Where Rough & Tumble Meet Business Savvy

— April 10, 2007

 
TDS Ranger 300x - By Michelle Maisto

The only thing you can’t do, apparently, with the newest version of the TDS Ranger, is perform poorly on your first round of Jawbreaker. Because that’s what I did, immediately upon charging and setting up the device (surely you’re aware that there’s little more addictive in this world than that seemingly innocuous game of stacked colored dots), and I was forever afterward banned from the launching the application. Solitaire, no problem. Jawbreaker? No dice. Though for the sake of my workload—and, perhaps, the workloads of those field service workers for whom the TDS Ranger is intended—I suppose it was just as well.

Time-incinerating game aside, I found the TDS Ranger to work quite well—as far as one can test such a device in an office environment. The touchscreen, which is designed to work under high sun or low light, offers crisp resolution and is easy to use. I was able to set up my preferred Wi-Fi connection and other preferences no problem, and the smart, sturdy design of the Ranger makes it easy to hold and use. Its large, tactile and well-spaced rubber buttons are also incredibly pleasing to the touch, though they were designed to accommodate big hands in thick, industrial gloves.

Its outdoor intentions are also echoed in the Ranger’s solid, streamlined casing and its military standards for drops, vibration, humidity, altitude and extreme temperatures. I couldn’t bring myself to knock a water glass on it (I’ll trust the rain-drenched users in the print ads), but I did drop it from a height that once efficiently did away with a laptop of mine—to which the Ranger turned the other cheek and brightly kept working—and I let it sit for three weeks beside my open window, fully exposed to air that AP last week revealed is the filthiest and most cancer-causing in the country. I was glad I had covered the touchscreen with one of the plastic clear screenguards that come with Ranger, since afterward it was filthy and sticky with soot, though this it did nothing to deter performance.

The only thing I found slightly awkward about the Ranger is that its alpha keyboard is alphabetical—though I can see how this might be the most common-sense layout for users whose spend a lot of time in the field (versus those of us who spend more time with our qwerty keyboards than with our families). Although, there is always the option of tapping at a qwerty keyboard on the touchscreen. I became a fast fan, however, of its quick, one-button on/off switch—no reboot, no fuss. I wish my laptop had one.

For many, though, surely the most exciting new feature of this latest TDS Ranger is that it runs on the highly touted Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system, which is said to offer additional features, improved reliability and modern developer support and tools. For example, users can now view PowerPoint documents, view received Word documents in a format more true to the original and view and modify charts in Excel—which are all welcome functionalities on the Ranger’s truly good-looking screen.

The Ranger also comes with a rechargeable battery with power for 30 hours of use, an SDIO slot, two CompactFlash slots for adding GPS, bar-code scanners and other devices, a 312MHz Intel XScale processor (520 MHz optional), 64 or 128 MB of SDRAM, a 64 or 256MB Flash disk, optional integrated Bluetooth (standard on the 512 MHz unit) and 802.11b. Which along with Mobile 5.0 help to ensure this rough-and-tumble device is all business.

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