Rugged PDA drop specs explained

14 04 2014
Drops, tumbles and vibration all add up to how rugged a rugged pod is!

Drops, tumbles and vibration all add up to how rugged a rugged handheld is!

Good morning from a warm sunny Liverpool! This morning we continuing with our “Ruggedness Month” and talking about one of the most important elements of PDA device ruggedness, the drop spec.

The drop spec in a nutshell

The drop spec is what we all call it but what does it mean to you?  Well it’s pretty simple really, and not to sound too sarcastic, it measures how “droppable” a device is!  Drop specs for a rugged pda are normally measured in length, either feet or metres, and literally state at what height they have passed a drop test from.

Drop testing method

Unlike IP testing The fact is there are no official certifications for drop testing so whilst it’s a good measure of ruggedness, manufactures are left to their own devices when it comes to testing. However most rugged kit now follows the testing set out in the MIL-STD 810 G and they also add in some extra tests form the MIL-STD testing portfolio to test other areas of ruggedness and it has proved to be a good way to get some kind of standardisation on rugged kit.  We’ll talk more about that in the next article.

What’s considered rugged?

We like to see 1.5M or 5 feet as the benchmark for being fully rugged and this has stood users in good stead over the years. IP54, 5foot drop spec devices tend to last course really well and we’ve never seen any devices at this level, that we’ve sold, not work out well for users over 3+ year periods.

The trends in drop spec

Like everything else manufacturer processes have been refined over the years so you’d think we’d be seeing higher drop specs on lighter devices.  This is apparent on the more innovative lesser known rugged brands and we’re now seeing some lovely IP65, 1.5M+ drop spec devices from the likes of Winmate and Gen2Wave that look more like smartphones than rugged mobile computers, but the trend for 2013/14 from the market leading brands like Motorola & Honeywell have so far been to develop higher IP67 rated, lighter 1.2M drop spec Rugged Smartphone style devices.  Personally I can’t see the point of IP67 in a device that has a lower drop spec and the reason for this is that most users will drop a device before they will water or dust damage it.

Leading Causes of Mobile Device Failure

Leading Causes of Mobile Device Failure (Source: VDC 2012 TCO Analysis)

I think that with the smartphone always a competitor to the rugged market this is why we’re seeing this trend, to give users a more direct option but from a rugged manufacturer, but like the semi-rugged devices before them, I’d be careful of these sorts of devices being used in the wrong scenarios.

What to look out for

Like I said above, manufactures are left to their own devices when it comes to testing so this has spawned a whole load of tweaking in the testing process.  Although not so common these days, you do need to look out for what the device has been dropped onto during it’s test. Concrete is used to gain a MIL-STD 810G test, but we’ve seen metals, lino floors and all kinds of material that could change the results of any test.

It’s also important to state that the device can be changed a number of times during the test so  a device that ends up with an excellent drop spec doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.  This is why we have our own crazy testing here with our own rugged ratings so that we can see just how tough a rugged device is in our own abusive little hands!!

We’ll also talk more about PDA design and how it can affect ruggedness in a blog towards the end of this series.

So that’s the drop spec covered, next up we’ll take a closer look at the way devices are tested so see you then!


Top tips on dust proof rugged mobile computers

9 04 2014
It's OK, it's IP65!

It’s OK, it’s IP65!

So the last blog was all about IP ratings and how these can be used to assess if your rugged PDA is rugged or not and also looked at how dust can utterly destroy a mobile device if it’s not protected.

Today I wanted to impart some top tips on buying and keeping your devices dust proof, so here there are!

1. To begin with look for a device with the right IP rating for you IP5X or 6X. Both are rugged and will be fine for all but the most dusty/dirty environments, anything less is not!  IP54 tends to be found on smaller, lighter devices, whereas IP64/IP65+ devices tend to be either more waterproof or larger types of devices.

2. Rubber covers that cover micro USB or headphone sockets if missing or not fitted properly will mean your mobile device is exposed. Keep them fitted, get them repaired or replaced if they’re missing.

