After testing out the Eg-800, one of Casio’s newest Pocket PC running PDA’s for two weeks, all I can say is WOW. So far this would have to be my favorite PDA on the market today, save the Jornada 680/690/720 series. This amazing unit puts together all the benefits of the other PPC’s without adding in the negatives. The aspect, which I found, the most compelling is the fact that it is ruggedized. By “ruggedized,” I mean that the unit is housed in a rubber tire-like casing, which is virtually waterproof and shockproof. I will go into more detail later in this review, but I just wanted to start by expressing my gratitude to Casio for releasing such an awesome PDA.
As we all know, Casio has released many new PDA’s to supplement the growing mobile computing market. To appeal to the tougher, on-the-go user, Casio introduced two “ruggedized” Pocket PC’s: The Eg-80 and the Eg-800. The only difference between these two machines is that the Eg-80 contains a monochrome screen, while the Eg-800 is the color screen model. Other than that, the two systems are indistinguishable, both aesthetically and internally. The one downside that I can find about the Eg-800 is the size. To be frank, the Eg-800 is a brick. It is both larger and heavier than all other Casio PDA’s, including the E-125 and the Em500. It’s specific size, according to the Casio website, is 3.35” X 5.31” X 1.00” The Eg-800 weighs in at a whopping 10.33 oz. This is substantially heavier than the E-125’s 250 grams, which includes the battery. This difference in weight is definitely noticeable, especially if you’re used to the lightweight build of the Palm series. I suppose the word “industrial” is a euphemism for “colossal.”
The whole point of releasing the EG-800 is to introduce the PDA into the rugged workplace. The “rugged workplace” being the construction field, factories, pretty much location where a PDA might be exposed to extreme torture. The EG-800 is prepared to battle such suffering with its armor, a rubber casing which wraps around the entire PDA. This helps protect against shocks and other environmental dangers. Another noteworthy change in structure are the buttons, which are now rubberized rather than the E-xxx silvery plastic buttons. The jog dial, record, power, and “start,” all are constructed of squishy rubber. Think “bike tire” material. The three shortcut buttons on the front of the Eg-800 and the cursor are the only buttons, which remain silver coated plastic. I felt more tactile feedback on jog dial and cursor than the previous E-125 model I tested. I felt that the EG-800’s jog dial was easier to scroll through documents with one hand, as opposed to the EM-500’s and the E-125’s. The speaker is covered with a thick netting, which protects it from grainy materials, which can seriously damage the tiny speaker. Another mistake in design on the machine is the headphone/ac adaptor jack protectors on the left side. A classic rubber cover protects the two jacks, but the pesky thing just wouldn’t stay shut! It was semi-frustrating to see the little cover flap away while I was using it. The same cover is used to protect the cradle/cable connector. A minor detail, which Casio made up for by incorporating the covered Compact Flash card slot and microphone cover! Somebody at Casio deserves a promotion for coming up with this idea. In order to make the Eg-800 fully submersible, a rubber boot on top covers the mic and the card slot! The boot must be removed and left off if you want to use a Compact Flash card or any other peripheral. There is also a “lock” switch you can flip to ensure the cover doesn’t come off before you want it to. One more interesting feature Casio incorporated into the industrialized PDA line: The compact flash “eject button” it is located right on top of the slot, and when pressed, the little card pops up. No more fishing around with one finger trying to pry the card out!
The Eg-800 that I received from the good folks at Mobileplanet Inc. came with a Lithium Polymer Rechargeable battery. This was the thinnest battery that I’ve tested. Casio offers three different batteries for the Eg-800 and Eg-80: small, medium, and large. The small and medium batteries are Lithium Polymer grade battery, while the large uses Lithium Ion. The battery life on the one I tested (small battery) was approximately 7 hours, more than enough time to get through the day with average usage of Windows Media Player. Of course, battery life will fluctuate depending on the usage. The entire charging process took a miniscule 3 hours for full power.
Screen and Speed
One crucial aspect that make this Pocket PC ruggedized is the screen. Unlike most screens, which give a small amount of tactile feedback when written on, the EG-800’s has a very soft feeling, much like writing on wax paper. The downsides to the new material used are that the stylus might slip a bit when the user is writing on it, and there is an obvious glare when used in the light. The whole point of having the screen mirrored is to enable the user to write with water on it. The Casio Eg-800 is the first PDA to implement Ipx2 technology. (The ip stands for “ingress protection,” in other words, entrance deflection.) The Eg-800 features a hyper-amorphous silicon TFT color liquid display which actively shows 65,536 colors. The speed of this unit is quite fast, due to the 150 Mhz VR4122 processor. This information was provided by Casio. This website also displays the extreme conditions which the EG-800 was built to withstand, including 23 degree Fahrenheit to 122 degree Fahrenheit temperature resistance or a 29.5” drop to plastic tile over concrete. Confession: I actually didn’t have the courage to test out these boundaries, considering the EG-800 was generously provided by Mobileplanet Inc.
The EG-800 has a built in flash rom with 32 MB of storage. Casio uses approximately 12MB of the flash for the rom of the unit. The extra 20 MB of flash is available to store documents on the EG-800. This 20 MB is divided into 2 areas of 16 MB and 4 MB accordingly. Also, this function does not remove the ability to use the CompactFlash slot for storage. Since this is the first Pocket PC with multiple flash storage areas, the internal applications such as Inbox may have problems storing information on them. This is because these applications only expect one flash storage location. You can use the flash to store programs and other documents though. The flash memory is in addition to 32 MB of ram for running and storing programs and applications.
Overall I enjoyed the Eg-800, and I’d also venture to say it was my favorite unit up to date. The screen was the feature that amazed me the most, and I soon grew accustomed to the texture. I loved that I didn’t have to worry all the time about breaking the PPC. I could throw it in my backpack in the morning, and feel confident that I have a rubberized barrier protecting my device. At $1,099 off the Casio website, security and confidence in the product are a must. If you are an on-the-go worker, or simply would enjoy a protected Pocket PC, then the Eg-800 is definitely for you.