Buyers Guide – CCC 2011 #4 The Mobile IT Manager

Posted on 11 August 2011 by

It looks like we’ve hit another 7” requirement with very few solutions. Any more of these requests and i’m going to go out there and make my own ultra mobile PC and sell it to you all!

Mike contacted me to see if he could get some suggestions for an extremely mobile computer. It’s one that needs a full MS office suite and also needs to do duty as a support system in a light aircraft.

Here’s the breakdown.

·As an IT manager I use the MS Office suite, MS Project, MS Visio, and Firefox to do my job.

· I also travel by small plane for work and I need a unit that runs Windows so that I can use my flight navigation software (www.anywheremap.com)

·The yoke (steering wheel of the plane) can only accommodate a unit with an 8.9 inch screen without blocking critical flight instruments – 7 inches provides the best fit

·When I land at the local airport I often use a car GPS for street navigation.

·I don’t use my computers for gaming or video editing, but I do need to have reasonably snappy performance in the office environment.

 

That’s a clear requirement. 7”, Windows and wallop! right into the no-devices zone.

I initially thought about leading with a device that had GPS installed but that can be problematic. In my car there’s a UV filter on the screen and it kills reception. Where reception is critical, a well-positioned GPS puck is going to be the answer. Bluetooth isn’t the most reliable of connectivity mechanisms but once set-up, it does work.

Now that we don’t need the built-in GPS, we’ve widened our scope ….

I’m looking at the Libretto W100/W105 as I did in the last CCC. Mike is in situations where power is likely to be available and in the plane he can use a power brick. Do they have cigarette lighters in small planes though?! As with our previous CCC, there’s also the Q1 Ultra Premium (2nd-hand) and the Viliv S7 convertible. It’s got a faster SSD, good battery life and is available with 3G. It might not have the oomph to run Windows 7 though. The same goes for the Viliv X70 EX

It’s the Windows requirement I want to get right in the suggestion though. A ultra mobile PC running Windows 7 really needs a fast SSD, a 1.6Ghz CPU and, preferably, 2GB RAM.  It’s why I keep thinking about the Libretto W100 but then there’s the screen area to think about on that. It could be too big!

I’ve got three more to offer-up though. (Click images for more info)

HP Slate 500. 8.9” screen. 1.8ghz CPU. SSD.  Includes dual-layer screen. The HP 500 does seem to be satisfying most people that buy it. At 1.8Ghz it’s got just enough more than a 1.5Ghz Z-series Atom, along with an SSD, to make Windows 7 work smoothly. Here are some more thoughts on the HP Slate 500.

Panasonic CF-U1. It’s an expensive rugged 7”-er ($2K entry price) but it’s a seriously good bit of kit.  It only has a 7” screen but it’s a fairly bulky 7” device.

Netbook Navigator Nav 7 (or even Nav 9). I heard from Netbook Navigator yesterday that the Nav 7 is about ready to launch and I’ve just put all the details of this one in the database. Obviously you’ll need to wait for some reviews before committing but it certainly looks compact enough. Unfortunately there’s no docking station or VGA / HDMI out but from your email, Mike, I see you’ve been using a USB-based docking station anyway. This might work for you. I’ll be writing more about the Nav 7 in an upcoming article. [Available here when posted]

So, Mike. What do you think? Will an 8.9” device work for you (HP Slate 500) or are you determined to go for a 7” device? Are you OK without VGA? Do you want laptop-style processing power?

Chime-in with comments people. Mike needs help!

  • aftermath

    The General Dynamics MR-1 is as brilliant as it is expensive. If you’re willing to go up to 8.9 inch, consider a second hand Fujitsu Lifebook p1630. There was also the Everun Note, but I’d stay away from it since it’s unsupported.

  • If the Libretto fits in the airplane space when opened up then any other small netbook would work too (e.g. Sony Vaio P). I think the Viliv’s would be OK with Windows 7.

    Some other pricy ruggedized options are the Trimble Yuma or TAG Commander.

  • Clio

    The 7″ restriction only stems from the Air-plane navigation requirement. And I think a 7″ screen is counter-productive for the other requirements.

    So I’d recommend dividing it into 2 problems. A 7″ USB Monitor permanently mounted on the Yoke(“MIMO” springs to mind: http://www.mimomonitors.com/) can be used to address the plane navigation requirement, freeing up the options to get a bigger laptop (still talking about 10″-12″ of course) to have a decent screen and CPU to handle Office2010, Project and Visio.

    Also, I’d imagine things need to be strapped down tightly on a plane since gravity is no longer a one-dimensional concern. You don’t want power brick, cables and laptops flying around while you’re pulling off your crazy stunts, so you still need a laptop small enough that it can be strapped down securely or tucked away in glove boxes.

    • Very good thought. Thanks.

    • aftermath

      The USB monitor route is a popular one for in-vehicle DIY solutions. However, it’s important to note that anything that’s not transflective is going to be a let down in practice, and anything that is transflective is going to be expensive (the value of a second computer). If you can get your hands on an old Motion Computing LS800 with their sunlight friendly screen and make it work for you, then that’s another way to go.

      Also, I appreciate the intuition that 7 inch screens might be counterproductive, but I never carried a more useful machine than when I was evaluating an MR-1. Two friends in law enforcement carry these on a daily basis, and, given their experiences, they have far less flattering things to say about today’s popular “tablets” then those who have never experience such a well engineered and built palptop product.

  • Thanks Chippy and everyone else!

    These are great comments and suggestions. A couple of pilots I know are using the P1630’s for similar purposes. The convertible form factor is probably the most convenient for me. As for screen size, the 7inch doesn’t bother me on road trips (usually same day or 1 overnight because of the plane travel).

    I did look at the HP 500, but was disappointed by the lack of ports. The W100 definitely won’t work because its too big when opened up – unless it can be folded over like a convertible? I did see the Nav 7 and it does seem to be pretty close too – just need to add a fold up keyboard and travel mouse.

    I like the idea of a remote mounted screen – that might be a good option. Yes, everything needs to be strapped into place. However, thanks to our government, you cannot permanently mount anything that’s not FAA approved in a plane. The biggest concerns are glare – it’s pretty bright in a cockpit, the vibrations, and the 10,000 foot altitude restrictions on some hard drives and touchscreens.

    These have been great suggestions – thanks again for the help!

    • zeo

      Some Avionic companies actually sell the Fujitsu P1630′s as EFB kits.

      Kinda strange that it’s still so hard to set up since they already approved tablets like the iPad for pilots and even sell pilot accessories like leg strap mounts for it. Should have had more established standards by now…

      Though lots of pilots come up with their own solutions…

      http://www.flightprep.com/rootpage.php?page=TabletMounts

  • ravellar

    Hi Chippy , just saw some writeup that magic W3 device is shipping in Dec . Doesnt say much except they are looking at rp about $1100 and only 500 units available in the first shipment ( to where ? ). The pricing sounds better compared to previous news that it is going for $1300 .
    Do you have any update on it yet ? Be good if it can be available here by christmas .

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