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Collector for ArcGIS - comparison of tablets

04-18-2016 02:32 PM
New Contributor III

I want to hear about tablets (not smartphones) folks are using for field collection with Collector for ArcGIS

Area of interest is local government utilities. I realize the options are endless.

Interested in comparison between tablets; tablet Pros and Cons; internal GPS and position results; hardware toughness; love the screen?; anything else.

If you have come across some good blogs or perhaps have written up a comparison yourself, please share a link.

Google has started the ball rolling...but I am not really finding anything too helpful yet.

Thank you in advance. 

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7 Replies
Occasional Contributor III

We've tried a few Android tablets that take 4G sim cards..

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active - waterproof and fairly rugged, Collector forced in to portrait mode (so we can't use it), good size to hold in a hand.

Nexus 9 - nice specs but unreliable and not rugged (feels flimsy), Collector forced in to landscape mode, size is OK.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8" - nice specs, not rugged but feels much more solid than the Nexus, Collector forced in to landscape mode, good portable size.

.. the S2 is our current choice.

MVP Emeritus
New Contributor III

Below are some responses I have received from listservs:

Whatever tablet you choose to use, I recommend getting a Garmin GLO ($99) plus a Garmin GLO belt clip (<$5); clip the GLO to the brim of you cap, and you'll get superior positioning without having to worry about blocking your GNSS receiver. Some informal tests by one of our GNSS classes shows the GLO to have quite respectable repeatability for mapping-grade work - certainly better than most built-in receivers. Android tablets require the free "Bluetooth GPS" app as well as Collector; iOS tablets do not (Bluetooth GPS has the advantage of showing a skyplot of satellites, as well as the ability to view your position over Google Maps imagery).

As the article you linked indicates, there are options with higher accuracy, they also cost more. If you're going the tablet/Collector route, I'm guessing that money is a consideration; the GLO is a great starting point. FYI, I'm very happy using it with my Samsung Note 3 phone (the stylus is handy).



Since you want to use ArcGIS Collector, it must be an Android or iOS based tablet. That means windows based tablets such as the Surface, Surface Pro, Leica CS25 and Trimble Yuma are out. So that will leave you with iPADs or one of the many Android powered models.

If spatial accuracy is not a big concern, we have had luck with the Samsung Galaxy line of android tablets. They perform well and are relatively cheap. They have sufficient memory to allow for disconnected editing. You can often connect an extern GNSS/GPS antenna to it for improved accuracy when needed. The biggest drawback is the lack of ruggedness even with an otter box or similar and the screens are not great in direct sunlight.

Leica has recently released a new handheld GNSS which is android powered and will run ArcCollector, Zeno 20. It allows you to achieve high level of accuracy and is rugged. It works well even in direct sun. The main drawback we have experienced from this unit is the screen size. It is a little small but still bigger than a smart phone. 

Tripp Corbin

         1)  ...Brian Best)

         2)  ...a Windows version of Collector is now available, so that opens up other tablet options. 
                Personally I have not tried the Windows version yet, but have had great success with Collector on both

               Android and iOS.  I would recommend both Bad Elf Surveyor or SXBlue external GPS devices to gain better

               accuracy in the field (without you're looking at 20-30ft+ accuracy).  Screen glare with sunlight is a common

               complaint from users on both devices.  (Jodi Flory)


Personally I am a loyal apple user, and would recommend the iPad mini as a great economically priced tablet for a data collection project. That said, I too would also highly recommend the use of an external GNSS receiver no matter what the tablet choice. We have seen great success with both ArcGIS Collector and our TerraFlex™ application combined with our new Trimble® R1. This receiver provides exceptional mapping grade accuracy via Bluetooth down to as little as 50cm.

Also, for even greater accuracy we now have the even newer Trimble R2 receiver leveraging down to true centimeter accuracy with a range of realtime correction options.

Both these receivers and applications are multi platform compatible including ; iOS, Android, and Windows. If you have any questions and/or for more information please feel free to contact me per the below.

