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Motorola MC75 Review

 
  Motorola MC75 Review Date: 09/05/2008  

 

The Motorola MC75 is the long awaited upgrade to the MC70 series mobile computer. A mid-sized mobile computer designed specifically for field mobility applications, the MC70 was released in 2006. Its popularity is reflected in over 450k units sold worldwide since its introduction. Motorola recognized the need to update the platform to include hardware required for future growth in the field mobility space.

Motorola MC75 Official MarketingMotorola MC75 Promo Shot

As with all new or revised Mobile Computers with an integrated barcode scanner, the Motorola MC75 incorporates changes that the manufacturer wants to emphasize - as evidenced in promotional materials. The long and short of the message is as follows:

  • The Motorola MC75's WAN radio has been upgraded from EDGE to 3G, including support for the EVDO network. This allows you to take advantage of the higher data rates from these networks.
  • The Motorola MC75 now incorporates push-to-talk capability on networks that support it.
  • With an integrated SiRFstarIII GPS in standard configurations , the Motorola MC75 now supports location based applications without a separate GPS unit connected via serial or Bluetooth.
  • The screen on the MC75 has been upgraded from QVGA to full VGA Screen Resolution.
  • The Motorola MC75 has an integrated 2 mega-pixel auto-focus camera with flash capability.
  • The Motorola MC75 uses all the accessories of the MC70, so you can upgrade and keep using the accessories you have (but see our comments about memory cards).
  • Bluetooth support has been upgraded from version 1.2 to 2.0, allowing for higher data rates and improved voice quality with Bluetooth handsets and headsets.
  • The increased battery capacity of the MC75 allows for full shift operation, using all its capabilities.
  • The Motorola MC75 upgraded to Windows Mobile 6 from 5. And upgrade to 6.1 is expected in late 2008

Click here to download the Motorola MC75 datasheet.

As always, the official marketing materials don't necessarily give you an arbitrary comparison of the old vs. new. There's a big difference from reading marketing materials and holding the unit in your hand and collecting data with it.

The Wireless Network (WAN) Options

Symbol numbering nomenclature is complicated at best. Although the MC75 is the product line number, there are suffixes that designate the type of device. The major advantage of the Motorola MC75 upgrade is its ability to take advantage of the higher data rates of 3G (HSDPA 3.6) and EVDO (Rev A) cell networks. The nomenclature for the Motorola MC75 reflecting the specific WAN network options are below:

Motorola MC75 in a Hand

         MC7506 - WAN / PAN (HPSDA - ATT)
         MC7596 - WAN / LAN / PAN (HPSDA - ATT)
         MC7508 - WAN / PAN (EVDO Rev A - Sprint & Verizon)
         MC7598 - WAN / LAN / PAN (EVDO Rev A - Sprint & Verizon)

The HSDPA (3g) versions were available in July, with Sprint version due in late August, Verizon and Alltel available in September. Of note is that the HSDPA version allows simultaneous voice and data communication. That means you can take a voice call while using a data connected application.

802.11 Wireless Lan (WLAN)
The MC75 has the same 802.11 a/b/g capability as the previous model. Added in the MC75 is Cisco CCX v4 compatibility. This should lead to better performance and clarity of Bluetooth headsets and higher speed printing. The Motorola MC75 is VOIP ready.

Bluetooth Wireless (WPAN - wireless personal area network)
The Motorola MC75 has been upgraded to Bluetooth version 2.0, meaning that data transfer rates with Bluetooth devices will increase up to 3 times compared to the original Bluetooth

Look and Feel
Although you would think that the MC75 is physically the same as its brother, when you hold it in your hand, you get the distinct feeling that it's more substantive than the older unit. Considering this unit is to be used for high mobility applications, the Motorola MC75 is more than a quarter inch wider and almost a quarter inch thicker than the unit it would replace. A full 3 ounces of weight is added with the standard capacity battery. Although the unit feels more solid, but the key is that the device is getting larger and heavier instead of the expected smaller and lighter like the Treo vs Treo Centro. You could feel better about the size and weight of the device if its durability was improved. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

Motorola MC75 Front View

MC75 Back View

The ergonomics of the Motorola MC75 were expectedly underwhelming. The device is uncomfortable to hold, and it can still be a challenge to position your hand to comfortably hit one of the 3 scan buttons. With the extended capacity battery, the MC75 is almost painful in the hand. Its difficult to holster, operate and holster again. It doesn't appear that Motorola has and ergonomist as part of the Symbol MC75 team (or the MC90XX team). We wish they would hold any Honeywell Dolphin device, or even the Datalogic Scorpio. "How it feels" can be as important as "how it works".

