It’s not often I get excited about a new device in the Auto ID / PDA market… After all, there is a wide range of pretty good devices already available which mostly adhere to one of the established form factors; Phablet, PDA, gun grip, and the latest offering from Zebra, the lollypop design of the Zebra TC8000. And depending on your price point they are all reasonably well spec’d in terms of build quality and functionality, processing power and memory.
No two of our customers are the same – but we do see a general trend in the market towards bigger screen estate, more processing power and greater survivability in the enterprise environment, encompassed in a smaller, cheaper package. The initial attraction of ‘pro-sumer’ devices, namely smart phones or Phablets, is obvious. They maximise screen estate, typically have good processing capabilities and an attractive price point. Against that there are several disadvantages – they are not as rugged as enterprise PDAs (in spite of all the claims to the opposite), the model range (and OS) churns quickly, and if you have scan intensive applications, they have to be paired via Bluetooth or sled to a laser scanner or 2D imager to deliver efficient volume scanning. In practice, the ‘love affair’ that certain aficionados of the smart phone as a low cost solution to their auto ID Capex is beginning to wane. So where do they turn next?
Well we have been looking at a new device, shortly to be launched in the UK. The Gen2Wave RP70 is a fully rugged 7” tablet.
So, what is so special about a 7” tablet?
Rugged tablets were historically 10” devices, although several are now made with an 8” screen. The truly rugged devices were built like a brick with big thick bumpers. And with all that protection and size comes a degree of weight that is a big disadvantage if you are using it all day. Users have fed-back that when it came to using these devices, in practice, they sought to put them down on a suitable surface as holding them in one hand whilst data inputting was inherently uncomfortable. Hand straps go some way to providing a more secure grip, but at that size the issues of balance, ergonomics and weight have never quite been answered. Oh and by the way – they are pretty expensive. Top of the range is well over £2000!
Those who opted for the sexiness of an iPad or Galaxy tab didn’t have the same weight issues, although balancing a 10” in your hand is still not for everyone. Of course any carelessness resulted in breakage and, dare I say, as these were desirable consumer devices, shrinkage was always a factor.
Enter the Gen2Wave RP70 7” Tablet
We have been working with the manufacturer to trial a pre-release Beta version, and we were very impressed. Not only our humble selves, but a number of corporate clients who saw it were equally impressed. At that size it does sit well within the hand and with the built in hand strap feeling secure, even those with smaller hands should find it easy to use. I loved the balance of the device – and I just felt right at home carrying it around. Weight is 600 gm, on a par with a number of leading enterprise HHTs so no issue there.
The build quality is excellent – as you would expect from the Gen2Wave RP70 – and the specification is impressive. Intel Cherry Trail Z8350 1.9 GHz quad core processor with 4Gb RAM and 64 Gb ROM provided lots of ‘ooomph’. We were demo-ing this device with a new WCM / CMMS package and performance was excellent running full Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. For the software developers amongst us, we are used to working within the limitations of a Win Mob OS – no such issue with the RP70.
As you would expect it has loads of toys – most importantly a 2D imager for barcode scanning, neatly built into the frame. That is still not the optimum form factor for intensive scanning – I think you have to go to a gun grip for that – but nicely positioned and perfectly usable up to medium levels of use. 4G, Wi-fi, BT 4.0 and A-GPS, front (2.0 MP) and rear (8.0 MP LED flash) cameras, integrated NFC reader are standard and promise excellent connectivity whether inside 4 walls or out on the road. Oh and by the way – you can opt for the extended 11200 mAh battery (5600 mAh standard) if you really want to run it for extended shifts.
What have we got?
A rugged 7” full-fat tablet running full Windows 10. OK you lose a fraction of screen estate over the bigger rugged enterprise tablets, but this device is really portable without having to be built like Vin Diesel. Built-in digitiser, great comms, powerful processor, lots of memory, big battery – all looks good. How rugged is it? The device is rated at IP65 and a 1.2m drop spec. There are devices with higher ratings in rugged tablets but in reality this is perfectly adequate for 99% of enterprise environments. Why pay more as well as compromise on weight and usability if you are just gilding the lily?
The $1m question…
How expensive is it? There are 4 model variants – equating to with and without 4G and / or the 2D imager. Prices will be around the £1k mark per device for the top of the range model, and say £150 less if you don’t need the imager or 4G. Obviously volume orders and particularly early adopters may attract a further discount. At that price I suspect it’s going to be very competitive and very attractive to a lot of enterprise customers.
The Gen2Wave RP70 is going into production in mid-June. We will notify all customers and web visitors when the device will be available to purchase through our website and/or our customer account managers.