Chad Hicks


I work in the Environmental division at the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and we are just now starting to utilize Collector.  We have our Beautification section in the Right of Way division about to start using Collector to gather billboard locations using IPads.  This project has not been implemented yet, but we have done a good amount of research and are finalizing the process.  Also, our Maintenance division is evaluating a number of different tablets for use with Collector.  What we have found so far is:

               - The size of the IPad screen is very useful.  The buttons and menus for Collector arrange much better on this size screen.

               - For the billboards project the internal GPS accuracy of the IPad (about 3 meters) will be sufficient.  However, we have looked into using a Trimble R1 GNSS receiver that can be paired via Bluetooth for other division applications to increase the accuracy to sub-meter.

               - If I am not mistaken, our Maintenance division is comparing iOS, Android, and Windows tablets to determine which tablet they like best.

               - The IPad’s internal camera will be used to collect photos of the billboard at each location.

I hope this little bit of information helps.  We are moving along on implementation, and plan to have other sections/divisions start to use Collector.

Robert Reed


We've just started experimenting with Collector on an iPad out in the field. The user is navigating to locations I've published to the app and he's found them without a problem so far. He's been within at least a 3G network if not 4G/LTE, so I can't comment intelligently on the actual accuracy of the GPS itself. As an organization we have come to the consensus that these devices are relatively inexpensive enough to replace from time to time as opposed to going for something rugged that may cost more. Also, our users are already familiar with iOS so there's very little learning curve. I'm not a huge Apple fan, but they definitely put thought into the user interface. The points the user is visiting are color coded green and red and he's had no issue with the screen so far.  I'll let you know if he reports likes/dislikes beyond what I've shared today. Once this pilot program is complete I'm sure I'll have a larger sample size to report from.

Josh Schwartz


Go highest storage iPad for collector. The rugged options for outfitting them are endless. If the GPS is a concern, then extend it with a Trimble R1. Many think they can go Android with collector and then extend the storage, the problem is that Collector will only utilize the internal storage. The iPad is the only tablet I've seen thus far with 128gb of onboard. Which will allow you to take large file caches offline and collect lots of media. Another thing is that you don't need to deal with the overhead of Windows. Also if a backhoe runs over an iPad or it drowns in a river (they've happened) I can just tell someone to go to best buy and they are back in business: rather than have them order a Toshiba xesw134 or a Dell m2300 that will arrive in two weeks (those part numbers are made up).

And I'm not an Apple fan boy... I just know this works well.

Alexander Mahrou


In New Mexico at the Office of the State Engineer, we have been using Apple iPad Mini 3s for data collection. They are the WiFi with Cellular. These are the ones that have the GNSS capability, the Wifi only ones do not.  The internal GNSS set up is accurate to 3 to 5 meters on the unaided tablet.

We augment the device by connecting it via Bluetooth to a Bad Elf GNSS Surveyor that is accurate to 1 meter.

Pros: Relatively light, fast for data collection, screen size is 7.9in and isn’t overly large and not too small for us. Our field personnel have the ability to collect well and utilize email and forms when needed.

Cons: price, we purchased the cellular device for 399, and we had to get it directly from Apple as our regular vendor wouldn’t allow us to purchase the device we wanted without a data service plan. No expandable memory through SD cards, just cloud based. Downloading of data for Collector has to be by Wifi so no direct connects are possible.

Here is a link to my presentation I did for GIS in the Rockies and the New Mexico Geospatial Information Council last year. The presentation is over all apple products. Performance wise, there was no difference between the iPad and iPhones. Same tech, same components, just a larger screen.

Daniel Estrada


We used Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) tablets last year for a data collection process on an airport pavement inventory.


I was able to set up collector with drop down menus and preload sites.  The engineers doing the onsite surveys like the tablets and could see them well.  I would say accuracy is going to be somewhere in the 3-5 meter range but we did not test that.  Photos turned out well and with GPS on were geotaged, and with collector were point referenced.  Overall the results were good and the client liked the end product.


