and LED backlight display that quickly converts into a Tablet PC. This lightweight convertible style Tablet PC features I/O covered ports to protect from the hazards of dirt and dust. Powered by the Intel Core i5 processor, the U12C has maximized speed and data management. In addition, the U12C comes with a hard handle making portability a snap. It offers a number of sophisticated I/O modules that can encompass everything from a RS232 port or GPS to an optional second 2M-pixel auto focus camera. An optional vehicle docking station is also available.


I received a demo Durabook U12C to be able to do this review. I was quite pleased with the Durabook U12C in general, so I’ll be a little sad when I have to ship it back to Durabook. It’s a really solid offering if you’re looking for a nice Durabook.

My good experience with the GammaTech started when I opened the package and saw the really well designed packaging for the Durabook. While a box doesn’t really matter when it comes to the quality of the computer, it does say something about the company and their concern about even the smallest of details.

I won’t go into all the gory details of the specs on the machine. The Durabook U12C was running the Windows 7 operating system and so you can compare its detailed specs with any other similarly specked laptop on the market today. With that said, I used it for a few weeks and never had an issue with any of the specs in the ways I used it.

When you look at it, it seems like the 12″ screen feels a little small. However, in actual use the 12.1″ screen was never a problem for me. I know GammaTech has another model that only has a 10″ screen. I think the 10″ screen might be too small for me, but I really had no issues with the 12.1″ screen. Plus, when you add on the extra Durabook casing to protect the machine you really don’t want a screen bigger than 12.1″. If you went even to a 14″ screen the Durabook gets way too unwieldy.

I didn’t do any real specific tests as far as drop resistance, shock resistance, spill resistance, dust resistance, and battery protection since I didn’t want to break the machine if something didn’t work quite right. You can see the tough features specs on the GammaTech website. Needless to say, the machine feels very solid in every component. In fact in some cases almost to a fault.

An example of this is the latch to open the machine. The latch is pretty hard to open. Partially because it secures the lid so well and partially because the easy carry handle makes it awkward to maneuver the latch. I actually handed it to my wife and asked her to open it. A few minutes later (and a few laughs) she finally figured out how to open it. Of course, once you figure it out it’s not that bad, but it does require a kind of awkward angle to unlatch it. I’m sure the solid latch was an intentional part of the design. I know I’ve seen A LOT of broken latches on laptops in my time working in healthcare IT and with EHR software. This latch will never have that problem.

I was also a little disappointed with how responsive the track pad was to my touch. It’s a really hard touch pad that left a lot to be desired. I imagine this probably has to do with durability as well, but it was pretty disappointing to use. Good thing that it’s a tablet as well so you could always use the pen instead.

The Durabook U12C had the best fingerprint scanner placement of any laptop or Durabook that I’ve seen. Maybe there are others that have similar positioning, but I loved the fingerprint scanners nice placement in the middle on the right side of the screen for easy thumb scanning. It just felt right since I often hold my screen in just the right position to be able to scan when I open it up. Very well done.

I spent a fair amount of time playing with the tablet features of the Durabook U12C. Obviously many of the features are dependent on Windows 7 more than the Durabook U12C itself. On that subject, if you haven’t tried the Windows 7 tablet stuff yet, it’s quite good and so much better than its predecessor. We’ll see what Windows 8 brings. The Durabook U12C performed well and the pen storage was really convenient.

My biggest pain point with the Durabook U12C was the placement of some of the quick buttons on the screen. They weren’t an issue in laptop mode, but when I converted to a tablet and was using the stylus I kept accidentally hitting the buttons. It got really annoying when I was trying to write something on the tablet and then the screen just rotates because the palm of my hand brushed the rotate button. I tried to even rotate the screen into the notebook position, but I still hit some other buttons that were on the screen. This certainly would have deterred me from using the tablet very much.

Overall I was quite pleased with the Durabook U12C. The biggest downsides from my experience were the lackluster track pad and the poorly placed on screen buttons. However, the rest of the features were really well executed and provided a really solid Durabook. I can see a number of cases where a durabook could make sense in the healthcare IT world. This would definitely be one worth trying. It’s built to last and your IT administrator will love you since it has Windows 7 which won’t have any issues with your IT security requirements.