Field Service News' Deputy Editor Mark Glover road tests the Taiwanese firm's latest offering.
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Field Service News' Deputy Editor Mark Glover road tests the Taiwanese firm's latest offering.
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...
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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Next up in our series of reviews of the best devices suitable for field service engineers is Getac’s latest semi-rugged notebook the S410...
Next up in our series of reviews of the best devices suitable for field service engineers is Getac’s latest semi-rugged notebook the S410...
What the manufacturers say:
Raising the bar on the semi-rugged notebook class, the new S410 is more rugged, slimmer and lighter than ever before.
The all-new S410 boasts the latest computing innovations, including a significant CPU performance boost, enhanced graphics , and multiple options for greater flexibility. The S410 puts greater power and adaptability into the hands of mobile professionals across a range of industries.
Taking the S410 out of the box the notebook was light, compact looking and with a high build quality.
On boot up the device was quick to launch and I was very soon logged into the local wifi network and impressed with the speed of the connection and the responsiveness and control of the S410.
One thing that immediately struck me was the intelligent design of the built in carry handle which flexes out of the casing in a comfortable manner yet never got in the way when I was actually using the laptop. Although a relatively minor point, it is the close attention to small details such as this that I find are often key markers towards a well thought out device.
This device will never pass for a consumer notebook, nor does it want to, it’s a device built for business, that means business.
This device will never pass for a consumer notebook, nor does it want to, it’s a device built for business, that means business. Despite shaving off some 15mm in depth off of its predecessor (the S400) the S410 still has a sturdy compactness that has a reassuring, reliable feel to it.
This is a notebook that after an hour or so of getting a feel for it definitely seems suited for a life on the road, if not perhaps the great outdoors - but how do the specs stack up?
Processing power & memory:
In its highest configuration the S410 can certainly pack a punch when it comes to processing power, Top end specs come with an Intel® Core™ i7 vPro™ Technology, Intel® Core™ i7-6600U vPro™ Processor 2.6GHz, Max 3.4GHz, with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology and a 4MB Intel® Smart Cache.
The S410 also can boast up-to 16GB of Ram which would make it a lightning fast device within it’s category.
In short this should be more than enough processing power to really enable most field work to be easily accomplished quickly and efficiently, even with seriously heavy CPU intensive applications such as CAD based applications used in engineering etc.
In terms of storage space the S410 can also be specced up to 1TB so there should be plenty of file space available for even the most heavy duty file capture in the field.
The S410 is a windows machine and operates either on Windows 7 Pro or Windows 10 Pro - although given that the S410 can be configured with a capacitive multi-input touch-screen the better option would likely be 10 Professional which features some useful working functionality such as split screens to help improve workflows.
The Ins & Outs:
As you would expect with a notebook or laptop the S410 come awash with a variety of differing inputs and outputs.
- Headphone out/mic-in Combo x 1
- DC in Jack x 1
- USB 3.0 (9-pin) x 3
- USB 2.0 (4-pin) x 1
- LAN (RJ45) x 1
- HDMI x 1
There are also options for a whole host of additional ports within the configuration specs as well.
During testing it was on the 5Ghz band and was reaching speeds of 50Mbps although the technology is actually capable of receiving 867Mbps if you can ever find a connection fast enough!
The device also comes equipped with Bluetooth 4.2 which again is a solid, secure and fast connection for Bluetooth connections.
Being semi-rugged this is of course an area where the S410 is underwhelming compared to many of the devices that we get our HandsOn.
The S410 is tested to withstand 3ft drops to MIL STD 810G standards so it can survive more than the odd knock but it’s IP rating of 51 means that it’s not a device for the outdoors. Only partially protected from dust ingress and whilst it’s officially splash proof you wouldn’t want to risk spilling your morning coffee over it.
One thing in the S410s favour here though is that the device is vibration resistant so would be fine being dashboard mounted for long periods of time.