The Motorola MC75 is available in a QWERTY and Numeric keypad. Unlike the MC90XX series, the keypad type is fixed and cannot be changed from the originally ordered configuration.

Processor and memory:
The MC75 still uses the same Bulverde processor as the MC70, clipping along at a max of 624 MHz. This is the same processor used in the beloved Dell X51V and widely used in top end Mobile Computers in the barcode / RFID space. Still, it would have been nice to see a "leading edge" mobile processor with this release, using something like the Marvel Monihan PXA320. Memory for the MC75 has received what we believe to be a critical update. It now has 128 meg ROM and 256 meg RAM in standard configurations. The number of applications on a device and database size has grown, available main memory has become more critical to the smooth operation of the device. The MC70 had 64/128 standard, with a 128/128 unit available at added cost. With the integrated GPS (and understanding that GPS turn-by-turn applications tax the memory of older devices), the new memory configuration should be ample to store and run multiple processor / memory intensive applications at the same time.

There is a user-accessible micro SD card slot built into the MC75. The device is still limited to 2GB of Storage Card capacity, so the use of SDHC cards is still prohibited. And, if you've ever loaded a 3rd party GPS program, you know that with a reasonable amount of map data on the card there will be little room for anything else. The access door for the micro SD takes up the same amount of space as it did on the old device, so we view the card slot as a disadvantage. You won't be able to use the SD cards you have laying around from your older units, and if you do data / application distribution on memory cards, you'll need 2 formats now if you're running MC70's and MC75's in the same deployment.

Display:
The full VGA resolution screen of the Motorola MC75 offers an unmistakable improvement over the QVGA screen. Images are sharper, and you can display a level of detail (with maps and other graphics) unattainable with QVGA resolution. Colors are crisp and adjusting the brightness settings gives you visibility vastly improved indoors and out over the MC70. This is one of the most exciting parts of the MC75 redesign. Hopefully, the increased resolution won't lead to more poor GUI design by ISV's. A comparison of the differences in display quality are in the picture below:

Motorola MC75 VGA Comparison

 

Data Collection (scanner / imager):
Motorola MC75 Barcode ImagerMotorola offers 2 configurations for integrated barcode scanners. Like its predessor, the MC75 can have the SE4000 imager installed. This is a very good imaging engine and allows omni-directional scanning of linear and 2-dimensional barcodes. The imager can also function as a low-resolution (640 x 480) monochrome camera for in-application, low storage overhead, picture taking.

The MC75 can also be configured with a laser line scanner. Motorola upgraded to the SE950 scan engine from the SE800HP. The 800HP goes all the way back to the PPT8800, so it was logical to upgrade the engine as the MC75 benefits from the smaller footprint and lighter electrical requirements of the SE950. Testing the engines side-by-side, the performance of the SE950 is a noticeable improvement. It has greater overall range and speed of decoding as it scans at twice the rate of the old SE800HP. Performance on higher density codes is greatly increased, as is its performance on damaged codes.

There is no word from Motorola as to if and when the Lorax extended long-range scanner will be available.

Camera:Motorola MC75 2mp Camera
First, the bad news... the camera is $200 add-in outside the base configuration. Second, the camera is located right above the top anchor point for the hand-strap. When using the extended battery (and sometimes with the standard battery) and with your hand in the strap, there's a risk of the strap partially obstructing the camera lens.

That being said, the camera performance is what you'd expect from a 2mp camera currently featured in most smart phones and PDA's. The camera is controlled using the Windows Mobile "Pictures and Video" program or the manufacturer supplied program.

Notably, Motorola allows you to use the MC75 camera to decode barcodes. The camera decode utility is much improved over the MC35 version, which was difficult to gauge the distance needed from the code for the barcode decode algorithm to work. The new utility provides an "aiming circle" that starts out as a red circle, and changes to a green circle when the camera can see the barcode well enough to decode it.

