How to Choose the Right Rugged Tablet for Field Work in Australia


Woman assessing a truck with a rugged tablet while working out in the field.

With the increase in demand for rugged tablets in Australia, it may have been easier to make a choice 10 years ago. However, this increase in demand has encouraged manufacturers to produce more makes and models than ever before, meaning there are many more devices for field workers to choose from.

9 Things to Consider When Buying a Rugged Tablet

Rugged tablets are used in so many different roles and industries now that the requirements of users vary greatly. A factory worker may be most concerned that the device will survive a high drop onto concrete, while a member of the police force may be most concerned about the security available on the device.

#1 Operating System

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to operating systems, with three to choose from - Android, Windows or iOS. Earlier on in the product life cycle of rugged tablets, the devices were dominated by Windows operating systems, but you can now make a choice based on what your organisation already uses or personal preference.

The operating system of your rugged tablet is important because it manages your computer hardware and software resources, but there are plenty of other considerations that may have a bigger bearing on the usability of your tablet. Check out the rest of the features on your tablet that need consideration before making your final decision.

#2 Security

Different models of tablets come with different types of security and support. If you will be accessing sensitive data on your tablet, it’s worth looking into which security features the tablets have to fend off viruses, malware and spyware. The length of time it takes for the manufacturer to provide security updates can vary between models, so it’s worth finding out how long until you can expect to receive updates. Police and defence forces need some of the most secure devices, but there are also organisations that access sensitive data from workers’ tablets. The organisation needs peace of mind that the tablets they have out in the field can’t be accessed if the device is lost, stolen or hacked into.

#3 Display Size

Compared to a laptop, all tablets have relatively small screen sizes, though compared to a smartphone or handheld computer, tablets have a large screen. However, there’s also a large variation in display sizes between tablets. The difference between a 7-inch and a 10.1-inch screen might only be three inches, but it’s a lot if you’re doing detailed work that needs the biggest screen possible.

#4 Indoors vs Outdoors

Rugged tablets aren’t only purchased by field workers who spend all their working day outdoors or in harsh environments. There are plenty of rugged devices that will never see the light of day and are only used indoors. A consumer tablet dropped onto the concrete floor of a factory or warehouse won’t last long compared to a rugged device.

However, if your tablet will be used mainly outdoors, it’s important to look at screen brightness.  You don’t want to be struggling to find or enter client information because you can’t see the screen properly. Screen brightness is measured in nits. One nit equals the light from one candle per square metre. The more nits means the more candles per square metre and a brighter screen. Not long ago, rugged tablets had nits in the hundreds, but you can now buy rugged tablets that are 1200 nits.

#5 Camera Capabilities

Some field workers spend large parts of their shift taking photos of assets or products for records and sending those images to head office. They want the highest quality possible to show as much detail as they can in the photos. The quality of cameras can vary considerably. A 13MP rear camera with autofocus and LED flash is likely to take a good quality photo compared to a device with only 5MP.

#6 Extreme Temperatures

Rugged devices are designed to cope with the harshest of working conditions. If you’re a mine worker in northern Australia, you’ll need a device that can operate in high temperatures. Not all tablets can cope with being used in 50ºC temperatures.

If you’re a field worker that works mostly out of the car, you will also need to check the operating and storage temperatures to ensure your tablet doesn’t stop working because it has been left in a hot vehicle. Make sure the vehicle mount/s accessory will suit you before you buy the tablet.

#7 Intrinsically Safe Solutions

There’s a difference between a rugged device used in a metropolitan area and one that’s used at a hazardous, potentially explosive worksite. A number of workplaces require intrinsically safe devices, including:

  • Mine sites that blast

  • Oil rigs

  • Flour factories

  • Timber saw mills

  • Wood manufacturing factories

If there’s the potential that this device will be needed in a hazardous site at any point, find out the zoning of the particular site/s. If the sites are listed as Zone 2, it may be wasteful to spend the extra money to buy a tablet that’s suitable for Zone 1.

Zone 2 sites are where an explosive gas atmosphere is not likely to occur in normal operation, while Zone 1 sites are where an explosive gas atmosphere is likely to occur.

As the sole distributor of intrinsically safe XCIEL cases in Australia, Roaming Technologies can even convert a consumer iPad into an intrinsically safe device

#8 Remote Locations

If you work in remote locations, you will want to know what networks the device can connect to, as well as the availability of mobile broadband and GPS. A surveyor working on their own some of the time in the unforgiving outback should investigate the availability of making emergency contact should they need assistance.

#9 Range of Accessories 

Accessories are often a purchase you make after you buy your tablet, but it’s a good idea to consider what’s available when choosing your tablet. Think about how you will carry your tablet around with you. If you’re a field worker who spends most of their shift walking around with their tablet in hand, is your ideal strap available? Can you buy hot swappable batteries if you spend long shifts in the field with no access to power? If you’re buying multiple devices, can you buy a charging cradle?

The best rugged tablet for field work depends on the field you work in and the type of work you do. For assistance on which rugged tablet would suit your industry and field roles best, chat to one of our experts at Roaming Technologies by calling 1300 131 933 or contact us online

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