I got a chance to spend a few days playing with one of the new Trimble Juno 5 handheld data collectors and thought I’d give some initial impressions.
|The two Junos side-by-side. The screen on the 5D
is not just larger, but the quality and resolution is
Trimble also put a lot of thought into the case design. The Juno 3 series devices are well built and water resistant, but the case integrity is highly dependent on a number of rubber plugs that cover all the little ports the thing has – power, USB & patch antenna. The 5D cleverly reduces the number of ports needing covers by combining the USB and power connector and designing the connector as an uncovered but permanently sealed series of small contact pads. The layout looks similar to the old serial port connection. The charger/synch cable has a connector end with a number of small spring loaded contact pins that mate with the contact pads on the device, and the whole thing is secured by two tried and true thumb screws. I first ran into a similar arrangement with my DeLorme PN-60 GPS. It’s a design that eliminates the possibility of water intrusion and ensures the connection stays tight even under rough conditions like being bounced around in a car. It works great.
|The USB/power connector (on the left). This ‘port’ is unprotected simply
because it’s weather sealed and doesn’t need any protection.
The Juno 5D is a smartphone with a big screen and it runs a number of power hungry applications (like Trimble’s TerraSync or ESRI’s ArcPad). It needs a big battery, and the battery accounts for much of this unit’s weight. The battery cover is screwed to the back of the case with 12 miniature Torx head screws, and I’m guessing the manner in which it’s attached plays a large part in the Juno’s overall ruggedness and water resistance. Reports are that the 5D has a shorter usable battery life than the 3D. I believe it. It’s just the nature of the technology. The 5D is just a more power hungry device. Based on my limited testing I think you can expect to get at least 4 continuous hours of field data collection out of one of these handhelds before having to go for a recharge. By the way, Trimble reports that the battery is replaceable, but it must be done by an authorized Trimble repair center.
|Rear of the 5D case showing the battery cover
and 8 mp camera with flash
Trimble also gave the 5D an 8 megapixel digital camera with flash. Compared to the somewhat muddy, low contrast pictures the Juno 3D’s 5 megapixel camera delivers this one is pretty good. Not iPhone good, but still not bad.
So how did it perform in the field? I ran some simple point feature collection jobs around my office building using ArcPad. Uncorrected accuracy was as expected – about 5 ft. for those points under open sky. Running ArcPad on the larger, brighter screen was pretty interesting. The high screen resolution renders the normally fuzzy low-res ArcPad icons in sharp detail, but they were pretty small as presented on the display. It took a bit of practice to figure out just where to tap to get them to react. But once I got that figured out I was off and running. The 1000 mhz processor allows ArcPad to run pretty snappy, and there was no system lag when choosing to collect a point or move to a different screen. The digital camera is still slow to launch when collecting a photo point, but not anywhere near as slow as on the 3D (which is glacially slow). Since ArcPad passes the photo collection process over to the Windows Mobile slow, clunky camera interface I don’t think we can expect much more of a performance improvement here.
Based on my limited testing I really like this new unit. It’s a clear step up from the Juno 3 series in performance and features. But it’s not perfect…
First, price. This thing retails for a whopping $1,800. That is about $700 more that the Juno 3D. Ouch. Is the improved form factor, screen size and resolution and faster processor worth an additional $700? I’m not really sure considering that the Juno 3D is still a very capable device and can do everything the 5D can do, albeit just a bit slower. Keep this price factor in mind as we move forward in the discussion.
Let’s next consider GLONASS, or the lack of it. Really Trimble? Really? Trimble seems to want to position their GLONASS-capable devices towards the premium end of their hardware line. That may have been an OK marketing move a few years ago, but today just about every smartphone and new consumer GPS coming onto the market is GLONASS capable. Heck, Garmin’s bottom-barrel low price leader, the eTrex 10 (currently selling for $103 on Amazon), has been GLONASS capable for over a year now! The days of GLONASS receivers being a ‘premium’ product are long over. Wake up Trimble. At this price point I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the 5D be GLONASS capable.
Next, software. You pay $1,800 for a very capable piece of GPS hardware but it comes with no native navigation package and the ability to add apps is very limited. No mapping or navigation software, nothing to casually collect waypoints or GPS tracks with. Now, I realize this is a ‘professional data collector’, but it would be nice if Trimble ported one of their consumer-grade iPhone or Android apps over to the Windows Mobile OS and included it free on the device. TerraSync and ArcPad are great data collection tools, but lousy street navigation tools. As a geospatial project manager I expect a device with this capability to offer more software features. There simply is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to use it for things like work party navigation and jobsite familiarization, job check-in/check-out, have an eReader for portable document management, etc.
Last, I experienced a few lock-ups on the device while running ArcPad 10, mainly when trying to collect photos. All of these lock-ups required a system reset, and all collected data was lost. It seems to me that a firmware or OS upgrade may be in order. I’d be hesitant to put this device into the hands of work crews until this issue is corrected.
So, is the Juno 5D worth the investment? Certainly you can get all the functionality of the 5D in the much less expensive 3D. However, the new smartphone-like form factor of the 5D is very compelling, and the performance improvements it brings to the Juno line mean something in the real world of field data collection: a better form factor, better screen, faster overall performance. But the shortcomings are glaring and could have been easily addressed by Trimble before they released this device to market.
At the $1,800 price point I think the 5D is worth the investment only if your organization needs the improved performance this Juno provides.
But let’s look into the future. I think the 5D shows us where Trimble intends to take this very successful line of handheld data collectors. We will never see a new Juno that looks like the 3D. The smartphone ‘experience’ is where the field is headed. From that perspective the Juno 5D is a good first effort. It’s going to be very interesting to see what future versions bring.