Motorola MC3090-Z, MC9090-G, and Convergence CS101 Handheld RFID Readers Compared


MC3090-Z, MC9090-G, CS101 side-by-side


MC3090Z, MC9090G, CSL CS101 Sides

Feature comparison:

  Convergence CS101 Motorola MC3090-Z Motorola MC9090-G
Screen QVGA 320x240 320x320 QVGA 240x320
Keyboard QWERTY Sequential Sequential
Operating System Windows CE 5.0 Windows Mobile 6.1 Windows CE 5.0 / Mobile 5.0 /
Mobile 6.1
CPU Samsung 400 MHz Intel XScale PXA270 @ 520 MHz Intel XScale PXA270 @ 624 MHz


Convergence Systems CS101


Convergence markets this as a handheld with the power of a fixed reader. Convergence provides the choice of horizontally, vertically, or circularly polarized antennas.


It's a hefty reader, but it feels well balanced in the hand, and not head heavy as its shape might indicate. In use, it has been fast, powerful and reliable. Subjectively, it feels like the speediest of the 3 readers even though its CPU runs with the slowest clock speed. This was borne out with a large, multi-worksheet, 1000 row Excel file that was opened with StockCheck on each of the readers - the CS101 completed it in 18 seconds vs 26 secs for the MC9090, and 32 seconds on the MC3090.


The aspect ratio of the screen works well for viewing data on spreadsheets. Win CE is easy to transition to from a desktop environment - for the most part, mouse clicks are replaced with taps. The QWERTY keyboard and the largish keys are also convenient if your application calls for a good amount of typing.


The reader also has a built-in SD card slot and a mini USB connector, both of which the Motorolas don't.


The reader comes complete with a universal charger and 2 x 1400 mAh batteries.


A GPS and cellular modem module (CS501) is available as an add-on.



Motorola MC3090-Z


The most striking thing when we first held this reader was how small and light it is. In operation, it's capable of long range reads - read range is as good as the CS101, and the circular antenna indeed removes orientation sensitivity. The screen is also nice and large at 320x320.


Another thing that's noticeable is that the antenna picks up tags well in all directions, and much more so than with the CS101 and the MC9090. We would say it's a good bet that a 360 degree radiation/read plot will be much more circular around the reader compared to the other two readers. This lack of beaming / selectivity may be good or bad depending on your application.


The reader seemed to be quite power hungry and runtime was relatively short even with the high capacity 4400 mAh batteries. Motorola likely ramped up power output to compensate for the circular antenna.



Motorola MC9090-G


The MC9090-G readers come with a horizontally polarized antenna. The models include:


The vertical aspect of the screen doesn't lend itself well to viewing multi-column grid data, but Windows lets you rotate orientation.



Windows CE vs Mobile


Subjectively, we would take Windows CE over Windows Mobile. For something purpose-built like a handheld RFID reader, it seems to us that there is not much utility in having programs like Contact Manager, Calendar and Email programs present.


Also with Win Mobile, apps can be started and/or brought to the foreground with a single click. For us, it took some getting used to. For instance, the screen/battery saver might kick in with the screen blacking out. We'd want to see what was on screen and we'd give the screen a single tap, but instead of seeing what was there from before, that single tap is a pot shot that can start or bring some other program to the foreground.