Review: TDS Recon Rugged All-Climate Pocket PC PDA

You have lost your way from a traveling band of desert nomads crossing the Sahara. Parched to near death, a water hole shimmers within reach. As tempting as it is to rush for the water, you said you would meet your friend on MSN Messenger. So you pull out your trusty Recon and sign in.

This is the basic premise behind Tripod Data Systems’ Recon, an all-climate solution for mobile computing. There has not been a durable PDA until now, as companies such as Sony and Palm have focused on capabilities and looks over lifespan. However, for the countless individuals operating in harsh environments such as construction sites and artic tundra’s, these valuable occupational tools have been out of reach.

The Recon is a hefty unit, sizing out most other PDAs on the market. It only weighs 17 ounces and though not as elegant as the Zire, is quite comfortable and has a form fitting body. The aptly named PowerBoot Module slides in at the back, adding connectivity and power options to the unit. It connects via USB and with the current space limitations found on handhelds, has perfectly suitable transfer speeds.

It is equipped with all the typical Microsoft Office applications (for Pocket PC), including Pocket Excel, Outlook, Word and Internet Explorer. Though heavily stripped down, they do essentially what portable users need from them and are easy to use. Also thrown into the Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC platform are MSN Messenger and a handy calculator. Provided you are connected to the web, this allows for real-time communication above the email access through Pocket Outlook.

All of this is seen through one of the brightest displays I have found on a PDA to date. Over 65,000 colours illuminate this 16-line LCD into a radiant picture quality. For a PDA that’s biggest boast is a rocket solid form to withstand harsh climates, this picturesque screen was astounding.

Both built-in storage and external storage solutions allow you to save your data on the Recon. Up to 128 MB of internal space and 64 MB of volatile RAM are available. A 200 or 400 MHz Intel XScale Processor can power this workhorse. The TDS Recon is capable of running literally thousands of Pocket PC applications, creating a diverse operating platform.

The Recon is Internet-ready with multiple options for connecting to WAP-based websites. A modem can be used for dial-up connections or it is possible to route a connection through web-enabled cell phones. Another intuitive method is to attach a CompactFlash card enabled with 802.11 functionality, allowing users to lodge the Recon to a wireless router. Pocket PC-compatible Ethernet cards (CompactFlash) allow for further network access and for enterprise users, VPN connections are supported as well. The two CompactFlash slots provide support for these various cards.

What the TDS Recon claims, it backs up in every department. Whether that be its 15-20 hour battery life or it’s rain fetish, this is a brute that exhibits class. Now extreme professionals have a mobile platform that should suit their needs splendidly.

Pricing for the TDS Recon begins at $1499, available directly from TDS. Full specifications available here.


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