Our Hands-On review series returns as we continue to evaluate the best mobile technology designed with the field service engineer in mind. In the first review of 2021, we’ve got our hands on Getac's ZX70
When it comes to rugged mobile computing, Getac is a brand name that is one of the first that comes to mind. They have a reputation for developing and producing devices that can meet the rigours of day-to-day use in field service environments while also packing the processing power needed to allow field service technicians and engineers to get through the increasing number of digital operations of the average field-based workflow.
In short, Getac devices have a strong reputation in the field service sector and it is one that is well deserved.
With this in mind we were keen to get our hands on their compact yet powerful Android tablet the ZX70 and put it through its paces...
What the manufacturers say:
The ZX70 7” fully rugged Android™ tablet is just the right size with a thin and light, ergonomic design that’s easy to hold in one hand, making it the ideal solution for improved mobile productivity. The ZX70 provides the best battery run time performance in its class for mission-critical field operations. Rugged to the core, the ZX70’s design is optimised for a wide variety of configurable features and no-compromise ruggedness.
The days of rugged tablets being cumbersome devices that looked a million miles away from their consumer-focused cousins are long behind us. The modern rugged device while being reassuringly robust in the hand, has become a much more elegant form factor. When it comes to first impressions the ZX70 hits the mark comfortably. It has a sleek profile while instantly coming across as device that can survive the bumps and drops of a life on the road.
While it is not the lightest of rugged tablets in smaller screen form factor weighing in at 780g, in the hand it doesn't feel too heavy at all and if anything the weight and general feel of the device instantly offers reassurance that this is a device that is fit for purpose and will be perfectly at home in a field service engineers toolkit. Indeed, the bold yellow trim just further adds to the sense that the ZX70 is exactly what it is supposed to be - a tool for use in the field.
Having charged the device for the full rigours of a day's testing it booted up quickly with the familiar welcome screen any Android user will recognise and we were good to go with our hands on test. So how did it perform?
Processing power & memory:
For a tablet of this size in the rugged world, the ZX70 boasts some seriously impressive power. With a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 660, Octa-core 1.95 GHz, burst up to 2.2 GHz the ZX70 on paper at least offers a bit more bite under the bonnet than Panasonic's Toughbook L1 while sitting in a familiar territory to Janam's impressive HT-1 - both of which are reasonable devices for comparison in terms of form factor and size. Sitting alongside the octa-core processor is a fairly mid-range but perfectly acceptable Qualcomm Adreno 506 GPU.
It comes with a 4GB RAM which again is pretty much par for the course for a device in this category and it has a 64GB internal memory that can be expanded by microSD.
In terms of actual performance, the ZX70 coped absolutely fine with all of our baseline test apps and which are designed to factor into account the most regular tasks a field service engineer is likely to undertake in their day-to-day work-flow. At no point during the testing did CPU usage get anywhere close to maxing out. In fact, we can go as far to say that the ZX70 would almost certainly be able to handle any software requirements that would be asked of a 7" Android tablet being used in the vast majority of field service operations.
The ZX70 runs on Android 9 which offers a good compromise of bringing the benefits of well tested OS that means it is enterprise secure, while being modern enough to bring some of the advances of recent OS upgrades. In fact, there were a number of features in Android 9 that actually made it a very good option for field service operations. Perhaps the most important of these is the adaptive battery feature.
Devices that are fit-for-purpose in the field need to be able to last the often long hours of a field service engineer and Android 9's adaptive battery feature is an excellent introduction to push battery life further. This alongside the adaptive screen brightness also introduced in this version of the Google OS can have a big impact - particularly when we consider that the additional screen brightness of enterprise devices can be a major factor in battery life.
Another benefit of Android 9 when it comes to a device that is designed for work is the App actions feature. Essentially the device can learn routines and surface apps easier according to what is needed when it is needed, e.g placing that mobile workforce management app to hand just when a field service engineer is starting their day.
The other advantage of Android is of course it's familiarity. This shouldn't be overlooked when selecting a new device for your field service engineers. Familiarity can bring massive benefit when it comes to ensuring smooth adoption amongst your field technicians and engineers.
The Ins & Outs:
As with many rugged tablets the ZX70 doesn't have a huge array of in/out options but ultimately this is something that is hard to avoid when selecting a tablet of this size that is fully protected against dust and water ingress to the level the ZX70 is.
So what does the ZX70 have? .Well there are two USB ports. There is a full size USB port as well as a micro USB port. These are USB 2.0 so not the fastest available for data transfer although perfectly acceptable for periphery devices such as portable keyboard, which one would imagine would be their primary use. Perhaps the most important inclusion is the POGO connecter at the bottom of the device which allows for vehicle docking and really is an essential requirement when it comes to suitability for the field.
