Zebra Technologies TC5xe mobile computer

Handheld Computer Comparison: The New Zebra TC53e/TC58e/TC53e-RFID Models Versus… Well, Everything Else

How does ‘handheld computer X’ compare to equivalent models from other brands or the same manufacturer?

This is pretty much the million-dollar question when procuring new devices. Discovering where a model sits in the market in terms of features and benefits is a notoriously tricky business. You’ll often find yourself navigating a labyrinth of technical jargon. You’ll also, frustratingly, read many assessments comparing apples and pears in terms of features.

In this post, we’ll look at one of the most promising enterprise handheld computer ranges of recent times. The new Zebra Technologies TC53e and TC58e are essentially the same handheld computer apart from one detail: the former is a WiFi-only model and the latter includes 5G connectivity. There is also a TC53e-RFID model which opens up many more use cases for swiftly scanning labels and tickets.

To help you work out if these new machines are right for you – or if another model is a better fit – we’ll take a methodical look at:

  • The headline facts about these high-performing handheld computers
  • How they compare to some popular rivals
  • How they compare to well-established Zebra Technologies models
  • How they compare to the closest similar phone in terms of build – the Zebra Technologies TC53/58
  • What steps we recommend you take next, depending on your handheld-computing requirements

The TC53e/TC58e/TC53e-RFID: high-spec handheld computers for modern enterprise businesses

The future-proofed device

One of the main selling points of this new handheld computer range is, to quote Zebra Technologies’ marketing, an ability to ‘meet the ever-evolving mobility needs of today’s frontline workers’. Translation: technology is accelerating fast and businesses will be acutely aware of the need to keep up – or be left behind.

These new machines feature the latest Qualcomm processor and up to 8GB RAM, 128GB of Flash and support for up to 2TB of onboard storage. This means workers can access demanding applications at speed, looking up information or closing orders rapidly. They support Wi-Fi 6E and the second-generation 5G provides the fastest wireless speeds, which will help maintain reliable connectivity for longer.

Finally, the machine is released with the Android 13 OS, but is upgradeable all the way through to Android 17 – that means it will be fully supported until 2032!

A mobile computer that never gives up

This durable handheld computer range has high rugged credentials. The devices are dustproof, waterproof, drop-proof and tumble-proof – and this is complemented by Zebra’s remarkable ability to keep machines working securely for up to 10 years. They are also guaranteed up to and including Android 17.

Industry-standard security for transactions

Secure Element is a microprocessor chip that stores sensitive data and runs secure apps – essentially, it acts as a vault, protecting applications and data from malware attacks. This makes it an excellent choice for running payment apps.

The Zebra TC5xe range employs Secure Element/Android Strongbox and a standalone security chip, offering robust protection against hardware attacks

Convenient portable scanning to speed up workflows

Both the TC53e and TC58e are available with high-performing Zebra Scan Engines – you can choose from a range during purchase. However, the TC53e-RFID also features near-range (1.2m) UHF RFID in a handheld format. RFID enables scanning of multiple tags simultaneously, which offers many possibilities to boost the efficiency and speed of scanning in retail and logistics settings.

High-end features to do better work for longer

These handheld computers also tick the boxes in many other areas, including screen size and battery function. We’ll look at some of these aspects in the comparisons below.

How these handheld computers compare to popular rivals

Compared to models attracting a similar customer profile, this handheld computer range offers more for your investment.

Compared to the Honeywell CT47, the devices have:

Compared to Samsung Galaxy XCover6 Pro they have:

  • Better batteries, including options for extended battery life and warm swop
  • Superior scanning options: the Samsung model has no integrated scanner and customers must either add a third-party sled or use the camera with third-party software
  • Superior Wi-Fi. The Samsung’s consumer-level Wi-Fi radio is less robust

How they compare to Zebra Technologies’ legacy models

We’ll take the TC52 and TC57 handheld computers as a point of comparison. These well-established favourites in the Zebra portfolio are superb devices used by many enterprise businesses.

If you want the short version, compared to the TC52 and TC57, the TC53e/ TC58e/ TC53e-RFID are newer, faster, thinner and smarter.

Courier using a Zebra TC58e to take a photo of a parcel
The TC5xe range enhance front line mobility with Qualcomm’s newest processor for improved power and security, and are made with 25% post-consumer recycled plastics for greater sustainability

The new models feature:

  • 20% larger, brighter display – 6in, with 600 NITs brightness
  • More rugged credentials – 8’ drop spec to concrete, compared to 6’
  • Faster processor – the latest Qualcomm 4490 platform is a huge increase in processing power (2.5x compared to TC57)
  • More robust Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi 6E for fast, future-proofed connectivity
  • More storage and memory – 2x the memory, 4x the storage
  • More advanced range scanning available including SE4720, SE4770 & SE55
  • Larger batteries, including extended capacity options and warm swap
  • Support until 2032 – up to Android 17, compared to Android 14

How they compare to the closest similar phone in terms of build – the Zebra Technologies TC53/ TC58

Now we’re narrowing down the comparison to handheld computers that are incredibly tough to beat. As with the TC53e/-RFID and TC58e, the TC53 and TC58 are the same device apart from the 5G connectivity in the latter. (We’ve written a detailed post about the specs of the high-performing TC53 TC58 range.) These are devices that will be available for and serve enterprise businesses for years and years to come. They feature many of the same features as the new TC53e/ TC58e/ TC53e-RFID models.

