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Now that you’ve made the easy decision to upgrade your old data collector to a modern tablet, what should you look for in a tablet to get the best bang for your buck?

Not all tablets are the same, the surveying profession has unique requirements and sometimes it’s the small things that can make a big difference.

Here are my top 7 features to get the most from your upgrade.

1. Battery Life

Intel has made powerful fanless processors that have very low power consumption. However, the larger screen format of the tablet has a big impact on the battery life. A typical survey day would also include the Bluetooth and modem running full time, which further impacts the battery life.

I wouldn’t recommend buying anything less than a 10 hour spec on the brochure, preferably 15 hours. Most manufactures will give the best case scenario which means most options turned off. If you have any doubt about the real world running time, ask for a trial or demo, the truth will come out pretty quickly. I’d also insist on a hot swappable battery system if ever you do need to swap a battery over.

2. Operating system

I’ve been using windows 10 on a tablet for some months now and after some initial pain I could never go back. Windows 10 has been designed specifically for the touchscreen platform and will enhance your tablet experience.

3. Screen that works in the sun & rain

There are a lot of funky words manufactures use to explain how good they are outdoors. My advice, don’t buy anything until you can view it in person both in the sun and also in the rain. Some capacitive screens simply won’t work in a light shower, which would put a serious damper (!) on your productivity.

4. Survey Configurations

There are certain devices a tablet needs for the world of surveying and construction that may not be applicable to the general consumer market. I have the luxury of siting on both the user side and the software development side of the fence so I get a good glimpse into the future of feature development in survey software. Any tablet you purchase today will certainly need:

  • Class 1.5 long range Bluetooth
  • GPS and Glonass integrated positioning chip
  • WiFi
  • 4G modem
  • Camera, preferably front and rear

The only other legacy option you may want to consider is a serial port but my advice would be to use a serial to USB adapter.

5. Accessories

It’s all well and good grabbing the latest tablet from JB HI-FI but if you can’t attach it on a survey pole or in the car then it’s just a paperweight.

You need a tablet that has a strong list of complimentary accessories including

  • Pole bracket
  • Car kit
  • Desktop docking station, so you can connect to a second larger screen, mouse and keyboard.
  • Carry case
  • Stylus and lanyard

6. Protection from the elements

Your field tablet needs to work in some pretty rough conditions in Australia. There is no way you would pull your laptop out in the field conditions you work in but your tablet won’t get the luxury of a site office for protection. If it’s not IP rated then it’s not worth buying! The IP rating refers to the solid particle & liquid ingress protection resistance. Any tablet needs a 6 for the first digit making it dust tight and a 5 or higher, preferably 6, on the second digit indicating its protection ranking from water jets.

7. Buttons

Almost all software today is made with touchscreens in mind. Survey software in particular has come a long way with feature code lists and quick coding options so you have little need for the keyboard. With that said the most common function of the survey software is to store points and this needs to be done as effectively as possible. This is where a few key buttons can make a big difference. My advice is go for a tablet with an easily accessible:

  • Enter button
  • Up, down, left, right buttons
  • 1 or 2 customised buttons
  • A Windows button to access other features on the tablet

Once you consider these features and what they mean to you, give one of our branches a call and arrange to talk to one of our team about the latest in tablet technology for surveying…1300 867 266, Position Partners.

 Article by:  Cameron Waters – National Product Manager – Geospatial 
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