May 15, 2018 • Features • Hardware • Gen2Wav • Panasonic • Reviews • XT100 • XT2 • field service • field service management • Field Worker Mobility • Getac • Hands On Review • HandsOn • janam • rugged
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 2018, we’ve got our hands on Janam’s XT100 - the stablemate of the XT2 which we found to be an excellent unit when we reviewed it back in September 2016...
The launch of Janam’s new rugged mobile computer the XT100 looks set to continue on the path that the company began walking along when they launched the XT1, which introduced a more modern form factor to their product line up.
When Field Service News reviewed the XT2 back in September 2016 we concluded that “all in all the XT2 is a fantastic option for any field service technician, it is a lightweight device and the programmable buttons could greatly improve work-flow in some areas. However, the XT2 is especially suited for those field technicians working in an environment where a fully rugged device becomes essential.”
So 18 months on how does the latest iteration of the XT range shape up?
What the manufacturers say:
Power. Performance. Price Advantage.
While smartphones have grown more popular in the enterprise, organizations still struggle with their poor fit and high failure rates when deployed in demanding work environments. Today’s mobile worker requires a rugged, purpose-built device that is capable of reliably and securely running line-of-business applications in the palm of the hand.
Eliminating the pitfalls and hidden costs associated with deploying consumer-grade devices in the enterprise, Janam’s XT100 rugged touch computer delivers the best of both business and personal. With more features and functionality than any other device in its class, the XT100 delivers the latest technological advances to organizations of all sizes at an extremely attractive price point.
As alluded to above when we last reviewed a device from Janam we were indeed highly impressed.
The XT2 had built upon the solid foundation that Janam held in their other rugged mobile computing ranges (notably the XM and XP ranges) by introducing a device with high-end specs both in terms of its ruggedity and its processing power that was housed in a form factor which adopted much of the feel of a consumer device.
Janam were by no means the first rugged manufacturer to follow this route with Getac, Panasonic, and Xplore amongst others, all following the trend of producing devices that blurred the lines between rugged and consumer – certainly from an aesthetic perspective at least. Indeed, there are strong arguments behind the reasoning for this shift, which in the main centre around an uptake in adoption rates amongst engineers when the devices they use in their working lies are similar to those that they use in their day-to-day consumer lives.
That said, with such a trend emerging amongst rugged manufacturers the need for Janam (or any of their peers) to ensure that their new range didn’t just look and feel good, but that they also maintained their credentials both in terms of the rugged value of the device as well as it’s potential use within an enterprise sector that values long battery life, high performance and perhaps most important of all reliability in mobile computing devices, was of huge importance.
This was very much in our thoughts when we reviewed the XT2, and the device passed all of our benchmarks with flying colours and on initial glance the XT100 acts and feels very much in a similar vein.
For a rugged device the XT100 is light. Really light.The XT100 does have a smaller and lighter footprint than its stablemate (which itself was able to boast of being lightest in its class when we reviewed it at launch.)
Janam appear to prefer to avoid comparing their devices with smartphones, referring to the XT range as the rugged touch computers, so they may not thank me for this, but in terms of the device in hand, the difference between the XT2 and the XT100 is most easily described as the difference between a phablet such as the Galaxy Note or iPhone Plus compared to a regular sized smartphone - with the XT100 falling into the latter bracket.
For a rugged device the XT100 is light. Really light.
At just 7.5 ounces (213 grams) the XT100 is lighter than both the Gen2Wave RT1600 and the Ruggex Rhino 3 (despite having a bigger screen than the latter as well). The profile of the phone is certainly chunkier than a regular consumer device of course, which is largely due to the inclusion of a dedicated barcode scanner but also to mention being sturdy enough to survive multiple 1.2m drops – which we will explore a little later.
Having booted up the device for the first time the device was quick to launch and the menus responsive and quick to access as we would have anticipated based on the performance of the XT2 in the previous review.
So how did the device fare during our hands-on review?
In terms of processing power, the XT100 comes with 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 410 quad-core, which is pretty much in the same ballpark as the XT2’s MSM8916 CPU @1.2GHz. In terms of the market for similar devices as to the XT range these offer a fairly standard amount of processing power. It’s certainly true that this is still a wee bit short of devices such as Panasonic’s FZ-N1 (which runs a Qualcomm® MSM8974AB 2.3GHz Quad Core for example) but the XT100 should certainly be powerful enough to cope with the majority of field service related software that might be required for a service engineer’s day-to-day tasks.
