A Guide to The Different Types of Barcode Scanners Available

A Guide to The Different Types of Barcode Scanners Available

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Most of us are so accustomed to barcodes in our daily lives, in settings such as the supermarket shelves or even (during the COVID-19 pandemic) on restaurant tables, that we might not spend much time thinking about the equipment used to scan them.

But for many an organisation that needs to use barcodes as part of its day-to-day operations, it is naturally crucial to be well-informed on barcode scanning technology.

There’s no such thing as just one type of barcode scanner, and even the word ‘type’ could be contested – does it refer, for example, to the physical design of the scanner, or instead to the specific optical technology a given scanner uses?

To help simplify matters, we have accounted for both possible definitions of ‘barcode scanner type’ in our rundown of some of the options below. And of course, we should emphasise that the below is not meant to be an exhaustive list.


Pen Wand

This is the simplest and most inexpensive form of barcode scanner. It is a durable type of barcode scanner that doesn’t have any moving parts.

In order to use a pen wand, you must hold it at a certain angle, and place it in direct contact with the barcode, in addition to only moving it over the barcode at a certain speed.


Laser Barcode Scanner

This type of scanner works in much the same way as a pen-type reader, but is more convenient to use, and can be counted on to read a barcode’s information more accurately.

The “laser” in question is a laser beam that sweeps across the barcode. One of the great advantages of a laser barcode scanner is that it can typically read a barcode from as far as 60 centimetres away – although for some longer-range scanners, this distance can be up to three metres.


Camera-based Scanner

Some barcode scanners contain a video camera, the idea being that this is used to capture an image of the barcode, and sophisticated digital decoding technology is then used to decipher the information.

This can be a great type of barcode scanner when fast transactions are a must, not least because it is able to read a barcode regardless of how the scanner is positioned next to the barcode.  


Handheld Scanner

The term ‘handheld barcode scanner’ might seem relatively self-explanatory; it is a fairly broad term covering a wide range of portable barcode scanners differing greatly in their features and functionality.

Both corded and cordless – the latter otherwise referred to as ‘wireless’ – barcode scanners are available, which can further aid their ease of use.


Mobile Computer

This term describes something broader than a mere ‘barcode scanner’; the Techwalla website, for instance, cites the Public Library Association as describing a mobile computing device as “small, lightweight, portable and containing wireless Internet access… a computer without an Internet browser is not generally referred to as a mobile computing device.”

Think of a mobile computer as combining the functionality of a PC and a scanner in a single device, and you would probably be about right. A tablet computer like the iPad is one obvious example of a mobile computer – and yes, it can scan barcodes if needed.


Wearable Barcode Scanner

As the name implies, a wearable barcode scanner isn’t merely for holding in the hand; it can actually be worn on the body to make the scanning process even easier.

There are several factors that might lead a given organisation to invest in wearable barcode scanners rather than traditional handheld ones. These highly ergonomic scanners can be great for keeping the operator’s hands free for other tasks during scanning, and the person using one might even scan barcodes at the same time as picking up or moving heavy items.

Now that you know a bit more about what types of barcode scanners are on the market, what if you’re thinking, “but where can I find a barcode scanner repair service near me?”

Here at Mobile Computer Repair, we have an excellent reputation as a Bluebird, Intermec, Honeywell, Zebra and Motorola scanner repair center, to cite just some of the brands that we repair the devices of. For more information and to request a repair, please don’t hesitate to contact our team today, or to call 01202 606070.

Request a repair for your Zebra TC25