Product Testing: What we look for in handheld device specs

Much of the real usefulness of a handheld is in its display. Size is important as customers have gotten used to larger screens. Resolution in ppi (pixels per inch) is very important in this era of “retina” displays (check the dpi.lv website to determine and compare device resolution). Brightness is very important (usually given in nits). Display technology is important as it determines horizontal and vertical viewing angles (which should be in the specs). Is the display glossy or matte? If there is reinforcement or special coatings, that should be in the specs.

Much of the real usefulness of a handheld is in its display.

Much of the real usefulness of a handheld is in its display.

Just as important as the type of display is the type of digitizer. Is it resistive (older) or capacitive (newer)? If the latter, can it be used with gloves? In the rain? Is there a stylus? If so, what is its technology and tip width? If there are physical buttons or keypads, what type are they, what are they made of, and can they be programmed?

The specs should provide basics about the housing. What is it made of? How are ports protected? Does it have an internal metal frame? This gets us into ruggedness, the most important reason why customers buy rugged handhelds instead of cheaper consumer products.

Ruggedness specs should include, as a minimum, what kind of fall a device can survive while it’s on, what temperature range it can reliably operate in, how well protected it is against dust and liquids, how much vibration it can handle. Each item should list the EXACT tests that were performed (rather than just a generic “MIL-STD-810G-compliant” which says nothing at all). We’d like to see as much extra detail as possible (altitude, saltwater, salt fog, scratch resistance, corrosive materials resistance, ESD, etc.).

Anything that is important should be there, clearly stated and without ambiguity.

Anything that is important should be there, clearly stated and without ambiguity.

Finally, specs must be clear in what comes standard with a product and what is available as an option. If there are a lot of options, customers should easily be able to find the cost of those options.

If the above sounds like an awful lot of information, it is. And we don’t expect every spec sheet to include all of this. But anything that is important should be there, clearly stated and without ambiguity. Pictures show design, words describe functionality, but it’s the tech specs that tell what a device can and cannot deliver.

By: Conrad H. Blickenstorfer
RuggedPCReview.com