By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2007-08-01 Print this article Print

Both devices have a relatively small screen: 2 1/8 inches wide by 2 7/8 inches tall. Psion officials say the resolution is one-fourth VGA. The screen was quite clear during tests, and, in some cases, the applications on the screen provided scroll bars so I could see the entire screen. The scrolling worked well with eWEEK.com, for example. In other cases, such as with Google, you can load the mobile version of the Web site and that will work fine. For the most part, however, the Workabout Pro isnt really designed for accessing the Internet. You can certainly use the browser, and typing information into Web sites using either the keypad or the on-screen pop-up keyboard is easy enough. But youll find surfing with your BlackBerry to be an easier process. Instead, the Workabout Pro is designed to run mobile applications and remote clients. This eliminates any issues about screen size or keypad layout because those applications will be designed for the device in any case.
In addition, because of its modular nature, the Workabout Pro can be delivered with a wide variety of add-on components. One of the tested devices had a bar-code reader, for example. However, Psion has a very broad range of add-ons, including RFID (radio-frequency identification) readers, specialized optical scanners, alternate communications devices (like Wi-Fi) and other hardware upgrades, including a pistol grip.
In fact, most of the Psion Workabout Pro devices are sold through resellers and integrators that include modules and applications, delivering the device fully configured with applications already installed. Each Workabout Pro is delivered with a docking station thats designed to charge the batteries and also provide a USB connection to an external computer. However, the docking stations for the Workabout Pro with the alphabetic keypad are slightly different from the stations for the device with numeric keypad, so you cant use one stand with a different kind of device. Since theres no obvious visible difference between them, youll need to find your own way to mark docking stations, or deal with the frustration of not having things work half the time. Fortunately, the one big item that needs to work does. The HSDPA connection to AT&Ts 3G network worked perfectly during my tests. It transferred data at a reasonably fast pace, despite the fact that the area in which I was testing has only limited coverage by the cellular network. The test units were not delivered with alternate network access, so I couldnt test them with Wi-Fi or other wireless options. I didnt test the Workabout Pro to see if it could handle all of the abuse that Psion claims. However, several drops from shoulder height to a paved parking area in the rain seem to support the companys claims. Other than getting wet, the Workabout Pro was unaffected by the ruggedness testing. In one case, however, the Sierra Wireless AirCard 860 PC Card, which the device uses for connections to AT&Ts 3G network, was jarred loose. According to tech support at Psion, this happened because a mechanical stop that would normally keep the card in place wasnt installed on the test unit. Opening the unit and pushing the 3G card back into its slot solved the problem. Psion has just announced a new version of the Workabout Pro that will be available for the AT&T network in the near future. Its currently undergoing acceptance tests. The Generation 2 version of the Workabout Pro will support Windows Mobile 6. The Generation 2 docking station will support all Generation 2 devices, as well as all of the Generation 1 Workabout Pro devices currently available from AT&T. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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