Understanding the Rugged PDA – The LCD

So the series on Understanding the features of the Rugged PDA continues today with a look at the LCD or Screen.

There are a few obvious things to look for in the LCD and a fair few not so obvious ones too and we’ll chat about them all here.


Obviously the size of the Rugged PDA’s screen matters most to customers and the established size is 3.5″.  Anything smaller than this is quite small and anything larger is quite rare!  OK so there are PDA’s with 3.7″ screens but they are hardly even noticeable from 3.5″.  In the Rugged Market we also have 2.8″ small rugged pda’s, 3.0″ which is still tiny and there is the odd 4.3″ and 5″ LCD’s too but 3.5″ is the order of the day right now and what everyone else tends to use.

In my humble opinion, if you are using the device at all in rugged conditions, with gloves or if your users aren’t 18-year-old IT whizz kids then 3.5″ is the right balance of size versus screen real estate you will need to make the device friendly and usable.  2.8″ is very small and very fiddly.



Resolution & Ratio

OK, so typically we see use QVGA and now VGA in our market.  Why? because these screen sizes have the same ratio too, despite VGA having 4 times the resolution.  This is means porting apps onto newer devices that sport VGA screens is easy at worst, potentially automatic if you wrote your code right!  There are more and more Rugged Handhelds coming out with odd-shaped “Smartphone” style screens and all that happens is your software gets stuck on this device or is difficult to port onto.  We’d stay away from non QVGA and VGA screens unless you really know what you’re doing.

Brightness and reflection

When you loan or demo a unit make sure you play with the brightness settings because a lot of LCD’s will not be bright enough for certain conditions.  Some PDA’s are better suited to certain conditions so make sure you ask and play.  It’s not all about brightness however and those NIT levels the screen has.  It’s also about the reflections you get off it so the brightest screens can often not give the best overall performance in ease of reading.


Is the screen recessed?  Does it have a plastic cover making it more rugged and resistant to water?  Can you fit a full range of screen protectors to it?  Screens crack, you have to live with that but this is a key area that will save you £1000’s if you choose right.

Build and Design

Not so obvious but the design of the LCD and digitizer, which is the touch screen element of the LCD can seriously affect the repair price and also the performance of the Rugged PDA’s screen. Watch for custom designed screens and cases as they can cost more and are more difficult to fix, on the other hand there are some PDA’s that are designed to only break the digitizer rather than the actual LCD which can make things easier.  Pay attention to the design and remember the prettier something is, the more expensive it tends to be to keep running!

LCD Manufacturer

Yes the screen manufacturer matters.  Gone are the days where the same manufacturers LCD’s were found in everything making repair bills cheap and parts a-plenty!  Nowadays we see all kinds of different manufacturers, some good, some bad.  Casio for instance make lovely LCDs but they’re expensive.

Repair Bills

I touched on this a little bit above but the repair costs for LCDs can vary wildly.  For example an out of warranty Motorola MC55 or 65 will typically be £350+ to fix and the screens used are not expensive either!  To replace a more expensive part in the Pidion or Dotel range costs half and we think customers should be aware of things like this before they commit to buy.

Scratch Protection

Lastly make sure you protect your LCD from scratches by using a good scratch protector.  Matt ones can also help with reflection and ask what comes in the box with the device.  Make sure you renew them regularly and educate your users to use the LCD with the stylus and to look after it.

Hopefully that gives people a thing or two to think about!  Tomorrow we’ll look at bar code scanners.

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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