How Rugged equipment is drop tested

16 04 2014
Drop specs might not be all you think they are!

Drop specs might not be all you think they are!

So we’ve been talking about drop testing, but just how is equipment tested and certified? Well the first important piece of information is that it isn’t!….well at least there’s no special test centre that does it and gives you a pass grade and certificate anyway.  Instead the testing and statements made on spec sheets are down to the manufacturers.

Drop test uncovered

The drop spec is basically a series of drops onto each face of the device.  You need to drop the device 26 times STD 810 Transit drop is the one we tend to see in the rugged computer world.  Interestingly the floor of the drop zone can be made up of two inches of plywood over concrete and whilst determined as the most common surface a device was likely to land on I think pure concrete is best for enterprise.  I have asked various manufacturers about what they test on and none of them have come back to me with a definitive answer to the question. Devices only have to be dropped from 4 feet but of course we see many dropped from higher. and the test consists of 26 drops on:

  1. Each of its six faces
  2. It’s 12 edges
  3. It’s eight corners

So the test totals 26 drops. Damage is determined after each drop and the drops can be divided up among 5 identical PDA’s, so the test isn’t particularly hard to pass and with 5 devices on hand to pass it with, drops to wood and often with a lack of transparency in the testing processes it’s confusing at best.

Tumble & Vibration

Tumble tests are designed to simulate a different kind of impact and these can be done from different heights by using different sized chambers.  The device is placed into the chamber and then spun slowly so that it drops and “tumbles” as it is spun over and over.  The tests can be for 1000 or 2000 tumbles and the device is checked after the full tumble set. Vibration sees a device subjected to various frequencies of vibration over a set time to see if anything can work lose.

A little video!

To give you a little more, the best video I’ve seen of a lot of rugged tests you can do is this one from Getac.  Note the wood covered concrete!!

Our experience

You know, I sometimes wonder if everyone lies these days. Mileage tests on cars are lies, if it weren’t for whatcar magazine we’d never really know.  Why would spec sheets on rugged devices be any different? So we test and test and test here, on our own, in the field and with customers too so we have lots of real and practical experience to share. What we’ve found is a lot of kit that looks a bit cheap at first actually performs better than their spec sheets.  For example we’ve been testing a Chinese device recently that has been under 1M of water for weeks, dropped from 2M’s 50+ times according to MIL testing and it’s still alive and kicking, not even a screen crack. We also test branded equipment that in no way lives up to it’s spec sheet testing.  We see devices where battery covers ping off on every drop, IP42 that’s meaningless and all kinds of MIL tests that can’t live up to their claims.  Mould resistances on devices with micro-usb connectors is a particular favourite of mine right now!!

What i’d leave you with is that everything has caught up these days and it’s very hard to buy a poor piece of hardware on it’s own. So ask about a device, don’t rely on spec sheets, use resellers unbiased experience to work out what’s best for you.

Motorola MC67 – IP65 Vs IP67

21 11 2012
IP67 does make a difference, to some mobile computer users.

IP67 does make a difference, to some mobile computer users.

Due to the launch of the new Motorola MC67 rugged mobile computer, we already got a bit our first questions on what the exact differences are, specifically in terms of the ruggedness of the Rugged Mobile Computer so we thought we’d do a quick blog today on the major differences at the top of the IP scale.  We already did a great blog here about IP ratings in general but here we’ll zoom in on the top end.

IP and Dust

There are 2 ratings that we’re worried about in terms of dust intrusion,. which is the first digit in the IP number.  IP6X is the top number and it means that the mobile computer is totally dust tight.  This means nothing gets in at all!  IP5X does not actually  mean a device is dust “tight” but it does mean dust will not alter the functionality of the device.  This mean dusty screens are still a big no-no and it usually means that the rugged mobile computer has some kind of plate somewhere that dust can lie under but still not affect the device over its life.

To be honest we rarely see anything IP5 or 6X that has dust that has affected it or indeed got under the skin of the mobile computer.  Anything below this is not rugged!

IP and water

So what exactly is the difference between IP 65 and IP67.

