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CipherLab 9700 Series

Rugged keypad handheld with various laser and imager data scanning options.
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

The CipherLab 9700 Series was initially introduced by CipherLab in early 2014 as an industrial mobile computer platform for indoor data capture applications that require various barcode reader and keypad data entry options. CipherLab, which is headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, with offices in China, Germany and the USA, has been specializing in the design, manufacture, and marketing of Automatic Identification and Data Capture/Collection products and systems since 1988.

The 9700 Series is a modern implementation of mature and extensively field-proven handheld data collection technology. That means either Windows CE 6.0 R3 or Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5.3 on the operating software side, and a traditional "flashlight" design that combines a small touch screen with a thumbtype keypad.

9700 Series handhelds measure 3.4 x 8.4 x 1.85 inches, and weigh about a pound. That's longer and significantly more substantial than even today's plus-size smartphones, but that's because this is a tough, rugged tool for the job that also includes integrated industrial-grade scanning. A pistol grip is available for especially scan-intensive deployments.

In terms of tech specs, CipherLab's 9700 Series is based on the Texas Instruments DM3730 processor running at 1GHz. This is an OMAP-compatible package with an ARM Cortex-A8 core, a NEON SIMD coprocessor, and a POWERVR SGXTM Graphics Accelerator. The chip is highly field-proven and is used in many industrial handhelds. There is 512MB of DDR SDRAM, and 4GB of NAND Flash storage. If more storage is required, the 9700 Series Series comes with a micro SD slot with SDHC support.

The TFT LCD display measures 3.5 inches diagonally and offers 240 x 320 pixel QVGA resolution. CipherLab describes the backlit resistive touch display as sunlight readable. No word on brightness. Note that 3.5-inch QVGA, though it seems small and low-res today, is the legacy standard for industrial handhelds, and the 114 pixels per inch display is actually sharper than an Apple MacBook Pro or iMac 27, and just a bit less than the original iPad.

For wired communication, the 9700 Series provides USB and serial RS232. On the wireless side, there's Cisco CCXv4-certified dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Class 2 Bluetooth 2.1 with enhanced data rate.

Scanning and barcode reading is the 9700 Series primary gig, and so CipherLab made sure to offer a wide range of different reader technologies. Available are 1D standard or extended range (up to 45 feet) laser scanners, as well as a near range/far range 2D autofocus imager that can read codes as close as six inches and all the way up to 50 feet away.

9700 Series devices come with either a 3600 mAh standard or an extended 5400 mAh Li-ion battery. Even the standard battery is said to be good for at least a full shift.

Like all CipherLab handhelds, 9700 Series handhelds are significantly more rugged than any consumer smartphone. The 9700 Series can handle multiple 6-foot drops onto concrete, is sealed to IP65 specifications where the "6" means it's totally protected against dust, and the "5" that it is protected against low pressure water jets from all directions. The operating temperature range is a wide -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. CipherLab also quotes a "tumble spec" where the devices survive 1,000 half-meter tumbles.

CipherLab offers a wide variety of accessories that include chargers, various cradles, a USB/RS232 snap-on cable, a pistol grip, and a belt holster for devices with the pistol grip.

What does all that make the CipherLab 9700 Series? Clearly an attractive option for businesses that seek to replace aging or no longer supported legacy handhelds from other vendors. If that sounds like a curious business proposition, it's not. Remember that Microsoft essentially abandoned Windows CE and Windows Mobile without an upgrade path a few years ago, stranding millions. A lot of those legacy apps are still being used, and they need good replacement hardware to run on. Bingo.

Below is CipherLab's promo from the 9700 Series.

Specifications CipherLab 9700 Series
Status Added 10/2015
Form-factor Rugged data collection keyboard handheld
CPU/Speed TI OMAP 3730, 1.0GHz
OS Windows CE 6.0 R3 or Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5.3
Card slots 1 x Micro SDHC card
Display type Sunlight-readable TFT LCD
Display size/res 3.5-inch/240 x 320 pixel
Digitizer/pens Resistive touch
Keyboard/keys 30-key or 38-key numeric, or 53-key alphanumeric keypads with backlight
Navigation Touch
Housing Impact-resistant plastic
Operating Temp -4° to 122°F (-20° to 50° C)
Sealing IP65
Shock Multiple 6 feet to concrete
Tumble 1,000 tumbles from 0.5 meter
Electrostatic +/- 15 kV air discharge, +/- 8 kV contact discharge
Size (WxHxD) 3.4 x 8.4 x 1.85 inches (87 x 214 x 47 mm)
Weight 15.8 oz. (447 grams) with standard battery
Power Rechargeable Li-Ion 3,600mAh or extended 5,400mAh ("full shift")
Camera None
Sensors Unknown
Interface USB, serial RS232, speaker
Scanner 1D standard or extended range laser, 1D/2D near/far range imager
Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR
List price Inquire
Web CipherLab 9700 Series page
Product specs CipherLab 9700 Series brochure (PDF)
CipherLab 9700 Series