How To Choose A Barcode Scanner?

Barcode scanner is a light emitting devices that are used to read barcodes. Usually attached to a computer or laptop via PS2 or RS-232, the data collected is stored on a computer for processing or storage. It is now used in many different industries such as retail or production.


They have been on the market for many years now with new versions of barcode scanners available every year. The prices can vary from as low as $50.00 to as high as several thousand dollars. So how do you pick a good barcode scanner?


To answer that question, it is important you know there are 2 major classes of barcode scanners, image-based and laser-based. Image-based barcode scanners use a camera usually embedded in a barcode scanner. The camera will capture the images and then processed by complex image techniques to decode the barcodes. Laser-based barcode scanners uses mirrors and lenses to read the barcodes.


Laser barcode scanners are usually more expensive than image-based scanners. They have their own pros and cons. An image-based barcode scanner do not have internal movable parts therefore are more resistant to drops or knocks than laser barcode scanners. Also, image-based barcode scanners have a shorter scanning distance (4 to 10 inches) compared to laser barcode scanners. On the other hand, laser scanners are more prone to wear and tear due to their lenses. They not only have a longer scanning distance (up to 24 inches) but also are able to scan from a wider angle from the barcode.


Be aware that the scanning distance for both image-based and laser barcode scanners have already improved dramatically over the years and I wouldn’t be surprised if a barcode manufacturer claims an image-based scanner has a scanning distance of 24 inches.


Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before getting a barcode scanner. The size of scanner required? Type of environment the barcode scanner will be using (outdoors, shop, warehouse)? The scanning distance required? Are they to be used hands free or hand-held? Your budget?


So my suggestion is if you need a barcode scanner for long range scanning, get a laser barcode scanner. For short range scanning, use an image-based barcode scanner such as a CCD barcode scanner. The environment as I asked earlier also plays an important part. If the barcode scanner is being used outdoors or in rugged environments where it is expected to take a drop or knock or two, then it is best to get an image-based barcode scanner. If it were for example being used in a retail shop, then a laser barcode scanner would be the best choice.


There are such a wide variety of barcode scanner available that I just can’t explain completely in this article. If you are in doubt, consult the barcode manufacturers such as symbol or metrologic who have sales consultants who are able to do an analysis of the type of barcode scanners needed by your business.



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