Where the S410 does shine is in the battery life department.
The primary battery itself (a Li-Ion battery with 11.1V, 4200mAh) should be able to offer up to 11 hours a day. However, with an optional hot-swappable battery, essentially the device is capable of continuing running perpetually.
First things first - I like this notebook. I really like it. It is fast, reasonably robust yet reasonably lightweight. Hell I even like the carry handle! And most importantly I can see how this device could easily be used by field based technicians.
I really like it. It is fast, reasonably robust yet reasonably lightweight. Hell I even like the carry handle!
For those field technicians that work in predominantly outdoor roles, where there is a danger of a device getting wet or dusty then sadly the S410 isn’t for you. However, given the processing power the S410 pack it could handle most applications and for companies whose field technicians work with high technology such as MedTec or IT infrastructure who want a reliable, powerful notebook that can take the odd knock here and there... Perfect.
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As we continue our series evaluating the latest rugged devices to come onto the market we look at Janam’s new entry into the rugged tablet market, the XT2. Traditionally a rugged handheld computer manufacturer, how has their expertise translated...
As we continue our series evaluating the latest rugged devices to come onto the market we look at Janam’s new entry into the rugged tablet market, the XT2. Traditionally a rugged handheld computer manufacturer, how has their expertise translated into what is arguably their most consumer-looking fully rugged device yet as they step into the increasingly popular form factor of smaller rugged tablets...
What the manufacturers say:
Productivity and resource utilisation are critical to the success of any mobile workforce. Janam’s XT2 rugged touch computer enables mobile employees to work smarter and more efficiently – ultimately improving operating results and increasing customer satisfaction.
Weighing only 10 ounces, the XT2 is smaller, lighter and faster than other rugged mobile computers in its class and equipped with a brilliant 5-inch colour display with Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3. With an impressive smartphone like design, the Android™-powered XT2 is equipped with the latest technological advancements, including 4G LTE wireless connectivity for lightning fast access to voice and data, dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and high sensitivity GPS.
The XT2 is a purpose-built device designed to foster more collaboration across mobile workforces. High-performance 1D and 2D barcode scanning, as well as RFID and NFC reading capabilities, ensures organisations can address a full spectrum of data capture needs with one device. Integrated 8.0MP/2.0MP front and rear-facing colour auto-focus cameras enable customers to capture high-resolution photos, signatures and more.
The XT2 is sealed to IP67 standards against dust and immersion in up to 3 feet of water. It can withstand multiple 5’/1.5m drops to concrete per MIL-STD 810G across a wide temperature range.
The last time Field Service News got our HandsOn a device from Janam (The XM5) our one criticism was that whilst the device ticked all of the boxes in terms of relative processing power, ruggedness and functionality, it still had a slight air of yesterday’s device about it.
In fairness, as we pointed out at the time, this was less about the XM5’s profile and more about the form factor itself. It was a great example of a device within the traditional handheld computer form factor, but in an age of tablets and smartphones, the traditional looking handheld, especially fully rugged variants, just look that little bit dated.
We have seen a growing trend in recent years for rugged manufacturers to start emulating the sleeker lines of consumer devices where possible as long as they aren’t sacrificing ruggedity.
That said however, there is also an argument that a device that has more of a ‘consumer feel’ about it is potentially more likely to engender faster adoption rates. Indeed, we have seen a growing trend in recent years for rugged manufacturers to start emulating the sleeker lines of consumer devices where possible as long as they aren’t sacrificing ruggedity.
Gen2Wav and Honeywell have both recently released products that are fine examples of fully rugged devices that do just this and Panasonic’s soon to be launched FZ-F1 will also be in a form factor that is as close to a smartphone as it is a tablet and such devices make a good comparison for the XT2.
The device is lightweight and sleek. Despite being referred to as a rugged touch computer, it has more of a feel of a large smart phone and when we look at it alongside other rugged smartphones, it is a fine example of what can be achieved in terms of a slim and sexy form factor in a rugged device.
