Rugged PC – Handhelds & PDAs: Handheld Group Nautiz X81

On September 28, 2022, the Handheld Group introduced the Nautiz X81, the latest member of the company’s line of rugged laptops which also includes the Nautiz X2, X41, X6 and X9. The new Nautiz X81 joins the existing Nautiz X41 in offering a physical keyboard in addition to touchscreen, as well as 5G connectivity and nearly limitless customization capability via an extension cap system that enables a wide range of affordable and easy solutions. to develop.

As immediately evident in the image above, the Nautiz X81 sports a purposeful industrial design with an integrated physical keyboard and the Handheld group’s distinct light grey/black color scheme, neatly and optimally merging shape, branding and function. The new handheld’s screen measures 4.8 inches diagonally, nice and large for an ergonomic handheld that also includes a full physical keyboard. The range below shows how the new Nautiz X81 compares to the full range of Nautiz models from Handheld as of October 2022:

To put the size into perspective, the Nautiz X81 measures 7.5 x 3.1 inches, is 1.3 inches thick, and weighs just over a pound. It’s a footprint as wide as a modern large-screen smartphone, but perhaps an inch larger.

Now, if you look at the new Nautiz X81 and think it reminds you a bit of something else you’ve seen from Handheld, you’re not wrong. The Nautiz X81 very, very closely channels the older Nautiz X8. From the outside. Inside, no. There, everything is new. Handheld freely admits this in its press release. When the company polled customers, they wanted an all-new set of specs, but they really liked the old look and form factor. And for good reason.

That’s because the original version of the Nautiz X8, introduced almost exactly eight years ago, was squeezed between the back end of the old and dying Microsoft Windows Mobile and the promising Android. Still here was Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5, as Microsoft called it, Microsoft’s latest mini-OS, once an industry leader, and so at the time, it still made sense for Handheld to offer it. But times were changing, and so the first Nautiz X8 was also available with Android, version 4.2.2. This was made possible by one of Texas Instruments’ OMAP processors which could run both. That made sense, because back in 2014 Microsoft’s battle against Android had yet to be decided.

It is completely decided now and has been for several years. And resurrecting the truly excellent design and functionality of the original Nautiz X8 as a native Android device with all the latest Android technology made perfect sense. Thus, the new Nautiz X81 can see almost exactly the same as the old Nautiz X8, but inside it’s a whole new machine, a true modern industrial handheld. One based on a modern MediaTek chip optimized for ARM, running Android 12 GMS. One with four times the RAM of the original Nautiz X8, 16 times the onboard storage, much higher resolution cameras, a micro SDXC card slot that can handle cards with much more storage, much more WiFi fast, much faster Bluetooth, 4G LTE and 5G mobile broadband, multi-band dedicated GNSS and, of course, USB Type A and a USB Type-C port.

Sticking with the beloved older form factor did means sticking with roughly the same display size. In 2014 the 4.7-inch Nautiz X8 was big, but in 2022 the new 4.8-inch screen doesn’t seem so big next to all those giant smartphone screens. It’s much sharper, though; its 720 x 1280 pixel resolution is 306 pixels per inch (the X8 only had 210 ppi). The initial specs don’t include a nits screen brightness rating, but Handheld’s press release mentions “unique display technology” for a sunlight-readable screen that doesn’t quickly drain the battery (which now has more capacity).

Unlike most modern-era handhelds, the Nautiz X81 still has the physical keyboard. Indeed, there are still many tasks where a physical pad with its precision and tactile feedback remains preferable. Many customers will love it. Sometimes nothing else will do. There is also a dedicated scan button for use with the optional integrated barcode scanner.

The X81 is also a major step up in the camera department. The rear-facing 13.0-megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash should suffice for most documentation needs, and there’s now also a 5-megapixel front-facing camera.

Unsurprisingly, the Nautiz X81 is just as tough and rugged and built to survive the job as the original Nauiz X8, and probably even a bit more. The unit carries full IP67 waterproofing where the “6” means it’s completely dustproof, and the “7” means it can handle full immersion up to around three feet. This means it will even survive an accidental drop in the stream. The operating temperature range is very wide from -22 to 140° Fahrenheit (-30 to 60° Celsius), which means it can be used anywhere. The Nautiz X81 can also handle repeated drops from five feet (instead of four) and has been MIL-STD-810G tested for a variety of other ruggedness criteria.

All in all, repurposing the old Nautiz X8 form factor and design with cutting-edge Android features and technology makes perfect sense. It’s not just an upgrade. For all intents and purposes, the Nautiz X81 is an entirely new and modern Android device built on the size, ergonomics and choice of user interface – touchscreen and/or keyboard – of a platform that was already perfect for work. — C. Blickenstorfer, September 2022


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