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Handheld Nautiz X3

Pocket-sized ultra-rugged multi-purpose computer
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

On October 5th, 2010, the Handheld Group introduced the Nautiz X3, the third member of the company's Nautiz line of rugged handheld computers that also includes the Nautiz X5, the X7, and the Nautiz eTicket and Nautiz eTicket Pro. As the nomenclature implies, the new Nautiz X3 is the smallest and most compact device in the lineup, combining strong performance with extreme ruggedness and good value. In a market that has recently seen the introduction of several "rugged smartphone" type of devices, the Nautiz X3 is on the extreme ruggedness side of things.

To put things in perspective, the Nautiz X3 measures 5.9 x 2.6 inches, is an inch thick, and weighs 9.2 ounces. That makes it considerably larger than consumer smartphones, but actually smaller than PDAs and Pocket PCs of yesteryear, and it still fits into most pockets. Below you can see how the Nautiz X3 compares to Handheld's Nautiz X5 and X7 models:

As far as technical specifications go, the Nautiz is built around the 806MHz version of the Maxell PXA320 application processor, definitely a high-end chip that provides speedy performance. There is 256MB of RAM and 512MB of Flash. The specs do not specify an expansion card slot and none is visible from the outside, but we'd be surprised if there weren't one underneath the battery or somewhere inside.

The sunlight-readable display measures 2.8 inches diagonally, a bit small considering that even tiny cameras now have 3-inch displays and larger and the trend in smartphones has been 3.5-inch and larger. It's a conventional resistive touchscreen that can be operated with a finger or the supplied stylus. The backlit 22-key phone-style keypad with smaller alphanumeric lettering includes a navigation diamond as well as function keys and a dedicated scan key.

Part of the reason why the Nautiz X3 is a bit thicker than your standard consumer smartphone is the fact that it includes a dedicated laser scanner engine (or, optionally, a 2D imager). Some smartphones can scan with their integrated cameras, but that's not as quick or accurate as a dedicated scanner. Also, the X3's battery is conderably more powerful than that of a consumer smartphone and easily lasts through a full shift and more.

The device does have a 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash for documentation purposes. It also comes with other state-of-the-art electronic sensing mechanisms that make interesting new applications possible: GPS, G-sensor, e-compass, and altimeter. Wired connectivity is via an 8-pin surface-mount USB connector at the bottom of the unit.

Visually, the rather elegant Nautiz X3 fits into Handheld's new design language with light-gray plastics and black protective cladding and bumpers. With the recent additions to their Algiz and Nautiz lines, the Handheld Group obviously seeks to establish a clear visual and design identity for their brands.

For wireless connectivity there is Bluetooth Class 2 version 2.0 + EDR (enhanced data rate), and 802.11b/g WiFi. On the WWAN side, the X3 comes with GSM/GPRS/EDGE and UMTS/HSDPA for wide area voice and data communication.

As far as ruggedness goes, the Nautiz X3 carries IP65 sealing where the "6" means it's totally dustproof, and the "5" that it can handle water jets from all directions. This means it can handle operation in dust and rain, but don't drop it into the water. The operating temperature range is a very wide -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to 60 Celsius), which means it can be used almost anywhere. The device can also handle repeated drops from six feet, and has been MIL-STD-810G tested for a variety of other ruggedness criteria.

Finally, the Nautiz X3 runs Windows Mobile 6.5. There's, of course, much speculation as to where Windows Mobile is headed, if anywhere, but for now WinMo remains a safe bet with extensive software support and excellent security and enterprise integration.

What the Handheld Group offers with the Nautiz X3 is a very rugged handheld computer that packs a punch but is smaller and handier than most. It also offers phone functionality, but we'd see that as an additional feature rather than the device's main purpose.

Handheld is a North American supplier of rugged PDAs and handheld computers. It is part of Handheld Group, which was founded in 1997 and is one of Europe's leading suppliers of ruggedized handhelds for use in markets such as utility, military, logistics, forestry, transportation and field service.

Specifications Handheld Nautiz X3
Added/changed Added 09/2010
Form-factor Rugged PDA
CPU Speed 806MHz Marvell PXA320
OS Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional
RAM/ROM 256MB/512MB Flash
Card slots 1 microSDHC, 1 SIM
Display type Sunlight-readable TFT
Display size/res 2.8"/240 x 320 pixel QVGA
Digitizer/pens touch/1
Keyboard/keys 20-key numeric backlit keypad
Navigation onscreen and directional control
Housing Unknown
Operating Temp -4 to 140F (-20 to 60 Celsius)
Sealing IP65
Shock 26 6-foot drops per MIL- STD 810G, Method 516.5, Procedure IV
Altitude 15,000 feet (4570 meters)
Humidity 90% RH temp cycle per MIL-STD-810G, Method 507.4
Size (WxHxD) 5.9 x 2.6 x 1.0 inches (150 x 67 x 25 mm)
Weight 9.2 ounces (260 grams)
Power ??V, 3,300 mAH Li-Ion
Interface USB, audio, surface-mount docking, autofocus 3.0mp camera with illuminator; optional 2D Imager
Wireless 802.11b/g WiFi, WWAN (3.75G UMTS/HSUPA, GSM/GPRS), GPS, e-compass, altimeter
List price Starts at US$999 (1D laser, WiFi, camera, 3G/HSDPA, GPS); 2D version US$1,149.
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Windows Mobile Info
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  • 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
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