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Amrel DB6 Rugged Handheld

It's not a PDA: it's an advanced Windows 7-powered rugged handheld computer weighing less than two pounds
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Based in El Monte, California, AMREL (AMerican RELiance) has a long history of offering value-added applications in vertical markets. The Rocky line of ruggedized computers was introduced in 1995 and has been updated, enhanced, and fine-tuned every since. AMREL also offers innovative rugged handhelds for both military and industrial applications, and their new DB6-M, officially launched April 28, 2011, is one of their most interesting and promising products yet.

While the DB6-M looks like a PDA, it really is a full-fledged computer running Windows 7 on a 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530 and a speedy, invulnerable solid state disk. The wide-format sunlight-viewable display measured five inches diagonally and offers 800 x 480 pixel WVGA resolution. Operation is via touch or stylus, and also via the dual layer keypad below the screen.

As is evident from the 5-inch size of the display, the AMREL DB6 is a bit larger than it looks on the pictures above. In fact, it measures 3.7 x 7.9 inches and is just under an inch and a half thick. While that's considerably larger than a modern smartphone, the DB6 is still pocketable and can be carried anywhere. It also weighs under two pounds, remarkably little for a full Windows machine, and the low weight can be crucial for military applications where every ounce matters. The system is powered by a 29 watt-hour Li-Ion battery that's hot-swappable and quickly replaceable. The five-hour battery life claim seems reasonable.

The pictures to the left show the side views of the device. A covered I/O port provides a USB 2.0 host connector, a SDHC card slot and also a SIM card slot for WWAN applications. The surface mount docking connector provides substantial extra connectivity via cradle (USB, serial, video, LAN, etc.). Inside, there is a mini-PCIe slot that can be used for wireless options.

Ruggedness specs are still a bit sketchy, with references to MIL-STD-810G testing and MIL-STD-461F compliance (electromagnetic interference, etc.). There is IP65 sealing, where the "6" means the device is totally dust-proof and the "5" that it can handle low-pressure water jets from all directions (without, though, being totally waterproof; that would be IP67).

So the AMREL DB6-M is certainly an interesting product. In the past, very small PCs often failed due to insufficient reliability, performance and battery life. This has changed with the advent of the Intel Atom chips. The Z530 used in the DB6-M reliably powers all sorts of industrial devices, with very acceptable performance and a good track record. Windows, of course, is not very suitable for use with a stylus, and resistive digitizers have largely given way to the projected capacitive kind popularized by the iPhone and iPad. But those cannot be used with gloves, and for military deployment, resistive still might be best.

In any case, a device as small and light as the AMREL DB6, packing full of advanced technology, can provide a wealth of intelligence, data collection, documentation, communication, mapping and situational awareness into the (battle)field. It should be interesting to see where AMREL goes with this promising platform.

Specifications Amrel DB6
Added/changed Added 01/2011, updated 05/2011, 04/2013, 04/2014
Form-factor Rugged military-spec handheld computer
Processor Intel Atom Z530
CPU Speed 1.6GHz
Chipset Intel SCH US15W/GMA500
Standard/Max RAM 2GB DDR2 533MHz
OS 32-bit Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate
Disk/drive 1.8-inch PATA 32GB SSD standard
Card slots 1 SDHC, SIM, 1 internal PCIe
Display type Sunlight readable TFT with anti-reflective and anti-glare treatment and LED backlight (300 nits; as low as 1.7 nits)
Display size/res 5-inch/800 x 480 pixel
Digitizer/pens Resistive touchscreen
Keyboard/scale Keypad (text input, AP settings, power, volume, backlight, camera, etc)
Housing Magnesium alloy
Operating Temp MIL-STD 810G (inquire specifics)
Sealing IP55 or IP65
Shock MIL-STD 810G (inquire specifics)
Salt Fog test MIL-STD 810G 509.5
Humidity test MIL-STD 810G 507.5
Vibration MIL-STD 810G 514.6
Certifications CE/FCC, WEEE, REACH, MIL-STD 461F
Size (WxHxD) 3.7 x 7.9 x 1.4 inches
Weight 1.5 lbs. with all wireless devices and battery
Power Hot-swappable 7.4V/3.900 mAH Li-Ion ("7 hours"); built-in 12-32V BVA
Interface 2 USB 2.0, speaker, dock; via cradle: 3 USB, serial, Ethernet, VGA, USB client, power; optional fingerprint reader, 2mp camera,
Wireless Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR; optional: Intel WiFi Link 6205 802.11a/g/n WiFi (uses mini-PCIe), 3.5G WWAN (HSDPA/UMTS), uBlox 6 GPS, 2 SMA connectors
List price Inquire
Product page Amrel Rocky DB6
Contact Amrel DB6 datasheet
Contact computers.amrel.com

Definitions/Primers
  • Active vs passive digitizers
  • What does "rugged" mean?
  • Rugged Specs Primer
  • FIPS 201
  • Intrinsic Safety
  • NEMA Ratings
  • NVIS standards
  • IEC 60601
  • IP Rating
  • RFID
  • RFID vs. Bar Code
  • RoHS
  • Outdoor-readable screens '07
  • PCI compliance
  • UL 1604
  • MIL-STD-3009
  • Wide-angle LCDs '04