MC75 Camera Decode with Red Circle  Motorola MC75 Camera Decoding Barcode

The holy grail of barcode scanning applications has always been having consumers scan barcodes with a convenient device, and we've always thought that the most convenient device would be their cell phones. Standing by as other comUsing MC75 Camera to Read Barcodespanies developed and deployed the QRCode for cell phone cameras, we were worried that the majors in the barcode mobile computer business would be left behind.

When the MC35 camera scanning program came out, we spoke to a host of Motorola technical types in about the suitability and improvement path of the utility and were consistently told "it was a mistake", "for occasional use only" and "it's a management device, managers don't scan a lot of barcodes".  The reactions we got led us to believe that Motorola was going to walk away from this technology.

However, instead of abandoning the idea, Motorola expanded on and improved it in the MC75. Obviously, Motorola is demonstrating with the MC75 camera utility that they see the future.  http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/01/business/01code.html

From our perspective, the surprise inclusion of camera scanning in the Motorola MC75 is notable for the following reasons:

  • This is the first time a utility like this has been included in a main-line mobile computer with an integrated scanner. It works well. It can decode all but 4 of the symbologies that the SE4000 imager decodes. That makes it superior to the QRCode reading applications. Although the decoding performance isn't the same as a traditional barcode scanner, the strides made in the last 2 years by Motorola in the programmatic algorithm searching a picture file for a barcode and then decoding it are commendable.
  • Once you understand what the picture analyzing routine is doing (including negating the color, identifying the code and decoding it) you can recognize the significance of this technology. Although the user experience and operation are different from any existing barcode scanner, the technology is viable, even in high volume scanning operations. Motorola must have the same thought. The camera decoder is closer than ever to being ready for mass deployment Although it wouldn't be preferred to the imager or laser scanner, it works. And it works well.

The Motorola MC75 promotional literature touts the camera as giving applications the ability to do OCR. We've yet to see an application where a picture is captured, and OCR takes place in the background with OCR values used to populate application program fields going to a database. It's a great idea whose time is long past due. We'll keep you posted.

Integrated GPS
The standard configuration Motorola MC75 is equipped with a SiRFstarIII GPS. GPS capability was offered in the MC70 unit in late 2007 as an option. Inclusion as standard equipment is long overdue, especially since this platform is considered by Motorola as the flagship for field mobility applications. No word on if this is the "LT" version, so we're assuming that it draws 60-65 milli-watts under continuous operation.

The SiRS starIII is notable for its ability to obtain a TTFF satellite lock quickly in normal environments, and can maintain its lock in city and rural environments with intermittent obstructions to the satellites. Able to process the signal from up to 20 satellites at the same time, the StarIII has regularly been observed to get a TTFF in less than 10 seconds.

Battery Capacity:The battery capacity, and presumably the operation time are increased on the MC75. With the standard battery having a 90% capacity increase over the model it replaces, it appears that the Motorola MC75 has ample power capacity to operate a full shift using phone, scanner, GPS and camera capabilities. The "extended capacity" battery offers a modest 26% increase over the prior extended battery.

Durability:
Other than the integrated barcode scanner, a making a purchasing decision for one of these models of mobile computers is its durability over other Windows Mobile Smart Phones. The Motorola MC75 offers no improvement in durability over the prior model - the drop and tumble specifications are the same as is the IP54 sealing.  Motorola's flagship MC90XX durability specifications are multiple 6-foot drops to concrete with 2k three foot tumbles so there is room for improvement in the MC75. But, the Motorola MC75 durability specification are half that, both in drop height and number of tumbles. One would think that in the redesign, Motorola engineers could have made the improvements necessary to make the unit more durable than the previous model.

Other Notes:
Motorola includes a screen protector with the MC35. That's a nice touch.

The utilities supplied with the Motorola MC75 are second to none. The Motorola Control Panel and other applications, along with MSP and DataWedge give IT departments the ability to control and easily update devices using a variety of methods and techniques.Motorola MC75 With Credit Card Reader

There is a lot of detail in the Motorola MC75 User's Guide for the use of the Magnetic Stripe Reader and the new Debit Card Reader. Obviously, this represents Motorola seeing more sales available in the retail / merchant market.

 

Pros versus Cons

PROS                                                          CONS

High Speed WAN Connectivity                        Ergonomics

SIRFIII Fast Lock GPS                                  Weight

High Capacity Standard Battery                      Reliability

Full VGA Display                                           MicroSD Storage Card
2 mp Camera with Decode Capability