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How do I choose a handheld computer?

SageData is based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

There are many attractive new machines being released in this category, and it is easy to be tempted by the latest high tech wizardry, to be carried away by some specific neat feature, or to be influenced by a salesperson...

In reality, there are a number of features to be considered In most cases it is a trade off - as an example, between battery life and weight. We suggest that you use the following check list. First, weight each feature in terms of its importance to you in this specific application.
Then mark each hand held computer against each criteria. From there, you can make an informed decision...

Criteria to be considered include:


Generally smaller is better for convenience, but the trade off is against ease of viewing the screen, ease of use for the keyboard, battery life, and perhaps connectivity.


Choose from grey scale, color, size, daylight viewing, touch entry capability. Trade off will be for price and battery life.

Scanner capability

Choose from laser, CCD, one or two dimension, fuzzy logic, image capture... Trade off is in range for reading, ability to read damaged bar codes, battery life, ability to capture signature or images.


Choose battery capacity for length of work shift. Consider ease of changing batteries. Trade off is in weight and availability of the unit.


Review specification and construction. Consider dust and water penetration. Consider where the unit is to be used (office, warehouse, street, farmyard). Trade off is in size and flexibility. Also consider the value of the data stored - if the machine fails and data is lost, what is the real cost of that lost data?

Memory Capacity

Now less of an issue, as larger memory became standard. Consider benefit of removable memory. Consider whether images are used, and whether system is batch or RF linked.


Could be Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or Cellular. Issues to consider include range of operation. Consider quantity of data to be accessed, requirements for timely data transfer, use of images.


Always an issue. Deliberately left for last. Consider the life of the unit as five years, and calculate the daily cost. Calculate the loaded labour cost for the personnel using the system, and the cost of suspended operations if the unit goes down. Consider the total cost of developing, installing and maintaining the system, including training. Consider the consequences and cost of potential lost data. Make sure that the investment in the hardware is appropriate.

Please review our recommended barcode and RFID hardware offerings:

barcode, RFID hardware summary

barcode readers / scanners

barcode printers