Well in terms of dust protection, it’s the same, but in terms of water there is a difference.

IP65 rugged mobile computers are protected from “jets” of water from all angles.  This means they are more water-resistant than just weather as these jets of water in the IP tests tend to be more powerful and smaller in nature.  It shows the mobile computer is more than protected against rain.

IP66 we rarely see but it means the device is protected form “Powerful Jets” of water.  Again this is slightly open to interpretation but it means in our experience that you can hose a mobile computer down.

so IP67 then is where we get jiggy with immersion in water.  People don’t realise that make something watertight is hard enough but to withstand water pressure from immersion, even at 1M is a pretty special thing!  Immersion in “up to 1M” is what IP67 gives you and there’s usually a time limit that comes with this figure too.  Typically the manufacturer will specify the exact meaning of this on their spec sheet but you should in essence be safe to drop your device in up to 1M of water as long as you get it out quickly enough.

I have to say that in my experience IP ratings do have to be taken relatively.  We see devices that push it when stating they’re IP65 and some stating they’re IP54 could be more.  I think the MC65 is one of these and is the reason Motorola have probably found it natural to launch and IP67 device.  The Motorola MC65 range is very reliable when it comes to its IP ratings.

more soon…

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

Cheap Rugged PDA’s with Great Repair Services

23 02 2012
Rugged PDA Repair

Cheaper Rugged PDA Repair services are a lot better these days than you think.

Continuing this weeks theme of looking into why Cheaper Rugged PDA’s aren’t actually a bad deal or a risk these days, I’ve been tasked with talking about the repair and service element.  This has been a classic area that has let down the non “Prestige Brand” Rugged PDA’s, especially from Korea, USA and China but this is no longer any issue any more.

What I’m going to do is share our experience of selling a prestige brand against 1 or 2 of the cheaper brands and lay out the facts for you to decide and I’ll do this by looking at a few typical scenarios that you will experience after buying a Rugged Handheld.  We’ll take the leading brand (leading brands are always there to be shot down in my view!) and 2 of the cheaper brands we sell very successfully here, Pidion and Dotel.

Comparing Warranty Services

Warranty level services cover a few eventualities.  All Rugged PDA’s come with at least 12 months warranty but it doesn;t cover you for much other than defects of the device.  If the device stops working and its a defect of say the touch screen then it will be covered under warranty.  Warranty repairs also covers devices that are out of warranty and require an ad hoc repair and a device that is in warranty but requires a repair that is not covered by the warranty itself, IE a cracked screen.  In every case you get treated the same.

Here’s a table showing ACTUAL average days turn around, average price for a cracked screen and reporting and communication level you get with some devices.

Turn Around LCD Cost Report Communication Parts G’tee
Motorola ES400 13 days £355 No Email, 3-4 day turnaround 0
Intermec CK3 10 days            £400+  On request Better, 1-2 day email 0
Motorola, MC55/65 12 days £365 No Email, 3-4 day turnaround 0
Pidion BM170 4 days £180 Full Direct, same day, possibly live 3 years
Pidion BIP-5000 4 days £190 Full Direct, same day, possibly live 5 Years
Dotel H300 4 days £170 Full Direct, same day, possibly live 3 Years

The parts G’tee is how many years parts for repairs will be g’teed for once the device goes end of life without a service contract.  Lastly I would mention that Motorola’s ES400 is by far the most troublesome PDA we sell with way more returns than anything else we sell.  Maybe it’s because its being mis-sold generally as a Rugged PDA or maybe it’s just poor but facts are facts.

Comparing Comprehensive Services

Comprehensive Services are the service packs you can buy to add accidental, wear and tear and better SLA’s to your service.  Again a table below with the same devices shows our experience of various brands comparable service plans to Service from the start Bronze.

