A Multimodal Wireless PDA

The rugged Intermec 760 Color Mobile Computer is ready for just about anything, including Bluetooth, 802.11b, and GSM/GPRS communication.

The Intermec 760 Color Mobile Computer, a Pocket PC 2002 PDA, costs a whopping $3,650 (street). Then again, this rugged device comes fully loaded with a 2-D bar code scanner, Bluetooth for wireless personal area networking, 802.11b for LAN communications, and GSM/GPRS capability with T-Mobile service for WAN communications (CDMA/1xRTT support is coming shortly). A bare-bones version without the scanner and wireless connectivity costs $1,850. Rather than pay the princely single-unit prices, most buyers purchase in volume. For quantities of 1,000 or more, the unit price varies from $1,595 to $1,995, depending on options. For mobile data collection and reporting, the Intermec 760 Color Mobile Computer is a versatile PDA.

Weighing in at 1.3 pounds and measuring 7.5 by 3.5 by 2.0 inches (HWD), with the depth tapering to 1.3 inches at the bottom, the hefty 760 is built for demanding environments. A removable rubber-duck–style antenna adds 2 inches to the height. Intermec claims 6 to 10 hours of life for the lithium ion battery. A 400-MHz Intel PXA250 XScale processor drives the device, which also has 64MB RAM, 32MB of flash ROM, and a 64MB SD (Secure Digital) card. Internal slots hold the SD card and the SIM card containing your cellular account information.

A substantial elastic hand strap on the back panel helps you keep a grip on the unit, but the 760 should withstand 26 5-foot drops onto a steel plate over concrete, according to the company. The device is also water- and dust-resistant, but not rated to survive complete immersion in water. The 760 remained unfazed after we threw it into a snow bank, dropped it on a hard tile floor, and tossed it around in a carpeted office.

Our test unit successfully connected to a Hewlett-Packard 995c Bluetooth printer for Serial Port and Object Push services. The 760 also supports Bluetooth synchronization and LAN access as well as Intermecs own Bluetooth printing utility. We surfed the Web with the 802.11b connection to our internal wireless network and made voice calls (via a fairly primitive phone interface) using the GSM capability.

To use the bar code reader, you open the desired application, press the yellow Bar Code Reader button on the PDAs side panel, and aim the green light at the code you want read. We captured bar codes off software boxes, and they were immediately entered into Pocket Excel.

The Intermec 760 Color Mobile Computer fills a niche for users who have demanding wireless communication requirements and where price isnt the primary factor.