We only have a basic license so getting the points with photos exported to desktop was outside our license.  I also had connection issues that seemed to be tied to known bugs in ESRI and although I never lost data it became a pain at times to get it out and ESRI had to help in some cases convert the data so I could use it in a desktop environment.  Things they don't tell you, or in our case seemed to hide as I specifically asked if there would be any issue and they said no!  License level is an issue if your at basic. Geodatabase was the end product and getting point features to this from Collector was a lot of work, with the photos!

Overall I think we would use it again but knowing some of this up front would have been nice.

Steve Lowman


Regular Contributor

We roll with iPads in Lifeproof cases. We use the Nuud case which doesn't have any sort of screen cover, the case just seals against the glass.  Using this configuration we have been very happy with the ruggedness of the device, we have had some hardware failures in extreme conditions, mostly when working in areas of high humidity and moving between a warm moist field tent to a cold outdoor environment.  Basically we were getting condensation in the Lifeproof case which would kill the iPad.  We added some desiccant strips that solved that issue.  I'm not sure if that issue was addressed in the newer Lifeproof cases, sine we only ever experienced that with our older iPad 4 units.  Haven't had an issue with our newer iPad mini or iPad Air units.

One additional thing we do is purchase AppleCare+ with all our devices.  Extended warranties are common, but being able to walk into an Apple Store with a busted iPad and walk out 15 minutes later with a replacement for $50, even if it is totally our fault, is pretty great.

You want to get the LTE version of the iPad if you need the internal GPS. In our experience this has proven to be on par with a Garmin for accuracy.  We also use them with iSXBlue and EOS real-time sub meter GPS units when we have a data accuracy requirement that requires it, and they have proven to work as advertised.

New Contributor II

There are no usable waterproof cases for iPads anymore.  The last was the Nuud but it isn't made by lifeproof anymore.

Best option for a waterpoof/rugget tablet we have found is the Samsung Active tablets.  We currently use 4s and I just purchased a 5.  The 4s are perfect size for us.  The 5 is much bigger and heavy.  Not sold on the 5 yet.

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Occasional Contributor II

At my previous employer we deployed iPad Airs and iPad Air2s in the field with work crews.  Devices were equipped with Otter Boxes and unlimited cellular data plans.  All of the data accessed was in the form of Hosted services or Esri base maps.  The units and capabilities they offered were well received by the field staff.  In addition to access to the information via maps, they likes having the ability to submit updates directly through the application.  They also like the increase communications ability imessaging, emailing photos, and facetime over just cellular or radio communications. When out doors we found the internal GPS suitable for getting them in the neighborhood still relied on dedicated Trimble GPS gear when verifiable accuracy was required.

Currently I am working on deploying Andriod based Asus ZenPad 10s with my new employer.  Setup is slightly different in that we are using the collector app versus the original ArcGIS ios app.  We are currently seeing some slower then expected performance but are still trying to tweak the map to maximize performance.  The internal GPS is very unreliable ranging from +/- 2 to 50 ft. We also need to explore better utilization of Android's native communication tools.  While it is still early I am a little disappointed with these devices.  Will hold off final opinion until more testing is done.  

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New Contributor III

Definitely I would recommend iOS iPad or iPad mini with a waterproof Otter Box AND a tempered glass (do not omit this investment, it's worth it). The issue with rugged Android devices is that most, if not all, of them have way outdated operating systems; some of them still come brand new with Android KitKat or older. The other issue is that there is usually no upgrade path or manufacturers rarely offer new versions for their tablets. iOS version is consistent across all their models. If leaning towards Android I would also suggest a consumer tablet (Samsung seems to lead) with again an Otter Box and tempered glass. 

And if you require submeter, subfoot or centimeter real-time positioning in Collector, you may want to check out Eos Positioning Systems' Arrow Series GPS GNSS receivers. They offer full compatibility with Collector running of iOS, Android or Windows, tablets or smartphones; so if something happens one day to your tablet, you may keep on working with your smartphone. Don't call the day off 🙂

Good luck.