Three like-priced EFBs offer new choices for the flight deck

 - December 5, 2007, 12:37 PM

Purveyors of electronic flight bag (EFB) tablet computers are introducing new models and capabilities for the new year, with three notable models worthy of consideration for business jet operators in the market for the latest technology.

Chicago-based navAero has developed the t•BagC22 EFB as a class-2 device using a commercial off-the-shelf remote computer and a separate display.

The device incorporates navAero’s t-Pad display, which comes with a standard 8.4-inch active matrix liquid crystal display color screen with 800- by 600-pixel resolution. An optional 10.4-inch display with 768- by 1024-pixel resolution is also available. Both screens are touch-sensitive for inputting commands and include brightness control and on/off buttons on the front of the unit. They are sunlight-readable for cockpit use and dimmable for nighttime flying.

The t•Bag C22 features a 1.6-GHz Intel Pentium M processor, 40-gigabyte hard drive and 512 megabytes of memory. The CPU is sealed and passively cooled, so there are no moving parts inside the unit that could lead to failure, the company said.

The computer operates on a Windows XP Professional platform and can run most types of aviation software, including Jeppesen charts, moving maps, real-time weather and terrain avoidance programs. It includes three USB, three serial and four Ethernet ports. Price for the t•Bag C22 with the standard 8.4-inch display is $5,475. The touch screen weighs 2.1 pounds and measures 9.4 by 6.2 by 0.6 inches.

Advanced Data Research (ADR) in Rochester Hills, Mich., can lay claim to being the first company to start selling converted pen-tablet computers for aviation use, and now the company has the newest class-2 EFBs as well. Its FG-7000 builds on the previous FG-5000 and FG-6000 models by incorporating a more powerful processor and bigger screen. Priced at $5,495, the FG-7000 incorporates a 1.2-MHz Intel Pentium M processor, 8.9-inch LCD touch screen, 30-gigabyte hard drive and 512 mega-bytes of memory.

The self-contained unit features built-in wireless data capability, CD-ROM drive, an integrated keyboard and runs on Windows XP. Like the navAero device, ADR’s machine can run Jepp chart software and interface with WSI and XM in-flight weather services. The unit measures 9.3 by 6.57 by 1.36 inches and weighs 2.2 pounds.

Paperless Cockpit has just introduced its newest EFB, the XP3. The Memphis, Tenn. company is billing the $5,895 unit as one of the few that can show an entire Jepp approach chart without the need to scroll from one portion of the chart to another.

Equipped with a 1-GHz Transmeta Crusoe processor, 512 megabytes of RAM and a 40-gigabyte hard drive, the E-Board XP3 is said to handle electronic chart and in-flight weather functions as adeptly as the Pentium-based machines. The Crusoe processor can run complex operating systems such as Windows 2000 on as little as 1 watt of power. However, big-name PC makers including Compaq and IBM have rejected it, citing performance issues.

But with on-board 802.11b WiFi, Bluetooth, 10/100 Ethernet, 56-kilobyte modem and GPRS, the E-Board XP3 offers a variety of connectivity methods. Two USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire ports and a PC Card slot provide expansion capability.

A New Microsoft Market Entry
If you’re flying with an EFB purchased in the last three or four years, chances are your hardware is performing admirably and there’s probably little need for an upgrade to one of the machines mentioned above.

On the other hand, if you’re in the market for your first EFB or looking to upgrade, each of these are worth a second look. Keep in mind, however, that Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system hits store shelves later this year. It’s anybody’s guess how long it will take for the first Windows Vista EFBs to hit the market, but one thing is certain: newer software designed to run on Vista will be more microprocessor hungry than ever.

Microsoft expects 200 million new PCs to ship with Vista preloaded in the first 24 months after the operating system is available. Vista will include a number of features tailored to tablet PCs, such as handwriting and voice recognition and the ability to perform functions such as reading e-mail without having to boot up the machine.

A spokeswoman for Paperless Cockpit said it will likely be quite some time before Windows Vista begins invading the world of EFBs, however.

“We won’t switch to a new operating system until the release of Service Pack 1 at the earliest,” she said, referring to the free software updates Microsoft invariably issues to fix its own OS bugs. “Until then there are too many question marks with regard to stability.”