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Reader Q&A

Are there rugged PCs with pressure-level digitizers? (2011)

I use a Fujitsu STYLISTIC ST5112 for drawing. The pen of the ST5112 has two buttons and an integrated eraser, and the Wacom digitizer technology allows for 256 levels of pressure. Problem is, the ST5112 is great for drawing indoors, but I cannot draw outdoors because its screen (12.1" XGA 1024 x 768 transmissive TFT AnyLight Display) is not sunlight-viewable, and its maximum operating temperature is just 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The Fujitsu STYLISTIC ST5111 has a smaller 10.4-inch XGA reflective TFT SunLight Display (with frontlight), but it is also not sunlight-viewable, and has the same maximum operating temperature, and little drop protection.

I cannot find a rugged Tablet PC (notebook or slate) with:

  • Very good sunlight viewability.
  • Maximum operating temperature of at least 113 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Display size/resolution 12.1" XGA (1024 x 768 pixel) or better
  • Wacom digitizer technology with 256 levels of pressure sensitivity or better
  • Two button Wacom pen with integrated eraser
  • Drop protection
Could you help me, please? -- Miguel H.

Contributing Technology Editor Geoff Walker answers:

Unfortunately, I don't think such a combination exists. There's no technical reason why it can't; it's just a matter of market niches and product definition. Most manufacturers of rugged tablets want a "rugged" pen, i.e., a passive stylus made of metal or tough plastic. This leads them to use an analog resistive touch screen, which is not pressure-sensitive and is very expensive to make daylight-readable. A Wacom pressure-sensitive digitizer pen is inherently not rugged; it's actually quite fragile. If the user breaks it or loses it, the tablet is out of commission, so it's definitely a weak spot.

Daylight-readability adds yet another market-niche variable. Unfortunately the number of daylight-readable tablet and notebook products on the market has decreased over the last five years. Although it seems counter-intuitive, there just isn't enough demand to drive manufacturers to add the feature. As tablets become more popular with consumers, specialized features such as daylight-readability tend to fall by the wayside unless there is very broad demand for them. Tablet manufacturers look at the 15 million iPads that were sold last year, NONE of which work outdoors, and they get the message that outdoor readability isn't an important feature at the present time.

Just to be sure, you should ask Wacom if they know of any tablet product that uses their digitizer and meets your requirements.


Geoff Walker
geoff at walkermobile dot com