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Amrel DF6 Rugged Handheld

Fully rugged 5-inch ARM-powered handheld offers superior versatility and configuration options
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Based in El Monte, California, AMREL (AMerican RELiance) has a long history of offering value-added applications in vertical markets. The Rocky line of ruggedized computers was introduced in 1995 and has been updated, enhanced, and fine-tuned every since. AMREL also offers innovative rugged handhelds for both military and industrial applications, and their new DF6, officially launched October 2, 2013, is a prime example of how embedded systems products can provide unmatched modularity and flexibility.

While the DF6 looks like a small industrial tablet computer, AMREL considers the DF6 a rugged handheld. With its wide-format sunlight-viewable display that measures five inches diagonally and offers 800 x 480 pixel WVGA resolution, the DF6 is really somewhere inbetween. Unlike the company's Windows 7-based Rocky DB6 (see here) that uses the same size display, the new Rocky DF6 was originally introduced as capable of running either Android or Windows Embedded CE 6.0. Operation is via (single) touch or stylus.

As is evident from the pictures above, DF6 is remarkably compact and slender for a rugged device. It measures 3.7 x 6.7 inches and is just under an inch thick.

While that footprint is still considerably larger than that of even one of the latest super-sized consumer smartphones, the DF6 is considerably smaller and handier than a 7-inch class tablet and can be carried pretty much anywhere. It also weighs just a pound, a big plus for military and many other demanding field applications where personnel can't afford to be weighed down by equipment.

The DF6 is powered by a 13 watt-hour Li-Ion battery, with an optional 26 watt-hour battery also available. For situations where DC power is preferable, there's optional 5V sealed DV-in via a sealed LEMO connector (see LEMO site).

The picture above left shows the backside of the DF6, including the optional -megapixel documentation camera.

The device is powered by a 1GHz Texas Instruments AM3715 ARM Cortex-A8 processor, a mature, proven and quite popular chip that also so happens to support both Windows Embedded CE and Android, making it possible to offer both OS platforms without changes in the hardware.

What truly sets the DF6 apart is its superior configurability. As is shown in the column to the right, the bottom of the device can accommodate up to three sealed Fischer connectors (see Fischer Connector website), each of which can accommodate either RS232 serial, USB, LAN, VGA or headset functionality. The top, likewise is highly configurable; customers can order the device with an antenna for one of the optional radios (i.e., WiFi, Bluetooth, WWAN or GPS), and there are two SMA (SubMiniature version A) connectors for those radios as well. This degree of configurability for the job is rarely available, and represents one of the advantages of Amrel's embedded system device architecture.

Since Amrel targets the DF6 for deployment in environmentally demanding applications, the device is built to operate within a wide -4 to 122 degree Fahrenheit temperature range, and it has been independently certified to MIL-STD 810G for shock, vibration, rain, humidity, salt fog, altitude, solar radiation, explosive atmosphere, temperature shock and more. It is also sealed to IP66 level, where the first "6" means it's totally sealed against dust, and the second "6" that it is also protected against even strong jets of water.

With the DF6, Amrel further broadens the spectrum of their rugged mobile computing devices lineup for use in extreme environments. Its size is very common sense—large enough so it can be viewed and handled even under difficult conditions, but small enough to be easily stowed away. On the OS front, Windows Embedded CE remains a simple, reliable platform for custom apps. But there's also enough screen size and resolution to use Android for more complex projects (which probably made Amrel decide to use the same basic platform for the Android-only DF7A introduced July 2015, and limit the DF6 to Windows). Wired and wireless I/O is not an issue because the DF6 can be configured to handle just about anything. In short, the Amrel DF6 is a veritable Swiss Army knife of a mobile computer.

Specifications Amrel DF6
Status Added 10/2013, updated 03/2015, 07/2015
Form-factor Fully rugged handheld computer
Processor Texas Instruments AM3715 Cortex A8
CPU Speed 1.0GHz
Standard/Max RAM 512MB
OS Windows Embedded CE 6.0
Disk/drive 4GB ROM
Card slots 1 Micro SD, 1 SIM
Display type Sunlight readable TFT with anti-reflective and anti-glare treatment and LED backlight; optional night vision
Display size/res 5-inch/480 x 800 pixel
Digitizer/pens Single touch resistive touchscreen
Keyboard/scale NA
Housing Magnesium alloy/PC+ABS
Operating Temp -4° to 122° (-20° to 50°C)
Sealing IP66
Shock MIL-STD 810G 516.6 Proc. I and IV
Salt Fog test MIL-STD 810G 509.5
Humidity test MIL-STD 810G 507.5 Proc. II
Vibration MIL-STD 810G 514.6 Proc. I, Cat 14 and 20, Proc. IV Cat 24
Certifications MIL-STD 461F -- CE101/102, CS101/114/115/116, RE101/102, RS101/103
Size (WxHxD) 3.7 x 6.7 x 0.96 inches (171 x 94 x 25 mm)
Weight 1.0 lbs. (450g)
Power 3.7V/3,520 mAH Li-Ion; optional 3.7V/7,040 mAH Li-Ion
Camera Optional integrated 5-megapixel camera
Sensors Unknown
Interface Optional: RS232, USB, LAN, VGA, audio via sealed Fischer connectors
Wireless Optional WiFi, BT, WWAN via SMA connectors; optional embeddded GPS
List price Inquire
Product page Amrel Rocky DF6
Brochure Amrel DF6 datasheet
Web computers.amrel.com