Pen Lab Review
Ultra-rugged 486/50 with integrated keyboard, pen, and four PC Card
Husky, an English-based company with subsidiaries in the US, Germany, France,
and Holland, has been building rugged, handheld computers since 1981. Since
1987, the company has been part of Peek plc, a multinational traffic and
field data collection systems conglomerate. It is therefore no surprise
that the brand-new Husky FC-486P is engineered from the ground up as an
all-wheather, field-tough notebook for vertical markets.
The first impression you get when you pick up the Husky FC-486 is that it
is indestructable. The entire hingeless case is made of cast magnesium alloy
and feels solid as a rock with absolutely no twisting or creaking at all.
Even the water-sealed PCMCIA slot cover is made of ribbed magnesium. There
are no flimsy latches or hoods to break off. The cordless electromagnetic
pen is housed in a flexible handle that is integrated into the Husky's design
and extends for carrying. The 81-key Chiclet style keyboard is scaled down
to 65% and doesn't provide tactile feedback. Not for touch typists, but
acceptable for the field. All keys are software-programmable. The screen
is a transflective LCD. For indoor use, there is a blue luminescent backlight.
The screen is protected by a replaceable polycarbonate shield and can withstand
the direct impact of a one inch steel ball dropped from a height of six
feet. The whole unit is built to survive a drop from 6-1/2 feet onto concrete.
It can also be soaked or frozen, as it is virtually waterproof and can operate
at temperatures from -4 to 140 degree Fahrenheit. The price you pay for
this degree of ruggedness-and meeting IEC 68, MIL-STD-810E, and BS2011 standards
- is a relatively hefty weight (4.8 pounds) and a certain degree of screen
parallax due to the distance between the LCD layer and the protective screen.
Technically, the Husky is fully up-to-date with a low power TI80486 CPU
running at 25 or, optionally, 50MHz. It has MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows for
Pen Computing in ROM. Standard RAM is 2MB, with expansion up to 16MB. The
Husky can also accommodate up to 16MB of Flash memory. The Husky excels
in the expandability department: apart from two serial and a parallel port,
it has no less than four PCMCIA Type II slots. Two of them are inside the
unit where they could accommodate an integral radio modem or a hard disk.
The other two are accessible from the outside, protected by two doors and
a rubber seal.
The Husky is powered by a standard Duracell DR30 Nickel Metal Hydride battery
pack. Using Microsoft's Advanced Power Management (APM) and Husky's additional
power management algorithms, the unit runs around ten hours, enough to last
through a typical working day in the field. An optional fast charger recharges
the battery in about an hour.
The Husky FC-486P thus continues the trend in vertical market computers
towards providing full Windows capability in a rugged package that includes
both pen and keyboard input, and also offers exceptional battery life. And
believe me, you have to hold a Husky in your hands to appreciate just how
invincibly solid and invulnerable it feels.
Husky is at (813) 530-4141