Tripod Data Systems’ Recon Pocket PC

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Note:
you can click on any of the pictures to see a larger size.

WHAT’S
HOT

   The TDS
Recon can take a LOT of abuse. We put this unit under water, bounced
it off the floor, down the stairs, threw it around like a football (and
occasionally missing the catch), even stood on it. Everything that we
could think of short of actually taking a hammer to the screen (and
driving over it). Check out the pictures and video below for the proof.

Running
water over the unit

   

Underwater
shots!

All
wet – but still running perfectly.

Note:
TDS does not endorse the following tests. The TDS Recon was not built
to be intentionally attacked. It was made to withstand the rigors of
outside work, but the warranty does not offer protection for the following
tests we perform.

Balancing
my 245 lbs on the unit.

The
following link will open a video of crash tests we inflicted on the
TDS Recon, right
click to save as.

TDS
RECON CRASH DEMO

This
is the only damage we succeeded in doing to the TDS
Recon after all the tests. And only minor cosmetic damage at that.

The
following link will open a video of the mud test we inflicted on the
TDS Recon.

TDS
RECON MUD DEMO

Look
at all that mud…

Mud
in the ports too!

IN
THE BOX

   Let’s take a look at what comes with this remarkably
resilient beast:

A
very large box.

A
2-pack of styli, a USB sync cable, the installation CD, a package of
screen protectors (good thinking there), the Getting Started Guide,
and various registration/warranty papers.

   

A
carrying case (optional), which has a velcro back and breathing/drainage
holes.

And
a power plug.

  
The power plugs directly into the unit (rather than through the sync
cable) – which really isn’t that big of a deal, it just means you have
to plug in more than one cable if you decided to charge the unit while
syncing. Note that there is no "charge indicator" light. I
was never really sure when the unit was completely charged or not…

SETUP

   The setup of the TDS
Recon is really straightforward. Not much different from any other PPC
other than it has TDS’
branding on the setup pages. Not much comes as far as extra software.
In fact, the only real "extra" software included is Avantgo
– and that comes with every PPC these days, and the Backup/Restore software
(which is part of the ROM), and the default Microsoft game pack.


THE
DEVICE

    The TDS
Recon is no wilting violet. Weighing in at 17 ouces (including the rechargable
power boot), and at a size almost unheard of for a PPC, the Recon is
a force to be reckoned with. There are 2 types of Recons available,
a 200Mhz 64Mb RAM + 64Mb built-in Flash storage, and the unit we received,
a 400Mhz 64Mb RAM + 128Mb built-in Flash storage. The extra Flash storage
is best used as a backup location – for those times that you run out
of power in the field, or have to hard reset and restore – TDS
included a very quick and easy to use Backup/Restore application for
this process.

Device
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
TDS Recon
6.5 x 3.75 x 1.75
490 | 17
Dell Axim X5
5.0 x 3.2 x 0.7
196 | 6.9
ASUS MyPal A716
5.3 x 3.0 x 0.7
196 | 6.9
HP iPAQ 5450
5.43 x 3.30 x 0.63
206 | 7.26
HP iPAQ 2215
4.57 x 2.95 x 0.63
142 | 5.01
HP iPAQ 1910
4.46 x 2.75 x 0.50
120 | 4.23
Toshiba e740
4.90 x 3.10 x 0.60
190 | 6.70

ENVIROMENTAL
SPECIFICATIONS

Operating
Temperature:

-22 to 140°F (-30 to 60°C)

Humidity:

MIL-STD-810F, Method 507.4

Sand
& Dust:

IP67, MIL-STD-810F, Method 510.4, Procedures I and II

Water:

IP67, sealed against accidental immersion (1m for 30 minutes) MIL-STD-810F,
Method 512.4, Procedure I

Drop:

MIL-STD-810F, Method 516.5, Procedure IV
26 drops from 4 ft (1.22 m) onto plywood over concrete
6 additional drops at -4°F (-20°C)
6 additional drops at 140°F (60°C)

Vibration:

MIL-STD-810F, Method 514.5, Procedure I, Figures 17 and 18

Altitude:

MIL-STD-810F, Method 500.4, Procedures I, II and III – 15,000 ft at
73°F (23°C)

   
A TDS Recon in
hand is worth…well, it’s about the size of 2 normal PPCs anway…In
the picture above, you can see the only buttons available. From left
to right, top to bottom: The start menu button, the enter/return button,
calendar, contact, power, and email buttons, and finally the d-pad (in
the center). You can tell that a lot of thought went into the design
and layout of these buttons. They are nicely spaced, and have an excellent
tactile response – you could use this even while wearing heavy gloves.

The
back of the unit – note the slot for the stylus and the hand strap.

  
Can you imagine trying to remove or replace the stylus in this location
with gloves on? It’s difficult task even without bulky gloves. The strap
is thankfully tight, but that makes it all the more frustrating to manipulate
the stylus in and out of it’s holding location. I think that, moved
to the left or right, from beneath the strap, and adding a lanyard hole
on the unit, would have made this much more efficient. In the meantime,
make sure to carry around the extra stylus, because you are going to
lose one very quickly.


