Continuing this weeks look at top 5 Rugged PDA’s we climb into what must be the most highly fought and prized category of Rugged PDA’s.  We call this class “Lightweight Rugged PDA’s” here and it’s the class that you’ll most likely see your courier using.

Like small and semi classes of Rugged PDA, this class didn’t really exist until about 4 years ago but it was the emergence of devices like the MC55, BIP-5000 and CN50 that started the move downwards in size creating rugged PDA’s that were fully functional but in a slightly lighter form factor than we were used to seeing.  A brick from a Breeze block if you like as these devices are still too large to be used as dedicated mobile phones (other than the GSmart) but they are aimed at all day working with large batteries, large screens in all but one of our top picks and a range of configurations including retail standard barcode scanners and RFID in some cases.  A tonne of accessories at this level of device is essential as is the ability to use them in a range of diverse field mobile and internal scenarios.  You really have to be a jack of all trades to be in this category.

1. Motorola MC55

Although this device is scheduled to leave us in June 2011, being replaced by the Motorola MC65, it has been one of, if not the most popular fully rugged PDA on the market since it’s launch about 2 years ago.  It embraced the Motorola Machine like brand to the full and the commonly uttered saying of “You can’t go far wrong with a Motorola” probably sums up the MC55 to a tee.  It has never been the most highly specified device, and yet its swift.  It’s usable, highly configurable, it works, it’s dependable and often deemed value for the extra money, if only for that perceived duvet of Moto brand loyalty!  Only downsides are that it is a bit dear for low QTY’s at around £850 for the most common model and you get nothing in the box other than a battery, not even a charger but that aside, you can’t go far wrong with a…. oh there I go again!  It’s earnt it’s place as number 1.

2. Pidion BIP-5000

I cannot stress enough how the Rugged PDA market is changing and how people are susceptible to new brands and models and the innovative Pidion BIP-5000 optimizes this.  It is narrowly beaten into 2nd place and sheer numbers sold probably are the reason for this.  It has been higher specified, based on the newer Pidion PXA320 platform and has everything the MC55 has but just slightly better and newer!  Well supported, a tonne of accessories, including Brodit chargers, and a sub £600 price tag make this a compelling device.  The interesting thing is that when you put this device into a customers hands, they rarely look back, oh and you get all the cables and cradles in the box that you need.

3.  Intermec CN50

The CN50 has been around for about a year now and finally with the CN3 going end of life, the CN50 will be able to stand proud on its own 2 feet.  After a spell losing their way slightly in the field mobile market, Intermec are certainly finding their way back to the top of the quality and ruggedness tree and the CN50 is definitely the quality device here.  Whether it’s how you can just feel the toughness of the device or the quality way the Medallion service centre treats you, this device is the Mercedes of this market.  Why is it 3rd then? Well the pricing is typically higher than the MC55, it’s simply out sold by the above 2 devices here and in this category it does beg the question of whether this level of quality and ruggedness is what customers are looking for.  Rugged enough is a phrase we here a lot these days.  However if you’re after top-notch quality, true TCO, with top-notch service to boot then this is the device to go for.  We’ll be selling a lot more of these this year as we see more mission critical solutions using mobile devices.

4.  GaneData GSmart

This device featured top in our Small Rugged PDA blog and it features here too as, although new, it’s already building a small pedigree for itself.  It has already proven its lastability with a very good Li-Pol battery, it is currently being piloted on more projects than anything apart from the BIP-5000 above and it feels genuinely solid with solid buttons when you pick it up.  It’s small too so you get a genuine choice here if you want something #that can easily fight in both small and lightweight classes of rugged PDA.  So it’s here as the device with the smaller form factor.  At £650 with a 2D barcode scanner as standard and a full feature set it is starting to gain traction in the market.

5. Skeye Dart

Last but by no means least a new comer and the “curve ball” in this list is the Skeye Dart.  The Dart offers something different in this class and it’s well received by customers looking for a light, slightly smaller form factor but one that maintains its larger screen and PDA format keyboard.  It’s also a very nice quality product well priced at the £700 area and is well serviced from the UK.  There’s something nice and easy when dealing with Skeye and they kind of remind me of motorcycle riders who own BMW’s because customers who buy Skeye really, really like them which has to say something about the brand.  Hands up we don’t sell all that many Skeye Darts but it is getting more popular, Skeye will feature on our new brand list and its the best kept secret in this class in my view.

So there have it, yes there was no Datalogic Elf as we have never sold enough for them to be counted here, yes I know about the Honeywell Dolphins but they are simply not keeping pace in this class, and yes we certainly know about the M3 from Mobile Compia where distributors sell direct cutting out all the hope of proper rugged PDA reseller expertise (so everyone loses).  These did not make it in to our top 5 for these very good reasons.

The only caveat to leave you with today is that when the MC65 replaces the MC55 in June we’ll have to see if it retains its crown.  At £200 more on RRP, against  the most common MC55 models, it could be pushing the brand a step too far.  The MC65 is going to have its work cut out.

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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