There are plenty of rugged devices which can survive in harsh conditions and vouch to bring intelligent functionalities at the same time. While we had our share of tough Android slates over the time, we hardly saw a product that stands above the crowd. Usually, manufacturers base their designs on a regular tablet with slim forms and powerful specifications to create a slate that can resist dust, water, mud and small impacts. Product after product, the pattern repeats itself and the market ends up saturated.
This is not the case with the Earl tablet. An ambitious project which is still in a funding phase at the moment, Earl is designed as the perfect companion for outdoor use. Thanks to a flexible E-Ink display of medium size, a hard-shell case and plenty of intelligent features hidden underneath, Earl does more than to simply survive against threatening factors like water and dust: it helps owners fulfill their quests.
What separates Earl from other rugged tablets?
Unlike conventional resistant slates, like the Getac Z710 or the Toughpad range from Panasonic, Earl uses a flexible E-Ink display. Measuring only 6-inch, the unit has a decent 1024 x 768 pixel resolution and aims to help those who like venturing outdoors reach their destination safely, and as fast as possible. The simple nature of the display can guarantee low-power consumptions meaning more hours of use and plenty of battery juice for other elements.
Speaking of battery, Earl comes with a 3000mAh charge that can last around 20 hours thanks to that low-light panel and to a power-optimized 1GHz Freescale i.MX6 DualLight processor. The slate also comes with Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth connectivity, NFC and a classic AM/FM Radio that should prove useful in 10-hour trails.
Software-wise, the rugged tablet is powered by Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and can process plenty of data thanks to a healthy amount of RAM – 1GB. When it comes to storage, you can rely on 16GB of built-in memory and microSD support.
But what really caught our attention was a specific set of outdoor features:
- GPS tracking – thanks to a high-end GSP chipset and to Everytrail.com, Earl can easily give users precise location reading, direction of movement and elevation. Moreover, the tablet can access thousands of maps right-away and when needed, measure hear rate, pace and cadence to external Bluetooth devices. Surprisingly, it even has Android Beam.
- Weather alerts – the rugged companion also comes with a range of weather sensors embedded, which supply accurate and up-to-date information about changing conditions. The system is bragged as usable even in the most remote conditions and can let the user know important details such as current temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. Astrology lovers will enjoy Earl because when the weather sensor works in tandem with the GPS system, you can find out when and where the sun, moon and stars will shine brighter.
- Safety guardian – that Radio feature we talked about is not used solely for entertaining. Thanks to an enhanced transceiver, Earl can act as a walkie-talkie system able to communicate and catch radio frequencies in a 20-mile radius. The Android power can also be seen here, because Earl also has the wits to transmit weather, location and route information over the air.
- Smart display – the flexible E-Ink panel we like so much is designed by LG to provide superior visibility in direct sunlight and a night-light for after dawn. Moreover, thanks to its infrared touchscreen technology, the display can be used with gloves and with a wide range of motion gestures.
- Quick charging – a high-efficiency solar panel with crystalline cells that can transfer 18% of direct sunlight into power juice is mounted directly on the back of the slate. Using this system, the tablet can be recharged in around 5 hours.
- Resistant – lastly, this device comes with an IP67 rating, which basically stands for water, dust, shock, and mud protection. Owners can deep the slate under 3 feet of water for 30 minutes or take it to mount Everest without harming any internal part.
As far as Android goes, Earl is compatible with the wide majority of existing applications. It has support for various e-reader formats, such as EPUB, MOBI, PDF and can also extend to more functionality in the future, thanks to an open API project aimed to attract developers.
The complete package weighs only 11 ounces (or 311 grams) and measures just 0.6 inches in thickness – which is pretty nice for a tablet of this nature. As we said in the beginning, Earl is in funding phase right now – it has to gather around $250,000 before it will launch. Those who like the idea can pre-order one right now (through June 9) for $249, which is 30% of the retail price. The Earl is available in either black or white and will sell for around $350 once it’s launched.
In case you also want 24k resolution topo maps pre-loaded on the microSD card, you’ll have to pay an additional $50. Otherwise, the Earl will only ship with 100k resolution logo base maps for the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
The device is expected to launch in August 2013 in the U.S., pending FCC approval, and in late 2013 in European countries, Australia and New Zealand.