For example, all of these handheld computers feature:

  • Ultrafast Qualcomm processors
  • Up to 8GB RAM, 128GB of Flash and a 2TB MicroSD card slot
  • 6in display and 600 NITS brightness
  • WiFi 6E
  • Identical high-performing rugged credentials exceeding MIL-STD 810H and operating temperatures from -20 to 50C
  • Advanced scanning capabilities

In fact, it’s far easier to look at the few features where they are NOT the same. These will be the deciding factors when choosing which of these ranges is right for your teams.

Here’s the main differences between the new TC53e/TC58e/ TC53e-RFID and the established TC53 and TC58:

  • Secure Element / No Secure Element
  • Bluetooth 5.3 versus Bluetooth 5.2
  • OS support to Android 17, versus support to Android 16
  • RFID options versus no RFID options

These features generally give the ‘e’ range the edge. However, it’s worth reiterating that ALL of these handheld computers provide high memory and processing power to run multiple apps, and will cater to the heavy demand of AR, AI and other advanced tech.

Our verdict: should you buy the new TC53e/TC58e/ TC53e-RFID series – or something else?

This answer will depend on your circumstances. Here’s our view.

Businesses of all sizes should buy Zebra when upgrading their handheld computer fleet

We are a Zebra partner, so you might remark: ‘Well, you would say that.’

In truth, we are a Zebra seller because we are confident in selling these high-quality phones and see the positive impact on our clients’ teams. Technology retail can be a tricky market, to put it mildly, if your clients encounter less than optimum performance. We partner Zebra because we see great results.

Reasons to choose Zebra include:

  • Durability – these hi-spec phones are designed for tough environments
  • Longevity – with the life cycle of a typical smartphone as little as 18 months, Zebra’s support plans and updates can see devices remain in service for years and years. For instance, Zebra’s LifeGuard for Android is a software security solution that can significantly extend the lifecycle of Zebra Android enterprise mobile computers.
  • Flexibility – Zebra offers many enterprise software solutions – much of it free – to help your devices work hard for your business

Small businesses on more limited budgets may want to consider the cost-effective TC2x range

Not every business has the need or the budget to invest in the TC5X range. However, Zebra caters to customers who require cutting-edge, durable mobile computers at an attractive price. The TC2X series is billed by Zebra as ‘The Ultimate Cost-Effective Tool for Small Businesses — With Big Business Features’. These small and easy-to-carry devices will fit the bill for many businesses. One of the things you’ll appreciate is the range of choice and price points – you’ll only pay for the features your application requires.

Larger or enterprise businesses may want to invest in or upgrade their fleet to recent models in the TC5X range, the highest-performing mobile computer range in terms of performance productivity and ease of use

But should you choose the TC53/58 or the newer TC53e / TC58e / TC53e-RFID?

As discussed above, much of the functionality is identical, but there are particular use cases where the ‘e’ range wins out.

These include:

  • Retail or point-of-sale environments where your employees will process transactions. The Secure Element microprocessor chip in the new models acts as a secure vault and is the go-to technology for Android payment security, user authentication and digital signatures.
  • Use of wireless add-ons. If your people use wireless peripherals or add-ons, up-to-date Bluetooth 5.3 allow for better battery life, more efficient data transfer, and makes switching between devices much easier and faster.
  • Larger volume inventory management. The TC53e with short-range RFID will speed up work in indoor retail, manufacturing and warehouse environments. For example, in retail settings employees can scan a cart or basket to instantly check out items or confirm all items were paid for. In logistics and inventory tracking, items can be counted and checked quickly, and packages can be identified in transit or onto conveyors.
  • Maximum longevity. With the ‘e’ range compatible up to Android 17, it offers a lengthy lifespan.
Retail worker using a Zebra TC53e phone to scan a tin
Different use cases require different scanners. The TC5xe range offers flexible scanning options, all delivering split-second first time capture of virtually every barcode, regardless of condition.

Conversely, there are two distinct advantages to the TC53/58, depending on your use case.

  • Hot swap battery. The TC53/58 has an optional hot-swop battery option, whereas the newer TC53e/TC58e/ TC53e-RFID offer warm swap batteries. (Hot swap = device on/actively being used during battery change; warm swap = idling, no information transfer during battery change.)
  • Time of Flight sensor. Also, the TC53/58 has a Time of Flight sensor, which can conveniently measure the distance between the computer and an object, by calculating the time it takes light to depart and return to the sensor.

Hopefully, this comparison between the TC53e / TC58e / TC53e-RFID and other models from competitors and Zebra will give you a clear idea whether this new mobile computer range – or another – is right for your needs.

And finally – the sustainability factor

There’s one final feature of the new TC53e / TC58e / TC53e-RFID range that may help tip the balance in your decision-making: these are among Zebra’s most sustainable devices, with eco-friendly features including:

  • 25 per cent post-consumer recycled plastics in device construction
  • zero major environmental toxins, such as mercury and PFO/PFOAs
  • reduced power consumption and green battery technology – the batteries are removable and recyclable
  • 98 per cent biodegradable packaging

Nuffield Technologies stocks a wide range of Zebra products. We can help you choose the right rugged mobiles to suit your business environment and offer preferential rates on Zebra hardware. Also, we can design bespoke software and apps tailored to your unique needs. Contact us to find out how we can help.

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