Itronix GoBook II review: Itronix GoBook II

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.2
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 7.0
  • Battery life: 8.0
  • Service and support: 8.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Rugged system can take abuse; long battery life; glow-in-the-dark keyboard; built-in handle; three-year warranty.

The Bad Heavy; thick; includes only slower USB 1.1-standard ports; expensive.

The Bottom Line The "ruggedized" GoBook II can take a pounding, but it's huge and expensive. Don't consider it unless you have extreme computing needs.

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Not many notebook users need a massively beefed-up laptop such as the Itronix GoBook II. But if you do, this heavy notebook features a huge, nearly indestructible magnesium case, and it sports shock-mounted components, a waterproof keyboard, a built-in handle, and sealed port doors for the ultimate in durability. Unfortunately, such ruggedness comes at a steep price: the GoBook II is one of the heaviest and most expensive notebooks available--even thicker and heavier than the "ruggedized" Panasonic ToughBook 50. The average notebook user should pass, but if your laptop absolutely has to keep running no matter what, the GoBook II is worth a look. If you like an ultraportable notebook, the Itronix GoBook II is not for you. But if you need a notebook that you can pound on, you're in luck--this beefed-up notebook can take plenty of abuse. Its screen and hard drive are shock mounted to prevent damage from a fall, the keyboard sheds water like a duck, and all the ports are sealed. (Not surprisingly, this so-called ruggedized notebook is used mostly by law enforcement agencies and the U.S. military.)

With a strong, magnesium-aluminum-alloy case, the GoBook II has a rough-and-ready feel to it. The textured design features a big handle that can be used to prop up the notebook for a comfortable typing angle. Although its 12-by-9.6 inch footprint is about standard today for a midsized notebook, the GoBook II certainly isn't svelte at 2.4 inches thick. More to the point, it weighs a ponderous 9.2 pounds and has a travel weight of just more than 10 pounds. In fact, it's even thicker and heavier than Panasonic's ToughBook 50, the closest comparable model.

The GoBook II's big handle flips under the notebook for a nice tilt while typing.

The keys are made of glow-in-the-dark plastic.

Lacking a lock release, the GoBook II has a unique magnetic lid latch that holds the screen firmly down but opens with a gentle touch to reveal the screen and the keyboard, which is waterproof and glows in the dark. It's not as bright as the Panasonic ToughBook 50's optional lighted keyboard, but the GoBook II's keyboard illumination doesn't drain the battery. That's because the 19.6mm keys are made of phosphorescent plastic that produces enough light to be used at night for an hour or two before the iridescent glow wears off; briefly shining a flashlight on the keys brings back the illumination. The keys have a comfortable 2.2mm of depth, and the keyboard is firm and responsive. Below the keys are a smooth touchpad and a pair of speakers that pump out hollow and not-particularly-loud sound.

With all these durability claims, we couldn't resist giving the GoBook II some extra tests. We purposely dropped it from a 30-inch-high desk onto a carpet-covered, concrete floor three times, and each time it came back for more without a scratch. The only perceivable damage was that most of the port doors popped open, but these were easy to pop back in.

Speaking of the port doors, the GoBook II, with a combination of doors and rubber seals, happily breaks with the recent trend of leaving all of the ports open to the elements. In addition to ports for PS/2, serial, external monitor, headphones, and microphone, the GoBook II has a pair of USB slots (unfortunately, with the older 1.1 spec). Communications are covered with a network adapter, modem, and internal Wi-Fi (802.11b) networking setup. The system has a pair of Type III PC Card slots, although one is used for Itronix's Common Radio Module Architecture (CRMA) for wide-area-network cards.

Forget about state-of-the-art performance; the GoBook II excels at durability, not speed. The GoBook II can be configured at with either a 1.7GHz P4 or 1.8GHz Celeron processor, up to 1GB of 266MHz SDRAM system memory, a 20GB or 30GB hard drive, and a DVD/CD-RW combo drive. There is also a choice between a 12.1-inch XGA display with a resolution of 1,024x768 and a 12.1-inch SVGA touch screen with an 800x600 resolution. Another big choice is which cutting-edge, wide-area data radio to include. In addition to the internal Wi-Fi (802.11b) wireless networking, the GoBook II's CRMA slot can hold a GPRS, a CDMA, a CDPD, or a Bluetooth card. This gives the system maximum flexibility for short- and long-range wireless communications.

