So, your organisation is done with wasting money on consumer devices that fail, fall over and frustrate. But then you look, in envy, at the top end fully rugged devices and you can’t help but feel they are just too costly to justify and simply way too rugged for what you actually need… Is there an in-between? A “rugged enough” option at a price point that makes better sense for your actual usage….?
Dare we suggest the Zebra ET5x (ET51 or ET56)? Why should you consider the Zebra ET51 / E56 as a solution for your business?
The ET5x range (The WLAN only ET51 or with 4G WWAN the ET56) arrived in 2019 following on from the ET50 / ET55. Again targeted to increase general enterprise worker productivity with a sharp eye on value. To enhance user efficiency with a higher standard of durability, and then further boost with a real eco-system of usability accessories and data capture options… all without compromising on the weight, visual appeal and value. (No mean feat!)
To try to get to this nirvana, Zebra needed to keep the cost sensible and not become just another heavy weighted rugged device. Yet it had to provide an extra level of rugged durability that just isn’t seen in consumer-grade devices. It needed to be able to fit various existing enterprise operating systems, offer some choice of screen size, and allows options for data capture and connectivity.
What do we think, well foremostly… Is it actually rugged?
Rugged isn’t always so easy to define. And more so when the objective is to save weight by not making something as ‘absolutely tough’ as it could possibly be, but simply tough enough for the job it is required to do. Rugged terminology here doesn’t really help. However, this device is more than just a ‘semi rugged’ tablet… Zebra went to great efforts in positioning the ET5x range. The ET5x is much tougher than cheap and cheerful consumer tablets while also not looking as brutal and heavy as fully rugged tablets.
In order to effectively display a machines rugged credentials, there are recognised industry ruggedness tests. These help us to gauge if a device is tough enough to protect against the always present dangers of getting thrown, dropped, wet, dusty, dirty, cold, hot and shaken to bits…
The Uk’s favourite proof test is the IP or Ingress Protection standard. The ET5x is at the same IP65-level of ingress protection as most rugged devices. The “6” stands for complete protection against dust, and the “5” means protection against low-pressure water jets from all directions. Overall, that means that the tablet can handle any degree of rain, but it shouldn’t be hosed down with a jet wash or submerged into water.
For drops, mobile computers are tested in accordance with procedures described in the US governmental MIL-STD-810G, Method 516.6, Procedure IV. For a tablet, one should expect immunity against four-foot drops, because that’s about the height they’ll fall if dropped while used in a standing position. For some reason, the ET5x is listed as being tested to handle just 3.3 feet (one meter) albeit onto concrete (most vendors test with the more comfortable plywood over concrete). Based on our opinion and on users experience, we think the ET56 could manage at least four feet onto concrete, possibly even five. Although we don’t recommend anybody doing their own tests! Zebra offers a rugged fix in the form of a “rugged frame”. This is an optional extra protective case that boosts the protection and allows it the ability to handle drops from six feet.
Vibration is an often overlooked hazard to mobile computing and especially when used in vehicles. Testing for that is commonly done in accordance with the MIL-STD-810G, Method 514.6, Procedure I, Category 24, Fig 514.6E-1, which vibrates a unit while it is powered on at certain prescribed frequencies for an hour per axis. This test does not simulate an application environment, but rather suggests that a device that can pass that test will survive in the field. That’s perhaps a bit vague and difficult to understand, but that’s the supplied data we get to work with.
The operating temperature range is given as -20 to +50 centigrade. That is good enough for virtually all conceivable operating environments, including most commercial freezers.
Outside of the standardised tests, the ET5x shows a sturdy design and common sense construction. The strong and rigid case with its magnesium frame inside keeps the unit from bending. And unlike many other rugged devices that use materials that scratch and dent easily, the ET5x’s industrial plastic body can handle a fair degree of physical abuse.
So we would suggest that the ET51 / ET56 is Rugged Enough for
What about the performance?
According to the ‘Passmark Software’s PerformanceTest 6.1’, which runs about 30 tests covering CPU, 2D graphics, 3D graphics, memory, and disk and then computes scores for each category and an overall PassMark score. The ET56 model tested beat both the Getac T800 and the BAK Seal by a pretty reasonable margin.
Despite the slim and sleek design, the battery is decent and batteries are field changeable by users. A second optional hot-swappable battery can also be added via the “expansion back” system almost doubling the run time.
You can see the full product specifications in our store here.
What type of user should consider this unit as a solution?
Users working in retail, field servicing, healthcare, transportation, logistics, field sales, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution can all benefit from the slim and light
A guide to Zebra ET51 ET56 accessories
Click here to view our Zebra ET51 & ET56 Accessories Guide