Pen Mobile Solutions Managing Director – Les Morley – Takes a forensic look at Zebras new MC33 Mobile Computers
Do you remember the day the first Ford Transit was launched? Ugly and functional, but it redefined the transit van market and set the bench mark for the future. Many iterations later, it’s bigger, smoother, more powerful, more comfortable … still ugly and functional in my opinion … but they do say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Consider the MC33 – the latest iteration of the venerable MC3xxx series of hand held enterprise mobile computers from Zebra. Just in case you are not so familiar with the Zebra brand, this is a product family originally branded Symbol, then Symbol Motorola, then Motorola, and now taken over by Zebra. The product seems to have lasted longer than some of the company owners!
Like the Ford transit, the latest MC33 is not revolutionary, more an evolution based on a very solid and successful legacy. It carries on doing everything you expect it to do, but better and faster. However the MC32 range will continue alongside the MC33 – which suggests this is not a simple model upgrade. First thought – why, and how are these devices differentiated?
There is no doubt the MC33 is ‘up spec’ed’ on its predecessor. We’ll go through some of the key improvements below. But the real rationale for the coexistence of the MC33 alongside the MC32 seems to be around the Operating System. The MC33 ships with Android Nougat (Android 7.0), and is designed to support the next flavour of Android in due course. It also comes backed by LifeGuard, which is Zebra’s guarantee of 10 years of support for their current Android version from the date of product launch (requires active service contract). By comparison the MC32 will ship with a choice of Windows CE7 or Android 4.1, although the Jellybean version of the MC32 will sunset at the end of 2018 – Leaving just CE7 versions available. Given that Microsoft will drop CE7 in a couple of years or so, that may also be the point at which the MC32 is retired – but that is purely my speculation, no leaks from the cabinet office to back that up!
Zebra have invested significantly and quickly in developing a range of Android enterprise devices, and have a market lead over their main competitors. They are typically delivering more screen estate to allow the benefits of an Android graphic interface to be optimised – so the screen on the MC33 is 4” capacitive, with Gorilla glass, compared to typically 3.5” for its rivals. They are also focusing a lot on their TE (terminal emulation) software to ensure that migration is not problematic for customers with this architecture as well as the range of software enabling packages already seen with the TC range.
What else? Well a full range of options of Zebra’s excellent scan and digitiser engines. Usual variants of form factor – brick and gun – plus a new 45 degree option. It’s generally a bit lighter than the competitor Honeywell devices, about the same as the Datalogic Skorpio X4. Drop spec is again better than Honeywell at IP54 and 5’ drop. Again only the slightly tougher Datalogics rate IP64 and 6’ drop. Most notably the processor and memory options look to have pushed the boat out. 1.8Ghz hexa-core 64 bit processor looks to outperform its competition by quite a way, and the memory options go all the way up to 4Gb/32Gb for the premium plus variant. That compares to some of its competitors which only deliver 256Mb /1Gb. In addition to this the MC33 is backwards compatible with the MC32 charges and accessories which altogether should ensure that the MC33 remains a serious contender for any industrial, logistics or warehouse environment where a solid future proofed Android device is required.