The XT100 also comes with 2GB RAM and 16GB ROM as standard, unlike the XT2 where whilst these specs are available they are an upgrade option (from a 1GB/8GB standard option).
Again this sits pretty much in the middle of the pack in terms of similar devices and is definitely suitable for a number of field service applications. Also, as with the XT2 the memory is expandable via a user accessible Micro SD slot with SD and SDHC support – which can become a very useful option for engineers who need to record a lot of data, or even for those who work in offline environments regularly where locally storing asset maintenance information to aid a firsttime fix could be of benefit.
The XT100 is currently running Android 6 (Marshmallow), which is a perfect option for industry, focused devices. Whilst the latest consumer devices are now running Android 8 (Oreo), in a world of enterprise, the need for a robustly road-tested OS is hugely important. Marshmallow is currently the most advanced iteration of the OS that also has the stability required for enterprise-grade computing.
Additionally, there were two important inclusions in the Marshmallow iteration of the Android OS which could provide important benefits for use by field service operatives which were not included within the previous version of Android (Lollipop).
This makes Marshmallow a strong platform for field service organisations where the need for a mobile device to last the duration of a service engineer’s often long working day is essential.The first of these is an improved battery management feature, which utilises two solutions to extend battery life. These are Doze - which automatically puts your phone to sleep when not being used and App Standby which reduces the amount of battery drain form seldom-used apps.
This makes Marshmallow a strong platform for field service organisations where the need for a mobile device to last the duration of a service engineer’s often long working day is essential.
The second development in Marshmallow of interest in the context of the field service engineers is the ability to migrate data and applications to a MicroSD card. As we referenced earlier the XT100 has MicroSD memory expansion options which can be useful for field service engineers working offline or who are required to record a lot of supplementary data, so improving the functionality of file management is another welcome introduction to the Android OS.
In addition to this Marshmallow also remains the most widely used Android OS in the world of consumer devices as well according to the Android developer community website (last updated February 2018) so there is also the added benefit of the interface being likely to be familiar to end users which will also have big benefits on user adoption rates.
The Ins & Outs:
As with the XT2, the XT100 doesn’t have a huge array of physical input options – but this can’t really be avoided in a device of such a size. However, in terms of the physical inputs, the key essentials are all included and there are a number of excellent inclusions in terms of data capture functionality that mark out the XT100 as a well thought out device designed to be fit-for-purpose.
To begin with the basics, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is, of course, is a hugely important inclusion, especially as remote support or engineer to engineer communication, is becoming increasingly common. There is a micro USB 2.0 port, which is there for charging and data syncing although the XT100 is also capable of wireless charging as well.
One of the core USPs and strengths of the whole Janam range is that their devices are designed for the industry and with their end-users workflow in mind.There are also two cameras, which are additionally useful for both data collection and video conferencing. The rear camera is 13MP and the front-facing camera is 4MP – which whilst neither being particularly groundbreaking in terms of resolution, are both absolutely fit for purpose.
However, one of the core USPs and strengths of the whole Janam range is that their devices are designed for the industry and with their end-users workflow in mind.
The XT100 has two additional hard keys (three including the power key), which by default trigger the XT100’s built-in barcode scanner which is the Honeywell N6603 2D Imager – which in our tests responded extremely efficiently and reliably.
Another inclusion which is hugely beneficial specifically for the field service engineer is the inclusion of a NFC/RFID reader (which reads Reads ISO14443 Type A; ISO14443 Type B & ISO15693; MIFARE UltraLight; MIFARE UltraLight C; MIFARE 1k/4k/Plus; MIFARE DESFire;MIFARE DESFire EV1; NFC in the 13.56MHz range). Again, within our tests, we found the XT100 was able to identify and read tags with easily and we had a 100% success rate during our tests of this functionality, finding the reader to have a good sensitivity.
Both of these inclusions are important as amongst other benefits they can allow the field service engineer to easily log spare parts moving in and out of the van – and given that tracking parts inventory remains a considerable challenge for many field service organisations, all solutions that can improve efficiency in this area are of course highly desirable.
Finally, there is a Pogo Connector at the bottom of the device, which can be used for charging within a cradle such as a vehicle dock.
