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Conker NS6

Remarkably polished rugged 6-inch Windows "phablet" with terrific screen and industrial grade-scanning
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

UK-based Tablet Technologies sells an interesting lineup of rugged and semi-rugged tablets and handhelds to military, industrial and enterprise customers all around the world. One of their latest offerings is the Conker NS6, a rugged 6-inch Windows "phablet" with integrated industrial-grade scanner. The Conker NS6 has an identical-looking sibling in the Android-based Conker SX6. Comparing the two reveals their remarkable similarities but also their fundamental differences.

The Conker NS6 is a big handheld. With a footprint of 7.3 x 3.7 inches, it dwarfs even the mighty iPhone 8 Plus. It's definitely a tweener between a modern smartphone and a tablet although it feels more like a really big phone than a tablet. It's thick, too (0.83 inches), though that's primarily because of the hump for the optional bar code reader. The housing itself is barely more than half an inch thick. The Conker is fairly hefty as well, within a couple of ounces of a much larger iPad Air 2.

The 6.0-inch display of the Conker NS6 is huge for a handheld. Its 1280 x 720 resolution means 245 pixels per inch, which is in the "retina" territory and very sharp. Interface is via capacitive multi-touch, and it's a variety that can also be used with gloves as long as they aren't too thick. The IPS display is nicely bright (430 nits), has perfect viewing angles, and is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass.

Full version of Windows 10!

Now let's get to the really interesting thing: though the Conker NS6 is clearly a handheld, it runs the full version of Windows 10. So no worries about Microsoft no longer updating Windows 10 Mobile, and no worries about not being able to run legacy Windows apps as is the case on many tablets that only have the "new" Microsoft interface and no longer the good old desktop. Wow. Full Windows 10 on a 6-inch screen. The first thing we did, of course, was set Custom Scaling to 150%, else all those Windows elements on the screen are just too tiny.

What that means is that the Conker NS6 is a full-fledged Windows PC, no ifs and buts. Its display may be small for running an OS designed for use on much larger screens, but the 1280 x 720 resolution is, in fact, plenty to run Windows 10.

There are caveats. Even with Custom Scaling, tapping all those small Windows controls can be hit and miss. A precise capacitive touch stylus would come in handy, or better yet — gasp — a Bluetooth mouse. The screen shot below is from our sample unit, with Custom Scaling set to 150%.

Looks great outside. Inside, too?

Now do realize that devices like this Conker NS6 are relatively generic. The days where Western computer companies designed and manufactured their own products are mostly gone. Companies like Tablet Technologies are doing a remarkably good job at sourcing cohesive product lineups from the vast marketplace of Asian electronics, providing value-added in terms of software, warranties and procuring the requisite governmental approvals. But these are still essentially white box devices made in China. Is their quality up to par?

In this phablet's case, definitely. The Conker NS6 feels very solid and really has the same high-quality feel I so like in my Apple devices. But what do things look like inside? Like so:

The housing of the NS6 consists of black ABS plastic front and back halves, both with rubberized overmoldings for protection. Sealing is via a sensible tongue and groove design with a replaceable o-ring seal. The halves are secured together via ten small Torx T5 screws. There are no ribbon cables between the halves. Inside, everything looks and feels clean and well made. Fit and finish are excellent. There's no magnesium frame inside here, but the device feels strong.

Interestingly, while the Conker NS6 and its Android-based SX6 sibling look identical on the outside, inside it's a different story. Similarities are limited to making the boards fit into the same housing with the same controls and cutouts, but otherwise we're talking two entirely different computers.

What performance can you expect?

What can one expect in performance from this little PC that's barely larger than a smartphone but runs full Windows 10? The amazing thing is that one can expect anything at all. Full Windows machines are usually laptops, desktops, or at least full-size tablets. So having full Windows power in your pocket is amazing. We ran our usual PassMark 6.1 and CrystalMark benchmark suites, and here are the results, shown in context with some pretty illustrious competition:

Conker NS6 Benchmarks/Comparisons
PERFORMANCE COMPARISON Conker Getac MobileDemand Trimble
Model NS6 T800 G3 Flex 10A Kenai
Type Phablet Tablet Tablet Tablet
Display size 6.0" 8.1" 10.1" 10.1"
Year 2017 2017 2017 2016
Processor Type: Intel Atom Atom Atom Atom
Processor Model X5-8350 X7-8700 X5-8350 E3826
CPU Speed 1.44 GHz 1.60 GHz 1.44 GHz 1.46 GHz
Turbo Speed 1.92 GHz 2.40 GHz 1.92 GHz no turbo
CPU Mark 1,199.4 1,620.3 1,599.7 499.8
2D Graphics Mark 82.6 104.7 96.3 86.4
Memory Mark 292.9 284.1 324.4 249.4
Disk Mark 737.1 601.0 615.9 1,726.5
3D Graphics Mark 158.5 162.6 109.7 122.0
Overall PassMark 554.6 643.0 640.1 550.1
ALU 21,906 21,118 22,251 9,897
FPU 17,708 18,082 18,487 8,058
MEM 17,568 17,648 19,711 15,386
HDD 20,313 18,620 21,304 35,416
GDI 3,236 3,430 3,680 2,937
D2D 2,639 2,845 2,540 2,072
OGL 3,055 2,984 3,015 1,733
Overall CrystalMark 86,425 84,727 90,988 75,499

