Warehouse Tablets: Key Reasons to Make the Switch from Handheld Devices 

Discover the many advantages of switching from traditional handheld devices to rugged warehouse tablets, including increased screen size, versatility, ruggedness, affordability, and ease of use for modern warehouse workflows. 

Zebra rugged tablets from SK&T being used in the warehouse.

In warehouses, industrial handheld computers have long been the primary choice for mobile inventory management, barcode scanning, and fulfillment. But many warehouses are now switching to rugged enterprise-grade tablets to digitize and mobilize their workflows. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at why rugged warehouse tablets have become so popular in recent years, the key advantages that are driving this shift, and a few of the best solutions to consider, if your warehouse is thinking about making the same move. 

Key Advantages of Tablets vs. Industrial Handhelds in Warehouses 

Traditional industrial handheld mobile computers are still an industry standard for mobile computing and barcode scanning in many warehouses. Handhelds still have their place, and, if you prefer a gun-style form factor for scanning, or you need a device with a built-in physical keypad, they still might be an ideal choice. 

However, rugged enterprise tablets offer several key advantages over handheld mobile computers, so there are good reasons why you might switch to these devices for your workflows. 

1. Larger Screen Size

When you use a tablet in your warehouse, you get a minimum of 10 to 12 inches of screen size, which is an immediate game-changer for how much data and information you can fit on the screen, how easily you can read fonts and text, and how many steps and screens you need to complete warehouse tasks.  

On an industrial handheld, even the biggest displays are only around 4.3 inches, so you have much less space to work with. That means your mobile apps have to render less information on each screen, and you typically have to scroll or make more taps, press more function keys, and get through more steps with every task.   

In contrast, a warehouse tablet gives you 230% to 280% more screen real estate, and that allows your apps to render more data and information on every screen, with fewer total screens, taps, or function keys to get through each workflow.   

Additionally, since you can use tablets to view dashboards and reports on your inventory and operations, they’re a great tool for warehouse managers or anyone who can benefit from seeing bigger-picture data, information and visuals at a glance. Those kinds of views typically aren’t possible or aren’t as easy to achieve or read on a much smaller screen.  

2. More Versatility

Another great benefit of warehouse tablets is that they’re a lot more versatile than traditional industrial handheld mobile computers. Like handhelds, they have built-in barcode scanning and are typically equipped with a high-powered, enterprise-grade scanner, so you can use them in warehouses for picking, scanning, inventory management, receiving, packing, and shipping. 

You can also use tablets as forklift-mounted mobile computers and even use them in freezer environments, especially if you use a device such as Zebra’s ET60/ET65 tablets, which is one of the most versatile tablets on the market. It’s a 10.8-inch Android tablet that’s easy to dock and undock with Zebra’s patent-pending vehicle dock for mounting on a forklift or material-handling vehicle. It also features a heated touch panel and warehouse keyboard, so it can be used in freezers and other condensing environments while keeping your screen easy to read and the device free of ice. 

Zebra ET6X Series Tablet Mounted on a Forklift in a Cold Storage Warehouse Environment.

But many warehouses also use their tablets as laptop and desktop computer replacements, especially since the latest tablets offer Intel Core i5 or i7 or Qualcomm octa-core processors, Windows or Android operating systems up to 16 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and up to 512GB of internal storage space. So, they have the power, speed and performance of a quality laptop or desktop, but in a relative thin, lightweight and compact form factor.   

Warehouse tablets can be docked and connected in an office as a desktop solution, complete with peripherals such as Bluetooth or wired keyboards, a mouse, a printer, or external monitor, or they can be taken virtually anywhere and used wirelessly as a laptop solution. There are also hard-handle models and solutions with attachable friction-hinge keyboards, so you can grab them on the go and use them in even the toughest environments.  

This 2-in-1 capability is something that handheld mobile computers can’t provide, and it helps reduce the total number of devices you might potentially need to purchase and maintain. It also gives your warehouse associates and managers a single platform to use for virtually all of their computing workflows. 

3. Extreme Ruggedness

Industrial handhelds and rugged enterprise-grade tablets are both extremely tough and durable devices. But a lot of people don’t typically think of tablets as rugged solutions because they’re used to using their consumer tablets at home, and those devices can be fragile. 

However, rugged enterprise-grade tablets that are built for warehouse environments are virtually as rugged as their handheld mobile computer counterparts. For example, Zebra’s ET80 and ET85 tablets are built with: 

  • Military-grade concrete drop specs 
  • IP65 sealing against water and dust 
  • Up to 95% non-condensing humidity resistance 
  • Extreme operating temperature resistance of -4° F to 140° F/-20° C to 60° C 
  • Corning® Gorilla Glass® screens for shatter and scratch resistance 

Warehouse worker using the touch-screen on the rugged Zebra ET80 tablet from SK&T.

