Zebra TC52 and TC57: A Comparison of Powerful Mobile Devices

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    Zebra's top selling device for a reason

    zebra device

    MANUFACTURER: Zebra Technologies
    MODEL: TC52/TC57
    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android Oreo (upgradable to R)

    Zebra Technologies released the Android TC52/TC57 handheld touch computers in late 2018 as a follow up to the widely popular TC51 and TC56 models. Since then, the TC52 and TC57 has seen rapid adoption across the retail, manufacturing, and transportation & logistics industries.

    With over one million units sold in the past year, there’s a reason the TC52 and TC57 are Zebra’s top-selling Android devices. Both are powerful, rugged devices with large display screens that are equipped with the desired features for developers and end-users. The difference in models that the TC57 has Cellular and Wi-Fi capabilities, whereas the TC52  is Wi-Fi only. 

    Since BlueFletch is continuously evaluating and recommending hardware for our clients, we decided to conduct an in-depth device review of Zebra’s TC52/TC57 touch computers.

    Comparing the TC52/TC57 to Other Leading Devices

    The TC52 and TC57 compete in a crowded market of rugged enterprise mobile devices. How does it stack up against other popular options like the Honeywell CT40 and Datalogic Memor 10?

    The Honeywell CT40 is another solid rugged device with a slim, lightweight design. It runs Android and also offers disinfectant-ready housing for healthcare use. However, it has a smaller 4.3” display vs the 5” screen on the TC52/TC57. Its scanning capabilities don’t match Zebra’s intelligent scanning software and algorithms. The CT40 has a shorter battery life at 10 hours max vs 14 hours on the TC52/TC57.

    Datalogic’s Memor 10 runs Windows Embedded Compact as its operating system rather than Android. This provides a more traditional enterprise device experience that some IT teams may prefer. It also touts disinfection-ready housing and healthcare-specific features like a UV light to assist with disinfecting. However, its processor is slower than the TC52/TC57 and it lacks some of the advanced data capture capabilities.

    While no device is perfect for every scenario, the TC52/TC57 offers a compelling blend of rugged design, enterprise-grade features like over-the-air updating, and future-proof support for Android deployments. Its advanced barcode scanning and data capture features make it stand out for field mobility use cases. The large touchscreen provides ample real estate for intuitive apps. Ultimately the choice comes down to OS preference and scanning/data capture needs.

    TC52 vs TC57: Key Differences

    The main difference between the TC52 and TC57 comes down to connectivity. The TC52 only supports WiFi (dual-band 802.11ac) while the TC57 offers cellular connectivity on top of WiFi. This allows the TC57 to enable mobility outside of WiFi coverage areas.

    Some key factors when considering cellular:

    • Cellular provides mobility for field workers who need access in remote outdoor areas where WiFi is not available. This includes territory sales reps, drivers, inspectors, and home healthcare providers.
    • It can provide backup connectivity across large facilities in case of spotty WiFi. Workers can roam without losing access.
    • For companies managing fleets of devices across states or regions, cellular enables connectivity without geographical limits.
    • It ensures uninterrupted data and communications during emergencies or inclement weather when WiFi may go down. Critical for public safety and emergency response.

    However cellular does come with higher hardware costs for the devices as well as additional monthly cellular plan fees per device. This can add up significantly for large fleets. The WiFi-only TC52 may make more sense in stationary indoor environments like retail stores, warehouses, and hospitals where WiFi is readily available. Companies then avoid the cellular subscription costs.

    Zebra mobile computer comparison

    Healthcare Use Cases and Best Practices

    Rugged, disinfectant-ready devices like the TC52/TC57 are ideal for healthcare environments where cleanliness is paramount. Both models offer durable IP65 sealing and can withstand regular disinfection wiping and cleaning.

    Some examples of TC52/TC57 use cases in healthcare:

    • Nurses use them to scan patient wristbands and medication labels for positive patient identification. Real-time alerts improve patient safety.
    • Inventory management teams use them to scan item barcodes during floor walks and inventory audits. Ensures accurate tracking.
    • Dietary staff scan patient trays before meal delivery to verify food safety and accommodate special diets.
    • Pathology labs use them to track test tubes and specimens to chain of custody. Helps minimize errors.
    • Security teams use them to scan badges and validate credentials at secure access points. Adds visibility.

    Best practices for healthcare deployments:

    • Establish clear cleaning procedures and schedule. Disinfect devices frequently with approved wipes.
    • Utilize healthcare-specific accessories like antimicrobial cases to limit germ spread.
    • Enable FIPS 140-2 certified encryption and enterprise mobility management to secure patient data.
    • Limit access to device settings and features to prevent misuse per hospital IT policies.
    • Label devices for use in specific departments only to control infection spread.
    • Leverage GPS on cellular-enabled TC57s to track device location if lost or stolen.

