Barcode Scanner Buying Guide

A bar code scanner, also known as a point-of-sale (POS) scanner or price scanner, is a device that captures and reads data from bar codes.

Barcode Scanners are an essential part of almost every business. They are the fastest way to identify a product and ensure you have the right item in stock. These barcode readers come in many forms – portable, cordless, wireless – and new models are constantly entering the market. Store owners can choose from these barcode scanners depending on their needs – whether it’s for inventory control, cash flow management or tracking all SKUs using a POS system.

They provide a streamlined way to capture data for inventory tracking, distribution, shipping and receiving, and more. They are designed to integrate into your operation with minimal disruption. Choosing to use barcode scanners in your business can lead to higher productivity, lower operating costs and ultimately competitive advantage.

Different Barcode Types

Barcodes contain important information and data about specific products. Barcode formats consist of multiple encoded numbers and letters with single bars and spaces of varying length and width that allow the scanner to translate the code.

Before you can decide on the best barcode scanner for your business, you need to consider what type of barcodes you want to read. There are two main types of barcode formats:

1D Code

Similar to UPC codes, 1D codes usually consist of linear black and white spaces of varying widths. These barcode formats are usually about 12 characters long.

2D Code

These codes consist of squares, hexagons or other shapes that store encoded data. As the name suggests, 2D codes are read in two dimensions and can be arranged in both horizontal and vertical patterns. A good example of a 2D code is a QR code.

Types of Barcode Scanners


This is the best known type of scanner. It uses a red diode laser to read the reflection of the black and white areas in a barcode. Laser scanners can only read standard linear (1D) barcodes, but they are also the least expensive option.

Standard laser scanners can read from a distance of a few inches to a meter or two, depending on the size of the barcode. There are also extended range laser scanners, such as the Zebra LS2208, which can reach a distance of up to 30 meters when using large reflective labels.

Fixed Scanners

Permanently installed barcode scanners are usually used in retail stores at the point of sale. They are attached to a terminal and transmit data when a single barcode is scanned. They are also referred to as “tethered” scanners.

2D Area Imagers

Like linear imagers, full 2D imagers capture an image to be analyzed. However, unlike pure linear imagers, these scanners can read any type of barcode. 1D, stacked and 2D barcodes are all supported by a 2D imager. Another advantage of these imagers is that the orientation of the barcode does not matter when reading. With lasers and linear imagers, you must align the indicator horizontally over the barcode.

A 2D imager captures a more detailed image and is smarter, allowing you to read a code in any direction. This results in a faster read with fewer targets. 2D imagers, like the AirTrack S2, can also read barcodes from any surface, including a monitor or phone screen. With their added capabilities and very aggressive reading, 2D imagers are becoming increasingly popular across all industries to speed up scanning applications and expand the uses of bar codes.

Portable Scanners

Portable batch scanners store data that is later transferred to a host computer. They are battery powered, which allows for greater flexibility than a stationary scanner. In addition, portable batch scanners include an LCD monitor and keypad. This allows users to complete their tasks from the device. Batch scanners are available as handheld scanners, portable devices, and vehicle-mounted devices.

Linear Imager

Linear imager scanners are similar to lasers in that they also only read 1D bar codes. However, instead of reading the light reflected from the laser, they capture an image of the bar code. This image is then analyzed to extract information from the code. Linear imagers, such as the AirTrack S1, have become a very good substitute for laser scanners because their reading ranges and costs have become similar.

Compared to laser scanners, a linear imager can also read poorly printed or damaged codes better. For applications that require a more aggressive scanner, a linear imager is an excellent solution at the same cost.

Wireless Scanners

Wireless barcode scanners also store data in memory like batch scanners. However, they transmit their data to a back-end system in real time. Wireless scanners offer maximum productivity for employees.

At the same time, having instant access to your data is a huge benefit. For example, accurate information is always available when managing inventory. This is also helpful when tracking assets.

