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Zebra MC9500-K

Flexible, rugged, state-of-the-art industrial-class mobile computer for key-based applications
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

On September 15, 2009, Motorola Solutions, the enterprise division of which is now part of Zebra, introduced the MC9500 that extends the features and functionality of the popular Symbol/Motorola MC9000 mobile computing platform into a new generation of keyboard-based industrial handhelds. Specifically, the MC9500 offers state-of-the-art processing power, display technology, data capture and wireless options as well as superior battery life and power management all in one ergonomically designed unit that is also rugged enough to be used under even the most demanding environmental conditions.

On the processor side, the MC9500 is built around the 806MHz Marvell PXA320 chip, which is the fastest and most powerful of all XScale processors, yet is also more power-efficient than its predecessors. The touch display measures a generous 3.7 inches diagonally and offers full 480 x 640 pixel resolution. It has an LED backlight and a sensor that can be used to automatically change screen orientation.

Field operation is often hampered by keypads that simply do not work well with a given application. Usually that means making do with an unsuitable layout or committing to a certain keypad version if the manufacturer offers a couple of choices. Motorola addressed this problem much more comprehensively by offering no fewer than five swappable keypad inserts for the Windows Mobile 6.1-based MC9500. They are made of durable polycarbonate material and include alpha primary, numeric telephony, numeric calculator and alpha numeric layouts. Very clever.

On the battery side, Motorola addressed two common problems: a) inadequate battery life for full shift operation, and b) not knowing charge status and overall health of a battery. The battery used in the MC9500 doesn't only pack a massive 18 watt-hours, but also includes information indicators on the battery itself that show remaining charge and overall battery health, i.e. if the battery is healthy enough to hold a full charge and last a full shift.

For data capture and scanning, the MC9500 can be equipped with a 1D SE950 laser scanner, a 2D SE4500SR imager with 752 x 480 pixel sensor resolution and an aiming LED/laser, or one of those two options in conjunction with a 3-megapixel autofocus and flash-enabled camera with its own symbology decoding software.

On the wireless side, the MC9500 comes with 802.11a/b/g WiFi with VoIP support, Bluetooth v2.1 with enhanced data rate, IrDA for legacy connectivity, and what Motorola calls FlexWAN. FlexWAN refers to customer-swappable 3.5G broadband modules, either GSM/HSDPA or CDMA/EVDO Rev A. No need to send the units back to Motoroal for a swap. All radios have integrated internal antennas. The unit also includes the SiRFstarIII GSC3ef/LP chipset (click for info on the chipset).

In terms of size and weight, the MC9500 is 9.5 inches long, 3.5 inches wide, and a maximum of two inches thick. It weighs about 1.4 pounds. That's no lightweight, but acceptable for such a comprehensive multi-function tool for tough jobs.

Speaking of toughness, the MC9500 is ultra-rugged. It can survive multiple 6-foot drops, it can handle extreme vibration, it survived 2,000 1-meter tumbles, and it can operate within an extremely wide temperature range of -4 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. The device also carries an IP67 ingress protection rating, which means it is not only totally protected against dust, but is also waterproof and can survive a 30 minute immersion in 3.3 feet of water.

Motorola also stresses the MC9500's "universal accessory system," which refers to a modular accessory design approach geared towards reducing obsolescence and clutter. The system promises to accommodate future Motorola handhelds and also includes a single universal I/O connector on the back of the MC9500 that allows cradling of the device with or without snap-on accessories attached. All of this is nicely described in the Motorola MC9500-K Accessories Guide.

Overall, the MC9500 represents a major evolution of the company's long-standing MC9000 platform. Built on state-of-the-art processing, display, communication and data capture technology, the MC9500 also excels in ergonomics with its replaceable keypads, and in backroom functionality with its wealth of modular mounting, charging and expansion accessories.

Below is a video where Sheldon Safir, Director of Marketing for Moto's Enterprise Mobility Solutions Division, introduces and explains the MC9000.

Specifications Zebra MC9500-K
Added/changed Added 09/2009, updated 04/2013, 12/2015
Form-factor Industrial mobile computer
CPU Speed Intel PXA320/806 MHz
OS Windows Mobile 6.5
Card slots 1 microSD (supports up to 32GB)
Display type Transflective color TFT LCD with LED backlight
Display size/res 3.7-inch/480 x 640 pixel VGA
Digitizer/pens Resistive touch/1
Keyboard/keys 45-key "Motorola MAX" keypad with field-swappable keypad options
Navigation nav controls, stylus, keyboard
Housing impact-resistant plastic
Operating Temp -4° to 122°F (-20° to 50°C)
Sealing IP67
Shock Meets and exceeds applicable MIL-STD-810G drop specifications: 6 ft./1.8 m drop to concrete across the operating temperature range
Tumble 2000 3.2 ft./1 m tumbles (4,000 hits) at room temperature; meets and exceeds applicable IEC tumble specifications
Vibration 4g's PK Sine (5Hz to 2KHz); 0.04g2/Hz Random (20Hz to 2KHz); 60 minute duration per axis, 3 axis
Size (WxHxD) 9.2 x 3.5 x 2.0 inches
Weight 22 oz. (with battery)
Power 3.7V, 4,800mAH Li-Ion (17.8 watt-hours)
Interface USB 2.0 client or USB 1.1 host; USB (via 1-by cradle) or Ethernet (via 4-bay cradle)
Data capture options 3MP auto-focus camera with flash and symbology decoding software
SE950 1D laser scanner
SE4500SR 2D imager
Wireless 802.11a/b/g with VoIP support, Bluetooth V2.1 + EDR, IrDA, SiRFstarIII GPS, 3.5G GSM HSDPA and CDMA-EVDO Rev A
List price Ranging between US$2,495 and US$3,295
Web Zebra MC9500 web page
Product brochure Zebra MC9500-K Specs (pdf)