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!!?


RAM Q&A of the week – IP and water

4 04 2014

RAM Weekly Q & A

This post is our weekly Q&A summary of the week, covering the most topical and popular issues and questions we encounter every week. It’s eclectic but it’s worth sharing so don’t forget that if you have a question then just let us know via twitter on @ruggedandmobile or using #RAMQQ or using Facebook.

1. I’ve seen an IP66 device on your website, what does that mean?

No tricks, there are a couple of devices that sport the rare IP66 rating. It just means they have slightly better spray resistance than an IP65 based device.

2. I’ve heard that despite the same IP rating,  different manufacturers rugged devices can perform differently.

I’ll answer that in 2 ways.  Firstly the IP test is a certified test and you need to obtain a certifcate, so if a device is IP rated then it should perform to that standard.  Some manufacturers do under rate their kit so they may perform better and this is often through design of the kit, so an IP54 device might seem to outperform an IP64 one.

However i’d also say that IP ratings are a lab based test.  There are all kinds of scenarios where we’vew found certain device might not perform as well as others but it’s usually due to the design of a connector which can corrode or the way you want to charge or even by changing batteries mid-shift.

3. Do you test devices at all?

Indeed we do!  We drop, dunk and break £1000′s worth of kit every year to give our own seal of approval on the stuff we , especially when it’s something that people have never heard of and we’re bringing it to the UK market.  For instance we’ve had a new £300 IP67 device submersed in water for 5 days now and it still works.  Unconventional…yes, but so are you!  That’s the RAM seal of approval!!

Rugged and mobile test mobile pda's too, but in a less conventional manner!

Rugged and mobile test mobile pda’s too, but in a less conventional manner!

4. I had a waterproof smartphone but it still leaked through the micro-usb connector because I lost the rubber flap, how do you manage that?

If being waterproof matters to you then make sure all the seals and rubber seals to connectors work well, are made well and you can get replacements for them. Most, but not all Rugged device brands will replace the rubber seals without a hefty charge! or at all!  Also I would say that some devices are more durable than others, so make sure that you pick a device that can still remain waterproof, even after a couple of years of abuse!  Rugged smartphones fall down in so many places when itcomes to ruggedness.

5. What would you say is most important for a mobile device, waterproof or durable to drops?

The cop out answer to that is really what you are doing with it and where you;re using it, but if I was forced to lay money down on an answer, I would say that we generally get more issues with dropped devices than we do with water damaged ones.  You’re going to drop a rugged device in any scenario whereas many people needed ruggedness, might not need a waterproof device.  Quality of the device, support and ruggedness all add up to a good or bad performing mobile solution.

That’s it for another week folks, keep sending those questions in, use #RAMQQ on twitter @ruggedandmobile or just email them in.


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.


RAM Q&A of the week – 28th March 2004

28 03 2014

RAM Weekly Q & A

This post is our weekly Q&A summary of the week, covering the most topical and popular issues and questions we encounter every week. It’s eclectic but it’s worth sharing so don’t forget that if you have a question then just let us know via twitter on @ruggedandmobile or using #RAMQQ or using Facebook.

1. You talk about rugged PDA’s getting cheaper but just how cheap are they now?

Well lets take the cheapest one we sell, the Runbo X5.  Its ultra rugged, has a very nice spec and runs Android and we sell these for less than £300 each.  The cheapest Windows mobile based rugged computers we sell are probably the Gen2Wave or Dotel ones which start from about £350.

2. We bought a Motorola ES400, that was over £400 but that didn’t last. Are you sure cheaper is as good?

We don’t like to single out devices but the reason for this is that the Es400 is not rugged! It’s got a 1.2m drop spec and no IP rating so if you were using it in any kind of scenario that ruggedness was expected in then that’s the reason why. Money aside, if you need rugged then you need it!

3. We’re just worried about support. A lot of the cheaper brands don’t have UK based support.

Well most prestige brands have their repair centres further away! It’s true that the bigger brands can have better infrastructure when it comes to support but if you buy form the right reseller then you can gain so much more  form having someone passionate about the brands and support they sell form right here in the uK.



That’s it for another week folks, keep sending those questions in, use #RAMQQ on twitter @ruggedandmobile or just email them in.


Rugged PDA warranty running out – What do you do now?

26 03 2014
Rugged PDA Repair

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

It’s end of year and many of you will have purchased your rugged mobile equipment 1, 2 or 3 years from now and the warranty or service packs just might be expiring!  So what do you do?  We explain and help right here.


Warranty is a very basic level of cover, usually over a 12 month period for rugged hardware with some suppliers running 24 month extended warranty for free.  So just what can you do to extend your warranty beyond the 12 months mark?

Firstly check to see if this can be done with the supplier of your choice.  Most don’t extend warranty unless you take it out at the time of purchase and many don’t extend it at all.  However all is not lost because you can usually still get support and cover through your reseller who can help plan and create support for the next 12 months for you.

Your second option is to uplift to a contract based service pack instead.  Most rugged devices have this option but you will probably need to assess the risk in some way and also provide a few constraints on how much or how quickly you can make support claims but the option to add cover is there and can be taken with most brands.

Service pack renewals

If you have a service form the start contracted style support pack then you’ve enjoyed a TCO service and will probably want to extend that if you choose to keep your rugged equipment for longer.  Well don’t worry, normally your reseller will have contacted you anyway about the renewal but if not then you definitely have the option to extend what you have for another 12 months at a time.

