Review: Putting the Mountain-Tough Yuma 2 through Its Paces

January 8, 2014  - By 0 Comments

Yuma-2-product

My original review of the first Yuma rugged tablet from Trimble MCS (Mobile Computing Solutions) was penned in August of 2011. My original plan was to have the review of the new Yuma 2 ready to go exactly two years later. But, as we all know, man plans and God laughs.

Actually, the problem, I must admit, is a bit more personal in nature; you see, I have been enjoying the Yuma 2 to such a degree that it was difficult to write about it because then I have to send it back. I have been selfish too long — read on for the review of the new Trimble Yuma 2 rugged tablet computer that is perfect for fieldwork, especially fieldwork involving GPS and GIS applications. Indeed, one Trimble marketing quote states:

Bring Your Office to the Field for Efficient GPS/ GIS Data Management — The Trimble Yuma 2 rugged tablet computer is designed for ease of use and high performance mobility. Great for GIS applications — it’s like bringing a complete PC out into the field.”

While I totally agree with this assessment, the Yuma 2 is really so much more. It is not limited in any important function I could determine. As an example, I am typing part of this review on the Yuma 2 via a wireless Bluetooth keyboard and a high-definition Sony monitor hooked to the Yuma 2 via the new HDMI connector. Sweet!

image003Over the years, it has frequently occurred to me that oftentimes manufacturers have no idea of all the ways their equipment will be utilized in the field — although Trimble does a great job giving users ideas through the Trimble Dimensions showcase that will take place at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas November 3-5, 2014. If you are into rugged devices, GIS and GPS, or any of the areas listed at the Trimble Dimensions website, don’t miss this show. You will see the Yuma 2 and other Trimble devices and software put to the test and used in ways you could never imagine.

But, as usual, I digress. Let’s get back on topic and the Yuma 2 review. I put the Yuma 2 through all the normal wear-and-tear scenarios, which here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains means severe cold (-20° F true temperature), snow, ice and altitude.

The Yuma 2 withstands tough conditions, including snow and ice.

The Yuma 2 withstands tough conditions, including snow and ice.

During the six months I tested and evaluated the Yuma 2, I continued to receive several emails from users of the original Yuma rugged tablet. Three of those emails came from users in the Great Smoky Mountains. All three users operate the original Yuma in their business dealings, as well as for navigating around the Great Smoky Mountains and for recreational geocaching. One user, who would only agree to be identified as “Bailey” (he assured me that although he is retired military, his first name is not Beetle), intrigued me with his assertion that he has a crucial usability test he routinely performs on his GPS devices that I cannot easily conduct here in the Rocky Mountains. Beetle and other members of the Great Smoky Mountain Geocaching Society usually perform their Great Smoky Mountain Humidity and Fog tests at or around Clingmans Dome.

Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The National Park Service describes the 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome as being the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,647 feet) — both located in Mt. Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina — rise higher. Additionally, the cool, wet conditions at the summit of Clingmans Dome make the spruce-fir forest that grows there a coniferous rainforest. By now, you are probably saying, so what?

The “so what” is that Bailey says the humidity is sometimes so high that when geocachers hit the cooler temperatures and high humidity of Clingmans Dome, some devices have water streaming from inside the device, which is never a good thing. I checked with Trimble, and indeed their devices are made to survive these conditions and much worse, such as in many mountain jungles around the world. So Bailey, have no fear, your Yuma 2 will continue to work just fine in your moist environment. Consider that the Yuma 2 was designed and built at Trimble’s MCS facility in Corvallis, Oregon, which is just due East of a rainforest along Highway 1 on the Oregon West Coast. So you can bet the Yuma 2 is tested and rated for high humidity levels. Indeed, here are the humidity specifications: Cycles between -22° F to 144° F (-30° C to +60° C) at 90% RH (relative humidity), MIL-STD-810G, Method 507.5, Procedure II (Humidity Aggravated Cycle).

While we are detailing specs, let’s list all the formal specifications, and then we can delve into more detail about how we tested the Yuma 2 and how well it performed.

