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Bluebird Pidion BM-170

Elegant, handy, semi-rugged enterprise handheld/ smartphone can run Windows Mobile or Android
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

The Pidion line of rugged and industrial handhelds is made by Bluebird, a Korean company that has been in the mobile computer hardware business since 1998. Specializing in products serving enterprise mobility (AIDC) and payment industries, Bluebird's offerings also include bardcode scanners, RFID readers, and printer-integrated handhelds. The BM-170 is the company's compact semi-rugged PDA that can run either Windows Mobile or Android. As of February 2016, the BM-170 remains listed on the mypideon.com website as an active product, although Android is no longer shown as an OS option.

The Pidion BM-170 was introduced in March of 2010 (see press release) as an upgraded version of Bluebird's popular BM-150R, and Bluebird said it included sustantial improvements over competing devices, in terms of display, form factor, comfort, battery, camera, and price. Unlike the bulkier fully rugged Pidions, the BM-170 has a sleek, modern appearance reminiscent of contemporary smartphones. Measuring 2.8 x 5.1 inches, the BM-170 is no larger than some current Android smartphones, though due to the extra ruggedness, it's a bit thicker (0.65 inches) and heavier (6.8 ounces). The BM-170 doesn't have a numeric keypad; instead, it uses touch and programmable softkeys.

What's particularly interesting about the BM-170 is that the platform can run Windows Mobile 6.5 as well as Android. I need to point out, though, that the device seems to have a resistive digitizer and not the projected capacitive kind that allows the effortless tapping, pinching and zooming consumers have come to expect from modern smartphones. Android, of course, does work with a stylus, just not as well as with touch.

When it comes to technology, Bluebird tends to stay with the same components and specs for all of its product lines, and the BM-170 is no different. Which means platform is powered by the mature but still very much up-to-date 806MHz version of the Marvel PXA320 processor. On the software side, 170 comes standard with Windows Mobile 6.5, the version that adds a somewhat more modern face to the venerable Windows Mobile OS.

Like other Pideons, the BM-170 can be had with either 240 x 320 QVGA or full 480 x 640 VGA resolution. There is no laser scanner or CMOS imager option, but it seems possible to do limited scanning tasks via the unit's integrated 3-megapixel camera (though that might be limited to the Android version).

For wireless connectivity, the BM-170 comes with Bluetooth, WiFi and optional mobile broadband. Bluetooth is the older 2.0 + EDR version and WiFi is either standard 802.11b/g or CCX v4 certified dual band 802.11a/b/g. Wireless broadband and integrated GPS are available with either GSM / GPRS / eGPRS / UMTS / HSDPA or CDMA/1x, enabling real-time voice and data communication.

The BM-170 is classified as a semi-rugged device that can handle multiple five-foot drops onto steel, has a very wide operating temperature range from minus 4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but does not carry an IP rating for sealing against dust or water. The unit's Li-Ion battery packs a very modest 5.9 watt-hours and we'd definitely recommend the optional extended 11.8 watt-hour extended battery.

Bluebird initially designed the BM-170 as a semi-rugged Windows Mobile device that would combine smartphone functionality and mobile computing tasks. It's certainly small and handy enough to perform those tasks. Its ability to also run Android males it a nice test platform for those who wish to investigate the use of Android in a semi-rugged enterprise PDA. Note that Bluebirds specs for the BM-170 are a bit inconsistent in different web pages and data sheets, so we'd make sure what exactly a version contains and can do before purchase.

The below YouTube video shows off the Android 2.3 version of the BM-170:

Specifications Bluebird Pidion BM-170
Added/changed Added 02/2012, updated 02/2016
Form-factor Enterprise handheld PDA
CPU Speed Marvell PXA320/806 MHz
OS Microsoft Embedded Handheld 6.5, Windows Mobile 6.1 (optional)
RAM/ROM 128-256MB/256-512MB
Card slots 1 user-accessible micro-SDHC (up to 32GB), 1 SIM
Display type Backlit TFT with 262k colors
Display size/res 3.5"/240 x 320 pixels, or
3.5"/480 x 640 pixels
Digitizer/pens Analog resistive touch
Keyboard/keys PDA-style navigation and functions
Navigation touch, stylus, keypad
Housing Plastic/rubber
Operating Temp -22° to 158°F (-30° to 70°C)
Sealing NA
Shock Multiple 5 foot drops to steel surface
Vibration NA
Altitude NA
Size (WxHxD) 2.8 x 5.1 x 0.65 inches (72 x 131 x 17 mm)
Weight 6.8 oz. (193) with standard battery
Power Rechargeable 3.7V/1,600mAH Li-Ion; extended 3.7V/3,200mAH Li-Ion available
Interface USB 2.0 host and client, RS232 (via cable)
Wireless 802.11b/g or 802.11a/b/g WiFi, Bluetooth Class II v2.0 + EDR, GSM /GPRS /eGPRS /UMTS /HSDPA or CDMA /1X, A-GPS
Camera 3.0-megapixel autofocus with illuminator
Sensors Integrated G-sensor
Scanner Android version can use integrated camera for scanning
Safety Unknown
EMI Unknown
RF Unknown
ESD Unknown
Price Inquire
Product brochure BM-170 specs (PDF)
Web page www.mypidion.com