Xplore Technologies makes tablets that are so rugged, just picking one up will cause your palms to go all hairy. Up until now, it's made chunky Windows tablets like the XC6, and slender, less powerful slates that are capable of running Android. The Xplore Bobcat wants to sit between the two ranges, offering the brawn of Windows 8 with the svelte looks of the company's RangerX tablets. Of course, this isn't just about shedding weight and size, since the Bobcat will still work in freezing conditions, withstand drops of nearly two meters onto concrete and all of the other tortures most gadget geeks could conceive.
The Bobcat's biggest selling point is that it's got a surprising number of inputs for something that appears to be far less capable than its elder sibling. For instance, there's an Ethernet jack in there, as well as micro-HDMI-out, two USB 3.0 ports, a microSD reader and a micro-SIM card slot, the latter taking advantage of the optional Sierra Wireless 4G modem. If you're rocking industrial hardware that still uses a serial port, you'll find one of those lurking beneath a rubberized port that's screwed down for normal operation. Oh, and there's a 3.5mm headphone jack in there, obviously. Imaging-wise, there's the same pairing of a 5-megapixel primary camera and 720p webcam we found on the XC6, neither of which you'd like to use unless you really had to.
Given the greatly reduced hardware, you may expect that performance would take a hit, but we couldn't see any noticeable stress. Thanks to the quad-core 1.9GHz Bay Trail (E2845) chip and 4GB of RAM, switching between several open apps is smooth, and we certainly found it comfortable enough to hammer out (parts) of this article, so long as we connected a USB keyboard. Display-wise, the slate has a 10.1-inch, 1,366 x 768 IPS display, but there's no pen-style digitizer like the higher-priced models, so the two attached styli have soft rubber tips and no hover mode. The display only has a 500-nit backlight, so while it's brighter than some laptops, it struggled a little more in bright, direct sunlight. We also played some audio on the hardware, and found that the single rear-facing speaker can be muffled easily, but provides a decent volume, although it's too hollow-sounding for any impromptu dance parties.
Naturally, it's not going to be the go-to tablet for 90 percent of our readership, unless we all decide to become the most extreme of extreme sports fans. But if you're interested in grabbing one of these, then the Xplore Bobcat goes on sale from today. Price-wise, bereft of build-to-order options like a 256GB SSD and the aforementioned 4G modem, it'll set you back $2,200. But then, if you're the sort of rich daredevil who keeps dropping their Galaxy Tabs off cliff edges, then that might be worth a slice of your cash.