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The Motion F5 is lightweight and compact and includes a view anywhere backlit touchscreen.

Intel Core i5 Processor (1.8 GHz)
128 GB Solid State Drive (SSD)
4 GB DDR3L 1600MHz SDRAM Memory
View Anywhere Display with Projective Capacitive Dual-Touch TFT AFFS+ LED Backlight
Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth 4.0
Integrated smart card, barcode and RFID readers
Gobi connectivity and GPS Module
3.0 MP Rear Documentation Camera and 1.3 MP Front Web Camera
Windows 7 Professional
F5 Docking Station

I last reviewed a Motion Computing rugged tablet PC back in August 2010, when the term iPad was merely a whisper among tech geeks and tablet computing was still something done mostly by specialists in the medical and construction fields. How a few years can change the world! Motion’s F5t tablet, now available from retailers, is still aimed at the vertical market with its military standard specifications (meets MIL-STD-810G) but it is much more consumer-friendly than previous generations of the rugged Windows tablet. It is much sleeker and easier to carry, has stronger WiFi and network capabilities and its gorilla-glass touchscreen is responsive and easy-to-use with a finger or a pen.

The solid design of my F5t test unit is what first stood out for me. It has a rubberized exterior coating that can stand up to a 36-inch drop to plywood over concrete and I dropped my test unit a few times on the demonstration construction site at Trimble Dimensions in Las Vegas last month with no visible damage. Weighing only a little over three pounds, this is one of the lightest semi-rugged tablets on the market. What is most impressive about the design, however, is its "view anywhere" display with Projective Capacitive Dual-Touch TFT AFFS+ LED backlight. The screen is easily viewable in sunlight (view anywhere is a technology that automatically tints and compensates when a screen is in direct sunlight) and, my, what an improvement for the tablet UI. You can write as easily with your finger as you can with the attached touchpen. Using a full Windows 7a software keyboard is always available for those who like to type, but the real story here is the improved handwriting capture technology and smooth touchscreen.

The Motion F5 responsive touchscreen can work with the attached pen or with finger input.

I used both the pen and the soft keyboard outdoors and indoors and was able to capture accurate results, pictures and other common site processes. The F5t has a 3-megapixel rear documentation camera and 1.3-mp front web camera. The pictures are autosaved thanks to Motion’s camera software. This camera is great for capturing field conditions and work completed. I pulled in networks as far as a mile away using the F5’s Intel Centrino advanced-N 6235 IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. The Trimble site was very remote, too, situated in a "sandbox" site about 45 minutes from the Las Vegas strip.

The gorilla-glass screen measures 10.4 inches wide and displays your work with a resolution of 1024×768 and view anywhere now comes standard with the F5t (it was an option on my last Motion Computer). It responds very well to the pen and takes great notes. Although you can manipulate it and type with your fingers on it, this is not a true touchscreen in that you can’t use common mobile actions like pinch and pull to change your view, but it’s easy enough to open, close and drag around windows using a finger or the pen. The unit runs a full Windows OS, too, so any program you can use on your home PC can be loaded onto the F5. My unit came with Windows 7 but Motion is now selling Windows 8 F5s if you want to take advantage of the new redesigned-for-mobile Windows OS.

Users can access their documents and applications with the Motion F5 field-ready tablet. This unit is showing a 3D Tekla model on a projectsite in Colorado.

The big key for BIM managers is the hard drive space of the F5t. This little machine packs a 128-gigabyte solid state hard drive (SSD). That’s enough space to run BIM programs such as Revit or ArchiCAD AND to save the large models you might need onsite. Memory is not a big deal for most tablet users, but for an engineer providing a 3D model or a construction professional putting together several models onsite, having a memory hog BIM program available, it is a must. The F5t also has an integrated USB drive and three more on its docking station for users who like to share model information that way.

The construction professionals at JE Dunn were using Windows Photo Viewer and Tekla BIMSight on a Motion F5-Series on the site of the new Trimble headquarters in Westminster, Colo. The machine did not experience any slowdown from displaying large files. The dock can be used with an optional keyboard for work at a desk or just as an Ethernet and recharging station in a construction trailer. The unit’s hot-swappable battery lasted more than six hours in the Las Vegas sun at Trimble Dimensions.

If you’re looking for a thin, light and field-ready tablet that will work with all of your business applications, you can’t do much better than the Motion F5.

Jeffrey Yoders
is the technology editor at ZweigWhite. Contact him at jyoders@zweigwhite.com.