The touch screen is prone to picking up fingerprints.

The GoBook II is 2.4 inches thick and, thus, has plenty of room for a DVD/CD-RW combo drive.

Touch screens on notebooks are rare and can be useful for entering data. But the GoBook II's touch screen never gets bright enough and its antireflective coating is prone to picking up fingerprints. (A microfiber cleaning cloth is included.) On the side of the lid is a snap-in stylus, which is easily stowed and released, but its square shape has an uncomfortable feel. You can use any sharp object to write on the screen, including a fingernail.

In addition to the Windows XP Professional operating system, the GoBook II comes with a variety of utilities, under the heading of Mobile Computer Tools. Look inside this folder, and you'll find help files, a hard disk recovery area, and one of the industry's best battery gauges, which shows charge level, estimated battery life, and useful details such as the battery voltage, the temperature, and the current drain. Because it is meant for corporate use, the GoBook II does without any productivity applications so that company IT managers can load exactly what is needed for each worker. It's not exactly stripped, though; the system comes with mobile must-haves such as Adobe Acrobat and CyberLink's PowerDVD movie player.

In this small test group of three notebooks (two ruggedized, one not), the GoBook II comes out on top in mobile performance--but only by a few points. In reality, the mobile performance of the three systems in this roundup is virtually identical and would not translate to any noticeable difference. That said, the mobile performance of the GoBook II can be seen as good, not great. The system shouldn't have any trouble running everyday office and multimedia apps, just don't expect it to run those apps with blazing speed.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 performance rating  
Itronix GoBook II
Compaq Evo N800
Panasonic ToughBook CF-50
Find out more about how we test notebooks.

System configurations:

Compaq Evo N800
Windows XP Professional; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 64MB; Toshiba MK3018GAP 30GB 4,200rpm

Itronix GoBook II
Windows 2000 Professional; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 8MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm

Panasonic ToughBook 50
Windows 2000 Professional; 1.9GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Rage Mobility 64MB; Hitachi DK23DA-40 4,200rpm

At nearly four hours, the GoBook II had an impressive battery-life showing. The system's 11.1V, 6,000mAh battery propelled it to a life that was 35 minutes longer than that of its nearest competitor, Panasonic's ToughBook 50. The latter, with its 11.1V, 6m300mAh battery, was ultimately held back by its faster 1.9GHz Pentium 4-M processor, which draws more power than the GoBook II's 1.7GHz Pentium 4-M. The GoBook II's battery life is one the best we've found among non-Pentium M-based systems.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate longer battery life)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 battery life (in minutes)  
Itronix GoBook II
Panasonic ToughBook CF-50
Compaq Evo N800
To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both application performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).

System configurations:

Compaq Evo N800
Windows XP Professional; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 64MB; Toshiba MK3018GAP 30GB 4,200rpm

Itronix GoBook II
Windows 2000 Professional; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 8MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm

Panasonic ToughBook 50
Windows 2000 Professional; 1.9GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Rage Mobility 64MB; Hitachi DK23DA-40 4,200rpm

The GoBook II was designed and built for the long run, and its three-year warranty is among the best anywhere. Itronix provides three levels of care: Basic; Emerald, which provides a 48-hour turnaround on all repairs regardless of whether the damage was due to abuse; and Diamond, which provides a spare unit after a failure. The company covers all the basics: a toll-free, 24/7 tech-support line, a method to communicate with technicians via e-mail, and a variety of downloads, from bulletins to drivers to manuals, although the FAQ section is more concerned with basic warranty questions than specific technical problems.

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Where to Buy

Itronix GoBook II

Part Number: IX260GBII-1982H Released: Jan 1, 2003
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Jan 1, 2003
  • Resolution 1024 x 768 ( XGA )
  • Installed Size 256 MB
  • Weight 7.9 lbs
  • Graphics Processor ATI Mobility Radeon - 16 MB SGRAM
    AGP 4x - ATI Radeon - 16 MB SGRAM
  • CPU Intel Pentium 4-M 1.7 GHz
    Intel Pentium 4-M 1.7 GHz