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Unitech PA690

Advanced rugged handheld computer with high-res touch screen and numerous data communication and data capture options
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Unitech launched the PA690 mobile computer in July of 2011 as a rugged outside-the-four-walls device designed to assist mobile workforces in today's competitive business environment. Equipped with a large and exceptionally sharp sunlight-readable display and numerous data collection options and wireless communication options, the PA690 has a lot of qualities that help it to up the ante in this competitive field.

From a hardeware perspective, the PA690 is a powerful and advanced machine. It is based on the 806MHz version of the Marvel PXA320 processor, which is still the most potent and versatile XScale processor ever. There's the usual 256MB of RAM and 512MB of Flash needed to run Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 Professional or Classic. Storage can be augmented via a microSDHC Card slot. The standard battery packs 8.14 watt-hours, but we suggest the optional 14.8 watt-hour extended battery.

Very impressive is the PA690's large 3.8-inch transflective display with 480 x 800 pixel resolution, higher than virtually all Windows CE/Mobile handhelds. This means a sharper image and more screen real estate for complex applications. The PA690 also has a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with flash that can also record VGA MPEG-4 video.

The 690 can also be ordered with either one of two very different keypads. The standard 26-key arrangement includes the usual function keys and numeric keypad. An also available 44-key keypad includes numeric, alpha and function keys. It looks like a Blackberry-style thumb-type keyboard with a standard QWERTY layout. Each version has four navigation keys, a scan key, phone pickup and hangup keys, and the usual Windows CE/Mobile auxiliary keys.

The device is hugely configurable for data collection tasks. Customers can go with the standard 1D laser scanner (UPC-A/E, EAN-8/13, Codabar, Code 39, Code 39 full ASCI, Code 93, Code 32, Interleaved & Std. 2 of 5, EAN 128, Code 11, Delta, MSI/Plessey, Code 128, and Toshiba), or with a 2D imager (Aztec, Codablock F, Code 49, Datamatrix, EAN-UCC, composite, Maxicode, Micro PDF417, PDF 417, QR code, Tcif lonked C39). Also available is a 13.56MHz RFID reader with ISO15693, ISO14443A and ISO14443B tag support. For location based services there is a u-blox 6 high-performance GPS chipset that also supports the European GALILEO satellite system.

On the wireless communication side, there's 802.11 a/b/g WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1 with enhanced data rate, as well 3.5G WWAN for wide area cellular voice and data connections. And there are dual external antennas for best possible WWAN and WLAN wireless connectivity and performance.

For a device this powerful with such a high resolution display and full keyboard, the PA690 is quite compact, measuring 2.9 x 7 x 1.6 inches, and weighing under 14 ounces with the standard battery. The design seems ergonomic with emphasis on making it easy to hold and operate.

A word about the operating system: at a time where most consumer smartphones use either Android or the Apple iOs, and even Microsoft-powered phones use Windows Phone 7 which is not compatible with earlier versions of Windows CE or Windows Mobile, Unitech's choice of Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 Professional (which is really a renamed Windows Mobile 6.5) may seem odd. It's not. For better or worse, for now Windows CE and Windows Mobile continue to be the platform of choice for vertical market and industrial handhelds. There's just too much Windows Mobile business software out there, as well as all the application development expertise, software tools, and leverage that comes from fitting right into corporate IT systems.

As far as ruggedness goes, the Unitech PA690 delivers as well. 5-foot drop spec, IP65 sealing where the "6" means the device is fully dustproof, and the "5" that it can handle low pressure water jets from all directions. There's also a wide 14 to 122 degree Fahrenheit operating temperature range, and presumably a slew of other tests and certifications.

The PA690 is a very nice piece of hardware that combines an awful lot of functionality, and it looks like a very strong contender for anyone seeking an advanced combination of rugged mobile computer, industrial smartphone, and data capture device.

Unitech America is a subsidiary of Taiwanese automatic data collection specialist Unitech, founded in 1979. They are also one of the largest manufacturer of rugged PDAs.
Specifications Unitech PA690
Added/changed Added 07/2011, updated 04/2013
Form-factor Mobile computer
CPU Speed Marvell PXA320/806 MHz
OS Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 Professional and Classic
Card slots 1 microSDHC (dual microSD slots in HF RFID model)
Display type Backlit transflective sunlight-readable TFT
Display size/res 3.8-inch/480 x 800 pixel
Digitizer/pens touch/1
Keyboard/keys 26-key numeric or 44-key QWERTY and function keys
Navigation keypad/stylus
Housing Impact-resistant plastic
Operating Temp 14 to 122F (-10 to 50C)
Sealing IP65
Shock 5-foot drop
Size (WxHxD) 2.9 x 7.0 x 1.6 inches (74 x 177 x 40 mm)
Weight 13.8 oz. with 2,200mAh battery
Power 13.7 watt-hour Li-Ion ("Up to 10 hrs.")
Interface USB 1.1 Host and Client, 5.0mp AF camera with flash, optional 1D bar code scanner or 2D imager, optional 13.56MHz RFID reader, audio
Wireless 802.11 a/b/g, (CCX4 compliant), Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR, GPS (u-blox 6), 3.5G WWAN
List price Inquire
Brochure PA690 brochure (PDF)
Contact www.ute.com
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