Three Questions to Ask When Choosing a Precision GNSS Handheld Device

Collecting highly accurate, real-time spatial data has never been easier. There’s a wide range of handheld devices on the market and the best device for you depends on individual preferences and needs.

While offering different methods to collect data to deliver excellent performance, consider three questions about two GIS data collectors with excellent inspection and management capabilities: the Trimble® Catalyst™GNSS system with handle accessory, and the new Trimble TDC650 handheld.


Question 1. How important is flexibility to you?

If you’re looking for a more convenient and comfortable way to collect data in the field but don’t want to give up your familiar software and device, the Trimble Catalyst GNSS receiver may be the answer. This receiver provides the ultimate in flexibility. It can be directly mounted to almost any iOS or Android tablet or smartphone with a simple handle accessory. The result is a versatile and highly mobile GNSS solution that doesn’t require a survey pole because it easily attaches and detaches to any phone or tablet in normal operating modes.

The handle is designed for efficient data collection workflows. You can choose landscape or portrait orientation to allow the greatest screen real estate for your application. Holding the handle is less demanding physically than carrying a pole, and it works equally well for both right-handed and left-handed users.

As an alternative, the Trimble TDC650 GNSS handheld is powered by a fully featured Android operating system. Professional GIS field applications, including Trimble TerraFlex™, Trimble Penmap® for Android, and Esri® ArcGIS® Field Maps data collection software, are supported. The GNSS receiver is fully integrated with the data collector along with the battery —a truly “all in one” device. The operating system gives you all the flexibility that the Google ecosystem has to offer without requiring a separate smartphone or tablet.

The advanced GNSS capabilities of the TDC650, with a built-in GNSS receiver and support for Trimble RTX® corrections, make it a versatile and scalable integrated handheld that allows customers to choose their desired accuracy down to the centimeter-level to meet needs and budget requirements.


Question 2. What’s your preferred cost of entry?

If you already have a phone or tablet, the Trimble Catalyst GNSS receiver lets you enhance utility and performance for a low up-front cost. The handle is the perfect way to make what you already have better without a significant investment in another data collector or platform.
The Catalyst GNSS positioning service is attractive to customers looking for better quality and more reliable positioning using their phone or tablet. Catalyst offers the advantages of no large upfront cost, flexible terms and easier budgeting. And if you need better accuracy, instead of spending thousands of dollars on an upgraded device, you simply choose the subscription plan that works for you: annual, monthly or on-demand. If the phone or tablet you are using as your data collector gets broken, lost, or outdated you can simply replace your device without needing to update your entire data collection platform.

On the other hand, if you need a fully integrated device, the TDC650 is the right choice. You can select your desired accuracy level, pay up front, and still upgrade later if necessary.

Question 3. What environmental conditions do you typically experience in the field?

If your typical day involves difficult weather conditions—rain, extreme cold or heat, dust or wind—an integrated device like the TDC650 offers several advantages. As a dedicated rugged computing product designed and built for field work, it is operational in a broad range of temperature and environmental conditions. It is ideal for demanding physical situations where the device is likely to take a beating, like walking through forests or enduring wet and cold weather.

The fully integrated unit is light, easy to carry, and built to withstand extreme events. Existing users of the Trimble TDC and GeoExplorer® series of products are already familiar with Trimble’s rugged quality and will easily adopt the next generation of Trimble handhelds.


Bonus Question 4: How should you evaluate your options?

Both products deliver reliable and precise field data collection in an easy-to-use compact form factor. Regardless of the platform you choose, the accuracy may be scaled based on your project needs without changing hardware.

With the Catalyst handle, your Catalyst subscription can be set to the appropriate accuracy level and adjusted at any time. Real-time corrections are bundled with the Catalyst subscription via the Trimble Corrections Hub at no additional cost.

The GNSS performance of the TDC650 handheld is also scalable, with a choice of accuracy options down to centimeter-level available at time of purchase. TDC650 can support internet- or satellite-delivered real-time corrections, chosen by the user and purchased separately if required, including Trimble RTX.


Business and budget considerations, weather conditions and environments play a part in the final decision-making process. The Catalyst system offers complete flexibility to use your existing device and access GNSS via a subscription, while the Trimble TDC650 GNSS handheld is a rugged self-contained positioning tool. You can’t go wrong either way!

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