'I took my S15C camping'

This is a commercial-grade notebook computer bridging the gap between a student notebook and fully rugged.

Durabook screens use tactile touch, not capacitive touch. To understand the difference, try using an iPhone wearing gloves. It doesn’t work, does it? That’s capacitive sensing. One can mouse with a Durabook S15C wearing gloves. Hint: Don’t try to wipe the screen off while the computer is running. I opened two different applications that way.

There is an optional pen pointer, but I like fingernails myself, they are handy.

Resistance: The S15C is not water resistant, but the keyboard is ruggedized. It can handle spills and splashes and environments of high humidity. I liberally applied spills and splashes and then rinsed them off. The 88-key keyboard is springy and—most importantly—full sized. There is enough area for one to rest the palms, even though it has a flush-mounted touchpad. While it is plenty sensitive, complete with ergonomic clickers and textured scrolling strip, I liked the touchscreen better.

Benchmark: I benchmark computers when I test them. This is a method of running the processor through computations and graphics and comparing the processing against other computers or known standards.

The truth is, the S15C has so many options, one really has to decide which S15C one is testing. After all, the Intel i5 model I tested was slightly average to above average in speed, compared with similar specs. The unit I tested had a 2.53-GHz processor.

Benchmarking can only give a relative answer about a laptop’s performance. For example, some tests cause it to render and re-render graphics by resizing and rotating an image. The things that are not measured (of interest to public safety) are how much the fan runs when under stress, how warm the machine gets and how battery usage climbs when the machine is stressed.

How did the S15C do? First, the fan ran a lot, even when I left it idling while charging. I noticed this about Durabooks before, but consider it inconsequential, simply because they generally stay cool and the fan is relatively quiet.

The S15C comes with a 4.4Ah Li battery, which can be removed without cracking the case. The S15C has a utility to calibrate and monitor the battery for maximization. The six-cell battery gives an average 3.5 hours of service. The optional nine-cell power pack gives about 5 hours of service. I got around 3.5 hours with the six-cell pack, which recharged in about 3 hours.

Aesthetics: The case and chassis of the S15C is magnesium, which is stronger and lighter than the plastics used for lesser products. This keeps the device at 6.5 pounds and 1.5 inches thick. The form factor is sleek and the product doesn’t have the mandatory utilitarian look that screams, “This is for work!” which was evident when my family constantly asked if they could use it to complete their homework—over my MacBook Pro.

Options: Communication is key with this type of product and the S15C can do WWAN or GPS if an agency wishes. It has a 1.3 mp webcam and Bluetooth v2.1. +EDR (enhanced data rate) communication. WWAN is useful for public safety users, especially with the latest Web portal based critical incident products out there.

The S15C has all of the usual options for input, including a SIM card slot and a Super DVD option. I appreciated the space between USB ports and a transit lock for the DVD drive.

Intangibles: Its stereo speakers are not anemic and the meaningful LED indicators really make the package. I also liked the sleep function, which responded instantly. The S15C has plenty of keystroke functions that separate it from an ordinary laptop.

Unfortunately, there is one intangible that was overlooked. This is a semi-rugged package without a backlit keyboard. While this is not a deal breaker, it makes a difference in law enforcement. I don’t like Windows 7 either, but it can be purchased with a different configuration.

The Durabook S15C is superior under any standard. It just so happens to also be semi rugged. Once again, GammaTech produced a winner.


Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer who teaches at Hartnell College in Salinas, Calif. He welcomes comments at lbertomen@letonline.com.

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