Turn Around Report Communication Parts G’tee
Motorola ES400 5-7 days No Email, 3-4 day turnaround 5
Intermec CK3 5-7 days  On request Better, 1-2 day email 5
Motorola, MC55/65 5-7 days No Email, 3-4 day turnaround 5
Pidion BM170 1-3 days Full Direct, same day, live chat and telephone 5 years
Pidion BIP-5000 1-3 days Full Direct, same day, live chat and telephone 5 Years
Dotel H300 1-3 days Full Direct, same day, live chat and telephone 5 years

In this case we count the turn around time as the full-time it takes to send and get your device back.  In the case of Premium brands with central repair centres you have to either send to a different country or there is a step point to send to which adds time on to delivery.  PidionCare and Dotel response services even have repairs sent out same day in some cases and can offer a range of services for sending back such as pre-noon or pre- 9am.

Not as some would have you believe hey?

Other points

There are a lots of other points too, such as if an SLA is missed by Motorola or Intermec, Psion or anyone else for that matter it’s tough.  Read the small print, you get nothing.  With our Pidion and Dotel service and others we deliver, you get a penalty refund of some nature appropriate to the issue at hand.

Also some issues can be more complex than others.  With us you talk to your account manager and can talk technical directly with us.  Try that with the larger brands and see where you get!!


I think the days of the big cost cutting central/eastern european service centres are over.  The market we live in now requires more intimacy, more innovation and better access to a passion and expertise about kit that’s sold.  I think resellers should be held responsible for what they sell more and more and more customers are realising this.  Next time you buy a Rugged PDA, think about the service you will actually get opposed to what’s written on a spec sheet.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

Pidion Rugged PDA Range gets Mid-Term Upgrades

30 06 2011
Pidion Rugged PDA Upgrades

Hmmm….Upgrades! – Pidion Upgrades its Rugged PDA Range

Pidion are undergoing a lot of changes right now and their Pidion Rugged PDA range is no exception.  Although you wouldn’t notice the changes form the outside, as this is a mid term upgrade, the differences to the devices are quite exciting in some cases.

The PDA’s that have been upgraded are the main selling BM170, BIP-5000 and BIP-6000 devices that form Pidions Semi rugged, lightweight rugged and super rugged PDA devices.  We’ll cover off here, exactly what has been changed, why and the benefits of the changes.

Pidion BM170 – Hardware changes

The BM170 is Pidions newest device so its no surprise that there is only 1 change and this is due to a manufacturer-wide LCD change.  The older Toppoloy LCD’s have now been changed for newer casio screens that are far brighter and more sensitive than the older screens used.  THe difference is actually quite stark and the experience the users will get is far more akin to the LCD’s you see on the Motorola series of rugged handhelds.  The change will not affect how the devices work.

Pidion BIP-5000 Changes

Like the BM170 the BIP-5000 has been the subject of the same LCD upgrade, wlthough in the BIP-5000 it remains a QVGA (320×240) resolution so it will fit in nicely with any current platforms.  The LCD has the same improvements being far brighter, more colourful as well as having a better digitiser.

The BIP-5000 has also undergone an upgrade to its GSM/GPRS radio chip where it now uses the newer Siemans MC75.  Like the older MC55 chip, the MC75 is found in a plethora of devices, they are established, stable and a quality product that will only bring further stability to the BIP-5000 range.

The stylus on the BIP-500 has also been upgraded with a nice quuality plastic metal with plastic ended stylus that is nearer in quality to the BIP-6000 one.

Pidion BIP-6000 Changes

The BIP-6000 has undergone the  most change.  Firstly the most exciting change is that new MAX RFID chip.  The internal RFID reader has undergone a total re-design which has seen the chip upgraded and the aerial moved and improved.  Our tests on our demo model have proven already that the range compared to the older BIP-6000 RFID series is vastly improved for HF reading and makes the BIP-6000 the best HF reading Rugged PDA available today.  We’re really impressed by this upgarde to be honest.

The LCD has also been upgraded in line with the above devices.  The LCD unit in the BIP-6000 remains a VGA (640×480) affair.

The Camera in the BIP-6000 has been replaced.  It rmeains as a 3MP unit but uses a newer Aptina Sensor which will improve images taklen with the device.

