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Unitech PA820

Ultra-rugged handheld mobile computer, communicator, and data capture device for deployment in the harshest environments
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Unitech launched the PA820 mobile computer in January 2016 as an ultra-rugged, super-durable industrial PDA created to reliably perform under the very harshest conditions imaginable. Ergonomically designed and equipped with a crisp and sharp sunlight-readable display, camera, laser scanner and wireless communication options, the PA820 brings computing and communication to jobs thought to hard on electronic equipment.

From a hardware perspective, the PA820 merges tried-and-true legacy field technology with state-of-the-art design and components. The device is powered by a 1.0GHz Texas Instruments OMAP AM3715 ARM Cortex A8 processor, a chip widely used in tough industrial-grade mobile computing gear. There's half a gig of RAM and have a gig of Flash, plenty enough to run and operate Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 Professional or Classic. Storage can be augmented via a microSDHC Card slot underneath the replaceable battery. The standard battery packs 8.14 watt-hours. If more is needed, Unitech has an optional 14.8 watt-hour extended battery. And there's a backup battery good for about two hours of operation.

The PA820 has a 3.5-inch display with 480 x 640 pixel resolution, which makes for super-sharp 229 ppi resolution. With today's smartphones having ever larger displays, why just 3.5 inches? Because Unitech wanted the PA820 to be as pocketable as possible, because smaller displays are less likely to ever break, and because this allowed a bezel around the LCD for optimal operation of the unit's capacitive touchscreen. Some may wonder why Unitech stayed with WEHH 6.5. Because it's still the most reliable and most widely supported OS for industrial handhelds.

The PA820 is a keypad PDA that can be operated either with touch or through keys. The backlit 20-key alpha-numeric physical key arrangement includes the standard numeric keypad layout, supplemented with directional and special function keys. Keys are widely space for easy operation even with gloves.

The device includes an industrial-grade 1D laser scanner for data collection tasks. It supports Codes 11, 32, 39, 39 full ASCII, 93 and 128, as well as UPC-A/E, EAN-8/13, Codabar, Interleaved & Std. 2 of 5, EAN 128, Delta, MSI/Plessey, and Toshiba. There are two dedicated scanner keys for easy scanner operation. The PA820 also has a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with flash that can also encode and decode MPEG video in software.

On the wireless communication side, there's 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1 with enhanced data rate, as well 3.75G WWAN with quad-band UMTS/HSPA+ (850/900/1900/2100MHz) and dual-band GSM (850/1900 MHz) for voice and mobile broadband data connections. The PA820 also includes GPS logging functionality and comes with a u-CenterMobile software app for downloading satellite position and timing information.

Measuring 3.4 x 6.5 x 1.45 inches, the PA820 is compact enough to remain pocketable. It weighs 16 ounces with the standard battery, and the design is ergonomic with emphasis on making it easy to hold and operate.

As far as ruggedness goes, the Unitech PA820 excels. There's a 6-foot drop spec, IP66 sealing where the "6" means the device is fully dustproof, and the "6" that it can handle strong jets of water from all directions, which means it can be hosed down. There's also a very wide -4 to 140 degree Fahrenheit operating temperature range, and a slew of other MIL-STD-810G tests and certifications.

The PA820 is an impressive piece of hardware that's clearly designed to perform, and hold up, even in the harshest environments and deployments. It's a very rational blend of legacy and state-of-the-art technologies that provides all the functionality of a rugged mobile computer, an industrial smartphone, and an industrial-grade data capture device.


Unitech America is a subsidiary of Taiwanese automatic data collection specialist Unitech, founded in 1979. They are also one of the largest manufacturer of rugged PDAs.
Specifications Unitech PA820
Added/changed Added 01/2016
Form-factor Ultra-rugged mobile computer
CPU Speed TI AM3715/1.0 GHz
OS Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 Professional and Classic
RAM/ROM 512MB/512MB
Card slots 1 x microSDHC (up to 32GB), 1 x SIM
Display type Sunlight-readable TFT
Display size/res 3.5-inch/480 x 640 pixel VGA
Digitizer/pens Capacitive touch/1
Keyboard/keys 20-key numeric and functionable keys, 2 scanner keys
Navigation touch, keypad, stylus
Housing Impact-resistant plastic
Operating Temp -4° to 140°F (-20° to 60°C)
Sealing IP66
Shock MIL-STD-810G Method 516.6, Proc. IV: 6-foot drop
Size (WxHxD) 3.4 x 6.5 x 1.45 inches (87 x 164 x 37 mm)
Weight 16.0 oz. (452 grams) with battery
Power 8.14 watt-hour Li-Ion ("Up to 10 hrs."), 2-hour backup battery, optional 14.8 watt-hour Li-Ion
Camera 5.0mp AF camera with flash
Scanner 1D barcode reader (UPC-A/E, EAN-8/13, Codabar, Code 39, Code 39 full ASCI, Code 93,Code 32, Interleaved & Std. 2 of 5, EAN 128, Code 11, Delta, MSI/Plessey, Code 128, Toshiba)
Interface USB 2.0 Host and Client, RS232 serial via cable, audio
Wireless 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR, 3.75G WWAN (UMTS / HSPA+, 3GPP release 6/7)
List price Inquire
Brochure PA820 brochure (PDF)
Web page PA820 web page