Rugged Android-based handheld computer with integrated industrial-grade scanning
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
Unitech initially launched the original PA700 platform in July 2014 in an effort to provide a rugged handheld that merged effortless smartphone functionality with the best of a traditional mobile computer. To that end, Unitech gave the PA700 a large multi-touch display, a powerful processor, industrial-grade data collection capabilities, and all the tools and services required for easy enterprise integration.
In late 2016, Unitech launched the PA720 that represents a tech update and refinement to the PA700, and is the PA700's successor. Like the PA700, the PA720 is a handy, powerful Android-based data collection tool that's built to last. However, the PA720 offers more RAM and storage, dual cameras instead of just one, a broader operating temperature range, and also sports a new and more contemporary design.
From a hardware perspective, the PA720 is admirably powerful and advanced for an industrial handheld. It is based on a quad-core 1.3GHz MediaTek MT8735 ARM A53 processor, a chip designed by MediaTek powerful enough for tablets. There's 3GB of RAM and 16GB of eMMC Flash for the unit's Android "Marshmallow" 6.0 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 16.8 watt-hour "double" battery. Battery life isn't listed.
Just like consumer smartphones that have generally moved to larger displays, the Unitech PA720 comes 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 PA720 also has a 5-megapixel front camera for conferencing, and an 8-megapixel autofocus camera with flash that can also record MPEG-4 video.
The PA720 uses 5-point 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.
Powerful data collection capabilities
Like most of Unitech's handhelds, the PA720 is highly customizable to meet the needs of a large variety of data collection tasks. With an integrated 1D CCD barcode scanner, the PA720 can be used to to manage inventory assets, check prices and monitor productivity or customer service levels (the SE655 1D scanner reads all major codes, i.e. 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 SE4750DR 2D imager reads PDF417, MicroPDF417, Code 128 Emulation, Data Matrix, Data Matrix Inverse, Decode Mirror Images (Data Matrix Only) Maxicode, QR Code, QR Inverse, MicroQR, Aztec, Aztec Inverse, Han Xin, Han Xin Inverse. In addition, the PA720 can be enhanced 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 dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, as well 2G/3G/4G LTE 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 PA720 is quite compact, measuring 3.15 x 6.73 x 1.0 inches for the 1D version and a bit thicker when equipped with the 2D imager, and weighing about 11 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 PA720 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 very wide -4 to 131 degree Fahrenheit operating temperature range, and presumably a slew of other tests and certifications.
The Unitech PA720 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.
The videos below further elaborate on the Unitech PA720 platform:
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 PA720
Rugged handheld Android computer
Quad-core MT8735 ARM A53 CPU/1.3 GHz
Mali T720 MP2
1 x MicroSD Card Slot (up to 32GB), 1 x SIM
16GB eMMC/MLC Flash
TFT with Gorilla Glass 3, 450 nits
4.7-inch/720 x 1,280 pixel LCD
5-point capacitive multi-touch
4 function keys, 2 scan keys, volume keys, Push-To-Talk key