Key Features to Consider while Buying Barcode Scanners

Now that you have an idea of your application requirements, you can narrow down the handheld scanner models that meet your needs. There are several key features and characteristics that can help you find the best handheld scanner for your needs.


If your application requires a handheld scanner that can operate in harsh conditions, look for a handheld scanner with an IP54 or IP65 rating, which means the device can withstand dust, splashing water, or water jets from multiple directions. For the harshest environments, consider a dedicated handheld scanner designed for use in your typical environment.

Scanning Capabilities

Know what symbologies your company works with and choose a handheld barcode scanner that can decode 1D, 2D and Postal symbologies as needed.

Portability and Ideal Environment

When selecting a barcode scanner, portability is an important factor. Therefore, consider the type of environment in which the scanner will be used. Let’s say the scanner is to travel and be used in the field. What features are important then? Perhaps you want a scanner that is durable, waterproof, can be used in extreme temperatures, and is portable.

If the scanner is going to be used in retail, it doesn’t necessarily have to be portable or able to withstand extreme conditions. Barcode scanners are built for a variety of working conditions, and it’s important to consider what type of scanner will work for you when choosing one.

Omni-Directional Scanning

If you choose a laser scanner, select a model with omnidirectional scanning capability. In most cases, this means that your scanner can decode 2D barcodes.

Operating Systems and Software Compatibility

Some handheld barcode scanners run on popular mobile platforms such as Android. Some have built-in software, and others allow companies to develop their own scanner applications using a software development kit (SDK).

Some handheld scanners are compatible out of the box with Microsoft Windows or iOS, while others require a special driver to be downloaded for full compatibility.

Scanning Distance

Scan distance defines the distance at which a barcode scanner can decode different types of barcodes, and scan distance often varies depending on the type of symbology.

For example, a barcode scanner can decode a 1D barcode from a distance of 10 to 12 inches, while PDF417 or Postal symbologies may require a greater distance.


A barcode scanner with GPS capabilities is useful when you need to transport items to different storage locations. During scanning, the GPS detects the location of the item and stores the nearest storage location for that item.

For example, when you scan industrial equipment into a warehouse, the scanner recognizes the location and enters it into your inventory system. This ensures that you know exactly where your items are. GPS location detection is a good option for expensive or shared equipment.

Scanning Speed

For extensive scanning needs, look for a portable barcode scanner with fast, continuous scanning capabilities. Some barcode scanners can scan 60 to 120 frames per second, allowing continuous use with minimal downtime.


Some handheld barcode scanners are Bluetooth-enabled, which means they can connect wirelessly to your network and transmit data to a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) or other database or application.

Different Scanner Formats

If you run a conventionally designed store with point-of-sale terminals, you’ll probably prefer stationary, plug-in scanners. In contrast, a large floor with heavy inventory might require scanners of the cordless variety. Fortunately, today’s scanners, which come in the following five forms, can meet a variety of needs:


The most common form of scanners are handheld scanners, which come in corded and cordless varieties. Handheld scanners are easy to use – you simply hold the scanner around the handle, point it at a barcode, and press the button.

Some handheld scanners come with stands that allow for hands-free use. Handheld scanners are suitable for use in any industry where barcodes are used, such as grocery stores, warehouses, field service and healthcare.

Mobile Units

Handheld computers are not only designed for barcode scanning, but also allow a company’s employees to scan barcodes anywhere within Wi-Fi or cellular (WAN) range without cables or bulky stationary devices. This can be especially useful for inventory personnel in large warehouses with long rows of heavy items. Instead of running everything through the same putaway and retrieval terminals, barcodes can be read via an app on a handheld device from anywhere in the warehouse and entered remotely into the company’s computer system.

Mobile devices also make it possible to read barcodes in remote locations where larger, plug-in scanning systems would be impractical, such as when you want to set up a vendor booth at a county fair with no electrical outlets nearby. Even in locations that are out of Wi-Fi range, a mobile device can store the information from each barcode scan for later entry into a company’s inventory data system.