Physical

Size: (LxWxH) 9.6 in x 6.3 in x 1.5 in (246 mm x 160 mm x 40 mm)

Weight: 2.6 lb (1.2 kg) with standard batteries or 3.0 lb (1.4 kg) with extended batteries

Colors: Yellow, Gray, and Gray with Yellow border

Keys: Seven keys (OK, Logon, Power, Function, 3 user-programmable function keys) and 5-way directional keypad

Hardware Specifications

Processor: 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N2600 dual-core processor

Memory: 4 GB DDR3 DRAM of volatile memory

Storage: 64 GB or 128 GB SSD-Solid State Drive (Enhanced GPS: 128 GB SSD only)

Display: 7” 1024 x 600 hybrid reflective transmissive (transflective) with capacitive touch screen

Battery Options: Smart batteries with LED power indicators – Standard battery: Two 7.5v, 3000 mAh, 21.6 Wh or optional extended battery: Two 7.5v, 6000 mAh, 43.2 Wh

I/O: 3.5 mm audio jack, USB Host (2), HDMI, docking station I/O plate, DC input power

GPS Receiver: 1-2 meter accuracy (with SBAS) or 2-4 meter accuracy (with SBAS)

Radios: Bluetooth 4.0; Wi-Fi b/g/n

WWAN: Penta-band GSM 3.75 Data only module

Standard Features

• Transflective technology (TFT) direct sunlight readable color display

• Microsoft Windows 7 Professional OS

• Intel Atom N2600 dual-core 1.6 GHz processor

• 4 GB DDR3 DRAM volatile memory

• 64 or 128 GB solid-state drive

• Multi-touch capacitive touchscreen

• Rugged design certified to IP65 and MIL-STD-810G

• 3.5 mm audio jack and integrated microphone and speaker

• Outward facing autofocus 5 MP camera with LED Flash, photo and video recording capable

• Integrated Bluetooth 4.0

• Integrated Wi-Fi b/g/n and Wi-Fi Alliance Certified

• CCX (Version 4)

• GPS receiver, Enhanced 1-2 meter accuracy or 2 – 4 meter accuracy with SBAS

• Kensington security slot

• Accelerometer and Electronic Compass

• 3.75 G WWAN data connectivity optional

• Status LEDs for power, battery charging, Wi-Fi and 3G Data

• 12-month manufacturer warranty

Standard Software

• Microsoft Windows 7 Professional with Internet Explorer

• Camera software with geo-tagging

• Trimble GPS Information receiver control software

Standard Accessories

• Standard battery set (5+ hour)

• International AC Charging Kit with 4 adapters

• Capacitive Stylus with Tether

• Hand Strap and Display Cleaning Microfiber Cloth

Now that you have all the specifications and promises from Trimble, let’s look at how it compares to the original Yuma and then let’s get into how it works in everyday life as well as the not-so-routine scenarios.

Comparative Summary of Yuma and Yuma 2 Attribute Yuma Yuma 2
Touchscreen Resistive dual touch Capacitive multi-touch
Display Technology Sunlight Readability Very Good Excellent
Processor 1.6 GHz single core 1.6 GHz dual core
RAM 1 GB 4 GB
Solid State Drive 32 GB then 80 GB Choice of 64 GB or 128 GB
GPS Accuracy 4 – 6 meter 2 – 4 meter
Battery Life3 4 hours with standard batteries8 hours with extended batteries 8 hours with standard batteries16 hours with extended batteries
Digital Connectivity ExpressCard Modules 3.75G dual-mode (CDMA and GSM) option with SIM Card and Auto Carrier Recognition.
IP Rating IP67 IP65
Pricing $3999 Market Price for base configuration $2999 Market Price for base configuration

 

First Impressions

The first thing most people notice about the Yuma 2 is its size. It is 1.5 inches shorter than a full-size iPad, while the high-definition screen is the same size and almost the same resolution as the iPad mini. With the ingenuous hand-strap attached to the back, the Yuma 2 is very maneuverable and easy to carry with you in most any situation. With the security cable, you can also attach it to a vest, backpack or even a belt loop for security. I tried all three options and it works well. For warfighters and first responders, this is ideal, as those users don’t need to worry about what happens if they should drop it. The Yuma 2 is IP65 MilSpec rugged, and I am frankly amazed at the punishment my demo unit survived. Just like the old Timex commercial — “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”

Attention Getter

I carried the Yuma 2 everywhere for more than six months, and it garnered a great deal of attention from military and medical personnel of all descriptions: policemen, firefighters, delivery drivers, utility workers, and several park rangers. Even our local refuse haulers spent time looking over the Yuma 2. It is just simply hard to ignore. Interestingly, something they all had in common is that initially they were all very dubious and nervous about dropping it, even on thick carpet, grass, ice or snow. But once they saw me do it, they all wanted to have a go and they did. My demo unit has easily been dropped more than 100 times from various heights, usually from about four feet onto almost any surface you can name, and it continues to perform like the pro-gear it is and was designed to be. It was even dropped twice, unintentionally of course, with the camera in video mode and the LED flash active. I have to admit that initially gave me pause, but the Yuma 2 came through without a hitch. Camera, video and flash all still function perfectly.

