Why is My PDA Tougher Than Yours? Because It's Got Armor


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If you have a PDA ask yourself a very important question. Is it safe from unforseen hazards on the road? When I asked myself this same question the answer scared me. NO, it's not protected. It's why I've taken steps to make my PDA as tough as possible. Let's face it, like Murphy's Law if something can go wrong, it will. Instead of waiting for the accident to happen I assumed it would and imagined the panic that would ensue without my PDA. That was enough to scare me into action.

What I've done in the terms of the industry is to “ruggedize" my PDA. It's now one tough cookie! A protective armor surrounds the PDA so it can withstand the natural elements like dust and moisture. Plus, the PDA is protected if in the event I accidentally drop or bump it against something else.

What are some of the pros and cons of a ruggetized PDA?

A ruggetized PDA does weigh and cost more than a consumer PDA. But the weight and price are worth it, considering it delivers needed protection for the PDA and it's data. The ruggetized outer cases made by Ottobox look like they're built for battle and rightfully they should be. These things are rock solid.

For quick data entry most ruggetized PDAs come with barcode or card readers as an option or built in feature.

If you're strictly looking at a rugged PDA and not the ruggetized outercase like with Ottobox, you'll find the software is a bit behind the times. I'll explain this more under the section called Options For A Rugged PDA. Briefly, most rugged PDAs in the marketplace run on older versions of Pocket PC software.

What is it like using a ruggetized PDA?

My friend Joe, who is a reporter, has a ruggetized outercase for his PDA. It's made by Ottobox. Joe's carried it with him as he's covered battles overseas and natural disasters from hurricanes to floods. His ruggedized PDA has performed well in dirt, rain, humid conditions, as well in jeep rides when he's been in the war zone and in the outback in Australia. It's got rocked around, knocked into and still functioned without missing a beat.

According to Otterbox, the protective armor is made from indestructible, reinforced ABS plastic. Joe uses the OtterBox Armor 3600. It's the same one I use. It is designed for use in the field. Even if the field, in my case, is a convertible car and survey work as a landscape architect.

When it comes to high-end function and safety it is not always about looks, but the Ottobox does look very cool. It reminds me of the Xterra car. Mine is in florescent yellow, but the Otterbox 3600 also comes in midnight black. The pins on the case are Marine Grade 316 stainless steel, which is ideal for salt and freshwater situations.

My rugged PDA case is waterproof too. I accidentally tested that when I knocked over a cup of water as I was driving. Dumb move, I know. I had a near panic attack over it, but then remembered the thing was waterproof up to three meters in depth. Naturally, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The Otterbox Armor 3600 has what they call a “through-the-Box" connectivity Kit, which allows you to use a variety of cables and still keep the unit sealed from harmful weather conditions. You can add on GPS receivers, barcode readers and other accessories.

What about the mobile signal strength?

One of the unexpected benefits of a ruggetized PDA is that it actually protects the signal strength. I noticed this with my Bluetooth GPS connection. The PDA is no longer just left open to the elements. Instead of natural conditions causing an interference with the signal strength the PDA is insulated.

Which is more cost effective a rugged PDA case or a ruggetized PDA?

A rugged PDA case is much more cost effective than the ruggedized PDAs in the marketplace. The Ottobox PDA case is nearly a third the price of a rugged PDA. Plus, if you need to upgrade its easy. Simply switch to a different PDA and keep your existing case. You save money without compromising on the protection of your PDA.

What options are there for a rugged PDA?

My friend Larry, who is an engineer and former Navy Seal, uses Raytheon's Agama's ultra-ruggedized Pocket PC. This unit is designed for military and commercial use and includes: Intel's StrongARM 206 MHz processor, 64 MB of RAM, 32 MB of flash ROM, a color touch screen, and a single Secure Digital card slot. Options include: Bluetooth, GPS, GPRS, or CDMA, and single and dual card expansion modules. It runs on the Pocket PC 2002 software.

There are many other rugged PDAs on the market. My friend Carl, who works for the U. S. Department of Fish and Game, uses the Recon PDA by Tripod Data Systems (TDS) http://www.tdsway.com/products/recon. This ruggetized PDA meets MIL-STD-810F military standards. It is built to withstand harsh weather conditions and is waterproof. The Recon PDA runs on Windows Mobile 2003 and comes with either 200 MHz or 400 MHz XScale processor, 64 MB of RAM and 64 or 128 MB of flash storage. This high allocation of storage secures the data from resets and loss of power. It comes with a color display and a front light. With Recon's PDA running on Windows Mobile 2003 it's convenient to use the pocket versions of Word, Excel, email and calendar.

Symbol's MC9000-Gruns on Windows Mobile 2003 (or Windows CE. NET) software and has 64 MB RAM and 64MB flash. Like the other rugged PDAs it too is designed to withstand the harmful effects of dust, water, and being accidentally dropped.

What's the upkeep like on a PDA rugged case?

It's easy to clean. I use a Q tip and wipe away the dirt and grime from the outer case and seal.

Can you lock the PDA Case?

Yes. On the latch of my Otterbox there are holes, which are real handy if you want to make the unit tamper proof. These holes can be locked if you install screws in the openings. Otterbox says to use a 3.0mm x 6.0mm long Socket Head Cap Screw (SCHS), which uses a 2.5mm hex wrench.

Can you hook up external antennas for GPS?

Yes. To get signal strength you need the antenna to be in the best possible position and pointed skyward. Sometimes this can look a little humorous. A few months ago, I saw a colleague with a pole mounted antenna. It seemed like he grew an extra head.

What my colleague had on his back is a pole equipped backpack known as a Garmin 17N. The GPS receiver is built right into the dome, that's what I had jokingly called an extra head. The Garmin 17N is widely used by survey workers in the field. With the Garmin 72/76, known as a quad-helix antenna, the top edge of the unit needs to point skyward.

There are other smaller antennas. For instance, the Garmin 27C is slim and black much like tape a cassette. You can attach it to a baseball cap, a pole, or a backpack. An added benefit of this unit is that it can improve signal strength for your PDA.

Connectivity is easy. With these external antennas you simply connect the GPS with a cable to your PDA and use the PDA software to view maps and conduct fieldwork. If you don't want to worry about getting cables dirty or lugging them around you may want to look into wireless Bluetooth GPS units that connect to your PDA.

Is it easy to use a ruggetized PDA in the field?

Yes. The recessed plastic is very visible. The adjustable velcro strap is easy to grip if you have gloves on, or if your hands are sticky or sweaty from work in the field.

I like the handy stylus holder on the outside of the case. There is no fumbling around and asking myself where did the stylus go? It's right there wherever I go!

If you work in the field, like me, and need to bring your PDA into dusty, humid, or unstable weather conditions be sure to ruggetize the case. It's the needed protection that will give you peace of mind. Verizon wireless offers a reliable national wireless Internet service called Wireless Sync.

Copyright © Rene Tse, the owner of the website: Free cellular Phone Deals is thoroughly addicted to finding information to help consumers on which: free camera cell phone and cell phone accessories are the best for protecting your cell phone, PDA or Pocket PC.

I grant permission to publish this article, electronically or in print, as long as the bylines are included, with 2 live links, and the article is not changed in any


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