What is the best Android tablet for X-PAD?

This entry started out as a link to the Samsung announcement of a new Tab Active tablet in October of 2022. But as usual, I have fallen off topic:

We used to sell data collectors with GNSS receivers. And we still do, however with our switch to X-PAD which runs on ‘basically any Android’ device, it is hard for us to sell data collectors because there are so many and the price points go from $80 to $650 for consumer tablets, all the way up to $3500 for a really nice Juniper Systems Allegro 3 or Mesa 3 data collector.

Which device should you purchase?

There are so many great solutions that it is really hard to make a suggestion. It is easier for me to tell you about the Android devices that I personally have: Pixel 4, Samsung 7, Samsung Tab Active 3. I plan to get a Pixel 7 Pro when they release in October and I am also going to upgrade to the Tab Active 4 when they release ‘any day now’.

Why don’t I have an Allegro 3, Mesa 3 or one of the other super-rugged Android devices? Well, I have gotten used to having the latest version of the Android OS on my phone and Samsung tablets. The Mesa 3 has Android 11 and the Allegro 3 has Android 7.1. The Bluetooth 5.x on the Pixel/Samsung seems to go 2 to 4 times further than the Bluetooth on these devices. The screen on the Tab Active has a lot finer detail. The new devices have full banded 5G modems, while slightly older devices have band limited 4G modems.

But the big difference is cost. The Tab Active 3 is $560 on Amazon with overnight delivery in Salt Lake City. That is 6.25 times less than a similar super rugged device!

Cell Phone vs. Tablet

I find that I use my cell phone 95% of the time. I use it for demos, I use it for support, I use it to test receivers and I use it for most survey related functions. If a customer calls me on my cell phone and I am talking on it, then I use my tablet to help with support. If I was doing construction layout or using the volume tools in X-PAD then I would use my tablet because it has a bigger, screen. But I don’t do construction layout or volume work.

The best data collector for me is the one that is always in my pocket.

Things to consider

Removable batteries. Time to charge: if device will charge from 20% to 80% in 20-minutes, then that is something. External charger for 2nd battery available?

Android OS Version.

Camera resolution and picture quality. Pixel and Samsung seem to have great image processing and I take a lot of pictures of cut stones. Will the Auto Focus quickly focus on a cut stone or brass cap?

Bluetooth version (5.x has much better range!)

Network Modem: 4G or 5G LTE? Verizon network compatibility? Network sensitivity. e-SIM?

Sufficient 4G/5G bands? Consider the difference between these two devices:

LTE: 2, 4, 5, 12, EU 1, 3, 7, 8, 20, 28, and AU 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 28


#2: LTE: B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/38/39/40/41/42/48/66/71
5G Sub-610: Bands n1/2/3/5/7/8/12/20/25/28/30/38/40/41/48/66/71/77/78

The second device sure looks better!

Wi-Fi compatibility: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, 2.4GHz + 5GHz, MIMO) or something else?

Rugged case availability. Mounting options for poles and ATV’s. Stylus compatibility.

Fast enough CPU speed? SD card slot for memory expansion (in case you want to put all the BLM field notes in PDF format on your device.)

Screen bright enough? Sunlight tolerance: most of these devices just turn off when they get hot. Screen resolution, not just size may be important for you.

What IP rating? (IP68 is probably best.) Which Gorilla(r) glass? (5 is good.)

I like a fingerprint reader for quick login. And since my devices are connected to my personal google accounts, I want them locked if I leave them around.

Operating temperature range? This may not be important for me because my personal operating range is so narrow.

Do you need a built in serial port?


Which device should you purchase? What ever makes you the happiest might be best.

I am really looking forward to a big new Pixel phone and will be excited to have a Tab Active 4 too!

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