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CipherLab CP50

Rugged industrial-grade handheld for data collection and communication out there in the field
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

The CP50 industrial mobile computer was introduced by CipherLab in July of 2012 as a data capture solution for use in the field, on the road, in warehousing, and just generally for deployment in harsh environments. CipherLab, which is headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan with offices in China, Germany and the USA, has been specializing in the design, manufacture, and marketing of Automatic Identification and Data Capture/Collection products and systems since 1988.

In terms of design, the CP50 sports the look, size and feel of a compact traditional industrial handheld, essentially a Microsoft-style Pocket PC with a physical numeric keypad for rapid data entry.

The CP50 is larger than it looks in the picture to the right. The device measures 7.2 x 3.1 inches, is 1.5 inches thick, and weighs 13.6 ounces. That's quite large and heavy compared to modern smartphones, but it's smaller than most flashlight-style industrial handhelds, and also a bit smaller and lighter than CipherLan's more recently introduced CP60 handheld.

What's plainly obvious, on the other hand, is that the CP60 is that the CP60 is designed in traditional industrial handheld style, with a physical numeric keypad for rapid data entry and a resistive touch screen. For an operating platform, the CP50 uses either Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5. These are essentially the final implementations of Microsoft's legacy mini OS before the company began experimenting with more contemporary and more smartphone-oriented OS software. As always, Windows Mobile is friendlier, more end-user oriented, and with a number of general apps, whereas Windows CE is more for projects where the devices will primarily run custom-developed software. Also of note: The pre-loaded CipherLab SmartShell enables custom user interface settings.

Note that CipherLab is quite aware of the rather significant different in look and feel between Windows Mobile and Windows CE: the CE version has a legacy QVGA (240 x 320 pixel) screen whereas the Windows Mobile model has full VGA (480 x 640 pixel) and can be ordered with either a numeric or a QWERTY keypad. Screen size, by the way, is 3.5 inches diagonal, i.e. the size that was standard for Pocket PCs and PDAs for many years.

On the processor side, the CP50 uses the 800MHz Samsung S3C6410 processor, an ARM11 chip that also includes a 3D hardware accelerator. The S3C6410 uses 65nm process technology, was designed by Samsung to deliver excellent ARM as well as graphics performance at very low power consumption. There's 256MB of RAM and a 2GB of Flash, with onboard storage expandable through the unit's microSDHC card slot. Both RAM and storage are very adequate for a Windows Embedded Handheld device. The CP50 comes standard with a 3.7V/3,300mAH Li-Ion battery that's easily good for full-shift operation.

On the communications side there's single band 802.11b/g WiFi, Bluetooth V2.1, and 3.8G mobile broadband. There's also integrated GPS/AGPS and the CP50's integrated camera is a 5-megapixel autofocus design. For wired connectivity, the CP50 has a USB 2.0 client port.

While virtually any smartphone can read barcodes via its camera these days, professional-grade scanning applications require a real 1D laser scanner, and CipherLab offers that as well as a 1D/2D imager. An RFID reader is optionally available also.

The CP50 is significantly more rugged than any consumer smartphone. It can handle multiple 5-foot drops, is sealed to IP65 specifications where the "6" means it's completely protected against dust, and the "5" that it is protected against low pressure water jets from all directions. The operating temperature range is a wide 14 to 131 degrees Fahrenheit. CipherLab also quotes a "tumble spec" where the devices survive 1,000 half-meter (1.7 feet) tumbles. That's not quite as rugged as the company's CP60, but still makes the CP50 plenty tough enough for most deployments.

In industrial handhelds, the availability of accessories and peripherals matters. CipherLab offers optional charging and communication cradles, cables, belt holsters, as well as a pistol grip.

What does all that make the CipherLab CP50? A strong contender for any job that requires a compact industrial-quality handheld computer instead of just a more durable smartphone. The tough CP50 combines PDA, phone, data communication, GPS, and scanning into a single Windows Embedded Handheld device. Units such as this one practically last forever and they don't break, and customers will also be impressed CipherLab's comprehensive and high-quality documentation materials.

Specifications CipherLab CP50
Added/changed Added 03/2013
Form-factor Industrial mobile computer
CPU Speed Samsung S3C6410/800 MHz
OS Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5
RAM/ROM 256MB/2GB Flash
Card slots 1 microSDHC (up to 32GB)
Display type Transflective color TFT LCD with LED backlight
Display size/res 3.5-inch/240 x 320 pixel QVGA
Digitizer/pens Resistive touch/1
Keyboard/keys 30-key numeric or QWERTY with LED backlight
Navigation nav controls, stylus
Housing Impact-resistant plastic
Operating Temp 14° to 131°F (-10° to 55° C)
Sealing IP65
Shock Multiple 5 feet to concrete
Tumble 1,000 tumbles from 0.5 meter (1.7 feet)
Electrostatic +/- 15 kV air discharge, +/- 8 kV contact discharge
Size (WxHxD) 3.1 x 7.2 x 1.5 inches (78 x 182 x 37 mm)
Weight 13.6 oz. (385 grams)
Power Rechargeable 3.7V, 3,300mAh Li-Ion ("10 hours")
Camera 5-megapixel AF CMOS camera w/ illuminator
Sensors Unknown
Interface USB 2.0, RS232, mic, speaker
Scanner 1D Laser or 1D/2D CMOS imager
Wireless Bluetooth Class II version 2.1 + EDR, 802.11b/g WiFi, GPS/Assisted-GPS,; opt. 3.8G WWAN (GSM / GPRS / EDGE / WCDMA / HSDPA / HSUPA / HSPA+)
List price Inquire
Product brochure CipherLab CP50 brochure (PDF)
CipherLab CP50
Windows Mobile Info
  • Windows 10 IoT Core
  • Windows Embedded 8.1 Handheld
  • Windows Embedded Compact 2013
  • Windows Embedded 8 Handheld
  • Windows Embedded Compact 7
  • Windows Embedded Handheld
  • Windows Phone 7
  • Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R3
  • Windows Mobile 6.5
  • Windows Mobile 6
  • Windows CE 6.0
  • Windows Mobile 5
  • Windows CE 5.0
  • Windows Mobile Smartphone
  • Windows Mobile 2003
  • Windows CE .Net
  • Windows for Pocket PC 2002
  • Pocket PC intro 2000
  • Windows CE H/PC Pro 1998
  • Windows CE 2.0 1997