Field Capability and New Test

With the Yuma 2, I had an opportunity to test an application I have never run before, but which will now be a standard in my repertoire of applications — the functionality of an audio headset along with Dragon Speaking software.

Long story short, my daughter is a PsyD, or Doctor of Psychology, in private practice, and together we have been testing various software programs that convert her spoken notes into the written word. This is a more difficult task than you might imagine, given all the specialized medical and psychological terms employed in her everyday vocabulary. But the latest professional version of Dragon Speaking was absolutely up to the task, as was the Yuma 2. I installed the Dragon software and went through the brief training routine with the headset and microphone, and the result is the paragraph you are reading. What a great way to write an article.

Now my daughter and I are Apple aficionados. We have more than 21 Apple devices in our homes, and my daughter uses a 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro with a retina display in the office, which, while it is an awesome device, is not something you want to take into the field or into a first-responder situation, whereas the Yuma 2 fulfills the same functions and fits the “rugged” bill perfectly.

While the built-in speaker on the Yuma 2 is certainly adequate for voice recognition and for GPS commands, it is not something with which you will want to listen to iTunes, so I highly recommend the optional audio headset with microphone offered by Trimble and several other suppliers. For me, the new Bose headset model with microphone works extremely well, while remaining affordable, and the resulting fidelity is…well…certainly Bose quality — what more can I say!?f you want audiophile-quality music and speech-to-text transcription capability in the field, then the Bose headset and Yuma 2 combination can’t be beat.

Docking Station and HP ePrint

The unit we tested did not arrive with the optional docking station. However, we quickly determined that if you are going to be constantly, even daily, making the transition from field to office computer and want to work on the same computer, then a docking station is a must. Next time, say for the Yuma 3 review, for instance, we will request a docking station as part of the review hardware. There were so many times we wanted to print directly from the Yuma 2 that I wished fervently for a docking station. Then I found that the HP ePrint software worked just great on the Yuma 2 as long as you are in range of a printer capable of receiving the signal.

If you are on the road and need to print, you can do that via the cloud and ePrint no matter where you are. You can also print your documents to the nearest HP Public Print Locations, which include national chain locations for FedEx Office stores, UPS stores, Walgreens, numerous hotels, airport lounges, and more. Prices vary widely per page, but if you really need a hard copy, this is an amazing option that works well with the Yuma 2.

We tested this print option at our local Walgreens, and they were not initially aware they had the capability until we printed a test page and out it popped. Now they advertise the capability. We also tried printing from the parking lot of a local FedEx store, and since I have a FedEx account (we receive a lot of packages, as you can imagine), the page was waiting for us when we walked in the door and the bill was automatically charged to our FedEx account. It was an incredibly quick and painless process.

Camera and Flash

The 5 MP (megapixel) camera with automatic geotagging and LED flash work as advertised, although with the Yuma 2 we were also able to record a short video that played back flawlessly on the Yuma 2 and via the email attachment on my Apple iMac. The only caution here is that you are definitely capable of recording a video that, due to its size, may never work its way through the normal email system. Fortunately, the GPS World magazine servers and my “other office” servers are “unlimited,” so this was not a problem for us. However, when we attempted to send a 20-MB video file to a friend, his system would not initially authorize it. When we compressed the file, it went without a hitch. So, if you are going to be shooting a lot of video in the field, a good video software compression program is highly recommended. We tried no less than five different free video compression algorithms, and they all worked without a glitch. Note: Some programs, but not all, require the same software be resident on the receiving computer as well.

Power and Data Connectors

Fortunately, the power connector on the Yuma 2 device is heavy duty. It is reminiscent of the old serial port (RS232C) connectors with the screw receptacles on the port. Consequently, you will never have to worry about the power cables being disconnected, at least not on the Yuma 2 side. There is also an USB-RS232C dongle available that comes in handy for data logging from external sensors.

GPS Applications and Accuracy    

While Trimble MSC is not publishing much about the GPS specifics, from a technical point of view in the Yuma 2, Trimbe is shouting from the rooftops that you can have nominal 2-4 meter accuracy or enhanced 1-2 meter accuracy (both with SBAS or Space Based Augmentation System – in the U.S., think WAAS or Wide Area Augmentation System) depending on your requirements. There is an option for an external GPS antenna, and while the three different RTK programs we ran on the Yuma 2 produced excellent and consistent sub-meter accuracies, RTK programs can be expensive. So with the Yuma 2 you should be capable of deriving accuracies anywhere from 4 meters to 4 cm, depending on your timing requirements, how much you want to spend, and sometimes your altitude.

