Pen Lab Review
An impressive looking, ultra-light 486 Windows-capable portable
The 1134 is the latest in the growing lineup of PTCs (Portable Tele-Transaction
Computers) from Telxon Corporation. The unit is barely larger than a PDA
and weighs only 2.2 pounds, smaller and lighter than even a Dauphin DTR-2,
yet it is a fully functional 486 computer with an integrated real-time spread
spectrum transceiver. Very impressive, just like the general recent performance
of Akron, Ohio based Telxon Corporation. In 1994, Telxon posted sales of
$296 million, an increase of 24% compared to the prior year. During that
year, Telxon also purchased or formed three new technical subsidiaries,
including Metanetics, a technical software company; AIRONET Wireless Communications,
Inc.; and PenRight! Corporation. This gives you an idea of Telxon's plan
to be a full-service vertical market solutions provider. Telxon also established
a vertical systems group concentrating on five markets, those being retail,
industrial, logistics &transportation, healthcare, and insurance &
financial services. Telxon's overall mission is to provide specialized computing
solutions with integrated wireless communications capabilities, all part
of the wireless PTC systems family.
A new family of PTCs
Telxon's original PTC pen systems, the compact PTC-1140 and the full-sized
PTC-1180, are being used in hospitals and financial services firms. In a
major expansion of the pen lineup, Telxon is now adding the ultra-compact
PTC-1130 family, and will offer each family in two configurations: the PTC-1130,
PTC-1140, and PTC-1180 use the Chips and Technologies F8680A processor running
at 12MHz, while the PTC-1134, PTC-1144, and PTC-1184 have an Intel 486SLC
processor running at 25MHz. The significantly greater performance of the
Intel-based versions comes at a slightly higher price, and battery life
is about 20% less due to the higher power consumption of the faster Intel
chip. The Intel versions are geared towards customers who need to run Windows
applications, a good move now that PenRight! for Windows is available.
The processor question
Note that state-of-the-art processor technology actually matters less in
vertical market systems than it does in mass market computers. Many vertical
market applications are relatively simple and run acceptably fast even on
8088-class systems. According to Telxon, the market splits into customers
who are "processor-conscious" and want Windows capability and
a 486-class chip, and those who don't care as long as the unit is reliable,
cost-efficient, and fast enough to do the job. We can see both sides, and
obviously so does Telxon with its new dual-processor strategy.
The PTC-1134: Packing a punch
The PTC-1134, apart from its handy size and light weight, and integrated
radio, also impresses with its excellent design, high quality feel, and
technical specifications: up to 8MB of RAM and 8MB of Flash EPROM for system
and applications. The unit can accommodate up to 60MB of internal solid
state memory, or (presumably), a PCMCIA hard disk in its sole Type II/III
The 1134's attractive case is made of a high-impact polycarbonate and ABS
blend designed to handle a 4' drop onto concrete without loss of data. The
case also has an elastic hand strap so that it is easy to carry around in
one hand. The whole unit feels sturdy. The latch to the PCMCIA slot is sealed.
All other ports are protected by a water-resistant cover as well. The unit
can operate within a -4 to 122 degree Fahrenheit temperature range.
Digitizer and screen
The digitizer is of the resistive variety, which means the pen does not
require batteries. Its resolution is 480 dots per inch, lower than electromagnetic
digitizers, but more than adequate for most field applications. Electromagnetic
is available also. The paper white VGA screen measures 6.2 inches diagonal
(a Newton MessagePad screen is 5.0 inches), has full 640 x 480 pixel resolution,
and can display 64 levels of gray. Contrast and brightness are adjustable
by manual controls, so you'll never lose the picture. The standard screen
is a transflective LCDS with a CCFL sidelit backlight. A transmissive LCD
Power is supplied through a quick charge NiCad battery pack. The standard
battery offers 1400mAh. A somewhat lighter 900mAh unit is optional. Batteries
can be changed without rebooting, and the 1134 has an advanced power management
system that handles slowdown, suspend, standby, and automatic shutoff. A
failsafe power backup maintains data integrity under low-battery conditions.
The unit has a low battery indicator light, and also comes with an API (application
program interface) for on-screen viewing of remaining battery power.
Like all Telxon units, the 1134 excels in its communications capabilities.
It can accommodate a completely integrated real-time 2.4GHz or 900MHz Aironet
ARLAN (Advanced Radio Local Area Network) spread spectrum transceiver, achieving
maximum data transmission speeds of up to 2M bps on the 2.4GHz band and
up to 800K bps on the 900MHz band. Both versions are compatible with Telxon's
Dataspan 2000 microcellular networks that allow transparent roaming from
access point to access point, and which also allows integration with other
wireless Telxon products.
The 1134 comes with MSDOS 6.22, enhanced with Telxon's proprietary power
management software. It can run Windows for Pen Computing and supports PenDOS
7.0. Since Telxon owns PenRight!, the 1134, of course, is compatible with
PenRight! 3.6 and the new PenRight! for Windows application environments.
Among RF terminal modes supported are 3270, 5250, ANSI/VT220, and Telxon's
own TRIPS(Telxon's RFInterpretive Prompting System).
Ports and expansion
The 1134 has a 15-pin serial port which doubles up as an external keyboard
or charger interface through a special communications cable. A Quick-connect
cradle port allows placing the unit into a docking cradle. The cradle holds
one 1134, provides a serial port, an AT-style keyboard port, a power jack,
and daisy-chain capability. The module interface port supports an integrated
laser scanner, a magnetic strip reader, a MicroRadio, or a barcode scanner.
There is also a vehicle mounting option.
Overall, the 1134-PTC makes an excellent impression. Its small size and
light weight make it easy to carry around all day. The PTC-1134 also represents
another successful attempt at making full Windows functionality available
in a very compact mobile package, further accelerating the trend towards
bringing industry standard "open" hardware and software into vertical
It is clear that Telxon is on a roll, and that the new series of 486-based
computers-and especially the PTC-1134-greatly adds to the company's impressive
technology solutions arsenal.