The XT2 has a reasonable Quad-core Qualcomm MSM8916 CPU @1.2GHz which whilst not being the fastest on the block (Panasonic’s FZ-N1 runs a Qualcomm® MSM8974AB 2.3GHz Quad Core for example) it is certainly up there with the majority of similar devices within the field.
The XT2 operates on up-to 2GB RAM with 16GB ROM which is somewhere in the middle of the pack and definitely suitable for a number of field service applications - the memory is also expandable via a user accessible Micro SD slot with SD and SDHC support
The XT2 is currently running Android 5 (Lollipop) which is a common standard for industry focussed devices.
Lollipop is now tried and trusted and enterprise secure. There is unlikely to be an issue with any applications devised for it and equally introducing it into the IT mix shouldn’t be too much of a headache in terms of both implementation and a security protocols as the OS has been around for sometime now.
Whilst Android 7.0 is now appearing in the latest consumer handsets and Android 6.0 is now fairly prevalent in the consumer world, in terms of the UX , whilst there is some difference in terms of functionality, visually the difference between Lollipop(5) to Marshmallow (6) is very small.
Therefore, the benefits of Lollipop in terms of stability make sense whilst the fear of the OS taking the shine off the consumerised feel of the XT2 are also minimal.
The Ins & Outs:
Whilst the XT2 doesn’t have the world’s greatest amount of Input/Output options (which is to be expected in a device with such a light footprint) it does include all of the key essentials.
Where the XT2 has a distinct advantage over many rugged smartphones/mini tablets that aren’t designed with industry in mind is its inclusion of a dedicated bar-code scanning engine
Where the XT2 has a distinct advantage over many rugged smartphones/mini tablets that aren’t designed with industry in mind is its inclusion of a dedicated bar-code scanning engine (Zebra SE4710 1D/2D imager) as well as the ability to read all NFC types and RFID tags in the 13.56 MHz range.
Coupled with four programmable power buttons, which are likely best put to use to trigger the barcode scanner and this could be highly advantageous for field engineers whose role includes swapping out a large number of parts.
In terms of connectivity the XT2 supports Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n and is Cisco certified which covers most of the available bases and should allow for good Wi-fi connectivity speeds regardless of the signal it is using. In addition to this the XT2’s Wi-fi security protocols are also robust. The device also supports EDGE/GPRS/GSM, WCDMA and LTE for 4G mobile internet.
The XT2 also features Bluetooth 4.0 so can be paired with additional tools in the field including potentially Android Wear based smart watches or glasses as well as a keyboard for data input.
Additionally, the device offers Qualcomm® IZat™: Gen 8 support for three bands concurrently (GPS, BeiDou and GLONASS or Galileo) which can be invaluable in the field both in terms of updating asset information as well as geo-location functionality, to a precise degree.
It is when we look at the rugged specs of the XT2 that the device really stands out as a great example of what can be achieved in such a sleek form factor.
The fact that it is dropped directly onto concrete, instead of two inches of plywood as required for MIL-STD 810G, also adds further to its rugged credentials.
In terms of drop resistance the device is tested against the standard 1.5 meter MIL-STD 810G drop tests onto concrete from all angles across a wide range of temperature ratings. The fact that it is dropped directly onto concrete, instead of two inches of plywood as required for MIL-STD 810G, also adds further to its rugged credentials.
The XT2 also has an operating temperature range of -20º to 60º C so should be functional in even the most testing environments.
In terms of battery life the XT2 comes with a 3000mAh battery as standard but with the option to upgrade for a 4000mAh version also available.
Whilst in theory this should be enough to see out most engineers working days and in our own testing the battery lasted a full day with moderate to heavy usage, there is also an extended battery kit available.
The XT2 is especially suited for those field technicians working in an environment where a fully rugged device becomes essential.
