Trimble Yuma handheld puts a full OS and a lot of toughness into a small space

Pros: Runs a full version of Microsoft Windows Vista, very rugged, great battery life
Cons: Some slight problems when put in water
Performance: B
Ease of use: A+
Features: A+
Value: A
Government Price: $3,963

Other than matches, the Trimble Yuma is probably the first piece of equipment we’d want to take with us into the woods. And it’s certainly the computer we would want beside us for trolling around downtown.

The most impressive thing about the Yuma is that even though the little 5.5-inch by 9-inch rectangle is only 2 inches thick and weighs 2.6 pounds, it’s able to drive a full version of Microsoft Windows Vista.

Now, we all know that Vista isn’t exactly friendly with system resources. We have even seen workstations slow down a bit while being burdened with that particular operating system. So we were not expecting much performance from the Yuma. But the designers have made a few tweaks to get the most out of the 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor, which is backed with 1G of RAM.

On the Passmark Performance Benchmarks, it was able to score 155.1, which puts it in line with about a single-core Pentium 4 desktop running Windows XP. So the performance is in the good range, which is surprising. When using most of the standard office-type programs, such as Word and Excel, we didn’t notice any slowdown or performance bottlenecks, even when using the touch screen.

The bright yellow Yuma feels solid, with big rubberized grips on the left and right sides that flank the 7-inch widescreen display. The grips are actually batteries which kept our unit humming along in the worst possible circumstances — a movie playing on the screen with sound — for just shy of six hours. With normal use, you can get as much as 10 hours of time between charges. Removing the batteries is a little more complex than with most portable devices, though this helps to make the unit more rugged. You need to use a Phillips screwdriver before you can pop out the batteries. Thankfully, the reverse side of the stylus has the right tool shaped into it. The batteries will recharge without detaching them if you plug the unit in or put it in its cradle, but you could carry an extra set and replace the used ones in the field without losing any power or data.

Another impressive feature on the Yuma is that it complies with the Mil-Std 810F specification for rugged devices. As we do with all devices claiming to be mil-spec rugged, we put the Yuma through its paces. We dropped it 22 times onto plywood sitting over concrete from a height of 4 feet and added several other drops from lower distances. The Yuma tended to bounce when it hit the ground because it was so well protected, but not the slightest crack formed anywhere on the unit, including around the LCD. And data on the 32G solid-state hard drive was fine after all the banging around.

We combine the heat and humidity testing for the 810F specification into a single test in the GCN Rainforest environment. There, the heat rises to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which while still a bit under the 140 degree specification, does serve as a great benchmark over time. The humidity in the chamber rises to 95 percent, which is 5 percent above the mil spec. After three hours in that torture chamber, we removed the Yuma and brushed off all the condensed water droplets from the steamy exterior. We were greeted with the bubbles Vista screen saver, and the Yuma was none the worse for wear. In an environment like that, a Yuma would likely outlive its owner.

Another specification that the Yuma meets is IP67, also known as the underwater or deep-six spec. The Yuma is designed to survive for 30 minutes underwater at a depth of one meter. We ran into a problem doing this test because even though the Yuma looks like a brick, it floats. You know that late-night show with the “Will it float?” segment? Well, the Yuma would stump the host for sure. It did us. But this is a great feature because if you happen to drop your Yuma into a body of water, it’s a lot easier to retrieve it from the surface.

After weighting down the Yuma so that it would sink to the bottom of our test tank, we dropped it into the water. This particular test has killed more computers than any other, even ones that were specifically designed for underwater use. So you never know what will happen when a device takes the plunge.

Although it emerged unharmed, we did notice one small flaw. Just for fun, we were listening to music from the Yuma’s excellent speakers during the IP67 test. In reality, we wanted to hear what music sounded like underwater in addition to figuring out if the unit would die. As soon as it went below the surface of the water, the music cut out. We thought we had lost the Yuma, but it was still going strong. Once we removed it from the water, we saw a Windows error message stating that an unknown device had been inserted into the headphone jack and the music was being played into it.

The water had closed a circuit and tricked the Yuma into thinking there was something plugged in. There are several exposed ports on the bottom of the unit, including the headphone jack and two USB ports. The Yuma would have benefited from some type of a rubber flap that could seal the open ports when not in use, but it’s nice to know the unit can survive without anything protecting the ports.

In terms of extra features, the Yuma is loaded. It has two Global Positioning System-tagged cameras. One faces the user and one faces out. The one facing out is 2 megapixels and the other is 1.3 megapixels. This makes it easy to film something and show where you are at the same time. So if you happen to spot a rare species on your walk in the forest, you can not only film it but record its exact location at the same time. The Yuma even has a form of night vision. It won’t work in pure darkness because it doesn’t have an infrared spotlight, but it can amplify any ambient light to record a pretty good picture in near dark conditions.

The Trimble Yuma is an impressive tool. With a government price of $3,963 it’s a good value, too, especially if you absolutely, positively have to have a rugged computer with a full operating system and don’t want to lug around one of those heavy tank-like laptops that dominate the rugged market.

Trimble, 480-940-6580, www.trimble.com/rugged

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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