So you’re going to be away from home for a month or two on that epic trip you’ve always wanted to take. You’re going to be crawling through jungles, climbing mountains, navigating cities in unfamiliar countries, and generally being away from the things you usually take for granted. Still, you may want to be able to make a call when you’ve got cell phone signal. You might want to navigate via GPS. It’s possible that you’ll want to have a handy translator in your pocket. You might even want to drop an email to friends back home or find some information on the web. Even with all of those possible wants, the prospect of lugging a delicate, bulky, and awkward laptop around with you for a month probably doesn’t appeal. Enter the CN3 Handheld Computer from Intermec. It’s a premium pocket PC running Windows Mobile 5.0, a GSM or CDMA phone, a GPS unit with navigation software, and all around handy device. The beauty of such a device as opposed to a laptop is that it takes less power; it could easily be recharged using a solar cells setup or external battery in the field if no plug is available. Best of all, unlike the consumer grade convergence products, this one is ruggedized to military specifications and designed to take tremendous punishment: soak it in water, expose it to extremes of temperature or continuous vibration, and it still functions.
Recently I had the privilege of trying one of these devices out and talking with Jeff Sibio, the director of Transportation & Logistics at Intermec. I asked a lot of questions of Jeff and put the unit they loaned me through some pretty hard testing. The amount of functionality that’s packed in to this device is staggering so I’m going to go over it one set at a time.
While smaller than a laptop or even a micro-PC, this is not a small device. Weighing in at 14 ounces and with dimensions of 6.3x3.2x1.3 inches, it’s rather a handful. The weight of it actually makes it feel more solid rather than needlessly bulky and the build quality is excellent. Twisting the body of the device produces no creaking or movement of any kind. The screen is a nice size and is both quite bright and extremely crisp given the resolution of 320x240. The nicely-sized keyboard lights up just bright enough to see in any lighting conditions and lights the keys entirely rather than trying to just light up the letters.
The wrist strap on the back is great for holding onto the thing in distracting situations (climbing, jumping, etc.) and the tethered stylus fits firmly into the body of the device. The overall impression is of no-nonsense functionality. This is a device that is made to survive.