The device has also replaced its mDOC 512MB of ROM with a NAND version of the memory and it adds a G-Sensor to the board.  Our suspicions here are that it won’t be long before we see both Android and WM6.5 or WEH6.5 available fo rthis device and quite soon.

Pidion are doing a lot at the moment and are probably the most active of all Rugged PDA manufacturers at the moment.  There’s a lot in the pipeline and these changes will only m ake their kit more desirable and competent to use.  Don’t forget that we carry 100’s of devices here in our demo stock so if you’re in the market for a rugged PDA, just come and ask us for a loan so you can decide what’s right for you.  We also provide a range of service options for Pidion and other manufacturers delivered right from our very own service and innovation centre so be sure to check this out too.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

Rugged PDA LCD brightness – What’s in a NIT

27 05 2011

The Rugged PDA market has seen a lot of new devices recently and its ever more important to have a USP for your device.  Motorola has been spending a lot of time during their recent products launches of the ES400 and the MC65 rugged PDA’s on the new super bright screens that they sport, especially regarding the NIT rating of them so we thought we’d dig a little bit deeper and tell you all about what this really means.  We did this in true RAM way and conducted a few experiments on the devices.

Rugged PDA Screen Brightness varies (Es400, MC65, BIP-5000)

Rugged PDA Screen Brightness varies (Es400, MC65, BIP-5000)

Whats in a NIT

Firstly a little bit about NITS.  The term NIT comes from the latin word nitere which means to shine.  All lovely and nice but what about the science!  A NIT is a unit of measure of emitted luminance.  It’s derived from the Candela which is the SI base unit of luminous intensity which measures this in a scientific manner via waveform strength (a whole other blog).  The reason this is not good for us and LCD screens is that we are looking at overall luminosity of the whole panel and thus we need a way of looking at luminosity over and area.  A NIT is precisely this, and is a calculation of Candela’s over a given area.  In fact 1 NIT = 1cd / m2.

Normally you see LCD panels in TVs and monitors expressed as cd/m2 so we can see here that a NIT is simply the name given to this calculation.

NIT benchmarks

Now lets put this into perspective by giving you some typical benchmarks for NIT ratings:

  • CRT TV/Monitor – 350 nits
  • Budget LCD TV – 350 nits
  • HDTV – 400-450 nits
  • Brand new premium HD TV – < 1000 nits
  • Old or budget Laptops – 200-300 nits
  • Macbook pro – 450 nits (unofficial figure)
  • Brand new Lenovo w700 – 400 nits

So we can start to see that claims of 750+ nits on the ES400 are indeed exceptional.

The NIT V’s The Lumen

Both of these measurements are often mixed up and both also based on the Candela.  The difference is the Lumen is a measure of reflected light intensity and this is the reason you see projectors measured in lumens and not the same NIT rating as an LCD.  The reason is you;re looking directly at emitted light on an LCD, whereas you;re looking at reflected light when looking at a projector screen.

This got us thinking though with our experiments.

Sunlight readability in Practise

So we had a look at the ES400 and MC65 against other LCD’s, in fact the best known topology and Casio screens we know of here and the results can be clearly seen below.  In our controlled lighting environment you can see clearly how bright the ES400 is, the Motorola MC65 not so bright to be honest, but still marginally brighter than rival devices.

Same Screens, Same Brightness, with real life reflections - Not as clear cut now?

Same Screens, Same Brightness, with real life reflections – Not as clear cut now?

However we wondered if the Lumens of the screen where in fact affecting the NITS.  What the heck does that mean…well it means that whilst in a controlled environment the MC65 looked brighter, it also reflected too much light in a real world environment which affected the screen readability more than the brightness.  The ES400 was so bright that it had enough oomph to look good everywhere but the result is with a good ant-reflective screen, we can;t see much difference in the readability of the MC65 screen.


At minimal viewing angles  reflected LCD light effects screen readability more than the NIT rating of the LCD to a point with the 750+ NIT rating of the ES400 screen starting to basically crack the nut with a sledge hammer.  At certain angles of view however, the NIT rating mattered less as the angle grew with reflections causing poor readability full stop.

Solution, get yourself a glare stopping LCD protector!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

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