Although the processing power isn’t quite at the very top end of its category, there is still plenty of power to run the vast majority of apps a field service technician would likely need - it’s certainly no slouch and responded quickly in our own tests.
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.
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The introduction of the smartphone, and in particular the iPhone in 2007, caused a seismic shift in terms of mobile computing in field service. However, consumer devices have their limitations when it comes to durability and reliability in the...
The introduction of the smartphone, and in particular the iPhone in 2007, caused a seismic shift in terms of mobile computing in field service. However, consumer devices have their limitations when it comes to durability and reliability in the field, especially when compared to devices such as Handheld computers that are designed for such use. But with the emergence of a new breed of rugged smartphones geared specifically for field use is that set to change?
As part of our hands on series we take a look at one of the latest such devices, Gen2Wave’s RP1600 rugged Android Smartphone...
What the manufacturers say...
Launched in the UK in February this year, Gen2Wave’s RP1600, is the first octa-core rugged Android industrial Smartphone.
The RP1600 has stand-out performance thanks to its 1.8GHz octa-core processor (Samsung, Exynos5430), 3GB RAM and 16GB ROM on an Android Kit-Kat 4.0 O/S, allowing high-speed parallel processing across eight apps and sufficient RAM space for multi-tasking without delay.
The RP1600 has a tested and proven IP64 rating withstanding drops up to 1.5m.
Adding this to the compact 4.3 inch sunlight readable display, available in either resistive or capacitive touch, this Smartphone is ideal for durability in harsher conditions.
With extended battery options and simple battery swap-out, this device is particularly suitable for mobile workers who need business-critical information on the move in order to carry out their work in an efficient way.
This device delivers a range of communication options including Bluetooth 4.0+HS, WiFi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n, and embedded A-GPS; assisting the mobile worker with real-time access to important data, increasing productivity and accuracy.
The RP1600 comes with Gen2Wave’s KIOSK feature which enables businesses to restrict the use of applications, limit file access, allows for website blocking and the control of WiFi, Bluetooth or phone usage.
There is undeniably a gap in the market sat right between rugged handheld computers and consumer smartphones.
In fact there are actually two distinct gaps.
"There is undeniably a gap in the market sat right between rugged handheld computers and consumer smartphones..."
Then there is a secondary gap, for what are perhaps best defined as industrial rugged smartphones.
Devices that meet the above rugged criteria but also incorporate further additional features such as barcode scanners, which are specifically designed to improve and enhance the workflow of their business users.
The RP series of rugged smartphones firmly sits in this latter category, and the RP1600 is certainly one of the best looking examples of this relatively small market that I have seen to date.
Front on it looks far more like a consumer device than many of it’s competitors with a large 4.3 inch touch-screen display and smooth curved lines, challenging devices such as Zebra’s gorgeous looking TC55.
And whilst selecting a device for your field service engineers is not about a beauty parade, aesthetics shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to gaining engineer approval and thus enhancing adoption rates.
In hand the device whilst of course not as light as a consumer device, is certainly not cumbersome, whilst still feeling nice and sturdy.
In comparison to other similar devices the RP1600 comes in around the expected range of 250g (up to 300g with extended battery) which is just about 10% heavier than the TC55 but significantly lighter than Trimble’s Juno T41s which weighs in at 400g.
All in all, the RP1600 looks the part, but how does it perform?
"Whilst selecting a device for your field service engineers is not about a beauty parade, aesthetics shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to gaining engineer approval and thus enhancing adoption rates..."
And in terms of processing power the RP1600 is comfortably leading the pack.
In fact its 1.8GHz Octa-core processor alongside 3GB Ram puts it in a similar bracket to a reasonably high-end consumer device such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4. Amongst its peers only the TC55 with a 1.5Ghz dual processor comes remotely close.
There is also plenty of storage space with 16GB internal memory, plus support for up to 32GB on an external micro SD, which again compares well to its main rivals with only the optimum configuration of the Juno T41S besting it.