Service pack renewals are often very quick and easy to do as long as they’re done before the expiry date, beyond that they get very difficult to re-apply so make sure you leave plenty of time to negotiate your renewals.

Adhoc support

There are also a growing number of service centres that can offer more adhoc support for you and this market is growing because it serves a growing need for smaller businesses.  Those who are happy to pay for repairs but just want them done quickly can take a service product like our Warranty+ or Warranty PRO which gives an out of warranty service that’s very flexible but also has a fast turn around.  These are often a cheap way to gain access to a service that is portal driven, fast efficient and often very good with very little commitment needed up front.

Don’t bother!

Many businesses simply don’t bother.  if you had few issues then we could understand that but more businesses are also carrying buffer swap out stock themselves these days which means they no longer require the speed that a repair centre can offer.  Be careful though, if your device get’s discontinued you might not be able to get any repairs at all on some of the larger brands and repair bills can be costly but for some this still works out the best way forward.

So a quick one today but hopefully of some help.


Rugged mobility isn’t expensive any more!

24 03 2014
Cheaper rugged brands have caught up!

Less expensive rugged brands have caught up!

Happy st Patrick’s day by the way everyone!  Being a rugby fan myself and, alas English too, I was biting my nails to the bitter end on Saturday but have to hand it to a great Irish team and also wanted to say farewell to Brian O’Driscoll who has been nothing short of an ambassador of the game.  Anyway Rugby aside lets get talking about this weeks topic which is all about the year end.

Today we thought we’d kick off with an article about price.  Not “cheap” per-se but simply to open your eyes on what you can get for your money these days in the rugged world. Being rugged used to be the domain of the £1000+ device, it was niche and even the simplest deployment was deemed very specialised. The cost also warranted that the project had to make a return, which was equally difficult when they outlay was so high!  Like everything else the cost of Rugged PDA’s, Tablets or mobile printers has dropped and dropped to a point that is now able to fuel the mobile revolution and I wanted to talk about why, the main gotchas to look for in buying cheaper brands and to also allay some fears and beliefs that certain brands make you feel that are simply not true!

Why have rugged handheld computers got cheaper?

It’s no big secret and it’s largely due to 3 main things:

Firstly technology has gotten cheaper which not only makes the parts cheaper but also the processes to get IP and MIL certified are easier too. It’s basically easier to make a rugged PDA than it used to be.

Secondly mobile technology has got a lot more ubiquitous and this has had 2 effects.  The first being that more means cheaper fabrication as factories can tool up better for quantity, second this has then fuelled a move into the mobile market which proves the return to business which then further fuels better more rugged equipment.  Either way we all want mobile everywhere now which makes it cheaper!

Lastly due to the high take up, we have more suppliers which in turn means more choice.  This drives the market down as suppliers and resellers fight in a red ocean where price is king.

But the incumbent brands are still the best right?

No, no, and some more no! Let’s get this straight. The “prestige” brands like Motorola, Honeywell, Psion and Intermec still make largely very good equipment.  Their support is good if you buy into certain levels but the truth is that everyone else has caught up in my opinion.  We should stop referring to any brands as cheaper because they’re not any more.  We test and tinker with anything we sell here so I can say with 100% confidence and passion that brands like Pidion, Winmate , Dotel, Gen2Wave and creating more and are making as good, if not better hardware than any brand out there.


This brings up the matter of support and it’s one thing that the prestige brands will bring up.  Of course many of the Asian brands don’t have a UK base, but actually they often have a European one.  This is countered however by letting resellers innovate in areas support, why not, we know all about the issues on many brands not just one, and what is starting to happen now is that the competition is now warming up and service and products are getting better and cheaper for the customer.  By the way, if you need help from one of the prestige brands then how do you do that?  With Pidion, you just ask us!

So what do you need to be careful of?

So the grass is green on the other side indeed, but things are also different too, I wanted to ,list a few captures many get caught out by:

You need to select your reseller well if you buy one of the lesser known brands. Buy cheap from a web shop or from someone with no stock, no accessories or worse still no real knowledge or background of what they’re selling and like with anything else you can get into trouble.  Look for a passion in the reseller, a history and knowledge of Asian based kit and you’ll be fine. We work very hard to understand brands we sell on a technical level and I’d say that it turns out that we know more about what the lesser known brands are doing than anyone else, it’s also easier to get information from them, often a quick Skype to an engineer these days and we hear about new kit 12 months in advance so what’s wrong with that!

Granted some brands might have more limited SDK’s (Some have better), however if you can have a quick conversation about your technical needs from your mobile computer and work out that you’re never going to need fine control of your barcode scanner then why pay for that technology.  The fact is that a lot of data capture in many small simple mobile applications doesn’t need to go that deep any more.  A rugged device that’s reliable and gets fixed quickly and cheaply if it does go wrong is all they might need.

Lastly make sure you know how support works if buying a lesser known brand. Because a lot of support is now bespoke, there are some very good products out there and some very bad ones. Make sure you delve deeply into the service and warranty on offer with everyone you talk to because you might not get it form everyone.  Beware of comments that paint over cracks or hand the service over to someone else.  Look for 1 point of service that is clearly responsible for all issues.


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