The ZX70 also comes with an optional barcode reader/and or contactless RFID/NFC reader as well. These options can be massive time savers if your engineer or technicians have a lot of parts moving through their van every day. The ZX70 also has two programmable keys which could be used in conjunction with these inputs to make scanning parts fairly effortless which will of course help with keeping visibility on van inventory.
Perhaps the biggest omission is the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack. This could in certain environments be hugely important, especially as remote support or engineer to engineer communication is becoming increasingly common. This has of course, increased since the prevalence of remote assistance in our sector since the challenges of the pandemic. While there were able to conduct video calls during our tests the speakers would struggle in a noisy environment and while bluetooth headphones are an alternative, this introduces an additional drain on battery life.
Talking of video calls, the ZX70 has two cameras, front and rear. The front camera is an 8MP webcam which is fantastic for this level of device and images on video calls we ran were crystal clear. The front camera is 12MP which is a bit more in line with industry standard but is still an excellent spec for such a device and this level of definition is particularly useful for both documenting work and also remote-assistance based calls.
Finally, when it comes to physical input of data the ZX70 has a multi-touch capacitor screen and comes with a capacitor stylus. We found the stylus to be well weighted and it perfectly responsive and would be great for collecting signature on job completion.
When it comes to connectivity the ZX70 supports the newer 802.11ac wifi protocol. While being backwards compatible with older wifi networks the newer 'AC' wifi protocol only operates on the 5Ghz bandwidth. This allows for greater speeds with less interference,( the older 2.4Ghz bandwidth is very congested). The reality is that almost all WiFi is now delivered across both bandwidths but this is still a consideration to take into account, particularly if your field service engineers are working in more remote facilities where perhaps the necessity for a 5Ghz network hasn't reached your client base. Even in such situations however, the ZX70 supports 4G LTE mobile broadband as an optional specification. Running the device across multiple networks including wifi and LTE we found that it was able to consistently support fast internet relevant to signal strength available.
As mentioned in the above section the I/O on the device are somewhat limited so Bluetooth specification is important. Getac obviously understood this and have included Bluetooth 5.0 in the ZX60. Bluetooth 5.0 uses less power and has greater range than previous versions and it is important to note that the majority of similar devices in this form factor and at a similar price range are still offering Bluetooth 4.1 so this does give the ZX70 an distinct advantage in this area.
As we mentioned in the opening of this review the ZX70 feels reassuringly robust in the hand. It's rubberised casing looks and feels like something designed to meet the rigours of life in an industrial environment. Certainly it's rugged specifications live up to this initial impression as well.
The ZX70 is certified to the newer MIL-STD 810H standard which is a 2019 revision of the better known MIL-STD810G and is the new gold standard for rugged devices. It is also important to note that the device is certified at this standard, rather than just tested or designed to. While these terms may often appear to be synonymous, they are not and it is only devices certified to this standard that are guaranteed to meet all of the stringent criteria of this military grade testing. The ZX70 sits proudly in that category.
The device is also IP67 rated. This means that it is in essence impervious to both dust and water ingress. From a dust perspective it is perfectly sealed. From a water perspective, it is capable of being submerged in shallow water (up to a metre) for 30 minutes at a time. This makes the ZX70 suitable for almost every possible field service environment.
The display is a LumiBond® display with Getac sunlight readable technology which is also an important factor when it comes to use in field service sectors as this makes it useable bright outdoor environments.
Finally, the ZX70 is tested to six feet drop tests and also is vibration tested and has operational -21°C to 60°C. In our testing which includes heating and cooling the device, as well as multiple angle drop tests in accordance with the manufacturers claims the ZX70 was absolutely fine and continued to perform at optimal levels at all times.
In terms of battery life, the ZX70 comes with a Li-Ion battery (3.8V, typical 8480mAh; min. 8220mAh)
After an 8 hour day of reasonable to heavy usage the battery was at 19% so the device should be capable of seeing out most field service engineers working days, especially if the device is placed in an in-vehicle charging cradle in between jobs.
We like this device. It looks and feels like exactly what it is, a durable tool that can empower the field service engineer. It is certainly capable of coping with the tougher pressure of a life in the field and its super bright display could means it would be as comfortable in an outdoor environment as it would be on a factory floor. Performance wise there is very little to complain about either and it coped admirably with all of the tests we put it through.
The only one drawback is the lack of a headphone jack which could be useful for remote assistance calls in a noisy environment. However this is somewhat mitigated by the introduction of bluetooth 5.0 which offers low-power headphone usage.
All in all though the ZX70 is an excellent devices that sits comfortably amongst the best options available within rugged devices in this form factor and also this price range.
For more information visit Getac https://www.getac.com/en/products/tablets/zx70/