The
bottom of the unit houses the USB, serial, and power ports. Although
there is no cover for these, if you happened to get dirt/muck/whatever
stuck here, you could simply wash it out (as everything is sealed).
Washing the unit while it is plugged in is NOT recommended.

The
stylus is plastic, has a lanyard hole (I couldn’t find a place to attach
the other end of a lanyard to the Recon, however), and a flathead-style
screwdriver end.


Using
the screwdriver end of the stylus, you can twist open the battery locks
or open the top of the unit (via 2 screws) to access the CF card slots.

  

Even
with the battery removed, the unit is still safely sealed.

   
We were shipped the rechargeable NiMH battery boot (pack) – which, according
to TDS’ website, is able to provide over 15 hours of continuos room
tempurature operation with default settings. TDS
also has a optional AA power boot for the Recon. When removing the battery,
you have 30 seconds to replace it with another boot. A very important
item of note: The TDS
Recon does not have an auto-shutoff feature for when the battery is
removed. If you remove the battery while the unit is still on – it will
hard reset when you return the power, regardless of the 30 second limit.

Unscrewing
the CF lid reveals the dual CF slots. Another great design thought process:
the screws used to attach the lid to the unit cannot be removed from
the lid, thus keeping you from accidently misplacing them.

Looking
inside the lid, you can see the bottom of the screws, and the seal used
to keep the CF area seperated from the environment.

The
Recon comes with 1x Type I and 1x Type II Compact Flash slots. As an
optional accessory, you can purchase the Extended CF-Cap (for CF cards
such as WiFi which have an extended antenna).

COMPARISON

Side
by side, the TDS
Recon dwarfs my iPaq 2215. Of course, I wouldn’t attempt to throw my
2215 down the stairs, either.

The
backlight of the TDS
Recon isn’t nearly as bright as the 2215, but just as bright as my prior
3835.

DEVICE SPEED
    We’ve consistently been
using VOBenchmark from Virtual Office System to test
all of the devices that we review.
Each number represents how many times within
a given unit of time the specific operation was able to be performed.
Higher numbers are better and are indicated in bold. Average
of best three recordings taken.

TestTDS Recon (400)Dell Axim X5HP iPAQ h5450HP
iPAQ h2215
Dell
Axim X3i
CPU: Floating Point

12.69

12.6612.6412.6812.68
CPU: Integer26.99

27.01

26.8926.9625.85
Graphics: Bitmaps – BitBlt50.0856.7356.62

78.25

21.13
Graphics: Bitmaps – StretchBlt.600.3118.13

28.60

18.70
Graphics: Filled – Ellipse | Rectangle
| Rounded Rectangle
1.59 | 1.66 | 1.413.75 | 7.51 | 2.892.16 | 6.64 | 1.55

4.68
| 12.94 | 3.82

3.76
| 13.53 | 3.29
Memory: Allocation11.3311.24

11.73

11.2311.34
Memory: Fill1.021.080.91

1.97

1.97
Memory: Move.880.940.371.241.21
Text

8.69

4.134.635.2020.80

   
Based on the above results, the TDS Recon shows itself to certainly
not be the fastest device around, but a worthy and capable one.

HELP
SUPPORT

    Along with the included Quick Start Guide,
the TDS website
also has a knowledge base, forums, fax number, and email available for
support. When reporting the hard reset issue with the battery, the support
staff was very courteous and quick to respond to the issue (although
there was no fix available at this time).

BUGS
AND WISHES

    Other than the hard reset "bug",
I found no other glaring software errors. My wishlist is rather big,
however:

PURCHASING

    The TDS Recon can be purchased from MobilePlanet
or you can contact TDS
for a distributor near you. The list price for 200 mhz model is $1499..

PROS

Ruggedized!


Waterproof
(1 meter for 30 minutes)


Large,
tactile buttons


CONS


Waterproof,
but not bouyant


Attempting
to replace the battery while the unit is on will result in a hard
reset


Stylus
holder is in an awkward location

OVERALL
IMPRESSION

   The TDS
Recon really took a beating from us and kept right on ticking. The only
way I could really affect the unit’s performance was when I discovered
the hard reset battery issue. While the stylus storage location is frustrating,
the unit itself is well designed. And even though the unit is HUGE,
it fits well in my hand, and has plenty of texture to keep it in hand
– even if you were wearing heavy gloves. The price, $1499, for a PPC,
is way out of the league for most people. Even in a military environment,
$1499 for a ruggedized unit such as this seems a bit steep. But ruggedized
units have always had a premium price tag attached to them. If you are
in a harsh environment, and want a PPC that withstand everything that
you can (plus some), then the TDS
Recon may be exactly what you are looking for.

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About The Author
DickieAdams