Altitude

image011Which reminds me: I really got a kick out of the correspondence from the three geocaching Trimble Yuma users in the Great Smoky Mountains, mentioned at the beginning of this column, because all three made such a big fuss about the 6,000+ feet of altitude they routinely encounter when geocaching. My initial reaction to that concern is akin to that of the old codger mountain man in the great movie Continental Divide with John Belushi and Blair Brown in 1981.

John’s city-bred character mentions that being a smoker the high altitude in the Rocky Mountains is beginning to bother him, at which point the heretofore reticent old mountain man indignantly replies, “Mountains? These here are foothills, just bumps in the ground, these ain’t mountains!” Therefore, since my home sits at an altitude 1,000 feet or more higher than any of the Great Smoky Mountain peaks, and I can be at 14,000+ feet within a 20-minute drive and cross the Continental Divide in under an hour’s driving time, I understand the old mountain man’s consternation and directly relate it to the users’ concerns about the Great Smoky Mountains, which when compared to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, are indeed bumps in the ground. I mention this only because at 7,500 feet with no obstructions, the Yuma 2 routinely processes 8-12 GPS satellites and reports accuracies far superior to those publicized by Trimble. So, while you should not necessarily expect the same level of accuracy I have reported here, you should probably expect accuracies in between what Trimble publicizes and the sub-meter performance we observe on a regular basis.

Software

I have frankly lost count of the multiple GIS and GPS software programs I ran on the Yuma 2, but they all basically ran flawlessly, both the free apps and the more costly programs. The only issue I encountered is that some GPS programs require utilizing different ports and transmission speeds. However, since these parameters are user definable on the Yuma 2, it never presented any serious obstacles. Caveat emptor, for here I will remind users of the old axiom, “You get what you pay for!” The free GPS and GIS apps work fine, but the amount of metadata and accuracy provided by some of the more costly applications is nothing short of amazing. If you plan to use the Yuma 2 for scientific applications and desire onboard processing, then the more costly software programs are the applications I would recommend. If the Yuma 2 is just a data logger or positioning device, then the free applications work well.

Bottom Line

The Yuma 2 is an amazing machine. It is everything a high-end laptop should be and more in a ruggedized format with a Gorilla Glass high-definition display touchscreen that should be reassuring to users in the field.

For government users, the rugged Yuma 2 tablet with a Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module or SAASM option would be the perfect choice, and far superior to anything else in the field today, especially for our military. My sources tell me there are thousands of Yuma and Yuma 2 tablets in the field today, and the addition of a SAASM module would make them more secure and usable by our military users for all their tasks. Imagine one secure tablet that meets all your needs. I think our warfighters deserve the best, don’t you?

If you currently accomplish fieldwork and transfer data between two computers, and make use of GIS and GPS data, then the Yuma 2 is the machine of choice for you because it will do the work of both computers and display/output data through the HDMI interface or through the wireless ePrint capability, especially if you opt for the optional docking station. The SSD (solid state drives) are super fast, and since there are no moving parts on the Yuma 2, you may well find it is faster and more dependable than your current office laptop or even desktop computer. I highly recommend it.

Until next time, happy navigating and take a rugged computer out for a spin.

 

Don Jewell

About the Author:

Don Jewell served 30 years in the United States Air Force, as an aviator and a space subject-matter expert. Don’s involvement with GPS and other critical space systems began with their inception, either as a test system evaluator or user. He served two command assignments at Schriever AFB, the home of GPS, and retired as Deputy Chief Scientist for Air Force Space Command. Don also served as a Politico Military Affairs Officer during the Reagan administration, working with 32 foreign embassies and serving as a Foreign Disclosure Officer making critical export control decisions concerning sophisticated military hardware and software. After retiring from the USAF, Don served seven years as the senior space marketer and subject-matter expert for two of the largest government contractors dealing in space software and hardware. Don currently serves on two independent GPS review teams he helped found, and on three independent assessment teams at the Institute for Defense Analyses, dealing with critical issues for the U.S. government. Don has served on numerous Air Force and Defense Scientific Advisory Boards. He writes and speaks extensively on technical issues concerning the U.S. government. Don earned his Bachelor’s degree and MBA; the Ph.D. is in progress.

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