Rugged Android handheld computer with large high-res capacitive multi-touch screen and numerous data communication and data capture options
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
Unitech launched the Android-based PA700 mobile computer in July of 2014 as a rugged handheld uniting effortless smartphone functionality and operation with the best of traditional mobile computing. Equipped with versatile data collection tools, a large state-of-the-art multi-touch display, and commensurate performance, Unitech designed the PA700 for easy enterprise integration.
From a hardware perspective, the PA700 is admirably powerful and advanced for an industrial handheld. It is based on 1.5GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 processor, the same chip used in Amazon's acclaimed Kindle Fire HD tablet. There's a full gigabyte of RAM and 512MB of Flash for the unit's Android "Jelly Bean" 4.1.1 OS platform and apps. Storage can be augmented by up to 32GB via a microSDHC Card slot. The standard battery provides 11.9 watt-hours, and the product brochure also lists an optional 27 watt-hour high capacity battery. Battery life, though, is listed as just around six hours.
Just like consumer smartphones have ever larger displays, so does the Unitech PA700 come with a roomy 4.7-inch transflective display with 1280 x 720 pixel resolution. That's 312 pixels per inch and makes for a super-sharp picture, perfect for complex applications. The PA700 also has a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with flash that can also record MPEG-4 video.
The PA700 uses capacitive multi-touch and doesn't have a physical keypad. Below the display are the standard four Android buttons: Search, Menu, Home, and Back. There is a scan button on each side of the device, and the left side also has a volume rocker.
Like most of Unitech's handhelds, the PA700 is highly customizable to meet the needs of a large variety of data collection tasks. With an integrated 1D CCD barcode scanner, the PA700 can be used to to manage inventory assets, check prices and monitor productivity or customer service levels (the 1D scanner reads 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, Toshiba, RSS expended, RSS Limited, and RSS14). A 2D imager reads PDF417, MicroPDF417, Composite, RSS, TLC-39, Datamatrix, QR, Micro QR, Aztec, MaxiCode,US PostNet, US Planet, UK Postal, Australian Postal, Japan Postal, and Dutch Postal. In addition, the PA700 can be enhnanced with an optional HF RFID and NFC reader/writer, ideal for mobile payment transactions and access control applications.
On the wireless communication side, there's 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, 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 large and high resolution display and industrial-grade scanner, the PA700 is quite compact, measuring 3.15 x 6.3 x 0.58 inches, and weighing about 10 ounces with the standard battery. The design follows contemporary smartphone/tablet standards with flush frontal glass, a slender rectangular shape, and rounded corners.
As far as ruggedness goes, the Unitech PA700 delivers as well. 4-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 PA700 is a nice and timely piece of hardware that combines plenty of smartphone and professional functionality into a reasonably compact Android handheld that's tough enough to hold up in the field. It should be a strong contender for anyone seeking a handheld Android device for the field, one that provides the interface and ease-of-use of a consumer smartphone, but also industrial build and functionality. About the only thing we might have wished for is a modern capacitive stylus for precision detail work.
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.