3. Don’t hot swap batteries in the field out in the open in maximum dusty/wet conditions.  The underneath of your battery needs to keep dry and the heat from the battery can even help to corrode a device if damp or dust gets in.

4. Use a case!! A case will stop dust from damaging the outer casings, LCD and buttons.  Dust or sand doesn’t have to get into a device to damage it!!

5.  Use a screen protector.  Even Gorilla glass gets scratched over time and styluses tapping the same area of the screen repeatedly will wear it down, so make sure that thin plastic screen protector is fitted at all times and is kept working new.

6. Make sure anything that creates a seal is securely fitted, dry and dust free when fitting.  Batteries, connectors, end caps, rubber boots and anywhere that can expose the seals of the device can seal dust in as well as keep it out!

7. Rugged devices have a habit of keeping going when dropped, but if there’s a crack in the case or a rubber seal has been disrupted then it can let dust and water in.  Make sure you give your devices a regular check as this sort of repair will not be covered under warranty and often can write off a device.

We’re still taking questions for our Q&A on Friday so if you have anything to ask just tweet us using #RAMQQ or get in touch via email.

A dust proof guide with how IP ratings work for rugged mobile devices

7 04 2014

Continuing our “Ruggedness” vibe this week we’re talking about dust!!

I bet you didn’t know that those tiny particles, largely made up of our own skin and the dreaded fluff from a couriers pocket, can be a right pain when it comes to your mobile device!

So just what is being dust proof about?

Dust can come in all shapes and sizes, you could work on a building site for example where brick dust or plaster is a threat, you could be in sandy conditions, windy ones or even need a device that doesn’t pick up dust due to being in some kind of clean environment.  Or perhaps you could be an engineer on the road where you could enter customers sites with all kinds of different scenarios.  In any event you’ll pick up dust everywhere you go and it can play havoc with your mobile computer.

Dust can get in the way of the LCD making the device hard to use, it can get under keys making them sticky and hard to press and it can also get inside a device and short out the main board in the worst cases.  If you don’t take dust seriously then you’re not being rugged!!

How the “IP” Rating helps

We already explained the IP rating in last weeks post about being waterproof and is actually used to measure both the water and dust-proof-ness of electronic equipment.  Whilst the 2nd digit in the rating aligns to the water element, the fist one is all about dust and how resilient a mobile device is to it.


Dust can seriously affect a mobile device. Look for IP 5x or IP6x to be fully rugged.

Dust can seriously affect a mobile device. Look for IP 5x or IP6x to be fully rugged.

What to spot on the spec sheets

Like water, we’re only actually interested in IP5x and IP6x.  OK you see the odd IP4X being mentioned but this isn’t really about dust, rather about not being able to poke about in an electronic device, so always look for an IP5X + device where rugged starts.

Now IP 54 used to be the standard for Ruggedness, but IP54 devices are not strictly dust proof.  All this means is the device might not be totally dust tight but it won’t let dust alter the way it works.  This means that’s the LCD will be dust tight but perhaps the keypad is designed in such a way that it might let dust pass underneath it.  IP6X devices are totally dust tight though and dust simply should not get it at all.

We’re seeing a shift now in IP65 being the new standard as manufacturing cases is a lot cheaper and easier to do to attain the highest ratings these days.

So in the next article we’ll be talking about dust a lot more, who’d have thought that dust could be such an interesting topic!!?

Which waterproof Rugged Handheld Computer do I need

2 04 2014
Which IP rating is best for you?

Which IP rating is best for you?

So in the last article we talked about water proof ratings and what to look for on the spec sheets of rugged devices, but to many that’s still confusing so today we’re going to give you some of our experience of water and rugged PDA’s and give you some rough guidelines and tips to follow.

What level of water proofing do I need?

Basically don’t let anyone else fool you, to be fully rugged you need a rugged device with an IP rating of at least IP54.  IP54 has been the standard benchmark for rugged kit for years and years, however these days, with better, cheaper  manufacturing we’re probably seeing IP65 become the new standard.  IP54 will be good enough for working outside in the rain.

How do I find the IP rating.

