Should You Buy Standard, Ruggedized or Rugged Tablets for the Field?

It is essential that a modern field operation equip employees with tablets or smart phones, yet it is hard to overstate the hazards that await a tablet sent out into the field. It may have to survive under circumstances where you would not.

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It is essential that a modern field operation equips employees with tablets or smartphones, yet it is hard to overstate the hazards that await a tablet sent out into the field. It may have to survive under circumstances where you would not. It will be dropped. It may also be rained on, baked in a hot vehicle, seared by the sunshine, immersed in water, hit with a power tool or run over by a truck. You may use it while standing in pouring rain or driving snow. Your choice:

  • Buy rugged tablets designed expressly for field use.
  • Protect consumer tablets with rugged cases.

tablet computer with postit note on with message buy new tabletWe won’t even discuss outfitting your field with standard tablets without rugged cases. That would involve a level of optimism that has no place in the get-it-done world of field service.

When comparing tablets, either standard tablets with cases or rugged tablets, consider the following factors in light of your anticipated pattern of use:

  • Shock protection, drop tested
  • Waterproof/resistant
  • Screen protector
  • Tested to meet military-grade standards (MIL-STD-810)
  • Rotating stand or wrist strap
  • Slip resistant exterior
  • Failure rates, life spans, and warranties
  • Ease of use
  • Ability to handle your business and personal software
  • Type of screen
  • Temperature range
  • Beveled edge around screen
  • Screen viewable under all lighting conditions
  • Battery life

When comparing price, consider the total cost of the consumer tablet and case, taking into account the estimated life span, repair records and warranty options for the tablet. Budget tablets using the Android operating system start at $99.  iPads run from $500 to $829.  Add a high-quality rugged case for $59 to $129. Rugged tablets using Android run from $400 to several thousand, averaging $2,100.

Typically rugged tablets have longer life spans, better repair records, and longer warranties than comparable standard tablets. When evaluating reliability, figure in the potential cost of failures in the field and time spent replacing a failed tablet.

There is no rugged tablet that used the iOS (iPad operating system).  If you are a dedicated Apple customer, rugged tablets do not have the elegant interface you expect on a consumer tablet, or you want to limit your initial investment, the tablet case combination may be right for you.

There may be little difference in weight and bulk by the time you compare a rugged tablet (about two pounds) to a standard tablet (1 pound and up) outfitted with a rugged case. The latest generation of truly rugged cases uses multi-layered technology to provide shock resistance with minimum weight. For the ruggedized tablet, shock resistance is built in. Look for reassurance that the combination has been tested to withstand a drop from four or more feet onto concrete.

Consider weather protection. A few drops of rain, grains of sand, or dust may interfere with a consumer tablet. Most rugged cases offer some protection against moisture and dirt.

delivery man with package and tablet with stylus

There are two screen types. Resistive, where the screen reacts to pressure from any stylus or fingertip, and capacitive, which reacts to static electricity transmitted from your skin or a special stylus. Capacitive screens are gaining in popularity, but if your tablet will need to be used in rain or snow be sure it will perform when wet. If your field employees will be capturing signatures, consider a model that tethers the stylus to the tablet.

And look for a screen display that works in three modes: indoors, outdoors in bright daylight and outdoors directly in the sun.

RazorSync gets top ratings from customers using Android and iOS. We invite you to join a live demonstration, during which you will have the opportunity to ask any questions about equipping your field staff with smartphones or tablets.

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