After concentrating mostly on panel computers for various industrial applications for many years, Taiwanese Winmate has been releasing a flurry of rugged handhelds and small tablets as of late. In November of 2011 we described the very elegant E430T which Winmate calls a rugged industrial PDA, but that looks more like an especially well built smartphone (see our coverage of the Winmate E430T). Just a month later, Winmate introduced the S430T which, despite the very similar nomenclature, is a ery different product:
As you can see in the above pictures (the best we have of the unit for now), the Winmate S430T, which the company officially simply calls the "Rugged Handheld Device 4.3"), looks like a conventional rugged handheld computer. And a fairly sizable one at that, measuring 3.9 x 7.1 x 1.5 inches and weighing a full pound. Those are the stats of what we consider a full-size rugged PDA/handheld computer, and that's what the Winmate S430T is.
There is, however, more to this latest Winmate handheld than meets the eye.
There is, for example, a 4.3-inch WVGA display that is noticeably larger than the 3.5 and 3.8-inch screens generally available in this class. And instead of the resistive touch screen PDA-style handhelds have been using for a decade and a half, the S430T uses projected capacitive touch, which is the technology Apple popularized with the iPhone and that is now used by virtually all consumer smartphones and tablets. Finally, and that's a big one, the S430T is powered by a Texas Instruments OMAP3530 processor that can handle Android as well as Windows CE/Windows Mobile.
In terms of specific tech specs, the 720MHz OMAP chip in Winmate's latest is supported by 512MB of RAM, 512MB of Flash, a microSD card slot for additional storage, plenty of connectivity and expansion, and a rather powerful 18.5 watt-hour Li-Polymer battery good for full shift operation.
For communication the S430T comes with 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR and a built-in u-blox GPS module. Optional equipment includes a 3.5G WWAN module supporting HSPA/UMTS/GPRS/WCDMA/GSM as well as a 1D/2D barcode reader or a low frequency (125KHz) or high frequency (13.56MHz) RFID reader. Note that it's either a barcode reader or RFID but not both as they are implemented as sealed snap-on modules using an SDIO port in the nose of the device. The S430T also has a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with LED illuminator for documentation purposes.
As its design and looks imply, the Winmate S430T is a rather rugged machine. It can handle 4-foot drops to concrete, it has a wide operating temperature range of -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and it carries IP67 sealing, which means it's completely impervious to dust and is even protected against complete immersion (within limits).
Bottomline here? We're seeing the beginnings of a fundamental shift in industrial handhelds, one that is beginning to explore the newer technology and interface models that have taken the world of consumer smartphones by storm. The S430T is still an inbetweener with a foot in the old, traditional camp (design, Windows CE/Mobile capable, VGA res) and another foot in usage model employed by tens of millions of smartphones (capacitive touch, Android, etc.). We cannot offer an opinion as to how well it all works ad we have not yet had hands-on with the S430T, but winmate's willingness to pioneer and explore the new technologies in vertical/industrial market handhelds and tablets is laudable and refreshing.