The IP rating of any rugged device is on the spec sheet.  Usually under an “Environmental” section but it is always clearly marked on the spec sheet along with all the other elements of ruggedness the device has.  If there’s no IP rating then it probably isn’t rugged.

Find the IP Rating on the spec sheet

Find the IP Rating on the spec sheet


The golden rule of thumb for us in terms of the water IP rating you need is generally if you have decent users that will actively protect the devices being used then IP54 rated device will be fine.  We have customers who use Dotel H300S’s or  Motorola MC55′s outdoor, all day in dusty and all wet weather condition which are both IP54 rated and they’re fine.  I would say that 50%+ solutions we install to normal field based customers are in this category.

If devices might spend prolonged periods of time outside and there is potential for exposure to water that’s harder than normal rain then this is where perhaps IP65, is needed.  So we have customers near spray hoses, or who feel that the devices will be used in torrential downpours or near finer or stringer spray-like water conditions near rivers, lakes or even on boats would benefit from this.

IP67 or IP68 is where immersion in water might be an issue.  What many people don’t realise is that immersion in just 0.5M of water requires way better sealing than heavy jets of spray as the pressure form even this shallow depth of water is immense.  IP65 devices can be dropped in water or can swill about in watery conditions, but if you think you really are going to drop the device under water or there is risk of that then you need something IP67 or IP68.

Remember though water resistance is not the whole story.  The drop spec is also very important and how the device is built is too so if you need a device that won;t crack, or compromise the water-proofing ability of the device if dropped or man-handled then be aware of the raft of new rugged smartphones coming on to the market.  Always make sure you get the right IP rating and drop spec to match your needs.

Next up is the weekly Q&A, so make sure you read it to find answers to the top questions we get this week.

Learning how water proof IP ratings work for a mobile computer

31 03 2014
IP rating, ,measures the dust and water protection a rugged pda has

IP rating, measures the dust and water protection a rugged pda has

We’re going back to our roots and celebrating “Ruggedness”  and for a whole month, week by week we’re going to be talking about everything that makes your rugged device rugged, whether it be water, dust, drop, tumble, casings, design or whatever else we have locked away in our rugged focussed brains here at RAM!

This week we’re going to deep dive into water, how IP ratings work, how to work out what you need and to give you the low down on IP ratings and what they really mean to ruggedness.

What is an “IP” Rating

An IP rating literally stands for Ingress Protection and it’s a certified way you measure how well any mobile device can withstand water and dust.  We’ll come on to dust next week but this article focusses on the water side of the rating.

So the IP rating comes with 2 numbers after it and you’ve probably seen numbers like IP54, IP65 or even IP68 on spec sheets of devices you’re looking at.  Well these 2 numbers mean something. The first digit tells you how well a rugged pda resists dust particles, the second digit is the one we’re interested in this article as it tells you have well a mobile device resists water.

IP Water ratings for rugged devices

IP Water ratings for rugged devices

Water resistance for ruggedness – what you’ll see on the spec sheets

Although the table goes  from 0 to 8, we’re only interested in IPx5 to IPx8 because 5 is the minimum a PDA device requires to be regarded as fully rugged.  There’s a good table here with short explanations of what it means in layman terms with a device by each one to give you an idea of what has which IP rating.

Extra ratings

There are 2 new additional ratings added to the above table that aren’t seen much, if at all in rugged PDA IP spec sheets.  These are here:

IPx6K – Powerful water jets with increased protection.  This is the same test as used in IPx6 in the table above but with increased pressure.

IP9K – Powerful high temperature water jets. Sitting at the bottom of the table this level tests for close range, high pressure and high temperature spray downs.

NEMA Ratings

You can sometimes find a NEMA rating on spec sheets and this stands for “North American Enclosure Rating.”  They’re rare to see on rugged  device spec sheets but they simply give you an equivalent rating designed to simplify the ruggedness level of a device. For those who want a peek, the NEMA specs are here

So in the next article we’ll be taking you deeper into the water proof-ness of rugged devices with a look at how they test and what you might need for your mobile application hardware.


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