Case Study: Choosing a Panel PC vs a Tablet

Touchscreen Technology Integrations

In the past, it was not uncommon to integrate a touchscreen as part of a larger computerized system, the screen independent from other computerized components of a system. In fact, because computers were less powerful and more bulky, it was almost entirely necessary to do this. The ongoing improvement and size reductions in technology have given rise to thin, powerful tablet and panel PCs that can handle all of a piece of equipment’s computing, not just the Human-Machine Interface aspects. Now, developing new devices with advanced touchscreen interfaces is a much simpler process in many respects – simply choose the appropriate touchscreen computer system, load it with the right software, and drop it into your device.

Estone Technology is a first name in OEM/ODM tablet and panel PC solutions for all types of demanding industries. We were recently approached by a company in a rugged industry with a problem. They had a new product; a suite of portable sensors in a durable case with a tablet computer to operate them – but the tablet wasn’t meeting their clients’ needs. It was difficult to see in sunlight, failed at high temperatures, and the battery frequently failed to last as long as the workday in the field did.

Project Requirements

The client reported that they needed a tablet solution that vas easily visible in full sun, could stand up to industrial dirt and grime, functioned in temperatures up to 140° F, and had the battery life to last through long field workdays. To that point, the client had developed prototypes using off-the-shelf tablet PCs, with varying degrees of success. The client reported having tested a rugged industrial tablet PC they obtained, which met more of their requirements, but was thicker and more bulky than they intended for their product, and was difficult to modify at all for their purposes. Specifically, they needed to mount an external power switch for the tablet and all connected sensors.

The unit enclosure had been decided upon, and could not be changed. It provided ample space for all components previously selected, and had some additional internal space available beneath the front panel where the tablet PC had been mounted.

Estone Technology’s Recommendation

After we had a chance to review the client’s test device,  we realized that finding a tablet PC to fit the client’s needs could be difficult. Tablets are sealed devices that, even under the best circumstances, can fall victim to excessive heat, and are limited in potential battery life by space. And because the cases of tablets are designed to limit water and debris ingress, they’re usually difficult to add to or to change components.

Estone Technology suggested changing from a tablet PC to a panel PC in the unit – specifically our 10″ PPC-4210. Panel PCs presented several benefits for the client. As a simply framed device, panel PCs can be easily modified to include extra features, like external switches. Since the device was designed in its own sealed container. A panel PC also presented both easier mounting and better heat tolerance than a tablet PC – additional airflow through the system provided cooling without any additional cooling equipment. Finally, because panel PCs do not have their own power supplies or battery packs, the change made it easier to use the additional space in the enclosure to house a high-capacity battery that provided extremely long runtime for the sensor device.

The PPC-4210 offered the IP65 waterproof rating, 140°F temperature tolerance, and easy modification the client was seeking – and we were able to upgrade the base unit with a high-brightness LCD perfect for full-sun use.

Panel PC
PPC 4210


In many cases, a rugged tablet PC is a perfect solution to a wide variety of computer problems. However, when dealing with a situation that will require an integrated computer system, panel PCs offer unique features and opportunities that tablets and other computer solutions cannot.