The Zebra TC8000 is a different breed of device. Whilst many manufacturers apply adjectives such as ‘ground breaking’ or ‘revolutionary’ to their latest product launch – truth is something really new and exciting only comes along once in a blue moon. The rest generally reflects marginal incremental improvements as manufacturers try to gain a bit of competitive edge.
And lets face it – in the hugely competitive world of rugged handheld scanners – what is there left to deliver that could possibly qualify as revolutionary? Seen it, done it… blah blah.
You’re in the hot seat…
What would you ask a manufacturer to build into their product? You can get hand held terminals with every add on already, whether its GPS, NFC or RFID, the latest version of Bluetooth, or a bigger better battery/digitiser/scan engine/4G etc. I suppose the last major shift came from the adoption of Android for the enterprise mobility market where Zebra stole a march on its main competition – but that is now old hat, even if some brands are still playing ‘catch up’. So what is there left to grab the attention of an end user customer and make them look at their Capex budgets again?
If Chupa Chup’s did barcode scanners…
Zebra’s answer was to look with a fresh eye at the device form factor. We have all assumed for many years that you have a choice between a brick, a gun (aka ‘brick on a stick’) or a wrist terminal, with rugged tablets and smart phone lookalikes filling in around the edges. Well here we go! We now have the lollypop / the Zebra TC8000. Zebra have a more sympathetic name for it – but I am calling it a lollypop. Batteries encased in the grip and the screen and guts of the device sticking up in front of the user just like … a lollypop!
Why? Because they claim it is ergonomically 14% more efficient to use than any other form factor, with reduced wrist and eye movement compared to traditional designs since you don’t have to turn the face of the device away from you to scan a barcode and then turn it back to see the screen. Quicker, more efficient, less chance of RSI.
Well I am quite a conventional sort of chap, as well as being inherently sceptical about any claims of a ‘wonder solution’ so my initial impression was… cautious. What would it be like to use? How balanced does it feel in hand? Surely isn’t all that screen and stuff sticking up in the air was going to make it top heavy and cumbersome? You may have guessed that I do not spend all day scanning goods in a logistics environment but those nice people from Zebra let me have a play with one of their shiny new toys and … it’s pretty cool. I was pleased to see the balance was good and it didn’t seem top heavy at all. I mean it’s not a lightweight device but at 490 g for the standard variant but it’s quite a bit lighter than most of the gun grip competition. And the most of the weight is in the batteries which are situated in the handle – so it does not feel cumbersome or top heavy at all. Of course, 5 minutes waving it around the office is not the same as an 8 hour shift in the warehouse – so if you have real user experience please let me know what you think.
Although Zebra can’t help with my clumsiness…
So it’s not as ungainly as it might at first appear – but is it rugged enough? I am an incredibly clumsy person and if I am holding something in my hand I am going to give it a knock sooner or later. And the more it sticks out, the more likely I am to smack it against something (or, occasionally, someone – whoops – sorry!). Well Zebra cannot help me to be less clumsy but they have engineered a lot of robustness into the Zebra TC8000 – 2.4 m standard drop spec, 2000 x 1m tumble tests and IP65. Oh won’t we have fun smacking this against a desk just to prove a point to a customer? (And no, I have never yet done that too hard and broken a device in front of a customer). So tough enough to hammer nails if you really want to risk it.
Actually I am beginning to really like this lollypop! It’s got lots of toys – hands free scanning mode with proximity sensor, triple shift battery power (6700 mAh – hot swappable) and battery management indicators, single and multi scan options (Simulscan), Kitkat Android, and excellent imager engine (SE4750) which we have seen in other recent Zebra devices, or for 1D, the equally impressive SE965.
I could go on about the toys – but I think you’ve got the message. The Zebra TC8000 is a premium product, priced accordingly and very well spec’d. In that respect – ‘tiz a beast – but in a good way. Is it a beauty? Hmm, you know, I think I am getting there. I think I could really get to like it.
A beauty … and a Beast, then!