We are often get asked for recommendations on mobile devices. If a client is looking at Intermec mobile devices, we get asked to help them choose between CS40, CN50, CN4 and the 70 series (CN70, CK70 etc.). We have customers using all models.
This article will help explain what what you should consider when choosing and will highlight real-life customer examples for field data capture and proof of delivery applications.
Intermec CS40, CN50, CN4, CN70
Before we start, it is important to understand what features you need today as well as in the future. With rugged devices, once you purchase the device, you cannot go back and add hardware options like a camera, GPS or Bluetooth. The devices we will discuss are:
- CS40 – smallest form factor, targeted at a size closer to a BlackBerry with a true integrated barcode scanner (not a camera scanner like the ES400, iPhone or Android devices). Small enough to comfortably use as a cell phone and slip into your pocket.
- CN50 – smaller form factor with solid ruggedness characteristics. Small enough to slip into your pocket but almost too large to use as a salesperson’s full time cell phone, although it would be fine for a technician to use given they usually have less talk time.
- CN4 – fully rugged device that replaced the CN3. The key upgrade from a CN3 is the addition of a camera. All CN3 accessories work with the CN4. Larger and heavier, designed to work in field conditions – rain, snow, mud, multiple drops to concrete, etc. The WiFi radio is designed to work in a warehouse or other environment where you may switch between access points (AP’s).
- CN70 – eventual replacement for the CN4. This is the most rugged, featuring an IP67 rating – you can submerse it in water and it will still work. This has the fastest CPU. Like the CN4, you can use it as a cell phone but it will likely not be a comfortable choice for extended phone calls.
Questions and Criteria
You can start to narrow the hardware choice by asking the following questions.
How rugged a device do you need?
- If you’re making deliveries or have substantial outside or field data collection, you need to get a device with an IP rating designed for your environment. For instance, in fleet fueling you deliver fuel in the rain, snow, sleet or hail. The CN50, CN4 or CN70 would meet your needs. The CN70 is the most rugged. Our customers have had good success with the CN4 and CN50 in terms of rugged field use – surviving drops, rain and snow.
- The CS40 is better suited for more indoor types of use, such as a sales rep that needs to scan items to place an order. It will sustain drops to concrete and is more rugged than a consumer cell phone, but is not designed to be used in the elements.
Do you need cellular data? If so, what cellular carrier do you use and do you know what the data coverage is like in your territories?
- The reason for this is simple – some territories like the North East are completely owned by a carrier (Verizon). If you want T-Mobile or AT&T coverage, you need to check coverage or consider changing carriers.
- All of these devices support AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile; however, they will not get 3G speeds on the T-Mobile networks since T-Mobile’s 3G is a different frequency.
- While the cellular speeds on the CN4 are less than the other devices, it is still very fast and unlikely you would notice the difference unless you had large downloads or uploads. An of larger data would be taking 3MP pictures to upload. If this was a common occurrence, you may notice it but for most applications like Proof of Delivery, you would not notice a difference.
Do you need to take pictures? If so, do they need to be high quality?
- If you need to take better quality pictures, you’ll want an autofocus camera (CN50 or CN70). The CS40 and CN4 have good quality color cameras but are fixed focus.
- For example, if you need to take a picture of a utility meter with the current meter reading (when replacing), any camera would be fine. However, If you need to take a picture of a utility pole where the distance is great, you would be better off with an autofocus camera like the CN50 or CN70.
- The CN70 has the highest quality (5MP) camera and provides autofocus. The CN50 is 3.1MP with autofocus. The CS40 and and CN4 are comparable but fixed focus. For basic pictures, the CS40 and CN4 should suffice for things like taking a picture of an asset you installed or delivered.
- For a comparison, most newer but inexpensive cell phones have 2MP fixed focus cameras. The iPhone 4 has a 5MP autofocus camera.
Do you need GPS?
- GPS is built in to all of these Intermec devices. Accuracy is 3-10 meters. If you need sub-meter accuracy, you would need an external GPS device such as those from Trimble. Their cost can be greater than $2000/ea but obviously are needed when you do things like buried meter installations.
- All devices support Assisted GPS (AGPS), which helps by triangulating with cellular towers. It can speed up your GPS first time to fix and more importantly help with location when inside buildings.
Do you need barcode scanning?
- All of these devices have barcode scanning. The only decision is whether you need 1D/2D or long-range.
- 2D scanners can be helpful if you have barcodes that may get dirty or damaged. Examples of this include plant nurseries where 2D barcodes may be easier to read due to dirt on the barcode.
- Long range scanners can scan barcodes up to 40’ away. Long range scanners are only available on the MC909x platform. Examples of long range scanning would be scanning the barcode at the top of a warehouse rack from a forklift.
- The CN70 has the newest, most advanced scan engine. Under most circumstances you may not notice a difference scanning between these devices, but if you have a very scan intensive application, you should consider the CN70.
Will screen size impact your application?
- The CS40 has a 2.8” screen versus all others with 3.5”. While this does not seem like a lot, if your application requires a lot of screen interaction or signature capture, you would notice and appreciate the larger screen.
- Other than the CN70, all devices have a 240×320 resolution. The CN70 has a VGA 480×640 resolution. This means for things like photos, you would notice the better screen. For standard field data collection, you may not notice the difference.
- The CN70 uses Gorilla Glass for the screen, so it is the most durable.
So which device is right for you?
The following highlight examples of BizSpeed customers using each type of device.
CS40 – customer order entry. A distribution customer places devices at their customers’ locations to let their customers scan item UPC’s and place orders. Their primary interest was getting the lowest cost device with a solid scan engine. They considered both the CN50 and the CS40 and selected the CS40. They use a dialup modem and did not need cellular, camera, GPS or WiFi.
CN50 – Pharmaceutical HazMat pickup. A Hazmat customer places devices at their customers’ locations (pharmacies, hospitals, nursing homes) so customers can scan items into bins to be picked up, tracked and disposed of according to EPA and FDA regulations. The items, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, usually have UPC or similar barcodes. They considered CS40’s and CN50’s. The CN50 was selected due to the larger screen size and larger keyboard than the CS40.
CN4 –Fleet fueling and bulk product delivery. This customer provides fleet fueling to customers like Coca-Cola, Staples, 84 Lumber, Waste Management, etc. Their customer’s trucks are parked in their yards overnight. They use our goRoam.FuelSales module to scan each truck they are fueling, confirm the correct product (on-road vs off-road diesel for example) and then pump fuel into their customer’s vehicle. The handheld wirelessly reads the fuel pump meter to record the quantity per vehicle. They deliver in rain, snow, cold and hot temperatures. They considered the CN50 and the CN4. They selected the CN4 due to it’s better IP/ruggedness rating, bigger backlit keyboard, more powerful wifi radio (for communications with the truck meter) and better truck mounted vehicle cradle. At the time, the CN70 was not available.
If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact us regarding rugged mobile hardware selection. To learn more about BizSpeed and goRoam Proof of Delivery Software click or call 866-270-0541 (toll-free).