The RP1600 comes with Android 4.4 KitKat operating system however it is upgradeable to Android 5.1 Lollipop.
Whilst 4.4 is certainly a capable OS, the option to upgrade to 5.1 is definitely a bonus and one that isn’t available on many similar devices.
Given that one of the key benefits of an Android device is that there is a familiarity to the OS due to the prevalence of the platform in the consumer world, it could be well worth exploring the upgrade as in the consumer realm many Android devices are now running 5.0 and the look and feel of the two different versions is substantial.
There are also some general performance enhancements on the newer OS as well as some additional features including enhanced battery life, notifications and security all of which are of benefit to a device being deployed to field workers.
It's also worth noting that the RP series also comes in a Windows flavour in the RP1300 albeit with a slightly less impressive set of specs.
The Ins & Outs:
The major selling point for the RP1600 and all of the devices within this bracket, is the inclusion of a dedicated barcode scanner.
"The RP1600 is capable of processing both 1D and 2D barcodes and features an easily accessible quick button for activating the scanner, which is pretty much the standard for such devices..."
Other than this, the device comes with an additional 4 short keys for navigation, supports USB2.0 and also accepts stylus input.
It also has a 13 megapixel camera with auto focus and flash, which again is ahead of its peers.
The one omission that would perhaps of been useful for those out in the field would have been a 3.5mm audio input. However, the device does come with Bluetooth v4.0+HS and has dedicated headset support. However this is of course reliant on providing your engineers with a bluetooth headsets, which are far more expensive than their wired equivalents.
As mentioned above the RP1600 like the TC55 supports the Bluetooth 4.0 compared to the Juno T41S and the Dolphin 70E which come with Bluetooth 2.1.
This is particularly useful for field service companies as we look to the future as 4.0 is geared much more towards IoT than its older counterpart.
When it comes to wifi the RP1600 is capable of working with all standards of WiFi with the exception of 802.11ac which means that the device can potentially operate on the 5Ghz channel although not as effectively as a device boasting 802.11ac. This is however, par for the course within the form factor and none of the RP1600’s competitors offer better.
"The RP1600 also edges ahead of its rivals in terms of mobile internet with support for 4G LTE which is not seen amongst other similar devices..."
Finally, there is a potential to include NFC capabilities within the RP1600, a benefit the device shares with both the Dolphin 70E and the T55.
With an IP rating of 64 the RP1600 is fully resistant to dust ingress. However, in terms of its ability to be protected from water, it is splash proof but nothing more.
"With an IP rating of 64 the RP1600 is fully resistant to dust ingress. However, in terms of its ability to be protected from water, it is splash proof but nothing more..."
In terms of its ability to withstand the occasional knock or two?
Well, the RP1600 is allegedly capable of surviving tests of 1.5m drop onto concrete, and the device we had for review certainly coped with such a drop. However, it is unclear if the device was put through the MilStd 810g testing process, which many of its peers have done.
This could just be information lacking from the spec sheet, or it could be that Gen2Wav used a different approach to testing. However, this does raise a potential red flag when it comes to comparing it with similar devices.
Finally in terms of battery life the RP1600 comes with three options:
- 1860mA/h Li-Ion
- Extended : 4000mA/h Li-Ion
- Medium : 2860mA/h Li-Ion[/unordered_list] Standard :
Also as the RP1600 also features a built-in backup battery, hot swapping of batteries should be possible, allowing for potentially infinite battery life as long as you have an additional battery especially as the charging cradle (which is included in the box) for the RP1600 also allows for charging an additional battery.
There is no denying that the RP1600 is an impressive device.
"Its Achilles heel perhaps lies within its rugged specs..."
If you are looking for a device that is going to take a bit of a pounding and definitely get wet once in a while then it may be worth looking at some of the more robust options of the form factor.
However, that said, the RP1600 is both pretty and powerful, is certainly rugged enough for most field environments and would definitely be a good option.