Let’s face it. When you’re an adventurous grey nomad getting down and dirty in Australia’s remotest regions, the tablet computer doesn’t normally cut the mustard. They’re generally considered a bit too suburban, a bit too latte and luxury … or at least they were!
Time for the ‘Earl’ to take a bow. This rugged Android 4.1-based tablet is designed for serious wilderness adventurers. Whereas many LCD screens are impossible to read in bright sunlight, the Earl uses a 6-inch LG e-ink display designed for excellent daylight visibility. So far, so good.
And this little beauty is going to make it pretty hard to get lost, as well. It comes pre-loaded with topographic base maps, and its 50-channel GPS/GLONASS/WAAS chipset tracks multiple satellites to offer accuracy of up to three metres. The device can apparently use its internal magnetometer, accelerometer and gyroscope to keep you on track even if dense rainforest prevents clear line of sight to orbiting satellites.
The Earl includes an AM/FM radio, along with shortwave and longwave band radios. It can connect to the internet and works with wireless devices such as heart rate monitors. Its designers say the tablet can send text and voice messages and convey information such as weather, location and route. However, it should be stressed that the Earl does not allow users to communicate via satellite, so should not be relied on as an emergency rescue beacon. Nonetheless, it does boast a two-way radio that allows you to talk with radio users up to 30 kilometres away.
Oh, and there’s no need to panic if the device’s 20 hour-battery life is nearing its end. It comes with a built-in solar panel and can be charged up via USB. The dust-proof, shock-proof and mud-proof Earl also comes in a waterproof case and works in temperatures of up to 50ºC. Wow!
The Earl can be used all over the world, but its base maps and radio frequencies are designed for America. An Australian version is planned for later this year. The base model will retail at around $360.