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Maximum PC Staff Mar 10, 2010

GammaTech Durabook D14RM

At A Glance

G. I. Joe

Solid performance, solid build; competitive price.

G. I. Disorder

Initial BIOS flaws; glossy screen sucks outdoors.

Takes a lickin’...

GammaTech’s Durabook D14RM is the antidote for folks who are really rough on their hardware. The notebook’s gray and black magnesium-alloy case, complete with black rubberized corners, not only makes the rig look burly, but also serves to protect it from aggressive manhandling.

GammaTech says the notebook complies with MIL-STD-810F guidelines for ruggedness, so we put those claims to the test. We “accidentally” knocked the D14RM off a desk when the machine was open and running a program, dropped it from a standing position onto a concrete floor (a few times, because it gave us such a thrill), and spilled a full 16-ounce cup of liquid across its keyboard. The D14RM withstood all that abuse without any apparent damage to its structure or functionality. And mind you, the D14RM uses a mechanical hard drive. Yes, an SSD seems like a more obvious choice for a notebook that’s meant to be tossed about, but then it wouldn’t be nearly so affordable.

The D14RM is a business-class notebook, with components that are suitable to that role—a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB of DDR2/800, a 320GB 5,400rpm hard drive, integrated graphics, and Windows Vista Business 64-bit (Windows 7 Home Premium, Pro, and Ultimate are also options). But in our initial benchmark runs, we were surprised to see scores that trailed our 2.53GHz zero-point machine by more than 30 percent in some cases. Further investigation revealed a serious power-management flaw. Even with the power plan set to High Performance, the D14RM’s two cores dropped to half-speed when the notebook was plugged into an outlet; when the notebook was unplugged and running on battery, the CPU performed at full speed. Weird, huh?

It seemed like a BIOS issue to us, and, indeed, GammaTech delivered us a BIOS fix within a few days of our discovery, which resolved the matter. But it does make us question how the company could miss a flaw this massive.

With the updated BIOS, the D14RM performed as expected. It bested our zero-point business notebook by very healthy margins in almost every benchmark. The only exception was in Photoshop, where our zero-point held a minor 2.3 percent lead, likely the result of that notebook’s SSD. We also compared the D14RM’s scores to the iBuypower M865TU that we reviewed in November, since both notebooks use the exact same 3.06GHz T9900 processor. Each notebook won two of our four content creation benchmarks, neither by more than seven percent, so we’ll call it a draw.

In terms of amenities, the D14RM offers a good selection of ports, including HDMI—all of which are protected with attached rubber caps to prevent dirt and dust from mucking with the works. But it’s strange that GammaTech makes these allowances for outdoor use yet outfits the D14RM with a glossy 1280x800 screen. Such a highly reflective surface is totally unsuitable for use in bright natural light. Back in the plus column, our model came equipped with the Bluetooth, built-in 3G GSM modem, and webcam options, to make the sturdy D14RM an accommodating overall package—and for about half the price of a comparably sized Panasonic Toughbook.

Specifications

GammaTech Durabook D14RM
CPU3.06GHz Core 2 Duo Mobile T9900
RAM 4GB DDR2/800MHz
Chipset
Intel PM45
Hard Drive
320GB Fujitsu MHZ230BH-G2 (5,400rpm)
Optical HL-DT-ST DVDRAM GSA-T50N
GPU Integrated
Ports VGA in and out, HDMI, Ethernet modem, four USB, headphone, mic, Smart Card reader
Lap/Carry6 lb, 5 oz/ 7 lb, 1.9 oz
BENCHMARKS

Zero Point
Durabook D14RM
Premiere Pro CS3 2,400 sec
1,260
Photoshop CS3
154.3 sec
158 (-2.3%)
ProShow Producer
1,775 sec 1,619
MainConcept 3,285
2,676
Far Cry 2 7 fps
9.0
Call of Duty 4
15.9 fps
18.8
Battery Life
180
122 (-32.2%)

Our test bed is a Lenovo T400s with a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB of DDR3/1067, a 128B Toshiba SSD, and Windows Vista 32-bit.

THE VERDICT

GammaTech Durabook D14RM

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