A box and computer with a handheld RFID scanner

Difference Between Portable and Fixed RFID Readers

Published on : January 14, 2020

How are portable RFID readers different from fixed readers?

  1. Installation Process
  2. Reading and Scanning Range
  3. Application


While portable and fixed readers perform the same role of scanning items, each has its own set of benefits, applications, and features. If you are finding it difficult to decide which type of RFID reader to invest in, take note of the differences between the two.

One of the easiest ways to determine which type of RFID reader device to acquire is to look at how you process inventory. Align it with the features and specifications of the readers. Then, take a look at the installation process, read range, and application of each type of portable and fixed readers.

Installation Process

An RFID tag on a pair of pants

From mounting to cabling, fixed readers require physical installation compared to handheld ones that can easily be transported anywhere. Portable readers are lightweight and battery-powered, which only requires recharging after use. Determining which is better among the two depends on the usage. If you plan to scan little items on shelves, a handheld reader is more suitable and easier to use. Whereas for bulk data tag collection, a fixed reader delivers enhanced results. Especially for scanning items and boxes inside the cargo.

Reading and Scanning Range

An RFID scanner scanning a package

Antennas are also among a few of the components of a fixed reader. Typically, there are 2 to 8 antennas required to increase the scanning capacity or frequency range of a fixed reader. This is when it is combined with a multiplexor. Given all that, fixed readers have a more complicated read range enhancement process compared to portable or handheld readers. There are several factors that affect the reading range of a fixed reader, here are some of them briefly explained.

  • Antenna gains

The rules are straightforward and simple. If you need more reading ranges, use higher gain antennas. Otherwise, use lower gain antennas if your application only needs less read range. A higher gain antenna enhances the power obtained from the reader. It has the capacity for a longer reach. Simply put, the higher the gains, the higher the range of the antenna.

  • General rules of SOAP

SOAP stands for size, orientation, angle, and placement. To get the best range from any RFID tag, ensure it is fully facing the antenna. The angle and the placement of the fixed reader greatly affect its scanning capability. Especially if the tags are facing a different way.

  • Cable length

The longer the cable you use, the more energy is lost. With this, the antenna will receive insufficient power to generate a strong radio frequency field regardless of the antenna gain.


Close up of a syringe injected in a tube

Both fixed and portable RFID readers have their own unique set of benefits. With that, they also differ in the type of uses. Fixed readers are typically used for extensive data collection. They are commonly used in warehouses or distribution centers, retail, and manufacturing. Whereas portable readers work well for simple tag scanning such as for laundry management, healthcare, and uniform tracking.

For businesses that involve plenty of travel and transportation of items, having a single handheld unit presents a better option. This type of reader is suitable for picking up loads of laundry or linen items. It can also be used for tracking hospital apparatus as well as for scanning employee uniforms at the checkout or take off counters.

On the other hand, fixed readers enable operators to cover an entire building, which enhances real-time inventory visibility. It can be placed directly over the conveyor belt or near a tabletop checkout scanner.

Key Takeaway

From construction, engineering, manufacturing, retail, to logistics. Regardless of the nature of your business, RFID readers and systems enhance overall operations. It can increase productivity, revenue, and enable you to easily perform inventory management. Learning the difference between portable and fixed RFID readers allows you to obtain the most suitable option for your business.