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Getac MX50

Handy, flexible 5.7-inch rugged Android device for dismounted soldiers.
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

On March 7, 2017, Getac introduced the MX50, a rugged mobile device built specifically to address the mobile computing challenges faced by dismounted soldiers. The 5.7 inch Android-based mini-tablet was designed to meet all data input/output and security needs of the digital dismounted soldier on the modern day battlefield.

How did the MX50 come about? Because Getac saw a trend toward the military using consumer grade mobile devices since they are light, familiar and inexpensive. Those devices, of course, are not built for operation in harsh environments and they cannot deliver the reliability and specific functionality modern military forces require. With the MX50, Getac aims to provide to armed forces a rugged device that fully meets military needs, but that is also light, compact and as easy to use as a modern smartphone or tablet.

And what sort of device is the MX50? It measures 7.4 x 4.1 x 0.70 inches, weighs 14 ounces, and has a 5.7-inch capacitive multi-touch screen. So that's a bit larger than today's largest consumer smartphones, but considerably smaller than a standard tablet (the MX50's footprint is about half that of the standard iPad). The closest in size that we've recently seen would be Janam's XT1 mini-tablet.

What these dimensions mean is that the MX50 has the kind of screen size that's come to be expected from a large smartphone, but also enough of a margin around the display to provide space for a number of physical buttons and controls as well as enough cladding and protection to make the MX50 rugged enough for military use.

What about tech specs? The MX50 display is of the IPS variety, which means it has virtually perfect viewing angles from all directions. 1280 x 720 resolution on a 5.7-inch screen translates into 258ppi (pixels per inch). That's in the same class as Apple's "retina" iPads, both the iPad Air 2 and the big iPad Pro. Plenty sharp. And there's of course, capacitive multi-touch.

The MX50 comes with 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM and there's 64GB or 128GB of internal eMMC mass storage, and that can be complemented via microSD card.

The processor, somewhat surprisingly given that the MX50 is an Android device, is a quad-core Intel Atom x5-Z8350 SoC (System on Chip) design with a base frequency of 1.44GHz and burst speed up to 1.92GHz. Standard battery power comes from a 15.5 watt-hour pack. If more is needed, getac offers a optional bolt-on extension battery (shown above).

On the software side, the Getac MX50 comes with Android 5.1 "Lollipop." According to the Android Developers page, Lollipop had a 32.9% marketshare among all Android versions in February 2017 (see here), the largest of any Android platform versions (ver. 6.0 "Marshmallow" was second with 30.7%). Note that Lollipop introduced enterprise-strength security to Android, moving the platform a big step forward. For customers who require even stronger protection to secure data-at-rest, Getac offers Trivalent Protect for encryption, data shredding and secure storage and guarding against unauthorized access.

Getac further points out that the MX50 meets the Common Criteria ISO/IEC 15408 computer security certification (see Wiki on it), and the NSA's Commercial Solutions of Classified (CSfC) platform (see NSA page on it) and file encryption data at rest guidelines, which enables commercial components to be used in layered solutions to protect classified national security systems information.

One of the primary purposes of the MX50 is to provide modern smartphone functionality in a much tougher package. To that extent, the MX50 can handle 5-foot drops, has an operating temperature range of -6 to 140°F, carries IP67 sealing where the "6" means it's totally dustproof, and the "7" that it can full immersion. It also passed MIL-STD-810G tests for vibration, humidity, and altitude.

Getac also gave considerable thought to handling and operation of a device such as the MX50, one that had to be readily available without being in the way. On a battlefield one cannot stumble around staring at a smartphone. So they designed the MX50 to be fully interoperable with current and legacy soldier systems. An optional chest-mount is built to integrate with a standard issue MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment; see Wiki on it) vest, providing hands-free carry and ease of access. And there's a full complement of physical buttons, which can be more reliable than touch.

How does the MX50 fit in with Getac's other mobile tech products? It's definitely not a general purpose rugged device. It's perhaps more like Getac's Veretos mobile video system for law enforcement and military, something Getac does because the company has decades' worth of experience in it (remember that Getac started back in 1989 as a joint venture between MiTAC and GE Aerospace to supply defense electronic product).

Specifications Getac MX50
Added/changed Added 03/2017
Form-factor Rugged Android military device
CPU/Speed Quad-core Intel Atom x5-Z8350/1.44GHz (1.92GHz burst speed)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 400, 12 EUs, 200-500MHz
OS Android 5.1 "Lollipop"
Card slots 1 microSD
Display type Sunlight-readable IPS LumiBond 480 nits TFT with Gorilla Glass
Display size/res 5.7"/1280 x 720 pixel (258 ppi)
Digitizer/pens 5-point projected capacitive multi-touch
Keyboard/keys Onscreen + 10 buttons (power, restart, brightness, directional keypad, back, home, menu, function key, 2 programmable keys)
Navigation onscreen, directional keypad
Housing Unknown
Operating Temp -6° to 140°F (-°21 to 60° Celsius)
Sealing IP67
Shock 5-foot drops
Altitude Unknown
Humidity MIL-STD-810G, Method 507.5 0 to 95% non-condensing
Size (WxHxD) 7.4 x 4.1 x 0.70 inches (188 x 105 x 18 mm)
Weight 0.88 pounds (400 grams)
Power 3.7V, 4,200mAH, 15.54 whr Li-Ion
Interface 1 x Micro USB OTG, 1 x 3.5mm audio, optional rugged connector
Sensors Accelerometer, eCompass, Gyro, pressure, vibration, ambient light
Wireless Dual-band 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, dedicated GNSS (GPS/Glonass)
Camera rear-facing 8mp auto-focus camera, front-facing HD webcam
List price Inquire
Web page Getac MX50 web page
Brochure Getac MX50 brochure
Contact MX50 web page
Warranty 3 years