Considerations of Small Rugged PDA’s

Small rugged PDA’s are a relatively new group of Rugged PDA that fit right in between the most popular lightweight rugged PDA and semi-rugged PDA classes .  Typically Small Rugged PDA’s are semi-rugged, some might say even smartphone, in size but they still carry all the elements required by their larger sibling devices.  This means barcode scanners, keyboard choice and full ruggedness is the bare minimum you need to be called a small rugged PDA!  In  a world where everything went small but is going larger again, is a small rugged PDA all it’s cracked up to be?  We take a look at some pro’s and cons of the little workhorses here.

Feature packed

Small Rugged PDA’s all have pretty much the same features, specs and accessories that their larger counterparts have so expect to see cradles, serial connectors, a plethora of vehicle accessories and a full choice of barcode scanners and even RFID readers in some cases.  THese devices have everything on paper that larger Rugged PDA’s have but in a smaller and lighter form factor.  Can’t be bad!

Pros and Cons of small

Obviously its about size here, small rugged PDA’s are simply rugged PDA’s shrunk down and they really do give your workers a lightweight, slim and small device that’s a pleasure, not a burden, to lug around on an 8 hour shift.  They’ll fit into a pocket easily, are still small enough to drop into a tool box and they are genuinely small.  With a drop in size however come some negatives.  2.8″ LCD’s are the order of the day here which is like going back 10 years in the Smartphone world (Remember the very first HTC/Microsoft SPV phones, well they all had 2.8″ LCD’s!).  Keyboards are tight too, especially if you opt for a qwerty and small Rugged PDA’s also often miss the extra scan buttons that make life just that bit easier.  The smaller the PDA, the smaller the battery will be too although most have got round this by employing better energy-saving techniques or by using Li-POL batteries.

Rugged by Design

To be in Rugged and Mobile’s Small Rugged PDA, the device has to be fully rugged and nothing here disappoints on paper, IP54 or more is the order of the day, MIL drop specs are all present and correct and we see some recessed screens but we also see chrome, Mini and Micro USB connectors that simply aren’t rugged and in a lot of cases the devices use and feel components that are clearly not rugged by design.  We judge a lot by how our demo/loan stock here fairs as it’s a very fair test of a device and we’ve already seen the chrome suffering on our Intermec CS40 and 2 of the buttons on our H21 came back broke after 3 months of use.  The rubber on some devices USB ports also come off easier than others effectively rendering the devices IP-less without them.

To feel them, they also don’t feel any tougher than a smartphone.  Ruggedness in this class is all about the drop, IP ratings come second in 80% of cases and this is the reason a semi-rugged PDA is doing so well at the moment.  I’m not so sure if any devices we sell other than the GX8010 feel properly rugged.


A lot of people go small thinking they’ll save money and I think with some devices we do see that trend.  However whilst the GX8010 or GX8900 will cost you £500 to £650, we feel that it’s not the size that is affecting the price here and sure enough the H21 will cost you the best part of £800, with the CS40 being more than that so cost savings are not the order of the day here with many larger devices coming in less expensive than this.


If you’re looking for a rugged PDA that’s small and the compromise is that you need something rugged but smaller, then there are now 4 or 5 very good devices in this class that will work for you.  If you want small and are willing to pay for it then you;re sorted.  However if you want small because you feel it’s a compromise then there are 2 devices here but to be honest you’re going to be disappointed and should look to the semi-rugged class.

It’ll be interesting to see how this class fairs as the competition hots up and we’ll be sure to feedback what we see happening as the trends grow.  tomorrow we look at the most popular class of Rugged PDA…lightweight Rugged PDA’s.

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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