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Why Are Rugged Tablets More Suitable For Industrial Applications

Considerations when selecting a Rugged Tablet

July 26, 2022 admin Comments Off

Most consumer-grade devices like mobile phones and tablets are not suited to handle industrial and field workers’ needs, as they are not durable enough. Rugged tablets with a considerably large screen, have thus become a popular choice. Comtrol Solutions specializes in rugged tablets and provides some key points for your consideration:

#1: Operating System and Security

Some enterprise users may prefer a rugged tablet with Windows operating system. A Windows tablet is much more costly than an Android tablet due to the operating system license cost as well as the higher hardware specifications required to run a Windows tablet. At Comtrol Solutions, we have observed that most users prefer at least 8GB RAM on a Windows tablet while 4GB RAM is typically sufficient for an Android Tablet.

You will find many brands of Android rugged tablets in the market at very competitive prices with little differentiation to the hardware specifications. One key differentiator to look out for is whether the manufacturer/brand provides regular security patches or Android Updates. For example, the Zebra ET40/ET45 rugged tablet may be delivered with Android 11 today but provides regular security updates and supports upgrade to Android 14, Enterprise users will find security a strong justification for a product’s price premium.


#2: Durability – IP rating and MIL approval

Rugged tablets are more durable than commercial tablets since they are designed for industrial or outdoor use. The typical operating temperature a rugged tablet may be between -20°C to 50°C. Moving a device in and out of a freezer environment may expose it to damages caused by condensation. Comtrol Solutions is not aware of any rugged tablets designed for cold-chain operations. (Note: Zebra does have another device, the MC9300 gun type handheld computer which is a condensation resistant model with integrated exit window heater)

As rugged tablets are usually exposed to dust water (or even rain), look out for the Ingress protecting (IP Rating) of the tablet. Most rugged tablets are rated IP65 and higher. The first digit ‘6’ represents a dust-right device while the 2nd digit ‘5’ represents protection against water jets. For a device to have protection against temporary immersion in water, it would have to be rated as IP67. For more information on ingress protection, refer to this link.

To understand how rugged a tablet is, look at the MIL Approval. This approval means the device has been tested to the same grade as US military equipment, with drop tests from certain height and taking a number of tumbles. All Zebra Rugged tablets feature MIL-STD-810 approvals, withstanding drops starting from 1.2m height, without any additional 3rd party protectors. 


#3 Workflow Accessories – Hot Swap Battery, Straps, Docking Stations

The Zebra ET80 and ET85 model for example boasts a huge range of accessories, such as shoulder strap, rotating hand strap, stylus, docking stations and even a field-durable detachable keyboard. 

When your rugged tablet has to be used for multi-shifts or long hours, consider finding models with hot-swap batteries or auxiliary batteries to ensure continuous operations without the need to shut down or finding a charger for the device. This is another feature that commercial tablets lack, as their batteries are usually not field-replaceable.

Many warehouses require rugged tablets to be mounted on forklifts. For such use cases, this is an additionally long-term investment as you not only have to consider how durable the rugged tablet is when subjected to vehicle vibrations, but the cost of cradles to be installed on the forklift. A quality cradle will be able to charge and power your tablet while allowing easy removable of the tablet from the forklift. Consult Comtrol Solutions for the supply and installation of Proclip forklift cradles in Singapore.


#4: Specifications: Processor, screen, ports

Consumer tablets are typically used for a variety of purposes, including video streaming and gaming. Consumers may consider factors like large display screen, storage, speaker quality or elegance of design. Rugged tablets however, are designed for different needs.

Qualcomm is the common processer for Android tablets while Intel processors common for Windows tablets. While most enterprise customers prefer an Intel i5 or i7 processor, at Comtrol Solutions we have tested older processers as sufficient for single use applications. As mentioned earlier, most users prefer at least 8GB RAM on a Windows tablet while 4GB Ram is typically sufficient for an Android Tablet. Obviously this is dependent on different apps and organizational requirements. If your application is web-based and running on a browser, you may have the option to choose either operating system, of which an Android option comes at a lower cost.

Screen size is an important consideration for operator efficiency. Test out the UI of the application running on the tablet to find out if an 8”, 10” or 12” (common screen sizes) display is best suited for your application. Rugged tablet models like the Zebra L10ax possess a resistive touchscreen, allowing users to interact with the screen when they are wearing gloves or when the screen is wet.

While most recent Android Tablets com with only a built-in USB-C port for charging and communication, rugged Windows tablets  may have more options like serial, ethernet or HDMI port for industrial applications. Contact Comtrol Solutions for more cases, like connecting a rugged tablet to a weighing scale via the serial port.

#5 Environmental Considerations

Some operators operate in hazardous areas containing volatile chemicals. In these scenarios, you need IECEx or ATEX approved tablets. At Comtrol Solutions, we carry an extensive range of these gadgets, including the BARTEC Agile S NI (ATEX Zone 2/22 approved) , the popular Aegex Intrinsically Safe Tablet for ATEX Zone 1/21 or the Zebra ET85 for Class 1 Division 2 (C1D2) approval. 

If your tablet is used outdoors, besides considering the waterproofing (IP protection) of the tablet, consider if the screen supports ‘wet mode’.  Also look at whether the screen is bright enough for viewing if it is used under sunlight Nits refer to candela per square meter. Brightness of 800 nits is usually the minimum preference for the display to be ‘sunlight readable’.

#6: Return on investment

Mentioned in #1, a device which can support future operating systems means that future apps may be supported and your tablet may be usable for many many years.  It may be tempting for companies to purchase low-cost commercial tablets since they generally cost less than rugged tablets. However, they may spend more on repairs and replacements in the long run. The downtime and disruption to operations can be even more costly, as mobile devices become an integral part of businesses. Zebra has the Zebra OneCare™ plan which provides accidental damage protection, an attractive option for customers operating in harsh environment and subject to abusive operational use.

If your organisation is looking for rugged tablets to enhance productivity, then we have what you need. At Comtrol Solutions, we carry an extensive range of rugged tablet models, including explosion-proof (IECEx/ATEX approved) models. Do not hesitate to contact us today if you require help identifying the best rugged tablets for your business needs.