Published on Jan.25.2013

 
Winmate E430T

Rugged industrial Android PDA with 4.3-inch capacitive multi-touch WVGA display combines state-of-the-art smartphone technology with enough toughness for any job
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer with photography by Carol Cotton)

Over the years, the size of Pocket PC/PDA displays has been going up and down. First it was 3.8 inches, then they got smaller and smaller, and now the trend is reversing, most likely due to smartphones going to ever larger screens. Perhaps this is why Winmate's new E430T industrial PDA has a nice, large display, too. Or perhaps it's because Winmate likes to cover all the bases, and there was a gap between their 3.7-inch and 5.7-inch handhelds.

Perhaps more importantly, with the E430T, Winmate offers a handheld computing device that's eminently timely in an era where hundreds of million of people now have smartphones, but can't really use them on many jobs because consumer phones just aren't built for that. This Winmate, on the other hand, can handle infinitely more abuse than one of those sleek consumer phones, and it does so without reverting to the clunky old legacy technology that so often mars the appeal and usefulness of industrial devices. This "industrial PDA," as Winmate calls it, runs Android and has capacitive multi-touch.

 

A rugged smartphone, but one you can get with scanner and RFID

There's also no denying that, apart from being technologically up-to-date, the E430T is an attractive unit for sure. Like many Asian manufacturers, Winmate isn't always sure what to call their products in English. The E430 is referred to as an industrial PDA, a handheld device, an enterprise-class PDA, and a rugged handheld. We'd primarily consider it a rugged smartphone, but then how many smartphones have a full laser scanner and RFID built in? What Winmate did here, really, was merge the best of today's smartphones with the best of rugged handheld computing technology, and stuff it all into a remarkably attractive package.

In terms of size, measuring 3.2 x 5.2 inches, being less than an inch thick, and weighing just over eight ounces, the E430T is thicker and heavier than, say, a Motorola Droid X smartphone, but hardly larger. And the picture to the right shows how the rugged Winmate compares to the (by now admittedly downright petite) Apple iPhone 4s.

As far as tech specs go, Winmate's latest is based on the Texas Instruments DM3730 processor running at 1GHz. This is an OMAP-compatible package with an ARM Cortex-A8 core and a powerful graphics accelerator. The 4.3-inch capacitive multi-touch display offers 480 x 800 pixel WVGA resolution. Other new-era tech includes dual cameras, a micro-SD card slot, speedy 802.11n WiFi, integrated GPS, and optional 3.5G mobile broadband.

What's interesting is that Winmate offers the E430 platform both with Android and with Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 or Windows CE 6.0. That's not surprising given the ongoing operating system uncertainty in rugged and industrial handhelds where, for the most part, the legacy Microsoft Windows CE/Windows Mobile still rule, in sharp contrast to consumer smartphones where it's almost all Android and Apple's iOS. This has led to some manufacturers of industrial handhelds offering both OS platforms, but they are usually running on different processors and slightly different hardware whereas the E430 can run either on the same hardware. Interesting. Android, though, is the default OS.

But as stated, what truly sets the E430 apart is that it combines a modern look and feel with state-of-the-art smartphone technology to make a tough and rugged device with an industrial grade scanner (as opposed to just a scanning app to work with the camera as consumer phones do) and RFID. That's what's needed on many jobs, and it's just not available from flimsy consumer smartphones, even if they have scanner add-ons and such.

Design and construction

While from upfront the Winmate E430 looks like just another modern smartphone, take it in your hands or look at it from the side or back, and it's instantly obvious that this device is built to last and take a good bit of abuse. The body is made of ABS plastic with rubberized bumper areas and overmolding offering not only an attractive look, but also extra protection along the sides and corners. Physical controls are at a minimum. Like all devices with procap digitizers, the E430 is operated almost exclusively via touch. While our review device came in an attractive yellow and black, Winmate also offers the E430 in white with light-blue moldings, likely geared towards applications in healthcare settings.

On the left side is the volume up/down rocker, on the right side a function button and the on/off switch. The function key on the right side is used as a scanner trigger. Righthanders who usually hold phones and mobile computers in their left hand would probably prefer the scanner button on the left side so it can be operated with the thumb. And we'd have preferred to see the scanner and on/off button not so close together. As is, it's easy to confuse the two.

For wired connectivity, there's just one micro-USB port that's used for everything: charging, communication and all. Also note that the unit's micro-SD and SIM card slots are inside the unit and not externally accessible.


Choice of processor

For almost a decade, Intel/Marvell XScale PXA processors ruled the mobile CPU roost and were found in virtually every PDA and industrial handheld. Those days are gone now, and Winmate, like most others, chose to go with a competing design, in this instance a 1GHz Texas Instruments Cortex A8 DM3730. This chip (where the "DM" stands for Digital Media) is also found in other contemporary rugged handhelds such as the Trimble Juno T41 and Motorola's revolutionary HC1 headset computer.

The TI DM3730 processor is actually a multi core system that contains both an ARM Cortex-A8 core and a MEON SIMD co-processor as well as a PowerVR SGX graphics accelerator chip. The chip uses 45nm process technology, was designed by TI to deliver excellent ARM as well as graphics performance at very low power consumption, and it's fully compatible with the OMAP 3 architecture.

Bottom line: Winmate E430T rugged handheld PDA

The Android-based Winmate E430T rugged handheld PDA may well be the answer for a lot of individuals and businesses who want a device with modern smartphone technology and ease-of-use, but also one that won't easily break on the job. With a footprint of 3.2 x 5.2 inches the E430T is about the size of a contemporary large-sceen phone. At about 9 ounces, it's considerably heavier than one of those ever more slender phones and it's thicker, too, but it's still light and handy enough to fit into most pockets.

The 4.3-inch display is gratifyingly large and its 800 x 480 pixel resolution is high enough to make it crisp and sharp. The projected capacitive multi touch screen works as it does on any modern smartphone, which means tapping, panning, punching and zooming through apps that were all designed for this sort of touch interface. It's too easy, though, to inadvertently trigger the standard Android buttons below the screen when typing.

Like modern smartphones, the E430T can be used as a phone and as a computer, but unlike consumer smartphones it can be equipped with an industrial-grade laser scanner, 1D/2D CMOS imager or RFID. And the device is much tougher and more durable than any consumer smartphone. This is one of the most exciting rugged devices we've reviewed in quite some time, and there should be plenty of interest from anyone who's ready to start using Android on the job, no matter how tough a job it is. -- Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, January 2013

 
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