Just today, Zebra announced the release of two new members of the TC family, the TC53 (WLAN) and the TC58 (WWAN), which, despite their very similar names to their predecessors, seem to have all the characteristics to redefine the concept of the handheld terminal, exponentially increasing the possibilities of implementing applications increasingly oriented towards the world of augmented reality and the Internet of Things.
The introduction of 5G and Wi-Fi 6E technologies, combined with the latest Qualcomm 6490 processor, make it future-proof and ready to reach the highest speeds currently available.
The positioning of this device sees it alongside the current TC52ax/TC52x and TC57x, from which it inherits the optimised and ergonomic form factor, particularly suitable for use on the move, both inside and outside the company (order collection, in-store operations, logistics inspections), where it typically performs occasional barcode reading, data synchronisation and catalogue displays with photos.
The most noticeable change concerns the screen size, which now reaches 6 inches, while gaining a few more grams (around 30) compared to the TC57x and equalling the weight of the competition. However, this slight increase is compensated for by a noticeable reduction in thickness from 18.6mm to 16.7mm, which is quite an achievement!
It is also the first device in the Enterprise sector capable of capturing accurate and ‘compliant’ parcel measurements in seconds, thanks to its integrated Time of Flight sensor, up to now the prerogative of high-end consumer smartphones, will be available on certified models. .
The device’s longevity is guaranteed by Zebra’s classic formula of 4 (sales) + 4 years (support), which should ensure that it will last up to Android 15.
Among the accessories, we note the presence of four different types of batteries: standard (4400mAh), extended (6600mAh), wirelessly rechargeable, and a battery equipped with a BLE sensor that allows the device to be found even when switched off or out of range, as well as opening the door to real time tracking applications based on this technology, which, let us remember, can achieve an accuracy in the order of a couple of metres.
Also interesting is the introduction of a Workstation cradle that, if necessary, allows this portable computer to be transformed into a real ‘desktop-like’ workstation, to which traditional peripherals (monitor, keyboard, mouse) can be connected. In this way, the need to purchase and manage several dedicated desktop PCs is reduced, with considerable savings in time and resources.
For use with RFID solutions, the TC53/58 can be physically coupled with the Zebra RFD40 sled (via an eConnex adapter) to become a single device capable of handling UHF RFID tags.
But how is this new device?
We put it to the test to see how it performs while using our dedicated retail and SFA solutions, .onRetail and .onSales respectively. The opponents chosen for this contest are its predecessor the TC57x and the Honeywell CT45XP.
From the left: Honeywell CT45XP, Zebra TC58, Zebra TC57x
We have selected the most computationally intensive operations, where data processing speed and barcode reading times are easily tangible and measurable parameters for the end operator.
Our test with .onRetail
When reading a barcode, OnRetail’s ‘Item Info’ item interrogation menu, provides all the information about the desired item, searching through thousands of available items. Barcodes that are often too dense or printed in low quality require longer decoding times, and in these cases good optics can make the difference.
With the TC58, barcode reading takes place instantaneously and the list of all information takes no more than half a second to display, making the operator’s waiting time virtually imperceptible. The test was carried out simulating shop-floor usage on an 802.11ac Wi-Fi network at around 866Mbps.
The speed of data synchronisation sees the TC57x and TC58 paired, with the Honeywell arriving with a few milliseconds delay, as can be seen in the following video:
Our test with .onSales
Turning to our onSales order collection solution, we were able to test the visibility of the display outside on a sunny spring day and the connection speed of the 5G network.
The model in our possession was equipped with the well-known and proven SE4720 optic with a red LED pointer, which showed no signs of failing even in bright sunlight and backlight readings! We expect even better performance with the optics available for the Premium models, the SE55, equipped with a green laser pointer.
In terms of reading distance, the Honeywell FlexRange S0703 reader allowed the CT45XP to outperform the TC58 in reading at medium/long distances, reading a Code39 type barcode at a distance of 2.5m, about one metre more than the Zebra.
The promotions loading menu is typically a good benchmark for comparing different devices with each other as, after selecting a particular customer, all the promotions associated with it are calculated and proposed, an operation that requires a great deal of computational effort and puts the processor’s power to the test.
A photofinish challenge between the CT45XP (QCM4290) and TC58 (QCS6490), which cross the finish line at practically the same time, followed by the TC57x (Snapdragon 660) a few hundred milliseconds behind.
The battery life is in line with what the vendor claims, and we were able to test the TC58 for a full day of 8 hours by performing occasional barcode readings and data synchronisation every 15 minutes.
A small negative note concerns the responsiveness of the touch screen, which is not always optimal when compared to the other two models under test, but it should be borne in mind that the model in our possession is in beta version and some elements may differ from those actually present on the production models. We reserve the right to examine this aspect in more detail once the TC58 is available in the distribution channels.
All three devices in the test are IP65 and IP68 certified, which means they can be used outdoors in all conditions, but the ruggedness award goes to the Honeywell with a 1.8m drop on concrete (and a whopping 2.4m if fitted with a protective shell!) against the 1.5m achieved by the TC58 (1.8m with protective shell) and 1.2m of the TC57x.
In general, this new device met our expectations, in particular the larger display allows information to be shown that would normally require a scroll on a five-inch screen to be displayed; a result achieved while maintaining a compact size that allows for one-handed use and is practically identical to that of the CT45XP.
It will be interesting to see which use cases will see it involved considering that this device contains all the latest technological innovations that make it, in fact, the first industrial IoT-Ready device.