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Conker SX6

Remarkably polished rugged 6-inch Android "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 SX6, a rugged 6-inch Android "phablet" with integrated industrial-grade scanner. The Conker NS6 has an identical-looking sibling in the Android-based Conker NS6. Comparing the two reveals their remarkable similarities but also their fundamental differences.

The Conker SX is a big handheld. With a footprint of 7.3 x 3.7 inches, it dwarfs even the mighty Samsung Galaxy S8+. 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 Samsung Galaxy Tab S3.

The 6.0-inch display of the Conker SX6 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.

Android 5.1

For many years, Windows Mobile and Windows Embedded Handheld dominated in the handheld computer market. That's changing now, with Android increasingly becoming the OS platform of choice for vertical and industrial market handhelds. As is, the Conker SX6 runs Android version 5.1 "Lollipop." According to the Android Developers website, as of early October 2017, 27.7% of all Android devices run Lollipop. That's well behind Android version 6 "Marshmallow" (32.0%), and Android version 7 "Nougat" already is at 17.8%.

We'd like to see a newer version of Android on the Conker SX6, primarily because both Android 6.0 and 7.0 added a slew of important security enhancements to the platform. These are especially important in enterprise and vertical market settings which are the target market for this handheld. In this respect, the NS6 Windows 10 version of Tablet Technologies' two 6-inch rugged handhelds is ahead.

On the other hand, Android was specifically designed for small devices with capacitive touch screens, and so the Conker SX6 has none of the tiny control and other interface issues that plague any small device running the full version of Windows 10. Which makes it much easier to use.

Looks great outside. Inside, too?

Now do realize that devices like this Conker SX6 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 SX6 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 SX6 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 SX6 and its Windows-based NS6 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 the Conker SX6 phablet? That's not as easy to determine as it is with Windows-based systems. RuggedPCReview's Android benchmark database is much smaller, and Android benchmarks are far less consistent over different processor families and different benchmark versions than in the Windows world.

Conker NS6 Benchmarks/Comparisons
PERFORMANCE COMPARISON Conker ARBOR Handheld Group Xplore
Model SX6 Gladius GT-500 Algiz RT7 xSlate D10
Type Phablet Handheld Tablet Tablet
Display size 6.0" 5.0" 7.0" 10.1"
Year 2017 2016 2016 2015
Processor Qualcomm MediaTek Qualcomm Intel Atom
Processor Model MSM8909 MT6735 MSM8916 E3845
BaseMark OS II 483 680 559 952
AnTuTu 24,750 32,498 25,713 40,180
Vellamo Metal 833 913 960 1,441
Vellamo Multicore 943 1,458 1,399 NA
Vellamo Browser 1,299 2,703 1,866 3,671

While the Conker SX6 feels reasonably quick, its benchmark results are unimpressive. The SX6's Qualcomm MSM8909 is relatively less powerful in the Android world as the Conker NS6's Intel Atom X5-8350 is in the Windows world (we determined that by comparing SX6 and NS6 performance to that of Android and Windows devices that used the same Intel Atom E3845 processor). The very interesting Conker SX6 deserves a speedier chip.

Quite rugged, but more data, please!

The Conker SX6 certainly looks tough and rugged, and we assume that many customers will buy it for its ruggedness. Unfortunately, the spec sheet only contains the barest minimum of ruggedness data. 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). We'd like to see much more test data.

Remarkably good cameras

Like virtually all modern handhelds and tablets, the Conker NS6 has front (2-megapixel) and rear (5-megapixel) cameras. We used the free Open Camera app for our sample pictures instead of the included Snapdragon Camera ap. Our sample pics defaulted to 2,592 x 1,944 pixel (5.0-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 Honeywell N4313 laser 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 SX6: the bottom line

Android is charging ahead in rugged handhelds, and the Conker SX6 is an excellent example of a solid, well-made handheld computer for work out there in the field. 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. The SX6 also convinces with good cameras, a replaceable battery, and good ergonomics. We would, however, have liked to see a quicker processor and a more recent version of Android. 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 SX6
Added Added 10/2017
Type Rugged Android PDA
Processor Quad-core Qualcomm SnapDragon MSM8909 (4 x ARM Cortex A7)
CPU Speed Up to 1.1GHz
RAM 2GB LPDDR3
Storage 16GB eMMC
OS Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
Graphics Adreno 304, 400MHz
Expansion slots 1 x Micro SDXC (max 64GB), 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 Capacitive multi-touch
Keys Power, volume up/down, barcode trigger, Home 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 with LED flash (rear)
Scanner Optional: Honeywell 1D N4313, Honeywell 2D N3680
Sensors Accelerometer, ambient light, gyroscope, e-compass
Wireless 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC (ISO 14443A/B, MiFARE 1K/4K, DESFire, ISO 15693, ISO 18092, ISO 21481), 3G/4G LTE WWAN, uBlox NEO-7 (GPS/GLONASS, QZSS)
List price inquire
Web page Conker SX6 product page
Brochure Conker SX6 datasheet (PDF)
Conker SX6