Handheld Nautiz X4|
A new, well-designed, rugged multi-purpose data collection handheld for all those who, for now, would rather continue to use Windows Mobile
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
On February 18th, 2014, the Handheld Group introduced the Nautiz X4, the latest member of the company's line of rugged handheld computers that also includes the Nautiz X1, X3, X5, and X7, as well as the Nautiz eTicket models. As the name implies, the new Nautiz X4 is the middle of the lineup, designed for those who need a compact, lightweight multi-purpose handheld computer with integrated keypad, one that also seamlessly fits into existing Microsoft environments.
Using Windows Embedded Handheld with a resistive touch screen, this new device is not a trial balloon in an industrial handheld devices market that is unsure which way to go these days. Instead, the Nautiz X4 is for customers who exactly know what they want—a traditional Windows Mobile data collection device, but the best and most modern one they can get.
Sizewise, to put things in perspective, the Nautiz X4 measures 6.1 x 2.9 inches, is an inch thick, and weighs 11.6 ounces. That's a footprint no larger than many of today's consumer smartphones, though it is, of course, thicker and considerably heavier. Below you can see how the new Nautiz X4 compares to Handheld's full lineup of Nautiz models:
With regard to technical specifications, the Nautiz is built around a 1GHz version of the TI AM3703 "Sitara" ARM processor, a mature and widely supported OMAP3 chip that offers good performance. There is 512MB of RAM and 1GB of Flash. The specs also include a user-accessible MicroSD expansion card slot, as well as a SIM card slot.
The sunlight-readable display measures 3.5 inches diagonally, which looks small in today's world of ever-larger consumer smartphones, but is perfectly suitable for an industrial handheld. It's a conventional resistive touchscreen that can be operated with a finger or the supplied stylus. The backlit keypad is available both with a phone-style number and also with a QWERTY layout. There are directional keys, a large scanner key, standard green and red call pick-up and hang-up keys, as well as four programmable functions keys.
One reason why the Nautiz X4 is a thicker than a standard consumer smartphone is the fact that it includes industrial grade scanning. Almost every smartphone can scan via its camera these days, but for professional speed and accuracy you need a dedicated scanner engine. Handheld offers either a Honeywell N4300 Series high performance 1D laser scanner (see spec sheet), or a Gen6 Honeywell N5600 Series area-imaging engine (see spec here).
The X4 has a 5.0-megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash for documentation purposes. For wireless connectivity there is Bluetooth version 2.1 + EDR (enhanced data rate), and 802.11b/g/n WiFi. On the WWAN side, the X4 can be equipped with 3.8G GSM HSPA+/HSUPA or CDMA EVDO Rev. A for wide area voice and data communication. The device also has integrated u-blox GPS.
Visually, the clean and elegant Nautiz X4 perfectly fits into Handheld's distinctive design language with light-gray plastics and black protective cladding and bumpers, continuing the company's strategy of having a clear brand identity with their Algiz and Nautiz lines.
Like all Handheld Group devices, the Nautiz X4 is tough and rugged and built to survive on the job. The device carries IP65 sealing where the "6" means it's totally dustproof, and the "5" that it can handle water jets from all directions. This means it can handle operation in dust and rain, but don't drop it into the water. The operating temperature range is a wide -4 to 131 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to 55 Celsius), which means it can be used almost anywhere. The Nautiz X4 can also handle repeated drops from four feet, and has been MIL-STD-810G tested for a variety of other ruggedness criteria.
Finally, the Nautiz X4 runs Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 that includes the mobile version of Office. This, of course, is a legacy OS platform, what with virtually all of those hundreds of millions of consumer smartphones being either iPhones or using Android. The situation here is that whatever Microsoft tried later in the mobile space was either geared towards consumers (Phone 7, Phone 8) or just didn't catch on (numerous confusing versions). Embedded Handheld 6.5, the first that used a more icon-oriented home screen, was also the last almost everyone in the vertical market agreed on, and it thus remains the most widely supported.
What the Handheld Group offers with the Nautiz X4 is a rugged, practical and very ergonomically designed handheld computer that supports software and protocols that are still widely in use, and likely will remain so for years to come. They offer that in an updated package that skillfully merges old and new. The X4 is a nicely done multipurpose device that's a computer, a phone, a navigator and a data collector that, without trial and error, fits right into the Microsoft infrastructures still prevalent around the globe. It's not future-oriented and it won't be forever, but for many customers it will do the jobs at hand.
Note that along with the Nautiz X4, Handheld Group also announced the Nautiz eTicket Pro II (see here). It carries the same specifications and functionality as the Nautiz X4, but adds a built-in advanced contactless Arcontia smart-card reader for secure transactions and ticket validations.
Update Sept. 17, 2014: Handheld Group announced that the Nautiz X4 will also be available with Android 4.2.
Handheld Group is a manufacturer of rugged PDAs and mobile computers. Handheld and partners worldwide deliver complete mobility solutions to businesses in industries such as logistics, forestry, public transportation, construction, military and security.