Review: Glacier Computer's Ridgeline W200 Wearable Computer

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As industries increasingly turn to computers for a boost in productivity, portability is becoming more of a desired trait. Not surprisingly, the demand for ruggedized equipment seems to be on the rise as well. With the Ridgeline W200 Wearable Computer, Amherst, N.H.-based Glacier Computer hopes to fill the need.

Manufactured by the Italian company Eurotech, the W200 is essentially a rebranded model of that company's Zypad WL11xx. Made of a reinforced magnesium alloy, it is a rugged mobile computer that slips onto the wrist of its user. This also minimizes the risk of it being dropped or lost.

Available with either Linux or Windows CE 6.0, the device has built-in Bluetooth and 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi to access remote networks. An integrated GPS receiver also is available. The processor is a Marvell (formerly Intel XScale) PXA270 that runs at 400MHz, and it is built with 128 MB of RAM.

At 10.2 ounces, the device is not too heavy on the wrist and is comfortable enough to be worn for extended periods of time. One of its interesting features is the tilt and dead-reckoning system, which detects the position of the user's arm and puts the system into standby mode when the arm is hanging down beside the body. This innovative element contributes to the W200's estimated 8-hour battery life.

When we tested the unit in the lab, reviewers found the 3.5-inch touch screen easy to read and navigate. A small stylus is tethered to the wrist strap and fits into a holder that keeps it within reach. Our evaluation unit was the Microsoft Windows CE model. Although we think this OS is a little outdated and starting to look its age, it's probably the best version of Windows for this device. We would have liked to have seen the Linux model for comparison.

Other features include a mono speaker that is exceptionally loud and clear, as well as a mini SD card slot. Additionally, there are two mini USB connections at the bottom of the unit, one for a host connection and the other for a client connection that also doubles as a charging port. A 2.5-inch stereo headphone jack and a pinhole-reset button are located on the bottom too.

At the top of the device is an 11-key, backlit keypad that includes directional cursor keys, as well as four function keys. It also is capable of interfacing with 1-D or 2-D barcode and RFID readers.

Glacier is positioning the device for emergency services, security, defense, warehouse and field logistics applications. The W200 is a nice option for any area where hands-free access to large amounts of information is necessary.

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