The Titan RH (Rugged Handheld) is a new mobile field computer with built-in GPS from Farm Works Software. We were excited to have the opportunity to evaluate this new rugged handheld designed specifically for agriculture.

For the evaluation, we used Farm Works Site Mate Scouting to create field boundaries, mark site locations, take soil samples and create scouting maps. The software was simple to use and made testing the handheld easy. With no prior knowledge of the program, we were able to use it in a matter of minutes.

The handheld came preloaded with Windows CE.NET 5.0 and was configured with on-board 64-MB flash storage and a 64-MB memory. With an Intel XScale PXA270 416-MHz processor, the handheld had ample processing power to run the Farm Works software we tested.

Design

The unit weighs 20 oz. and is housed in a bright yellow, rugged plastic frame (7.6 × 3.3 × 1.7 in.). It is constructed to work in environments with vibration, dirt, sand and moisture without damage.

A large navigation button and hot keys provide quick access to the start menu, enter, escape, virtual keyboard, tab and backlight screen control. For access within programs, we used the stylus, which has the look and feel of a ballpoint pen. The stylus's large size and smooth finish and the clip to secure it in a pocket make the stylus far superior to the tiny black stick we usually use with other handhelds.

The Titan RH is equipped with built-in GPS. When we tested the internal antenna in the field with Farm Works Mate programs, the GPS signal was constant. When we located sites with the Titan RH during testing, it was accurate within the 2- to 5-meter product specification.

An external antenna that obtains Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) GPS signals may be plugged into an MCX port.

The Titan RH features a TFT QVGA color, transflective, 3.5-in. touch-screen display that is impact resistant. In direct sun, the display is difficult to view. When the Titan RH is in a tractor, truck cab or indoors, the display is good.

A serial communications (RX and TX) port on the unit connects with a synchronization/power cable. The cable is multifunctional. It has a serial connector on one end, which is the main port used to connect to the serial port on the Titan. The other end of the cable has three tails: AC adapter, USB female and USB male connectors. The AC adapter is used for charging the battery. The USB female connector allows peripherals such as external keyboard or storage devices to be used with the Titan, and the USB male connector is used to connect to another PC via ActiveSync (software).

An optional serial cable allows the user to connect an external GPS receiver, variable-rate controller or other sensory devices to the unit.

ActiveSync, a software communications program preinstalled on the Titan RH and included on the Farm Works CD, can transfer field data to a desktop computer. The synchronization/power cable connects to the desktop system via the USB port.

The compact or secure digital (SD) card provides additional storage and can transfer data. Card slots are accessible at the top of the handheld under a pliable rubber seal.

Battery life

The technical specifications list battery life at 5 to 8 hours, depending on the application. Battery life when using GPS and Farm Works Mate software was 3½ to 4 hours. The lithium battery was low after 3½ to 4 hours of field mapping. Use of an additional charged battery or a vehicle power cable may be needed.

During testing, the battery failed to recharge when fully discharged. We tested a second Titan RH, and it too failed to recharge when the battery was fully discharged. The Product Reference Guide identified this condition as “zero volt discharge.” After the battery was removed and reinserted with a 10-second wait, it recharged to 100% in the normal time.

The handheld features ride-through technology that allows quick swapping of the battery in the field without the loss of data. Programs remain open and the system does not shut down during the battery swap.

Our opinion

The Titan RH performed well during most field tests. We liked the rugged outer construction, hot keys and built-in GPS. With its bright yellow case and larger size, it was easy to grip and to see. The Titan showed no signs of dust or moisture under the rubber seals during testing.

One big plus was that the built-in GPS made mapping and scouting possible with the use of only one small device.

Overall, the Titan RH's performance surpassed our expectations.

Price of the Titan RH, with RAM mount, desktop synchronization cable, vehicle power cable and external antenna, is $1,700. The Farm Site Mate Scouting software costs $500. For more information, contact Farm Works Software, Dept. FIN, 6795 S. State Rd. 1, Hamilton, IN 46742, 260/488-3492, visit www.farmworks.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 124.