How should I choose a barcode scanner?

Answered July 23 2019

Choose a barcode scanner by thinking about what you will use it for, how often you’ll need it, and what kind of technology must be integrated with it. Barcode scanning technology has improved a lot in recent years, resulting in a vast number of options to consider. Here are a couple of tips to help you sort through them.

Selecting a Scan Engine

The first consideration in choosing a scanner is what kind of scan engine you want. This should be determined by what you will be using the scanner for. Most barcode scanners use laser technology, which is both a cost-effective and common choice. Laser scan engines can only read one-dimensional barcodes from close distances, unless you invest in an extended-range model.

While laser scan engines use light to read a barcode, linear imager scan engines actually capture a picture of the barcode. This engine then can read the information on a one-dimensional barcode from the image. Linear imaging technology has dropped in price and is now comparable to laser scanners, while doing a better job of reading damaged barcodes. Both laser and linear imager scan engines require a horizontal positioning of the scanner to the barcode for an accurate read.

The most advanced scan engine is a 2D area imager, which takes a picture of any barcode for analysis. This scan engine can capture the image in any direction, takes a more detailed picture, and is both faster and more accurate. Many 2D area imaging engines are also able to read barcodes off a computer or mobile device screen.

Choosing a Form

Think about how often and where you’ll be using your scanner in order to select the right form. The most common form is the handheld gun-style, which is available as a cordless model or with a stand. Presentation and in-counter scanners are stationary and rely on the user to move items with barcodes in front of them to scan. These types are similar to ones found in grocery or clothing stores.

For companies using barcode scanners to manage inventory and tracking information, a mobile computer form may work best. In this case, the scanner and computer work in a single unit and transmit the information through a WiFi connection. Fixed mount scanners are also used in industrial applications. They are usually mounted on a kiosk or conveyor line and are always operating.

To look at how scanners compare side-by-side, study an online buying guide for even more details.

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