So you have your rugged PDA loan device, it all looks great, your users seem happy with it but what do you really need to look out for.  Back from a little holiday yesterday!  Today I wanted to do a series of articles all aimed at the layman and all things to quickly look for when you’re buying a Rugged PDA.

7. Usability and spec

In at 7 is how well specced and how many features the device has.  The least you should do is look at the spec sheet and compare to other devices in the market or ask your reseller to do that for you.  Things that you need to look for in a spec are:

  • CPU – Marvell are still the best in our view.  It’s just the way they are put together and then how open they are.  The PXA320 is superb and the latest you’ll find in 2011/12 in the rugged market .  Samsung make great processors and we’ll see 1GHz version of this chip in the next few months too.
  • RAM – 256MB is fine for most jobs.  the rule of thumb is that more is better, NAND RAM is very nice, ask about it!
  • OS – Windows Mobile 6.5 has actually been superceded now for Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 but both are very similar OS’s.  WM6.1 is getting a little bit long int the tooth however many devices will come upgraded or have one on the roadmap.  Check out if they’re free and when they’ll be here as there are some very nice Rugged PDA’s that are still WM6.1 that will be upgraded in the next few weeks or months.
  • LCD – QVGA is still fine, is cheap to repair/replace and for most jobs you won’t even notice.  VGA is the current top spec in our market.  You need to be buying the QVGA/VGA ratio though to make sure existing apps will port on and off easily.  All rugged PDAs have resistive touch screens that can be used with a style.  Capacitive screens are not great for our market…..just yet.
  • 3G – Does the Rugged Handheld come with 3G, GPRS or both as an option?  what level of 3G does it have (3, 3.5, 3.75, 3.9)?  There are still good arguments for all of these.  Poor 3G chips are often the reason a device is “Cheap”.
  • GPS – Again this is an area that is often skimped on.  Stick a demo GPS app on the device and make sure it fires up quickly when hot and cold.
  • WiFi – Check how well the device connects to WiFi and roams.  Also check if there are any CCX or SUmmit chips available in the device as an option or as standard as these really help with WiFi dependent solutions.
  • Battery – Li-POL are appearing in this market now and are very, very good.  Other than that size is important here but some devices will sip power better than others.
  • Barcode Sanners – 1D, 2D, None?  Ask about the tech in the device too as most OEM in good or bad kit!  Again play with the device and check how easy it is to use and how well it scans.
  • RFID – This is the next big thing, HF and UHF are what you really need for a good generically compatible device.
  • Bluetooth – Not a great differentiator these days, but the later the version the better and always test it out by adding BT devices to the device and seeing how well they connect and stay connected.  BT can be severely messed up by poor firmware.
  • SDKs, API’s and Demo Apps – All important to get you running and to make building your solutions on the PDA easy.  Ask to play with them and they should be free BTW!

Add to this why not ask what the components are on the device.  Your reseller should know and you might be surprised to find out that cheaper PDA’s sometimes have better chips in them, than more expensive ones, most have exactly the same!

Tomorrow we’ll count down to Number 6.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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