Amazingly, the pocket-sized Conker NS6 can hold its own in performance against traditional and much larger Windows tablets from major vendors. The only reason why it didn't score even higher was that the only available power plan appears to throttle CPU clock speed some, and that the NS6 uses relatively slow eMMC mass storage. Realize, of course, that while these performance figures are remarkable, they are not in the Intel Core processor league.

Quite rugged, but more data, please!

On the ruggedness side, the tough and rugged looking Conker deserves some environmental testing data! After all, customers will buy it because it's a rugged device and they expect data to back that up. As is, there is almost none in the specs, and all we know is that the Conker NS6 has a wide operating temperature range of 14 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, and can be dropped from four feet to concrete (we think it can handle more). Ingress protection is at the IP67 level, which means it can handle immersion down to a meter for 30 minutes (we did not put that to the test).

Remarkably good cameras

Like virtually all modern handhelds and tablets, the Conker NS6 has front (2-megapixel) and rear (5-megapixel) cameras. The included standard Windows Camera app doesn't provide many options and settings, and our sample pics defaulted to 2,560 x 1,440 pixel (3.7-megapixel). The camera worked quite well. Click on the sample picture compilation to see it in full size.

One thing we would have liked to see more of in the device literature is security. Security is a major concern with handheld computers today, and while Windows 10 has stepped up security, we don't know what of it is available in the NS6.

Industrial-grade barcode scanning

While you can get any number of scanning apps for smartphones, they all use the phone's camera, and those cameras were not made for scanning.

The Conker NS6, on the other hand, can be ordered with industrial-grade scan engines. Available are the 1D Zebra Motorola SE655E linear CCD scanner (see spec sheet) or the 2D Honeywell N3680 with Adaptus decoding technology(see N3680 spec sheet).

And since workers need to see the display while they are scanning, the scan engine points at a slight downward angle. Very convenient.

Conker NS6: the bottom line

There aren't too many 6-inch phablets that run full Windows 10, and the Conker NS6 can do that. It has a very good, bright 6-inch capacitive multi-touch display with perfect viewing angles, which makes it easy to use. Industrial scanners make it suitable for serious work. And its performance is comparable to that of standard-size Intel Atom-powered rugged tablets. The NS6 also convinces with good cameras, very solid build, a replaceable battery, and good ergonomics. We're impressed. Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, October 2017
Tablet Technologies Ltd, resides at the exceedingly picturesque address of Calf Pens, Hatfield Park Farm, Takeley, Bishop's Stortford, UK. They sell an interesting lineup of rugged and semi-rugged tablets and handhelds to military, industrial and enterprise customers all around the world.
Specifications Conker NS6
Added Added 10/2017
Type Rugged Windows PDA
Processor Quad-core Intel Cherry Trail X5-Z8350
CPU Speed 1.44GHz (1.92GHz burst)
RAM 2GB LPDDR3
Storage 16GB eMMC
OS Windows 10 Home or Enterprise LTSB/CBB
Graphics Intel
Expansion slots 1 x Micro SDXC (max 128GB), 1 x micro SIM
Display type IPS TFT with LED backlight (430 nits) with Gorilla Glass
Display size/res 6.0-inch 1280 x 720 pixel (245 ppi)
Digitizer/pens 10-point capacitive multi-touch
Keys Power, volume up/down, barcode trigger, Windows key
Housing Plastic with rubber boot
Operating Temp 14° to 122°F (-10° to 50°C)
Sealing IP67
Drop 4 feet
Shock Unknown
Humidity Unknown
Thermal shock Unknown
Vibration Unknown
Security Unknown
Certifications Unknown
Size (WxHxD) 7.3 x 3.7 x 0.83 inches (185 x 93 x 21 mm)
Weight 13.4 ounces (380 grams)
Power Removable, rechargeable 3.7V/5,000mAH, 18.5 whr
Interface 1 x micro USB (power + OTG), 1 x 3.5mm audio, 1 x 4-pin pogo dock
Cameras 2.0 MP (front), 8.0 MP (rear)
Scanner Optional: Motorola 1D SE655E, Honeywell 2D N3680
Sensors Accelerometer, ambient light, gyroscope, e-compass
Wireless Dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, 3G WWAN, uBlox NEO-7 (GPS/GLONASS, QZSS)
List price inquire
Web page Conker NS6 product page
Brochure Conker NS6 datasheet (PDF)
Conker NS6