Choosing Between a Fixed or Handheld Reader

Choosing between a fixed vs handheld RFID reader is not always easy. Regardless of your application, it is essential to select a suitable device. Any RFID tracking system will need the same types of hardware: (1) RFID tags, (2) RFID antennas, (3) RFID readers, and (4) Software.  

Let’s look at the advantages of handheld and fixed readers and discuss the things you should consider when choosing which option to deploy.  

Handheld Reader 

RFID handheld readers are easy to transport: 

  • They Are Easily transportable: Handheld RFID readers are designed to be taken with you; therefore, they are lightweight and battery-powered.  

  • Quick deployment: Unlike a fixed RFID reader, which requires mounting and cabling, handheld readers have no installation requirements other than simply turning on the unit and reading RFID tags. 

  • Simple to use: Many handheld readers have vital functionalities that make data collection and transfer even easier by translating the codes of the RFID tag without the need for RFID middleware, which may be required for fixed RFID readers.  

Fixed Reader 

Fixed readers offer real-time monitoring:

  • Real-time monitoring: A fixed RFID reader remains on and does not move. It collects data continuously.  

  • Automated asset tracking: With a fixed reader, no one has to think about turning the reader on and doing a scan. Having an always-on fixed RFID reader is a great way to automate that process if you keep track of how much inventory comes in.

  • Wide read range: Fixed RFID readers usually have a higher read range than handheld readers and can monitor a larger area at one time.  Additionally, the power and beam shape of fixed antennas can be different by design, or through tuning meaning you can cover very specific, or very wide read zones. 

  • Flexibility on what type of antennas can be connected: Fixed RFID readers typically come with anywhere from 1-8 antenna ports. As long as you are using the right cables to connect, you are essentially free to choose any antenna within the same frequency range of your application. 

Use Cases 

Handheld Reader: 

  • Laundry Management: Having fixed RFID readers at each customer site would be a very complex deployment. Instead, having a handheld unit for each driver to record their delivery and collection data is much simpler and most likely more cost-effective. 

  • Healthcare:  Equipment and supplies used in hospitals, such as surgical kits, can be quickly audited by a person moving through the facility with a handheld scanner. 

Fixed Reader: 

  • Warehouses: For businesses looking to track inventory in their warehouses or distribution centres, a fixed RFID reader is an excellent choice because each reader can typically cover large expanses of the building, enabling consistent, accurate and real-time inventory visibility. 

  • Retail: Fixed RFID readers can also be used as POS (point of sales) systems. Instead of using a barcode scanner, a retail sales associate can run items over the top of the reader for an instant scan.  No more fumbling for bar codes and tags! This improves billing accuracy and inventory management. 

Hybrid Deployment 

Most users of RFID combine handheld and fixed readers in retail or manufacturing stores.  A hybrid deployment is about utilising RFID when you have a common read point. In particular when you have RFID capabilities on the go and you need it to feedback into the same system as a fixed deployment such as back in the warehouse.  

Historically organizations have implemented handheld RFID and barcode systems as more accessible and cheaper than fixed antenna deployments. However, we see an exciting evolution in adoption. More of our customers report that the historical cost variation between deploying handheld solutions and fixed is no longer in favour of handheld implementations.  

Our customers are saying that the cost/performance ratio is tending more towards fixed infrastructure. This is not surprising to us. With the innovations we have built into our antennas, our customers enjoy unparalleled read accuracy and performance in various situations.  

If you’d like to learn more about which reader is best for your application, contact our sales team at   

Contact our Sales and Support team