Telxon's latest rugged wireless
mobile pen computer
If, upon laying eyes on the Telxon PTC-1194 for the first time, you think it is the new Compaq Concerto, you are not alone. Many of us with a lingering affection for the late Concerto--arguably one of the best computers Compaq ever made--will feel right at home with Telxon's latest member of the PTC family.
Like the old Concerto, the PTC-1194 consists of a sleek, elegantly rounded pen slate that houses all the electronics, and a thin keyboard hinged to the unit. This arrangement lets you close the 1194 like a clamshell notebook computer, but you can also detach the keyboard and use the unit as a separate pen slate. And like the Concerto, the 1194's controls are neatly arranged along the right side of the screen.
A personality of its own
There are, however, significant differences as well. For example, while the plastic housing of the old Concerto was definitely not rugged and in many details downright flimsy, the PTC-1194 is a veritable man of steel--or magnesium, actually. The entire unit, including hinges and keyboard are made of the strong and lightweight alloy, rendering the 1194 almost impervious to physical abuse and environmental impact. It feels completely invulnerable.
A closer examination also reveals that the keyboard isn't actually hinged to the system unit itself, but to a fairly substantial port replicator/deskstand. Finally, while pen computing didn't rank very high on Compaq's list of priorities, and the company probably designed the Concerto as sort of a speculative trial balloon, Telxon has a long and impressive history of successful pen computing products and applications.
The Telxon PTC-1194 has many of the features and qualities we had hoped for in an eventual successor to the Compaq Concerto. While pen computers, due to battery life and product lifespan considerations, always maintain a respectful distance from the leading edge of processor technology, the 1194 with its genuine 120 Mhz Pentium is at least within a stone's throw of the front.
And while the ever larger TFTs of the latest consumer class notebook computers aren't practical for use in the field, the 1194's choice of transmissive, transflective, or active matrix color screens measure 8.4 inches diagonally, plenty enough for good legibility. The tempered glass screen has a pressure-sensitive resistive digitizer and is covered with a tough mylar overlay for protection. Digitizing resolution, while much lower than that of an active design, is more than sufficient for point-and-tap operation and occasional handwriting recognition entry. The passive digitizer means you can use any old stylus and do not have to rely on expensive electronic replacement pens. While there is no cursor proximity sensing (which means the cursor follows your pen without touching the screen--handy for moving through menus), the processor and display electronics are now fast enough so that the "ink" of passive systems doesn't fall behind as it used to on earlier and less powerful pen slates.
As far as data storage is concerned, an internal 2.0GB drive means you're not going to run out of space anytime soon. In addition, the 2.5-inch disk can be shock-mounted and is significantly more reliable and rugged than PC Card storage.
Attractive and ergonomically correct
In terms of design, the 1194 has sort of a sleek retro look without coming across as over-designed or toy-like. It also bears a strong family resemblance to the small, but equally impressive, PTC-1124. Viewed from any angle, it is clear that this computer is built for tough jobs on the road. The system unit itself weighs about five pounds, a bit more than less heavy-duty pen slates, but still light enough to carry around when you need to record data in remote locations away from a dock. Two velcro-adjustable leather straps make carrying more comfortable.
Mobile info management system
It's important to realize that Telxon designed the 1194 not as a stand alone computer, but as a wireless component of an entire mobile information management system. Like all Telxon pen computers, the 1194 can accommodate a variety of wireless local or wide area network radios. Currently available are internal 900 Mhz or 2.4 Ghz direct sequence or frequency hopping spread spectrum radios, CDPD, ARDIS, and RAM Mobile Data. GSM support is planned for the future. And while not offering the condominium-sized internal expansion room of the MicroSlate Datellite series, the 1194 is still large enough to have no less than four internal Type II PC Card slots. Two of these slots are accessible from the outside, sealed by a heavy-duty hinged latch. The other two are mounted inside the unit with the housing offering a sealed antenna plug and a RJ-11 jack for a modem connection.
Like most of its competitors, Telxon now offers a shock-mounted, large capacity 2.5" 2 GB drive which adds a half inch "power bulge" to the thickness of the unit. You can still get a PC Card drive and avoid the bulge, but much lower storage capacity and the perennial fragility of such devices speak against it.
Reminiscent of the Compaq's legendary battery and power management system, the PTC-1194 also comes well equipped: there is a choice of either a six cell 2600 mAh or a nine cell 3900 mAh Lithium-Ion battery pack. The battery is integrated into the overall design of the unit and clips on for easy swapping. The larger battery increases the thickness of the 1194 by about three quarters of an inch.
Dock a valuable component
As is the case with the Fujitsu 1200 and Norand Pen*Key 6620 reviewed elsewhere in this issue, much of the power of the Telxon PTC-1194 lies in its versatile docking systems. Depending on your application, there is an industrial looking charging/communications cradle that secures the unit in a vehicle and also has a cantilevered compact keyboard; a very compact custom dock that adds ports and a floppy disk drive, and transforms the 1194 into a full-function desktop PC; and finally the Concerto-esque attachable keyboard module that converts the 1194 pen slate into a clamshell notebook with additional ports and a rugged deskstand.
Let me reemphasize that regardless of its sleek and handsome look, there is a world of difference between this rugged Telxon and lighter weight systems such as the Mitsubishi AMiTY VP or the Fujitsu Stylistic 1200. While those units are designed for use in a command post, you can take the 1194 into the trenches and onto the battlefield. Despite its modest size and weight, this computer feels big and tough.
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