RuggedPC Review – Getac A790

Getac A790
To view this product and others in our Getac range, visit

The GETAC A790 fully rugged notebook computer is a machine specifically built to provide maximum performance and utility under the harshest possible environmental condition. Also,
right upfront, if you wonder why the system unit part of the machine shown in the
picture below is so thick, that is because it is one of the very few notebooks that
can handle two 3/4-length desktop-style PCI cards in an optional PCI Expansion Unit
that’s bolted onto the bottom of the notebook.

The machine shown in this picture has the PCI expansion unit installed. Why is this important? Because while today’s notebooks come fully equipped, some
functionality is only available via standard PCI expansion cards, and if an application
requires that functionality, the GETAC A790 is one of the very few state-of-theart
rugged notebooks that can deliver.

And not just PCI cards. GETAC has expansion units for older legacy ISA cards and
the new PCI Express cards also. Existing and potential GETAC customers
are likely familiar with the company background and so I’ll only state the
basics: General Electric-Aerospace and Mitac Group of Taiwan founded GETAC back
in 1989. Ever since, GETAC has been at the very forefront of ruggedized mobile and portable innovation for military and other demanding markets worldwide.

By now, the company is closing in on 20 years of experience in building water-tight enclosures, thermally efficient no-vent equipment, resistance to shock and vibration, accommodating operation in very wide temperature ranges, and whatever else it takes to building computers that can handle dust, sand, snow, water, hazardous materials and other environmental conditions.

From a design standpoint, this machine has been a success from its inception. And GETAC made sure it kept the technology of the A-Series up-to-date. What do you get with the GETAC A790? The A790 is machine that packs all modern notebook computer technology and connectivity into an exceptionally tough box. It is nearly indestructible, yet offers more expansion possibilities and more customization flexibility than almost anything else on the market. In terms of technology, this latest A-Series model comes with a 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo L2400 processor. This chip uses what Intel calls “dynamic power coordination,” dynamic cache sizing, and the ability to go into deep sleep so that power is used only in those areas of the CPU that need it. This represents an excellent compromise between robust processing power and improved battery life. The A790 uses DDR2 memory. It comes standard with 512MB and can be expanded, via two slots, to a total of 2GB. The primary hard disk is an IDE/SATA 80GB drive; larger units up to 120GB are available. The disk is housed in its own bay in a self-contained removable caddy with extensive
shock absorption.

On the display side you have your choice between a 12.1 and a 14.1-inch LCD, both with 1024 x 768 pixel XGA resolution. The smaller 12.1-inch screen is available with an optional touch screen, and GETAC also offers a sunlight-readable screen option. The screen hinge is very sturdy, and the LCD casing locks onto the main body of the computer with a large metal latch. Push the LCD lid down firmly, then push on the latch to lock it. Simply pull on the
bottom of the latch to release it. The waterproof and dustproof rubber keyboard is visible proof that this is a machine designed to be used under adverse conditions where dust or sand or rain are facts of life. What this means is that the keyboard has a rubber overlay with molded keys. That makes it 100% waterproof, but also takes some getting used to. There is tactile feedback, but it is very different from a standard keyboard, and the keys require a firm push rather than the typical
touch-typist tap. The QWERTY layout is also very slightly smaller, 96% instead of full scale. 100% scale would have been preferable and possible, but the difference is hardly noticeable.

As far as size goes, the A790 is actually rather compact. The footprint of the 14.1-inch screen version is 12.5 x 10.8 inches, including protective rubber bumpers, and the machine is 2.7 inches thick without the bumper, and 3.25 with it. The PCI card expansion unit adds about two inches, including rubber feet and bumpers. It’s not a lightweight. Our review unit with the PCI card expansion weighed in at 16.4 pounds; without the expansion it’s maybe 13 pounds, depending on media bay options.

The overall design of the A790 can best be described as purposeful. Below is a picture of the backside of the A790, mounted on top of the PCI expansion unit. The chassis and housing are all very thick and sturdy, precision-machined aluminum alloy. All hinges are metal; nothing feels flimsy. There are no swoops and curves or design elements other than a few grooves and raised lines here and there. Thick rubber moldings and bumpers protect exposed corners and edges simply and sensibly. Internal bays and slots are sealed via thick metal doors with O-ring rubber seals and additional foam padding.

Ingress Protection, is at the IP54 level. The “5” means the A790’s enclosure is protected against particles as fine as dust; the “4” means it is protected against water sprayed at it from all directions. A standard A790 can operate in temperatures between 32 and 131 degrees Fahrenheit. A special low-temperature option expands that to -4 to 131 degrees.

It also provides the latest wireless options. Yes, you can even use a standard SIM card in the A790. Like all GETAC units, the A790 features exemplary thermal design that makes it a cool-running, silent computer.

Another GETAC tradition is to equip its machines with a wealth of communication and interface options, and the A790 is no exception. From legacy serial and parallel ports all the way to USB 2.0, IEEE1394 and advanced 3G wireless and GPS options, it’s all there, and almost all ports are individually sealed for extra protection.

All in all, this is a rugged computer whose basic design has a long history of reliable operation under adverse conditions. The technological updates make it pretty much state-of-the-art. There is plenty of onboard connectivity, massive battery power, a long list of wireless and other options. And then there are the ISA/PCI/PCI-Express Expansion Units that none of the direct competitors can offer. All of this makes the GETAC A790 a
very compelling choice.

– Conrad H. Blickenstorfer

To view our range of Getac products, visit

We welcome any comments


We are a specialist, value added distributor of mobile computing and data capture products. Underpinning all that we do is an understanding that our customers deserve outstandingly executed basic distribution services.

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Posted in July 2013

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