Guest Blog

Designed and built for work – Even very hard work: the Handheld Algiz 10XR

I did a “first look” article in on the Handheld Algiz 10XR late last year when the handsome rugged tablet was first announced. It’s a tablet computer that runs Windows 10 (we also ran Windows 11 on it). It has 10-inch capacitive multi-touch display that’s sharp and easily bright enough to use outdoors, in the sun. It has a number of push-buttons because sometimes it’s just easier to quickly push a button than to find something on a touch screen.

The Handheld Group has been making tough and rugged 10-inch Windows tablet for many years. The first one launched in 2012, over a decade ago. A second generation came in 2016, and that one was so good that it lasted until 2022 when it was replaced by the latest one, the Algiz 10XR. Technology changes over the course of a decade, and the Algiz 10 platform has changed, too. It’s not easy to give a small tablet computer a new look or personality because all tablets are just that, small rectangles. But Handheld managed to give each of the generations a distinct new look, including this newest one. They are good at that.

The tech, of course, is new, too, as tech is a moving target. Processors change, memory and storage are forever growing, wireless gets faster and more reliable, ports change, and, of course, Windows itself changes. In Android, Windows now has a formidable competitor in small tablets, but the two operating systems are actually not as much competitors as one would think. Handheld has a 10-inch Android tablet as well, the Algiz RT10. That one is thinner and lighter than the Algiz 10XR. It hardly matters. If you or your job or your company needs Windows, it’s Windows. If Android is better suited for a job, and many are, it’s Android. It’s really apples and oranges – there is no direct comparison.

The new Algiz 10XR – Positioning

But back to Handheld’s Algiz 10XR. Where does it fit in? And what’s the competition? And wouldn’t potential customers just get a cheap consumer tablet and stick it in a protective case instead of paying extra for a dedicated, purpose-built rugged tablet?

So where, overall, does a small Windows tablet fit in? Wherever device size and weight is an issue, and Windows is required because the increasingly sophisticated software used in the field and on the road just isn’t available on Android. Or because IT runs on Microsoft, and Windows continues to have by far the highest operating system market share worldwide. 

There really aren’t many 10-inch consumer Windows tablets. Microsoft has their (non-rugged) Surface tablets, but all the other major vendors have moved on to larger sizes. But in the field, and many other places, even a 12-inch tablet can be too big, heavy and bulky. Handheld knows that from experience.

The rugged computing industry, in general, knows that small, tough, compact Windows tablets are needed on many jobs, and not just in the field, but also in vehicles where space is also an issue. All that means that the Algiz 10XR has competition from a good number of established vendors and manufacturers.

The Handheld advantage

Where does that place the Handheld 10XR? Is it a strong competitor, an attractive proposition? It is. And here are the reasons why:

First, Handheld has impeccable pedigree. The company’s founders were pioneers in the rugged computer business almost three decades ago. They were there at the very start of mobile computing. They’ve seen it all. They know what works and what doesn’t. The same cannot be said of newcomers and all those who are just “trying the rugged market.”

Second, what has, in my opinion, always set Handheld apart is an unerring sense both for the types and functionality of products needed, as well as for a consistent style and aesthetics that makes Handheld products instantly recognizable in a sea of often bland and nondescript little rectangles, one looking like the other.

Third, Handheld always seems to think things through more than most. What makes sense? What doesn’t? How will this work in the field? An example are the six pushbuttons along the left side of the Algiz 10XR’s display. Capacitive multi-touch is good, and it’s as fast and smooth on the 10XR as on any modern smartphone. But with Windows it’s really good to have programmable buttons to quickly bring up common functions.

The same goes with Handheld’s approach to tech. They concentrate on what matters. Like a very bright screen because you really want to see what you’re doing out on a bright, sunny day. And a screen that also works when it rains or when it’s very cold (gloves).

Reliable performance – in tests and at work

For performance Handheld picked a processor that offered, per the company’s press release, “reliable performance.” What does that mean? Well, instead of a complex Intel Core CPU that runs as fast as internal and external temperatures allow, the simpler “Elkhart Lake” chip inside the Algiz 10XR reliably runs full blast day-in, day-out. While, in my PassMark 6.1 (old, but great for comparing performance of old and new) testing, still being 2.5 times as fast as the predecessor Algiz 10X. The image below shows how, under load, the 10XR’s Elkhart processor steadily and reliably runs at its maximum clock speed, whereas a more complex Intel Core processor’s performance relies on temperature and is less predictable.  

How does the Algiz 10XR handle in real life? It is not a lightweight (2.7 pounds), but you wouldn’t expect that from a tablet you can drop from four feet to concrete, again and again, and it’ll be none the worse for wear. One thing that I really like about the Algiz 10XR is that it has a full one-inch margin to the left and the right of the actual LCD screen. That means you can get a solid grip on it without your fingers accidentally trigger an action, which is a constant problem with trendy “wrap-around” screens or screens with minuscule margins around the display.

Also much appreciated are a microSDXC card slot to augment the 128GB onboard, 5G wireless because that’s where it’s going, an optional integrated scanner and NFC, an extended battery for when you really don’t want to run out of juice (the battery is externally accessible and hot-swappable — a big plus). And there are two USB-C ports, those new small ones where you don’t have to worry which way you plug the connector in and which can be used for all sorts of things, including charging. The Algiz 10XR comes with its own (small) power brick, but you can also charge it with most USB chargers. That comes in handy.

Just right – on the road and everywhere else

Note that Handheld designed the Algiz 10XR for use in vehicles as much as for use as a mobile tablet. That’s important, because what works well when carried around may not work well when mounted in a vehicle, and vice versa. I am not just talking size and weight here, but availability of good vehicle docks, mounting methods, and — very important — antenna pass-throughs so you can grab a signal via externally mounted high-gain antennae. Reliable wireless connection is everything these days, and that’s not always easy on the road.

What it all boils down to is that the Algiz 10XR feels just right. It’s a result of Handheld’s long experience, knowledge of their customers’ markets, and just generally having a finely tuned mastery of that elusive balance between features, functionality, performance, reliability and, last but not least, style.

Learn more about the Handheld Algiz 10XR

Conrad H. Blickenstorfer
Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, Ph.D., co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Pen Computing Magazine, has extensive experience in all aspects of rugged computing from his many years at the helm of the Pen Computing industry journal, Digital Camera Magazine, Handheld Computing Magazine, and his years of service as Director of Information Systems and Chief Information Officer with the New York State Dormitory and project manager for the New York State Urban Development Corporation. He has also written for numerous technology journals and wrote the mobile technology section in Fortune Magazine's semi-annual technology buyers guide for years. Blickenstorfer has visited numerous rugged manufacturing operations in the US, Japan, and Taiwan.