Summary

Our Score

8/10

Review Price free/subscription

TDS Recon Rugged PDA

Computer hardware is becoming faster, lighter and more advanced with every passing day, but it's not really getting tougher. In fact, should we drop our newly purchased, cutting edge equipment, the look of resignation and horror on our faces tells us that we expect it to be broken. Of course, we try not to deliberately put ourselves in situations that could damage our prized equipment, but for some people this is a daily hazard that can’t be avoided.

To this end, TDS has stepped forward with the Recon, the industry’s very first rugged Pocket PC which it claims will meet not just consumer requirements, but even military specifications for durability.

Now, straight out the box, it’s not difficult to see that this is one heavily reinforced machine. The top and bottom of the device has been moulded with thick rubber caps to absorb impact, the yellow body is made from a specially stiffened plastic, it features a deeply sunken screen with reinforced glass, and all the seals are watertight.

As you would expect, these modifications do add to the size of the Recon, and at 165 x 95 x 45mm (WxHxD) and 490g it is much larger than a standard Pocket PC. Having said that, the device feels comfortable in hand and not overly weighty for its bulk. It’s not going to fit smoothly into anyone’s inside jacket pocket, but the Recon was designed for overalls not suits anyway.

Specification wise, there are two flavours of the Recon available, the first running a 200MHz Intel XScale processor with 64MB of internal non-volatile Flash storage, the second an upgraded 400MHz version with 128MB of storage available. We got to test the latter, meatier variant, but note that beyond these primary differences both machines are exactly the same. Each comprises two CompactFlash slots, a 3.5in colour TFT display that runs at the standard Pocket PC resolution of 240 x 320. The screen is viewable in direct sunlight which is obviously a necessity with a device like this. Power comes from a huge 3800mAh battery in a rechargeable boot module with serial, USB and power connectors on the bottom and a massive battery life of up to 15 hours. And both devices run the latest version of Windows Mobile 2003. On top of this, our review model also came with an optional AA rechargeable battery module, which can be bought for just under £65.

So, just what can this machine handle? Well, the answer is just about everything. To list the full array of certifications and specifications is truly mind numbing, but highlights include the ability to operate in temperatures anywhere between -30 to 60 degrees C, and altitudes of 15,000 feet. To withstand 26 consecutive drops from over four feet, and total immersion in up to one metre of water for up to 30 minutes.

You'd be scared of dropping any other PDA, but the Recon shrugs off such abuse.
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Now, being a hardware tester, these are not the usual kind of standards I have to test out, and a full lab of high tech equipment isn’t really going to help me put this little tough nut through its paces. But using a little ingenuity, from stuffing it into freezers and putting thermometers on heated plates then sitting the Recon on them, from popping it in a sink full of water to quite simply dropping it a lot, I was able to get through just about all of them. And the Recon passed with flying colours, all the while playing the supplied Mozart’s Symphony Number 9 out of its sharp little speakers. I wasn’t able to check the altitude claim, but if anyone gets up the side of Mount Kilimanjaro and finds that the Recon claps out, please feel free to tell me about it.

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