They’re also built to withstand shock, electrostatic discharge, solar radiation, harsh cleaning and disinfecting agents, and are even available in C1D2-compliant configurations for use in hazardous locations. And Zebra offers an optional rugged boot to add further protection and extend its concrete drop spec to greater heights. 

So, you can depend on a warehouse tablet for cost-saving durability, every bit as much as you can count on a traditional rugged handheld mobile computer.

4. Affordability

Depending on the type of tablet you need and which model or features you require, warehouse tablets can be highly affordable, even though they’re packed with performance capabilities, built-in enterprise barcode scanning, and extreme durability that far surpasses everyday consumer tables. 

A good example is Zebra’s ET40 and ET45 enterprise tablets, which come in a Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and 5G wireless model. These lower-cost devices are rapidly becoming popular because you can get high-powered computing, blazingly fast connectivity, a built-in scanner, and all the core durability specs we covered above, at a cost of only around $850 to $950. 

When you consider that a consumer-grade iPad Pro can cost around this same price or even higher, the Zebra ET40/ET45 series is an absolute bargain. But the big difference is that it’s a true enterprise-grade and rugged device built for warehouse use cases and environments. 

If you need to step up to something with far greater capabilities, such as a tablet that’s as powerful as a laptop or desktop PC and built with the absolute highest rugged specs, then your baseline price will be around $3,000. But that is on par with many rugged industrial handhelds, which can often cost around $2,500 to $3,500 per device. Yet these are heavy-duty tablets with extreme durability, desktop-level computing specs, larger screens, built-in-scanning, and rugged designs that are built to deliver years of dependable performance at low total cost of ownership. 

5. Instant User Familiarity

One great thing about warehouse tablets is that they’re the same style of device that many warehouse workers are already using at home. So, if you put a tablet in their hands, they can quickly learn to perform warehouse workflows, navigate apps and tasks, scan barcodes, and work quickly and efficiently. This is a nice advantage at a time when labor is at a premium and training and onboarding new workers needs to be as fast and effective as possible. 

The instant familiarity of a tablet can make it easier to use and learn than a traditional industrial handheld, and it can make warehouse jobs more attractive and accessible to many prospective workers. 

Recommended Warehouse Tablets 

We’ve covered several of our recommended devices in this article, but here’s a quick rundown of our top-recommended options, all from Zebra Technologies, with links to our product specs and pages for more information. 

Zebra ET40/45 – The Most Affordable Rugged Warehouse Tablet 

Zebra ET40/45 warehouse tablets from SK&T Integration.

The ET40/ET45 series is our top recommendation for warehouses that would like to switch to rugged tablets but want to keep their costs low. While the ET40/ET45 platform doesn’t offer the same performance specs and isn’t as rugged as Zebra’s more premium tablet models, it’s a good balance of price, performance and durability. 

Zebra ET60/ET65 – Total Versatility in Warehouse Tablet Computing 

Zebra ET60/65 Android Warehouse Tablets from SK&T Integration.

The ET60/ET65 series is a great option if you want a single Android platform that can be used in the warehouse aisle, mounted in a forklift, or as a 2-in-1 desktop or laptop replacement. It has a bit larger screen than the ET40/ET45 at 10.8 inches, and its heated keyboard and touch panel mean you can use this device in cold storage and other condensing environments as well. 

Zebra ET80/ET95 – The Ultimate 2-in-1 Warehouse Tablet 

Zebra ET80/ET85 12-inch 2-in-1 warehouse tablets from SK&T Integration with a keyboard attachment for laptop or desktop replacement.

Zebra’s ET80/ET85 series is arguably the most powerful, rugged and versatile tablet device for warehouses, and it’s a perfect choice if you need versatility, a hard-handle case, a detachable rugged keyboard, and a larger screen with an aspect ratio to pack a lot of data and information into every view and workflow. 

It’s a 12-inch device that can be used as a handheld mobile device, a 2-in-1 laptop or desktop replacement, a vehicle-mounted computer, and much more. With Wi-Fi 6 and support for 5G/4G as well as 64-bit Windows 11 computing, 11th generation Intel Core i7 or i5 processing, and military-grade ruggedness, it’s the premium solution if you want zero compromise and total flexibility in your warehouse mobile computing. 

Want to Learn More About Warehouse Tablets? 

If you have questions or want to learn more about whether tablets are right for your warehouse and the right solutions for your operational needs, contact our warehouse mobile computing and data capture experts at SK&T. We’ll be happy to answer your questions, review your needs and requirements, offer professional recommendations, and provide all the specs, hardware and pricing for the solutions you need. To get started, call us now at 720-851-9108 or contact us, and we’d be happy to help.