+44 (0) 1924 600 480

Have you taken your tablets yet?

In the past, data collection in the warehouse, factory or field was primarily carried out using barcode scanners, imagers and then handheld mobile computers. However, in recent years, tablet PCs have become an additional and increasingly popular alternative. Different types of tablets abound in the marketplace, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find one that fits your specific requirements.

So, what sort of features should you be considering?

Processor / operating system

There’s a wide range of processors used in tablets, although Intel tends to be the most prolific. Typically, you might find the well-known Intel® Core™ i5 (e.g. the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33) or i7; or the Intel Atom Quad-Core (e.g. the Xplore XSlate D10). Interestingly, the Toughbook has a detachable keyboard, so it can also be used as a notebook.

For operating systems, there’s usually a choice between Windows – typically Windows Pro10 (e.g. the Getac A140) – and Android – typically Android 5 Marshmallow, 6 Lollipop or 7 Nougat (e.g. the Dolphin CT40). However, some enterprising manufacturers offer tablets with a choice of Windows or Android, such as the Zebra ET 55.

Screen / size

When is a tablet not a tablet? That’s hard to say – some mobile devices in the marketplace are described as both tablets and mobile computers. These tend to be the smaller, handheld devices that are about the size of a smartphone.

These will typically have a screen size of about five inches. Some screens are even smaller than this but although they might be easy to hold, they become more difficult to use. The opposite problem can occur with larger tablets – they might be much easier to use in terms of the screen operating space but become less easy to hold.

The most common tablets range from those with a five-inch screen, such as the Opticon H-28, through to those with a 12-inch (Panasonic Toughbook) or 14-inch screen (Getac A140).  The larger screens give wider viewing angles and reduce the need for  scrolling.

The display might have a TFT touchscreen or the increasingly popular and durable Corning Gorilla Glass. Some screens (such as the Xplore XSlate D10) are multi-touch and can be used with fingers, gloved hands or pens.


Tablets that are used by workers in the warehouse or field need to be rugged and are therefore subjected to tests for protection against water and dust ingress – and drops onto concrete from heights of five or six feet. Most (but not all) will have a fairly high IP rating of about 65, although those used in harsher conditions tend to have an even higher rating.

Similarly, high-quality rugged tablets will be able to operate at a range of temperatures, usually from about -30oC to 60oC plus. Some tablets, such as the XSlate D10 and the ecom Tab-Ex 01, are ATEX-certified for use in hazardous conditions.


Most tablets tend to have lithium-ion batteries. They have varying lengths of operation. This can be a defining characteristic, as some workers need batteries with a long life if they’re working for long periods in the field. For others, this won’t be so critical, although most users will favour batteries that  give at least eight hours so that they’ll last for a whole shift.

Manufacturers therefore tend to give a range of options, including hot-swappable twin batteries and batteries with an extended life. For instance, the single battery in the XSlate operates for up to eight hours, but there is a hot-swappable second battery, giving up to 15 or 22 hours of life.

Similarly, the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 provides up to ten hours of life with standard twin batteries and up to 20 hours with extended life twin batteries.                                                                        


Today’s tablets offer a range of connectivity options. Many (such as the ecom Tab-Ex 01), offer both wireless wide area network (WWAN) and wireless local area network (WLAN) connectivity, with various IEEE 802.1 Wifi options. Bluetooth connectivity has also become a common standard feature in tablets. And most tablets provide GPS (global positioning system) and/or GPRS (general packet radio services) capabilities.

Other features

Many other features need to be considered when choosing a tablet. These include the software available with the device; the type of barcode scanner or imaging engine; and the in-built camera. If the camera is just for general use, you might be happy with a 3MP version, whereas for higher quality images, you might prefer an 8MP camera (e.g. the Getac A140) or even a 16MP camera (the Opticon H-28).

Other interesting features that are available include sensors (such as an accelerometer or gyroscope); a fingerprint reader (e.g. the Getac A140); and various handling and carrying accessories.

Fascinating facts

  •  In 2017, Apple sold nearly 44 million iPads, and Samsung sold some 25 million tablet PCs. However, overall tablet sales for most manufacturers (except Apple and Huawei) have been slowly declining. By the end of October 2018, Apple had sold a total of over 400 million iPads.
  • The origins of tablets can be traced back to 1968, when Alan Kay first developed the concept of a Dynabook, although this never became a reality. The forerunner of today’s tablets was the GRiDPAD in 1989, a fairly cumbersome device with a monochrome screen. It weighed 4.5lb and cost over US$2,000.
  • Also in 1968, Arthur C Clarke introduced the idea of a tablet in hisclassic science fiction story: ‘2001: A space odyssey’. This includes the following passage: ‘(Floyd)… would plug his foolscap-sized newspad into the ship’s information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one, he would conjure up the world’s major electronic papers… Switching to the display’s short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him.’
  • One of the world’s largest commercial tablets is the Ocado Slablet, produced in 2014, which has a massive 42-inch screen – probably not ideal for field work!


If you’d like advice about choosing a tablet – or any other handheld device – please give us a call. We’d be happy to help.


Renovotec blog #26

Geoff Littler – Chief Technical Officer

Comments are closed.


"We needed reliable, robust hardware at keen prices, which Renovotec was able to provide" says Accolade Wines’ Senior Inventory Manager. "We had a good look at other companies but this was the one we thought was best."

"Our analysis shows a significant increase in both the items and tonnage picked per hour" says Henry Colbeck’s Financial Director. A snapshot voice performance sample revealed that the tonnage per hour was 29% higher.

"The VM3 rugged devices enable our drivers to be productive from the minute they sit in the Straddle Carrier cab. The touch screen provides ease of use for the driver and the VM3 connectivity options allows our GPS and PLC Systems to be fully integrated. This gives full operational and engineering visibility. Couple that with Solid State Disks means that the unit is very robust for the port environment." Stated Systems Manager, DP World Southampton.

"We now have robust, secure and reliable narrowband network coverage across our site. We’ve also deployed Zebra’s XT15 rugged mobile and Zebra VH10 vehicle-mounted computers that are designed to cope with our industrial environment and connect to both our narrowband and Wi-Fi networks. Add to this the assurance of service and support from Renovotec and we have the trusted platform our teams need to continually connect to our ERP application." Stated MIS manager, the Port of Tilbury

"Renovotec were able to provide the best support and repair package, and match the competition on price," said IMT Managing Director. "We feel very happy having them as a partner in the growth of our business. "This combination of performance and reliability is already creating clear benefits to IMT and its network of clinics"

"Massive thanks to you and your company for resolving our technical issues. Excellent, professional service provided with literally no notice at all. I wish I came to you guys originally, and certainly will going forwards" stated Melrose Textile Co’s Operations Manager

"Can I just firstly say that your Field Technician did a fantastic job on Tuesday. We had got the wearables to a point of configuration but there was still a quite a bit of work to do and ultimately your field technician was invaluable to us on the day sorting these issues out" stated Portwest’s Shift Manager