For all the advantages mobile computing can bring to a contracting business, mobile devices are notoriously a) expensive and b) fragile. Meanwhile the jobsite can be an unforgiving environment, and technicians can be notoriously rough on even the most durable tools.
Luckily, as more computing devices have moved to the jobsite, more hardware manufacturers are designing their products with the contractor in mind. That means longer battery life, water- and dust-resistance, drop and shock protection, and screens that are both high-visibility and scratch-resistant. The tradeoff for all these added features is, obviously, higher price.
For laptops, some of the more highly recommended models include the Getac B300, us.getac.com, which features long battery life, can be stored in temperatures from -60°F to 140°F, and is available with optional salt fog resistance (to reduce the risk of internal components rusting).
Other popular rugged laptops include the Panasonic Toughbook, www.panasonic.com, and the Dell Latitude, www.dell.com. If you’re a fan of Apple products and operating systems, about the most durable laptop the company produces is the MacBook Pro, www.apple.com. There are third-party providers who make ruggedized cases for the MacBook, like the CandyShell from Speck, www.speckproducts.com, that combines the strength of hard plastic with the impact protection of soft polymer.
For tablets, the iPad leads the field, and again, a durable case is not a bad investment. Ruggedized tablet PCs are available such as the Motion F5v, www.motioncomputing.com. The F5v uses Intel Core vPro technology and runs Microsoft Windows 7 Professional, and comes with WiFi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity with optional mobile broadband.
The Yuma tablet PC, www.trimble.com, is ruggedized, can be tripod- or vehicle-mounted, features a 1.6 GHz processor and solid-state drive. It also uses Windows 7 Professional and has two geotag-enabled cameras.
For handheld devices, again, the iPhone is the most common with the widest selection of available apps (and again, protective cases are probably the way to go on the jobsite). Trimble manufactures a rugged handheld, the Recon, running the Windows Mobile 6 operating system. Juniper Systems, www.junipersys.com, manufactures the Rampage 6 running the Android OS, which features a 5.7-in. viewing display and an integrated 2–5 meter GPS receiver.