How to Select an RFID Handheld


There are many choices on the market and the more choices the harder it is to pick out the right device for your application and budget.

If you can’t bring the asset to the reader like with a conveyor or a door portal processing, you have to bring the reader to the asset. A Handheld rfid reader is typically used for exception processing, asset tracking when the asset is fixed, remote data collection, and in small-scale installations. There are four main types of handheld rfid reader:

Handheld Computers with RFID Capability

 These devices have an onboard computer usually with Windows OS, display, keyboard and of course RFID antenna and reader. These devices are usually the most expensive, however, they pack the most functionality and usually can be custom configured with options based on your needs. For instance, you can add a 1D barcode scanner or 2D Imager, camera, Bluetooth communication, more memory, and other options

Sled handheld rfid reader

sleds are becoming increasingly popular because instead of having a built-in computer onboard, they utilize a smartphone. They only house the RFID reader, antenna, handle with a trigger, and connection to the smartphone. The smartphone runs an app and communicates with the sled reader and with the network over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Because of using smartphone, Android, iOS, or Windows apps can be easily utilized. Sleds can also have variations including barcode scanning. This option is also more cost effective

Bluetooth Handhelds

The third type (not really an official category) is small readers that are in form of a keyfob or strap on your hand or belt. They usually don’t have a display or maybe a very small LCD one, include RFID reader and antenna and communicate with your smartphone over Bluetooth. These readers are perfect where space is an issue and users need small and light devices. Such handhelds are usually the most cost-effective, however, due to their small size, they usually have quite a short read range and shorter battery life

RFID Handheld Snap-Ons

this is a category of add-on modules that can be plugged into existing non-RFID handheld computers. These are often HF and LF frequency, but there are some UHF as well. This is a good option if you already have handheld computers on-site that you use and you can enable them with RFID for a relatively low cost instead of replacing them


When ordering a handheld rfid reader, review items that are included in the package, which differ by manufacturer and sometimes by the part number. For instance, sled readers do not automatically come with the holder for a smartphone as those are phone specific and must be ordered separately. No readers usually come with a cradle, although most will come with at least an USB or minimal charging cable and one battery.