    Field Service and Inspection Use Cases

    For field technicians, inspectors, and service providers, having instant access to manuals, schematics, safety procedures and part information can dramatically improve efficiency and safety. The TC52/TC57 enables this with robust barcode scanning and data access:

    • Service technicians can scan product barcodes onsite to instantly pull up digital repair manuals and schematics. Reduces service time.
    • Safety inspectors scan safety equipment barcodes during audits to pull up compliance and testing documentation.
    • Devices preloaded with part catalogs allow quick price and inventory checks by scanning item barcodes.
    • Insurance field adjusters photograph claim evidence on the spot and directly upload via cellular. Accelerates claims.
    • Devices paired with Bluetooth printers allow field workers to print reports, invoices or violations onsite.

    Rugged design ensures the TC52/TC57 can survive drops on the worksite while touchscreen simplicity allows field workers to operate it with thick gloves on. Supervisors also benefit from location tracking and usage metrics provided by cellular connectivity.

    How easy is it to manage?

    The device comes pre-installed with Android Oreo in the GMS variant and includes the Google Mobile Services required to support Android Enterprise deployments. The device will also be able to support Android R in future releases, so be on the lookout for those updates.

    How easy is it to secure?

    With all Zebra Android devices, the EMDK comes pre-installed so developers can customize the device to your security team’s requirements (i.e. lockdown or block user access to device settings using the BlueFletch Launcher). We’ve found the Zebra EMDK to be the best-in-class for development support and provides wide-ranging options to customize Android security. 

    How easy is it to stage?

    We found it incredibly simple to stage the TC52/TC57 device using Zebra’s own pre-installed StageNow tooling. In addition, Zebra has released a OEM config application in the Google Play Store to deploy via your EMM (such as Workspace ONE, SOTI MobiControl, or the BlueFletch Playbook) to give you the same configuration options made available StageNow’s Window Configurator. 

    You can also leverage the hashtag, QR, or Zero Touch Enrollment (ZTE) from Android Enterprise since it’s running Oreo. We’ve had a ton of experience configuring and managing through EMMs, and have had very few issues with these devices.

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    Developer Support & API Availability

    The TC52/TC57 devices has some of the best support and developer kits in the industry, which is why it’s a top choice for our developers. Zebra’s EMDK provides all the features we need to securely lockdown a device with the BlueFletch Enterprise Launcher. 

    Scanning Performance

    As with all Zebra handheld devices, the TC52/TC57 includes the DataWedge scanning engine for customizing scanning performance and utility. 

    We tested the TC52/TC57 scanner in our labs and found that it can comfortably scan a 1×1 inch QR code from 18-inches away. While this isn’t as long-range as some of the other devices you can find in Warehousing, it’s plenty sufficient for common tasks like looking up an item. 

    Battery Life

    Zebra claims the battery life of the TC52 and TC57 can last up to 14 hours with a single charge, which is longer than the TC51 and TC56. The battery can also be swapped out without ending a session or turning off the device. 

    Cellular Performance

    The only difference between Zebra’s TC52/TC57 devices is that the TC52 is Wi-Fi only whereas the TC57 also has cellular capabilities (4G LTE). Note that for true GPS, the TC57 is required. 

    Look & Feel

    The TC52/TC57 didn’t get as much as facelift as we would have liked to see from the TC51/TC56 series upgrade, and we feel it’s a little reminiscent of the older, consumer-grade Android devices. 

    We do like the large 5 in. display and slim profile – it can comfortably fit in your pocket. We also like that when you are looking at the device from the front, you can easily see and locate the scanning callouts on the side of the device.  You can find the full specs here

    Accessory Ecosystem

    There are plenty of accessories that are available for the Zebra TC52 and TC57, such as a rugged case to improve its durability, a trigger for rapid scanning jobs, and an RFID attachment to increase the functionality of RFID scanning in the field. 

    BlueFletch Enterprise Mobility Suite Score

    The BlueFletch team installed the TC52/TC57 with our Enterprise Mobility Suite software to see how the device performs, supports, and scales in the enterprise. 

    We gave the Zebra TC52/TC57 series an “EMS Support Score” of 4.8/5 based on the following categories: technology, performance, development, supportability, and look & feel. 

    Here at BlueFletch, we understand how critical it is for software and hardware to work in tandem.

    We want to ensure the software we build can function properly on the Android device it’s deployed to. 

    Although BlueFletch doesn’t sell hardware, we continuously evaluate devices so that we can make the best recommendation for our customers. 

    Be on the lookout for our next device review – we’ll be evaluating Datalogic’s Memor 20.