Rugged PDA drop specs explained

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.

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!


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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