This series is all about the main features of rugged PDAs and this article takes a look at the core features you should look for in a Rugged PDA and we’ll go through a few things you should watch for as we do it.  The core spec of any device consists of the stuff you usually can’t change and includes:

  • CPU
  • RAM
  • ROM

Often these are referred to collectively as the “Main Board” and they really are the heart and lungs of any electronic device.  Let’s look at these in more detail.

Rugged PDA CPU

The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the power behind the device and they are usually measured by MHz or how quickly they can process information.  However this isn’t necessarily the be all and end all as some CPU’s have dual cores that might run slightly slower than a faster single core one and it also matters what RAM and ROM you have too.

The main brands to look out for are:


Marvel offer the “XScale” family, often denoted on a spec sheet as PXA320 or older chips have lower numbers like PXA270 for instance.  Marvel are the Intel of the mobile world and in fact are a spin-off of Intel themselves and they make, good solid, decent chips that are always there or there abouts for performance.  THey are still the most widely used chip in the Rugged PDA market and if you go there are actually quite easy and nice to tweak and play with.


Qualcomm are a oinnovative company who actually invented all kinds of stuff including Assisted GPS that we all use now.  They are more commonly found in Smart phones as they’re cheaper but they also tend to offer a lot of bang for the buck too.  We don;t get the newer models in the Rugged Market so the best we see is usually comparable to the Marvel kit.

Texas Instruments

The OMAP processor is built on the ARM architecture and it seems to be making a bit of a come back in the Rugged PDA world with Intermec using it.  TI have been around from the start and whilst the older chips lacked a little bit in oomph, the newer stuff is very good and found a lot in Tablets too in A8 guide.


OK, so Samsung don;t make bad kit really and their CPU’s are no exception.  We used to see their 400MHz CPU in low-end budget Rugged PDA’s and it really struggled but the newer CPU’s really do have something.


Lastly MTK is worth a mention.  Basically this is a Chinese version of an older Qualcomm design and in true Chinese fashion, these MTK chips are becoming quite good.  If you import PDA’s from China then you’ll get to know this chip very well and it’s actually now found in the Dolphin 6000 small rugged PDA.  We’ve tested these and they aren’t bad at all and they’re going to put a very inexpensive cat amongst the pigeons when they become more mainstream.


RAM (Random Access Memory) in a Rugged PDA is much like the RAM you find in a PC or laptop and the same basic rules apply.  The more the better and it’s the single most thing in a PDA that will boost performance.  We’re seeing newer NAND style RAM now being put into a lot of RUgged PDA’s and it has made a difference to the performance so watch out for that.  You’ll need at least 128MB as a minimum with Windows Mobile but 256MB is more than adequate for most.  Some PDA’s have 512MB but most people really don’t need that and it doesn;t make a massive amount of different to the PDA’s performance.  Your mobile apps should not be gobbling this amount of memory up either or they need looking at!!


Read Only Memory is the onboard storage memory of the Rugged handheld and as well as being able to store programs and data here, it’s also used to keep PIM data like contacts as well as the OS itself which can take up quite a lot of room.  This is the reason you never actually get 512MB of that ROM, 70-80MB will alway be taken up by pre-installed OS’s and applications.

The ROM needs to be at least 256MB in our opinion or you start to get issues with it filling up.  512MB is great and any more is never a bad thing.  The larger the devices hard drive, the better.

Don’t forget that if you need a high level of storage, then Rugged PDA’s tend to do this by means of using an SD Memory card.  This will not only extend your storage well into the 8-16+ GB size but SD cards are portable and faster to access than ROM.

So there we have it.  Don’t forget that the way a PDA is put together is also a factor in how it performs so the main board (or Motherboard) itself and how it’s designed can be the difference between adequate and excellent performing PDA’s.  We benchmark everything we sell here so ask us what we think and we’ll tell you!

Tomorrow we’ll continue the series by looking at

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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2 Responses

    • ruggedandmobile

      Hi Simon, this is the Dotel DOTH300. Its fairly new, it’s superbly built, has great features (litium polymer batteries, slim, great Back up battery) and it is currently the least expesnive Fully Rugged PDA we sell. It flew through our testing here and we are loving it. We’ll be blogging more about this quite soon so keep in touch.