Barcode Scanner Buying Guides - as written by our experts

At first glance buying a barcode scanner may seem easy, but delve a little deeper and I’m sure you will realise it is a little more complicated than that... So, how do you know which device does what? Well read on to find out more.

Ultimately, recognising which device will bring about the most benefits to your business whilst remaining cost effective is the key. The info below is created to help you gain a better understanding of what your business needs.

The sheer choice of scanners on offer can be overwhelming in itself. The main reason for this extensive choice is because of the broad use of barcodes that all need to contain different info. If you take a quick look around no matter where you are all the products you see, at some point, would have had a barcode on. This may help to give you an idea of how extensively barcodes are used today. There are also over 100 different barcode symbologies?

Below are a few examples:

  • Code 39 (Linear Code)(1D)
  • PDF417 (Stacked Barcode)
  • QR Code (2D Barcode)

Inside the Scanner

Hand held barcode scanners can look similar on the outside but have different scan engines inside, these scan engines allow the scanner to read a particular type of barcode. For example, a laser scanner engine can scan a linear code but not a QR code… :s Read on to find out more.

Laser Engines

The laser scanner use two sensors that work together to read a single line of a barcode and translate the barcode into data. Laser engines are particularly good because of their scan speed, accuracy and most importantly their ability to read barcodes at a long range. They allow good productivity levels due to high scan rate and are practically error free.


  • Scanning at long range
  • Good for high productivity throughput - such as supermarkets POS
  • Most cost effective option when scanning standard 1D barcodes only


  • Only scans linear 1D barcodes

SymecTech Favourites: Motorola LS2208, Motorola RS409


Imaging scanners can be broken down into two main categories: linear and area.

Linear Imagers

The linear imager projects an LED light onto a barcode whilst a decoding algorithm analyses the image to collect the data. Traditionally linear imagers are better for reading barcodes up close and lasers scanners from a distance of over sever inches. Similar to laser scanners, linear imagers boast outstanding reliability. This point is proven by the fact that some manufactures offer a lifetime guarantee with their scanner.

Due to increased popularity and advances in technology, the linear imager has become similar in price to the laser scanner.


  • They do a better job of reading poor quality labels than laser engines
  • Reasonably priced
  • Offer increased options for barcode scanning 1D and most 2D


  • Slow at reading some 2D and stacked barcodes in comparison to area imager

SymecTech Favourites: DatLogic GD4130

Area Imagers

Area imagers can scan an area as oppose to a single line unlike the other scan engine options. This makes the area imager the best option when constantly scanning 2D barcodes such as QR codes. The 2D barcodes can contain significantly more information than a 1D linear equivalent. One 2D code can replace five 1D codes saving space on products and allowing one barcode to contain all the info needed.

The price of these scanners has dropped considerably over the last few years due to increased popularity especially in the retail industry.


  • Scanning capabilities for all barcodes types
  • Capturing images for stock, inventory signatures etc.
  • Can be used for cradle to grave use of tracking a product just from the single 2D barcode


  • More expensive than all other options
  • Limited scan range

SymecTech Favs: Datalogic - Quickscan QD2400, Motorola - Blade 4800

Scanner Best Uses Table

 Linear ScannerArea Imager


Inventory Management    
Self Service    

Warehouse Management



Bedside applications    
Equipment Inventory    
Specimen Collection    


Part Serial Tracking    
Part Labelling    

Auto ID

ID Card Scanning    

Scanner Types

Barcode Scanners come in all shapes and sizes; have a quick read of the descriptions below to learn why.

wireless barcode scanner

Handheld Scanners

Handheld scanners are very popular they offer the point, click and scan option of the scanning world. They have a variety of uses probably the most popular is retail, due to its simplicity and low cost.

wireless barcode scanner

Corded Scanners

Corded handheld devices are the easiest to install and generally come with the lowest price tag. The devices will usually be connected via a USB to a computer terminal, which will decode and store the data.

wireless barcode scanner

Wireless Scanners

Wireless scanners tend to use Bluetooth as their means of connectivity. These devices are slightly more expensive but come with the advantage of not having cumbersome cables and increase mobility. For example some wireless scanners can operate up to 100 meters away from their base.

hands-free barcode scanner

Hands Free

This is another popular product for retail, the obvious advantage of hands free is that this device allows the checkout operator to keep both hands free, present the barcode and allow the device to scan the product. The device is designed to simply sit on top of the counter and allow rapid scanning. The main difference between most hands free scanners and handheld scanners is that hands free have a wider scan range (aka an omnidirectional barcode scanner) meaning the operator saves time in attempting to aim the barcode at the scanner.

fixed mount barcode scanner

Fix Mount

These devices are more specialised than their hands free counterparts, often being integrated as part of large complete hardware packages such as ticket readers, self-service kiosks, medical labs and price verifying stations.

EPOS barcode scanner

In Counter - EPOS

This is a specialised type of barcode scanner. This particular device is suited to retail specifically grocery stores. The scanners are usually integrated and fitted into the actual counter unit and come with a digital scales attached. Similar to fix mount and hands free scanners, in counter scanners have omnidirectional scanning increasing the ease for constant scanning.

mobile computer with barcode scanner

Mobile Computers

Workers who have to complete a job on the move use a mobile computer. They offer complete freedom from the PC and other static computing devices. A mobile computer can have many different options for data capture including area and linear imaging. Although, the high level of technology included in these devices comes with a larger price tag.

Please see the mobile computer-buying guide for more detail.

wearable barcode scanner


Wearable barcode scanners are another option. The most popular at SymecTech is the ring scanner. It simply fits over a gloves or finger and allows the user complete hands free scanning. The ring scanner is connected to a mobile computer, which processes and records captured data.

smarthone barcode scanner

Smart Phones

The final option is to connect a compatible barcode scanner to a consumer grade smart phone. This is a viable option for some businesses, although it should be noted that smart phones are not designed for being used in this way. In that, they are not designed for heavy use and may fail in terms of durability, battery life or even software compatibility.


The level of durability you will need depends on how and where you are planning to scan data. There are scanners designed for all types of environments; from very harsh, like shipping, to standard environment such as an office. Ruggedized devices can have significant benefits over a standard scanner such as IP sealing and incredible drop specs. An IP rating is a certified accreditation, devices are put through stringent tests and given a rating based on results. These results are useful as they allow for direct comparison between devices. The first number is on a 0-6 basis the higher the better; it signifies the level of protection against foreign objects entering the device (such as dust). The second number ranges from 0-8, again the higher the better indicating protection level against water.

Final Thoughts

We hope this helps if not just give us a call and let us answer your questions.