February 27, 2018

You’ve finally made the decision to upgrade your warehouse to electronic data logging, now what? Do you choose a rugged tablet, mobile computer or a consumer device? More importantly, how will you house and mount these electronics to protect your investment? Here are a few questions to ask yourself before diving in head first.

What is your budget?

Last year I briefly touched on this subject in my post “Is your warehouse ready to make the switch to tablets” but we’ll get a little more into it now. Because of the number of variables, the price variance is extreme. They can start as low as $150 to upwards of $3500. The device’s functionality, capability, ruggedness, software, etc. will be reflected in the price. For example, a middle of the line rugged tablet with 1D/2D barcode specific image capturing software, Smart Card Reader, temperature and rugged durability to military spec standards, 10.1” LED display, 4G LTE, Integrated GPS, and a 20-hour battery life, will run you roughly $2800.

A general purpose 1D/2D barcode scanner with BLUETOOTH 4.0 wireless and USB 3.0 WIRED, a 32-bit processor & 16 GB of memory (about 200 scans/sec and storage for up to 200,000 barcodes), 750mAh battery for 30h of continuous scan, and wide device compatibility can be had for around $140.00. This seems like a no brainer but don’t forget to figure in the price of the smartphone or tablet, which varies depending on the make and model. Also, when using a smartphone or consumer device, don’t forget to take into consideration the ongoing cost of the wireless carrier’s contract and the data plan. And unless it’s an Unlimited plan, get your credit cards out, it’s time to pay for data overages!

It’s not only important to have a very clear idea of what your budget is but also know all the factors to add in when calculating costs.

What size is your warehouse and what kind of environment is it?

Some of the fastest scanners on the market can scan up to 1200 scans per second while lower end scanners or Bluetooth scanners connected to your smart phone or tablet are in the 100-250 scans per second range, based on scanning an impeccable barcode label.

While there are numerous rubber and hard cases on the market today they can still be outdone by purpose-built rugged computers or tablets. Along with drop protection, most of ruggedized electronics are standard with dust and water protection, even taking into consideration extreme temperatures. 

Not considering the size of your warehouse or the conditions of your environment before choosing devices can be detrimental to the efficiency and success of your warehouse. 

Mobile Application Integration             

Barcode scanners connected to smartphones and consumer devices are the obvious choice for ease of Application Integration as mobile computers require significant time for integration and development. Again, you must consider the size of your warehouse as mobile apps may be great for micro business they will not sustain a medium to enterprise size business.


Who’s in charge of IT, if anyone at all!

If you don’t have an IT department or someone well versed in the ins and outs of hand-held scanners and inventory management software, it may be advantageous to stick with the smartphone/consumer device option. This way all upgrades are automatically done by the mfr. However, if you’ve ever owned a smartphone in your life, you know that updates come at the most inopportune times and can force your smartphone and software to become out of sync and deem it incompatible. A good fix for this is operating via smartphone/consumer device with a cloud-based software, then the software vendor takes care of all the upgrades, patches and fixes automatically and at the same time.

Hand-held scanners and mobile computers usually require more experienced management for upgrades, etc. and making sure they coincide with updates for compatibility, so an IT presence is key in these situations.

What type of barcode system do you use?

You can read 1D and 2D barcodes, and even RFID tags, with barcode scanners that connect to your smartphone or consumer device but because they are not built specifically to do this task you may run into problems. If you’re using a specific type of barcode its good practice to check into devices that are custom built to read that barcode. You may find it’s better in the long run to spring for the rugged tablet option with integrated scanner.

Battery Life and Longevity

Exact battery life will depend on your make and model and of course usage but typically hand-held and mobile computers have a longer battery life and more so, a longer life, period. The battery of a mobile computer can last up to a week while your average consumer device will push a full day’s work max.

Don’t forget to consider how and where you will charge your devices and the amount of down time you’ll require to do it.

Let’s recap some Pro’s and Con’s

                                          RUGGED TABLET


  • Built to Military Specs to withstand indoor and outdoor use
  • Removable, rechargeable batteries for minimum down time
  • Customizable Operating System with higher-power processors
  • Warranty and Service Options available
  • Glove touch technology
  • Longer battery life
  • Lower Total Cost of Ownership
  • Higher overall lifespan


  • Higher cost of acquisition
  • Overkill for small business
  • Training may take longer as interface is not as recognizable as a consumer device


                                        CONSUMER DEVICES


  • Lower cost of acquisition
  • IT dept is not a necessity
  • Compatible with cost effective Bluetooth enabled accessories i.e. barcode scanner, etc.
  • Mobile Application Integration
  • Option for Cloud based operations


  • Shorter battery life vs. rugged tablet
  • Smartphone requires monthly carrier contract/data plan
  • Lower overall life span
  • Must be encased for durability


This is just the beginning. With so many options to choose from and with technology constantly evolving you should definitely take ample time researching and consulting with multiple vendors before you make a decision. It may seem like a lot of work but in the end, it will only benefit you and your bottom line.

After you’ve chosen which direction to go as far as your electronic devices, think about how and where you want it available to your employees. Will you install on forklifts or tables, wall mounted at work stations? Padholdr has been helping commercial warehouse operations become more efficient by developing a large lineup of tablet holder and mounting options. From adjustable articulating arms, Heavy-duty forklift mounts, Integrated cord management systems, and a wide range of holders for tablets 7”-18”. If you don’t see it, just ask. We love working with customers to create dedicated solutions to make your warehouse work for you!



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