Presentation scanners are designed for stationary, wide-area reading. A presentation scanner is designed to be placed on a countertop to read the barcode of any passing item. Unlike handheld scanners, no alignment is required. You simply pick up any item, hold the barcode in front of the presentation scanner, and the code is quickly and easily scanned. Presentation scanners are often found at retail store checkouts.

Thanks to the large reading capacity of presentation scanners like the Metrologic MS7580, multiple barcodes can be read in quick succession. With multiple models, Metrologic offers some of the best barcode scanners for field service, medical documentation and retail.

Fixed Mount

Fixed scanners are intended for specialized applications such as warehousing, manufacturing and logistics and can be integrated into large automation systems. A scanner of this type is typically integrated into a kiosk or attached to a conveyor line.

A fixed-mount scanner is available in a variety of speeds and can read codes automatically without the need to press manual triggers or buttons. Therefore, the fixed-mount scanner is suitable for large inventory data entry that can be done along conveyor belts without human intervention.

Corded and Cordless Barcode Scanners

In the past, a barcode scanner had to be connected to a computer system via a cable so that data could be entered into an inventory database. Today, Bluetooth technology eliminates the need for cables, as wireless handheld devices can transmit information wirelessly over long distances. Certain models of wireless scanners are equipped with a batch memory.

Wireless data transfer involves transmitting data from a remote reader to a base station connected to a computer system. It doesn’t matter if the computer itself has built-in wireless support – the base station and the remote scanner handle the transmission of the data. As a result, a wired scanner can easily be replaced with a wireless model without requiring reformatting or a system upgrade for the computer system in question.

Wired scanners have also improved thanks to USB ports, for which there are outlets on every modern computer system. With a USB cable, they can be easily plugged in and activated without the need for special formatting. If you replace an old barcode scanner with a newer wired model, all you have to do is plug in the USB cable and activate the reader.

In-Counter Scanners

Like the presentation scanner, the in-counter scanner is a stationary device that allows sales staff and customers to swipe barcodes across the reader for instant and easy scanning. The difference is that a countertop scanner is designed to be mounted on the top of a checkout counter. As a result, countertop scanners are often found on cash registers and self-service lines in grocery stores.

One of the most popular countertop scanners is the Datalogic Magellan 8300, which can be easily integrated and operated in any indoor environment. Whether you are looking for a barcode system for a small retail store or a larger enterprise, Datalogic offers some of the best barcode scanners for logistics in all business environments.

Scanner Strength

An important point to consider when deciding on a barcode scanner is the physical resilience of a particular device. Can the scanner in question withstand significant stress and still function properly, or could the harsh work environment lead to costly repairs and replacement equipment? The presentation and countertop scanners you see in retail stores and grocery stores are designed to withstand the rigors of such environments.

As a result, these devices can generally be relied upon to function as intended throughout their lifetime. However, more demanding environments such as warehouses, factories and construction sites require a device with a higher level of built-in ruggedness. In a warehouse or factory, a handheld scanner can easily fall to the floor. A traditional handheld barcode reader may not last long in such an environment.

A more rugged model with a rubberized housing, on the other hand, can survive drops of at least ten feet without sacrificing performance. A barcode scanner built for harsh environments can usually be identified by a red or yellow housing. The price of such a device is higher, but the higher initial cost is offset over time by its longer life and relatively low maintenance requirements.


With so many barcode scanners to choose from, it’s important to find the right device for your business needs. Thinking about how you want to use the scanner and what features you need will make the decision easier. We hope this buying guide will help you make your final decision.

Jonathan Williams
Jonathan Williams
Jonathan Williams, a prominent content writer at Bollyinside, renowned for his expertise in hardware products. Specializing in list-based articles, Jonathan simplifies intricate tech details about laptops, phones, tablets, and accessories, making them accessible to readers. Off-duty, he indulges his passion for fiction and tech sci-fi, exploring new realms of creativity.


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