How To Choose Between A Fixed Or Handheld RFID Reader

How To Choose Between A Fixed Or Handheld RFID Reader

How To Choose Between A Fixed Or Handheld RFID Reader

The first step to adopting RFID for retail or any other use case is to choose the right devices for the business’s needs. This is because these devices, primarily RFID tags and readers, are the cornerstone that makes the desired RFID system work as intended. And while the RFID tags usually take precedence in this conversation, it is important to also pay attention to the readers that make it possible to capture the item data embedded in the tags.

Below, we take a brief overview of the two main types of RFID readers, their benefits, and the best use cases for each.

Fixed vs Handheld RFID Readers

Fixed RFID readers are devices that get permanently installed in retail stores, warehouses, and manufacturing facilities. These readers are designed to read the data on the tagged resources as they are placed within the reader’s extensive range or pass by it, like in a conveyor belt or a gate terminal. Due to their static nature, fixed readers are ideal for managing assets, monitoring production lines, and tracking inventory.

On the other hand, handheld readers are portable devices ideal for scanning RFID tags that are constantly on the move, such as in a shipping and logistics facility. However, this portability comes at the cost of a shorter read range, typically requiring operators to be closer to the item to be scanned. Nonetheless, its greater mobility and flexibility are more than enough to make up for this shortcoming.

Advantages of Fixed RFID readers

1. Long read range

The static nature of these RFID readers means their bigger profile allows for more powerful components capable of longer read ranges and monitoring a larger area at a time than their smaller, handheld counterparts.

2. Automated asset management and real-time monitoring

Fixed RFID readers help organisations achieve real-time visibility into their inventory levels, allowing for more accurate tracking of assets and better decision-making regarding inventory management. Moreover, with always-on monitoring capabilities, these readers can collect data on a continuous basis and facilitate the automation of many processes.

3. Better efficiency

Fixed readers are ideal for environments that require accurate, efficient, and high-speed data collection. Thus, they are a perfect addition to an automated system that collects data from RFID tags with little to no human intervention.

4. Scalability

Fixed readers allow for easy integration into a facility’s existing systems depending on its needs, making them a cost-effective and flexible solution for businesses of all sizes.

5. Lower labour costs

Apart from increased efficiency and accuracy, fixed readers can shave off unnecessary costs and boost operational efficiency by eliminating the error-prone and labour-intensive way of manual data entry and inventory management. This enables employees to focus on value-added tasks that ultimately benefit the organisation.

Best use cases for fixed RFID readers

As explained above, fixed RFID readers shine when RFID processes, both reading and writing, take place in the same area. Apart from that, it is also best to choose fixed readers for processes without space limitations, and a fixed reader is more likely to achieve more accurate reads than handhelds.

Overall, fixed RFID readers are the optimal choice for applications such as, but not limited to:

  • Point-of-Sale / Point-of-Exit in retail settings

Improve billing accuracy and inventory management by eliminating the common occurrence of employees fumbling over barcodes and tags.

A fixed RFID reader can cover large expanses of the facility and provide accurate, consistent, and real-time inventory visibility.

Advantages of handheld RFID readers

1. Easy to use and flexible

Handheld readers are intuitive and easy to use, making data collection and transfer easier without any RFID middleware often required by fixed readers. Also, handhelds offer more flexibility since they can be used in many different settings, from retail stores and warehouses to hospitals and more.

2. Portable

Using a portable handheld RFID reader is ideal when working in limited spaces or users need to read tags in the field and on the go. 

3. Cost-effectiveness

Investing in fixed readers may be too expensive for certain applications while only offering minimal ROI. Handheld RFID readers are thus a more cost-effective choice for such cases.

4. Quick deployment

Unlike their fixed counterparts which often require mounting and cabling, handheld RFID readers have little to no installation requirements besides simply turning on the device to begin reading RFID tags.

Best use cases for handheld RFID readers

Handheld RFID readers are best suited for applications where employees need to move around the facility or shop floor, and/or the tagged items could be anywhere in a given area. Some examples include:

  • Asset tracking

Handheld readers can detect tags up to 50 feet (15 metres) without needing a direct line of sight, allowing users to easily find the exact item they need.

  • Inventory and cycle count

Handheld RFID readers can quickly scan and track inventory in various environments so that users can read tagged items and update inventory levels in real-time.

  • Item auditing

In the healthcare industry, handheld RFID readers allow hospices to quickly audit the medical items used by staff on the go to better track the business’s resource consumption.


Organisations have many considerations to make when implementing an RFID system, and choosing the right RFID reader is among the most important of all. By knowing their pros and cons, one can make an informed decision on which type is the best choice or if using both in a hybrid deployment is the way to go. That said, each application will be unique, with several considerations to look over, which means it is best to engage a reputable RFID company to assist in selecting the type of reader best suited for the job.