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18 June 2012

All-purpose landscape-format handheld from TouchStar

It’s not often we lead a story about new mobile computing hardware by talking about price, but we couldn’t resist it with TouchStar’s new all-purpose 500-series models. The base price for the 4in screen version is just £410, and even for the 7in version it’s only £495.

Admittedly, the price will go up if you opt for all the options, but they’re certainly available, and include quad-band GSM/GPRS with voice support, Wi-Fi b/g wireless networking and Bluetooth 2. You can also have GPS.

The base price is not the only unfamiliar feature. The form factor is also distinctive, with its landscape-mode screen surrounded by "soft" keys. And the processor is a Texas Instruments OMAP 3050 ARM unit, relatively unusual in this context.

There is 256MB of RAM and 512MB of flash memory. The operating system is Windows Embedded CE 6 Core. The backlit touch screen is a 4in QVGA TFT unit or a 7in WVGA unit. The resolutions are 480 by 272 pixels and 800 by 480 pixels respectively.

There is also support for SD memory cards, and there are two automotive input ports for links to telematics or other on-board equipment. You can also specify an Ethernet wired networking port.

The water and ingress rating, though modest at IP54, gives the device plenty of resilience for day-to-day hazards.

Touchstar, a subsidiary of Belgravium, envisages many uses for the 500-series, including fuel distribution, on-board sales on airlines and trains, van sales and field service.

The company points out that the generous display panel, larger than those found on typical handhelds, is particularly appropriate for sign-on-screen POD applications such as home deliveries.

The format also lends itself well to use as a satnav display. There’s an optional quick-release device cradle.

Is it a tablet computer? We’re not sure. TouchStar is not describing it as one, but there are clearly similarities.


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