Pen Computing Issue #5

June/July 1995

Pen Lab Review

Telxon PTC-1134

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 PCCard slot.

Sturdy construction
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 is optional.

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.

Wireless connectivity
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.

Bottom line
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 markets.
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.