Ultra-rugged vehicle-mount computer brings full Windows to mobile applications
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
The VC80, introduced by Zebra Technologies) on November 18 2015 is an ultra-rugged vehicle-mounted mobile computer intended to bring full Windows and significant computing power to to material-handling vehicle operators who require mobile access to productivity-improving desktop applications.
First, how does Zebra's VC80 differ from the company's earlier and still available VC70? Both have a 10.4-inch touch display, they are about the same size and weight, and both are very tough and rugged. But whereas the VC70 runs the small-footprint Windows Embedded Compact (which used to be known as Windows CE 7.0), the VC80 runs the full and embedded versions of Windows 7, and it's also ready for Windows 10. It's essentially a Windows desktop/laptop in a tough tablet that can be mounted in forklifts, clamp trucks, yard mules, cranes and the like.
Computing power is provided either by a dual-core Intel E3825 or a quad-core E3845. Both are part of Intel's highly acclaimed "Bay Trail" platform, which means integrated Intel HD Graphics, advanced 22nm lithography, and 64-bit instruction set. Both chips are Intel's "embedded" designation, which here means there's 7-year lifecycle support. Even though Zebra mentions "desktop," note that both chips are Intel Atom-branded, so we're not talking Intel Core processor performance levels.
Also note that RAM is limited to 1GB for the dual-core and 2GB for the quad-core processor option. Mass storage comes in the form of either 32GB or 64GB of speedy mSATA solid state disk. There doesn't seem to be an external memory card slot, but the VC80 comes with an internal mini-PCIe slot as an M.2 slot. A second miniPCIe slot is optional.
Like the VC70, the VC80 has a generously sized 10.4-inch resistive touch screen with 4:3 aspect ratio 1024 x 768 pixel XGA resolution. Note that XGA has been a vertical market device standard resolution for many years and thus enjoys excellent application support. Since vehicle-mounts such as the VC80 may be deployed indoors or outdoors, Zebra offers both a 400 nits and a 1,000 nits LED backlight option.
The VC80 measures a compact 10.4 x 9.3 inches and is 3.5 inches thick. It weighs about 8.6 pounds. There's no mention of materials used for construction in the specs, but we'd assume there's an aluminum housing with polymer perimeter protection.
Vehicle computers come in all sorts of configurations with or without physical keyboards or keypads. Given its intended application where the panel will be used during vehicle operation, the VC80's designers decided on six direct and six soft programmable keys below the bottom of the display, plus an onscreen keyboard that offers haptic feedback that can be felt even with gloves on. Bottom or side-mounted keyboards are optionally available.
For connectivity, the VC80 has two USB ports (one of them powered), two serial RS232 ports, and a 3.5mm audio jack. Optionally available are an RJ45 LAN jack or a CAN-Bus port with SAE J1939 support. There is a front-facing 87 dBA speaker described as "very loud." Push-Ti-Talk is available also, and may be used with on optional external speaker/microphone.
The device comes with speedy dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth v2.1 (or v4.0 Smart Ready when running Windows 10). There's an optional external WLAN antenna, if needed. If scanning is needed, Zebra offers their Bluetooth-based LS3478 or DS3578 handheld or RS507 ring-style cordless scanners.
As a vehicle-mounted device, the Zebra VC80 has an internal 12-48 Volt power supply. There's also an internal battery backup to guard against vehicle power issues, or vehicle battery changes.
The V80 comes with pre-loaded and pre-licensed Wavelink Terminal Emulation 3270, 5250, VT100, and VT220. Application development and maintenance is via standard Windows software tools.
The Zebra VC80 is an exceptionally rugged device with IP66 sealing (totally dustproof and can be hosed down with high-pressure water jets), and a wide -22 to 122 degree Fahrenheit operating temperature range. It has also been tested for shock and vibration, humidity, UV, salt fog, and so on.
Below is Zebra's VC80 product overview:
Specifications Zebra VC80
Ultra-rugged vehicle mount computer
1.33GHz Intel E3825 or
1.91GHz Intel E3845
Windows Embedded Standard 7, Windows 7 Professional, Windows 10 ready (all 64-bit)
32 or 64GB mSATA SSD
2 x mini PCIe, 1 x M.2
Color LCD TFT with 400 or 1,000 NITs LED backlight
10.4"/1024 x 768 pixel XGA
Resistive touch (optional heated touchscreen evaporates external condensation when moving out and in freezers)
6 programmable macro keys; keyboard key; volume; brightness; blue key for 2nd level functions; on/off key
-22° to 122°F (-30° to 50°C)
Shock & Vibration
IEC 60721-3-5M3, MIL-STD 810G Method 514.6 and Method 516.6
48 hours of 5% solution at 35°C
North America: FCC Part 15, Class B
+/-15kV air discharge, +/-8kV direct discharge
10.4 x 9.3 x 3.5 inches (265 x 235 x 90 mm)
8.6 lbs. (3.9kg)
12-48V internal (designed for forklift power)
2 x USB, 2 x RS232, 3.5mm audio, optional RJ45 LAN or J1939 CAN-Bus, speaker
802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR (Win 7/10), Bluetooth v4.0 Smart Ready (Win 10)