What’s better than one trip with the ruggedised (ruggedized) reporter?
Answer: hopefully it’s obvious i.e. it’s a chance to find that the ruggedised reporter rides again.
Our first trip out road testing ruggedised toughened kit saw us put a Conker Windows tablet through its paces across the jungles of Sri Lanka.
Conker stepped up again for our second trip, this time to the ancient city of Marrakech in Morocco. With dusty back alley ‘souq’ markets strewn throughout a city that sits in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, Marrakech is as mad as it is magnificent.
Our test was simple: could we survive a 5-day trip to Marrakech working with a full set of Office-type Android apps on an 8-inch device? Conker suggested the Conker SX80… and we accepted the challenge.
This device runs Android 8.1 and has an Octa-core processor and a 6,000 mAh battery.
Its makers say that the SX80 is the ideal device for mobile workers across a multitude of industries. With features such as optional 2D barcode scanning, fingerprint reading, wireless charging and 4GB RAM/ 64GB memory.
So (given the whole barcode option and the carry strap on the back of the unit) the SX80 isn’t perhaps designed with on-the-road reporters in mind, but perhaps that’s just a happy accident of product excellence? After all, there’s a built-in microphone and high quality (really loud) speaker and the display is IPS Resolution 1920×1200 with Touch Capacitive Multi-touch.
For the dimensions, the Conker SX80 ships at 510g and is 229 x 136 x 11mm.
Cameras includes a 13 megapixel rear with flash (for taking pictures) and a 5 megapixel front camera (for video chats etc.)
There is a Micro-USB power point and Micro SD: up to 128GB SIM with nano memory 4GB memory 64GB storage.
Because we wanted to use the SX80 in place of a complete laptop, we teamed it with a Logitech iPad keyboard, but we could have used any small Bluetooth keyboard for the job.
We also used an Anker stand to prop up the device itself. This was due to the fact that Conker has included a tough-build strap on the back of the unit, rather than any kind of stand.
This again suggests that the SX80 has been created with field service professionals in mind, who would carry the device around in their hands rather more than using it sitting on a desk – or in dusty bars and markets as we did.
The toughened ruggedised factor was useful on this test i.e. we slung the SX80 into our North Face backpack without worrying about how and where our pack dropped. Between the backpack and Conker’s outer device casing (as tough as Conker shell, get it?), there was more than enough protection.
Is this device perfect… well what device is?
The only naught niggles we found were the SX80’s lack of inherent ability to rotate its screen from portrait to landscape on the home screen.
To be clear, the apps themselves do automatically auto-rotate between portrait and landscape once that option is selected in settings, but if you want to use the device like a mini portable desktop computer, then you’ll need to download one of the several ‘screen rotate’ plug-in overlay apps for Android that exist on the Google Play store.
These work pretty well, although it’s not impossible to function with the device home-screen in portrait only mode.
STOP PRESS: Correction on the above. There is in fact a way of managing the home screen auto-rotate function. Long press a blank space on the home screen to bring up the Wallpapers, Widgets, Home Settings function and select Home Settings – the bottom of the three options is Allow Home Screen Rotation. This is a core Android function and one of those things that you just have to look for i.e. even Conker’s engineering team didn’t know how to do this when we asked them.
Oh… and the battery power line is Micro-USB rather than the more modern USB-3, but we know that toughened ruggedised units are generally slightly behind on trends like this because the product development team is more directly focused on creating a workable device than worrying about the ever-changing power inlet trend.
To sum up then, the Conker SX-80 is a nice piece of kit.
We managed to function with it on the road in Marrakech, Morocco for the best part of a week using it in place of a fully-functioning Windows (or other OS) laptop.
The device is marked out for its impressive battery life, a full charge appears to offer somewhere up to around 20-hours of usage, although this figure would no doubt drop depending on how intensive the user is with any chosen set of applications.
Apart from the toughness, the best thing about the Conker SX-80 is its great versatility, which is funny in a sense, as it’s not the core USP of the product itself… but here’s what we mean:
- We managed to connect easily to Bluetooth headphones and a Bluetooth keyboard at the same time.
- We managed to use Google Docs both online and offline to write this actual review, on the device itself.
- Once work was done, we managed to enjoy BBC iPlayer downloads via Nord VPN outside of the UK to watch some TV shows.
- We managed to use Gmail effectively to respond to mails and clear our inbox.
- We kept up with friends on Facebook and monitored home heating using Hive.
- We logged into our Content Management System to file this story AND also upload photos taken on a smartphone, but synched with the Conker SX-80 using Google Photos.
- We used bespoke apps such as the Paris Metro app to navigate between hotels and airports while on the go.
- We managed to log onto various hotel, airport and in-flight WiFi services with relative ease – and this not always a given (some devices take several reboots and reconnects as most users will know).
This device is tough for sure, but it is the unit’s core versatility that marks it out. Yes you can drop it if you want to (it has a toughened glass Drop Test of 1.2m), but it’s too pretty for that, so why would you want to?
The price for a Conker SX80 with 2D barcode scanner is £629 — without is £499.
Conker SX-80: tough tablet.