Rugged and Semi Rugged Computers: What’s the Difference?



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Casebook 3

Who could have predicted the advances in mobile computing technology 15 years ago, what we now see in handheld computers, tablet PCs, convertible laptops and other laptops is astonishing compared to where it all started. You can go way back to the embryo stages in the 1990’s, then at the start of this century we see the first PDA’s and then in 2010 we see the first iPad unveiled which set a new benchmark.


Many changes have taken place over the past decades.  The latest rugged tablet PCs are thinner, lighter and more cost-effective. These new devices can support Barcode, NFC, POS technologies.


And of course, rugged and semi-rugged tablet computers have become even more durable and at the same time easier to handle, allowing the mobile workforce to use them in all manner of conditions with confidence knowing that they will work exactly as intended.


If you look at the cost of buying the latest technologies, you will need to consider several factors.


Computers taken outside of a protected office environment are going to be subjected to harsh treatment. Drops, vibration, water, dust and extreme temperatures are only some of the conditions a computer may face in the outside world. It seems illogical to take a delicate piece of electronic equipment into an environment that is exposed to the elements of the mobile workforce, but that is what happens more often than you would think.


Most businesses may be drawn to some buying decisions solely on a product’s purchase price. But because the purchase price does not truly reflect the actual cost of the unit, this could turn out to be an expensive mistake. To really evaluate what a product costs, we need to look at the cost over the life of the product. This is known as the product’s total cost of ownership (TCO).


Why? Because many buyers of mobile computers are lured by the lower initial purchase price to buy non-rugged devices and then trying to protect the device with additional protective layers solely because of the cheaper purchase price, whilst failing to consider the higher costs of using this equipment out in the field. It’s a misapprehension choosing to purchase the cheapest product for the job and not consider the people and environment that the product will be used in, could leave you to be paying a lot more in the long run than if you had purchased a more suitable product.


In other words, the more expensive unit is the cheaper unit in the long run.


If you consider all the actual costs incurred during the entire life of the product like purchase price, development, replacement, and deployment costs, and plus soft costs like training, repair costs, and downtime costs; i.e.  If a field service rep has a device failure at the start of his day, the lost service revenue and customer goodwill from all the missed service calls can be substantial.



Mobile computers are often defined in one of four categories:

– Commercial (Cheapest)

– Durable (Additional costs for additional protection)

– Semi-rugged (Strong value proposition)

– Fully-rugged (Expensive and only required in extreme environments)



So, what’s the difference in the TCO between a commercial device and a fully rugged device being used in a reasonably tough environment? The Venture Development Corporation (VDC) is a notable independent research firm that focuses on rugged computers. They have performed TCO computations across the 4 levels of rugged computers across several common mobile applications. VDC computed the total cost for each level of rugged over a 5-year lifespan and then annualised the costs. These costs (broken down into hard costs and soft costs) are shown in figure 1 below.



Graph Rugged Computers

Figure 1 – Annualised 5 Year TCO Costs



From the figure, it becomes clear that using a commercial or durable device will cost you a lot more in the long run; the best option seems to be the Semi-Rugged compared to the non-rugged and durable options, if you are willing to pay that bit extra than the fully rugged could be an option, but there is some drawback with fully rugged devices like weight and option overload.


It makes sense if you think of all the things that could happen to a non-rugged device in the field. As an example, if we have a look at replacement costs. A fully rugged unit will often last at least 5 years. If you purchase 100 fully rugged units, at the end of 5 years you will still have most of them still in operation. If you purchase 100 commercial devices and put them into a rugged environment, chances are that none of the original units will be operational at the end of 5 years. And some of those units will need to be replaced multiple times over the course of that 5-year period.


So, how many commercial/durable devices do you need to buy before you have equalled the purchase price of a rugged/semi-rugged unit? And that does not even include some of the other costs mentioned like downtime costs, the cost of deploying a new unit, and the cost of re-acquiring lost data. Ultimately, you need to carefully evaluate your own working situation to determine what your own total costs of ownership are going to be. If your mobile computer will not be working in an extreme environment then a fully rugged unit may be required, if your mobile workforce works in less extreme conditions than a semi-rugged device should be the answer.



So, who is delivering the technology that supports your mobile workforce?


Today, RuggedPad is a trusted and recognized supplier of rugged workforce tablets to emergency services and other rugged workforce markets.


Powered by Intel Quad Core Z8300 Processors, the CASEBOOK 3 manufactured by TETRATAB a UK based company is sold and supported by RuggedPad in the ANZ region.


The CASEBOOK 3 is a low cost ‘2-in-1’ rugged tablet with detachable keyboard and an integrated stylus. Available with Windows or Android and fully loaded with 4G, NFC, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4, the CASEBOOK 3 is further enhanced by water and dust resistance to IP 52 and a robust design able to withstand drops onto concrete up to 0.7 meters.


All CASEBOOK 3 models have a bright and easily readable touch screen with a stylus or multi-touch finger input. The optional upgrade to integrated NFC smart-card holder with additional hand grips further enhances security and portability.


Manufactured specially to meet the identified requirements of healthcare customers, the ‘Latex Free Construction’, ‘Antimicrobial Coating’ and ‘Resistance to Surgical Wipes’, make the CASEBOOK 3 the ultimate device for any healthcare workforce needing affordable, secure and robust mobile computing.



Click here to LEARN MORE about our Casebook 3