Traditional pocket-sized ultra-rugged multi-purpose handheld computer, communicator, and data capture device
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
Catchwell got started in 1999 by a group of electronics and telecommunications engineers. Today, the company is one of South Korea's top three rugged handheld mobile computer manufacturers, and the top handheld supplier of the Korean postal service. Initially limiting itself to the domestic Korean market, Catchwell is now gearing up to expand into the global market with a still small, but competent lineup of traditional rugged handhelds, including the CW20 described on this page.
What you get with the CW20 is a small and very compact handheld computer that combines a variety of data collection and communication technologies into a package barely larger than a smartphone. Measuring just 2.7 x 6 inches and weighing only about 9 ounces, the little CW20 fits almost anywhere.
On the technology sides, the CW20 stays with tried-and-true Pocket PC componentry, running either Windows CE 5.0 or Windows Mobile 6.5 Pro on the 806MHz version of the Marvell PXA320 processor. This was close to state-of-the-art two or three years ago, and the powerful PXA320 processor remains one of the best-ever all-around PDA chips. The world, however, has changed in those three years, with hundreds of millions of iPhones and Android smartphones out there, making Windows Mobile on small low-res displays (the CW20's measures 2.8 inches and offers 240 x 320 pixel QVGA resolution) with resisitive touch look and feel quaint.
That said, while retina displays and pinching and zooming rule in smartphones, things really haven't changed nearly as much on the industrial/vertical market side of things where almost all devices continue to use older technologies, including Microsoft's workhorse mini-OS. And what the CW20 lacks in gee-whiz technology, it certainly provides in ruggedness, functionality and versatility: The CW20 is a very competent small computer, data capture device, as well as a full-function quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE smartphone and a tri-band UMTS/HSDPA data communicator.
There is also integrated GPS for mapping and GIS applications. And for data capture there is a laser or 2D barcode scanner. An internal 3-megapixel camera with LED illuminator light can be used to document data and shoot video (though for anything but basic image capture, the camera won't replace a dedicated device). The numeric keypad allows for very rapid data entry. The unit's replaceable battery provides full-day operation.
Overall, the Catchwell CW20 is an elegant, rugged and very compact traditional Windows CE/Windwows Mobile handheld computer that provides a useful — though by consumer technology standards somewhat dated — combination of computing, GPS, communications and data capture technologies in one single rugged device that's still small and light enough to fit into most pockets.