When it comes to connectivity the XT100 supports the latest 802.11a/b/g/n/d/h/i/k/r/v protocols so accessing strong wi-fi connectivity speeds should be no issue and within our tests, the device was able to reach 50Mbps. The XT100 also supports EDGE/GPRS/GSM, WCDMA and LTE for 4G mobile internet and when tested with a moderate to strong 4G signal the device reached 18Mbps.
As one would expect with a device designed for the enterprise XT100 has robust security protocols (IEEE802.11; WEP; WPA/WPA2; PEAP/MSCHAPv2; EAP-TLS).
The XT100 also features Bluetooth 4.1 so can be paired with additional tools in the field including potentially Android Wear-based smartglasses, a keyboard for data input and of course Bluetooth headphones should the device be utilised for field service engineers receiving remote guidance.
Additionally, the device offers Qualcomm GPS which supports GLONASS so the device offers precise location tracking in the vast majority of locations across the globe, which can be invaluable to the field service organisation with regards to updating asset information as well as the adoption of geo-location functionalities within a field service technician’s workflow.
In terms of its ruggedity, the XT100 holds its head high with good rugged credentials albeit slightly less so than its sibling the XT2.
The XT100 is capable of withstanding multiple drops at 1.2m. The device also came with a clear hard plastic case to add additional protection from drops and knocks and survived our own drop testing with no issues.
The XT100’s IP rating is perhaps one area which is ever so slightly disappointing as having delivered the XT2 to an IP67 standard previously, Janam have opted to make the XT100 at the lower rating of IP65.
What this means, in reality, is the XT100 is impervious to dust ingress and largely resistant to water ingress although it is not fully submersible in water as an IP67 device would be. In reality, an IP65 rating should be sufficient for most field service environments although given the XT2’s more robust rating the difference should be noted and taken into account for those companies working in naturally wet environments such as perhaps certain waste management or water-based utilities sectors.
When it comes to operating temperature ranges the XT100 -20 to 60 degrees centigrade – which means that even in the most inhospitable environments the device should function effectively, and in terms of humidity it is non-condensing up to 95%. Finally, the capacitive touchscreen boasts toughened Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to further add to the devices robust credentials.
In terms of battery life, the XT100 comes with a 3000mAh 3.8v rechargeable Li-ion battery.
After an 8 hour day of reasonable to heavy usage the battery was at 14% 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. However, for those engineers who are required to spend long days in one location, a four-slot battery charger is an optional accessory.
As with the XT2, the XT100 is, first of all, a fantastic looking device that feels great in hand and is sure to feel instantly familiar for end users.
For most tasks that a field service engineer would be likely to use on the device, the XT100 should have more than enough power under the hood to be up to the task.Whilst the XT100 doesn’t have quite the same protection against water ingress as the XT2 it should certainly be a rugged and robust enough device for most field service environments, with the possible exception of those engineers who will be working in potentially wet situations where the likelihood is that the device could be dropped and submersed into water.
In terms of processing power, the device is at a reasonable mid-range and performed well within our own tests, responding quickly with multiple apps open and offering strong connectivity to both Wi-Fi and 4G signals.
Whilst it is not at the very highest range of computational power within its category if your engineers are required to use an intensive CPU hungry app then one might question whether such a small form factor would be correct for your engineers anyway. However, for most tasks that a field service engineer would be likely to use on the device, the XT100 should have more than enough power under the hood to be up to the task.
As with other Janam products the XT100 is clearly designed with the end users workflow in mind and the rapid performance and ease of access of both the NFC/RFID readers and the barcode scanner make this a great option for those engineers who are moving a lot of parts stock in and out of the van each day.
By introducing the XT100, Janam have taken the blueprint of excellence that they have established with the XT range as a whole and created one of the smallest rugged devices suited for field service to date.
The XT100 is an excellent addition to the range and certainly worthy of consideration for any field service organisation looking to update the mobile computing options with a sleek, lightweight yet robust device – this holds especially true for organisations that are currently running an older Android solution as the transition should be fairly seamless.
As we’ve alluded to across the article the similarities with the XT2 are as one might expect wide-ranging and the XT2’s slightly better-rugged credentials might still make it the pick for those organisations hose engineers are working in the most testing of environments, but what Janam have done with the introduction of the XT100 is deliver a device of similar standard to the impressive XT2 with an even lighter footprint giving field service companies another excellent additional option to choose from.
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