Remarkably light and compact ultra-rugged multi-purpose handheld computer, communicator, and data capture device
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
Catchwell got started in 1999 by a group of electronics and telecommunications engineers. Today, the company is one of South Korea's top three rugged handheld mobile computer manufacturers, and the top handheld supplier of the Korean postal service. Initially limiting itself to the domestic Korean market, Catchwell is now gearing up to expand into the global market with a still small, but competent lineup of traditional rugged handhelds, including the CW31 described on this page.
What you get with the CW31 is a remarkably small and compact rugged handheld computer that combines a variety of data collection and communication technologies into a package barely larger than a smartphone. Measuring just 3.1 x 6.4 inches and weighing no more than about 13 ounces, the handy CW31 fits almost anywhere, and that's more than most rugged handhelds can say.
On the technology sides, the CW31 stays with tried-and-true Pocket PC componentry, running either Windows CE 5.0 or Windows Mobile 6.5 Pro on the 806MHz version of the once top-of-the-line but now increasingly bypassed Marvell PXA320 processor. The powerful PXA320 processor does remain one of the best-ever all-around PDA chips, though. All those hundreds of millions of iPhones and Android smartphones out there these days, however, make Windows Mobile on smallish low-res displays (the CW20's measures 3.5 inches and offers 240 x 320 pixel QVGA resolution) with resisitive touch look and feel quaint. You can get the CW31 with full 480 x 640 pixel VGA resolution, and that's certainly the way we'd go.
All that said, while retina displays and pinching and zooming rule in smartphones, things really haven't changed nearly as much on the industrial/vertical market side of things where almost all devices continue to use older technologies, including Microsoft's workhorse mini-OS. And what the CW31 lacks in gee-whiz technology, it certainly provides in ruggedness, functionality and versatility: The CW31 is a very competent small computer, data capture device, as well as a full-function quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE smartphone and a six-band UMTS/HSPA data communicator.
There is also integrated GPS for mapping and GIS applications. And for data capture there is a laser or 2D barcode scanner. An internal 3-megapixel camera with LED illuminator light can be used to document data and shoot video (though for anything but basic image capture, the camera won't replace a dedicated device). The numeric keypad allows for very rapid data entry. The unit's powerful 17 watt-hour battery provides full-day operation.
As for ruggedness, the CW31 excels. There's IP65 sealing, which means the device is totally dustproof and can also handle low-pressure water jets from all directions. There's a wide -4 to 122 degree Fahrenheit operating temperature range, and you don't see a 6-foot drop spec very often.
Overall, the Catchwell CW31 is an elegant, rugged and amzingly compact traditional Windows CE/Windwows Mobile handheld computer that provides a useful — though by consumer technology standards somewhat dated — combination of computing, GPS, communications and data capture technologies in one single rugged device that's still small and light enough to fit into most pockets. As far as its competition goes, we'ree looking at devices such as the Datalogic Lynx, Motorola MC45, Intermec CN50, Psion EP10, Honeywell Dolphin 7800, etc.