Continuing our big barcode scanner guide, today we take undercover some of the vital things you need to know when choosing the barcode scanner technology for your rugged device.  I personally don’t think the pro’s and cons of many of the barcode scanner types are as string today as they used to be.  This is largely down to pricing of the technology being driven down but also the convergence of the different technologies too.  They’re all simply better now than they ever have been, however there are still few things you need to think about and i’m going to help you through that right here.

Barcode scanner technologies

LED Scanner

We’ll start with the LED scanner.  You can tell you have one of these as the light that it shines out is fatter and more blurred than the classic laser line.  LED scanners tend to be cheaper as the technology is cheaper, however they are getting better and better all the time so an LED scanner is often all you need for adhoc or non intensive barcode scanning.  One of the hidden benefits of this type of barcode scanner is that it’s got no moving parts and so is inherently rugged if dropped.  LED scanners only read 1D barcodes and you need to double check the types of barcodes they scan as the more budget scan engines in some can often have only a limited number of types they will scan.

Laser 1D scanner

Still the benchmark for barcode scanning, the laser scanner uses a laser light to read barcodes in the classic most intuitive manner and despite improvements in 2D imagers and LED imagers, the laser scanner is still the most aggressive and efficient way to scan 1D barcodes. We’re seeing these being heavily adopted by the cheaper rugged smartphones that are coming onto the market now so they are getting a bit of a surge in popularity again.  Often with good SDK’s and ways to control programmatically, they still offer most businesses exactly what they need.  Remeber though a laser scanner will only scan 1D barcodes.

2D Imager

These are specialised camera base barcode scanners that will scan any barcode 1D or 2D.  Like the other 2 technologies, they’re getting better and better all the time and whilst 2D scanners have always been a bit slower and clunkier to use, they are getting very close these days to laser scanner levels of efficiency.  2D imagers aren’t as intuitive to use, but they are easier to aim and you can often tweak them much more to work in the scenario you are in.  For example you can focus them, change the targetting system and more on the bets ones.

The price of these are coming down too now so the gaop between 1D and 2D is lower than ever.

Not all scanners are equal!

Not all scanners are equal!

Specialist scanners

If you’re trying to read more bespoke barcodes or have a unique scenario to scan in, then you might need to pick a device that has a more specialist scanner installed. High density barcodes, metal printed or simply barcodes that need to be scanned from distance can all make use of specialist scanner engines to make it possible to read them.


A quick word on lighting.  Whilst laser and LED scanners can scan in most lighting conditions from bright to pitch black as they read the light they emit and that bounces back from the barcode, 2D imagers usually have a n array of lights that can be switched on and off, depending on the job at hand.  You’ll be surprises how lighting conditions can affect barcode scanning.  I’ve seen ticketing companies struggling to optimize for bright outdoor light and dark night time events.  I’ve also seen some crazy lighting scenarios in warehouses where the lights have severely altered barcode efficiency too.  So if you think you have an issue like this try and test with a 1D and then play with a 2D scanner to see if you can improve the lighting on the barcode whilst scanning.

So that’s it for today, next up i’m going to be giving a top 10 tips on how to scan a barcode properly!

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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