Barcode Scanner Buying Advice


The barcode reader is what does the real magic. Basically, it types in the number it reads. Prices vary widely from $40 to $1,000. Some of the more expensive ones can read barcodes faster, in brighter light and/or can decipher scratched or hard to read barcodes. 

Do I really need to buy a USB Scanner?

Ever since we launched the Mobile Scanning Apps we've been getting this questions. 

Long story short, it depends on your program.... See this help article for more info.


What you need at a minimum

  • USB barcode reader that reads your barcode number format. We have been using "Code 39 barcode" tags which are widely supported by most readers.
  • It must send a carriage return after it reads the barcode. Some of the very low cost scanners do not do this. Most do,  and some you need to program for this to work.


  • Trigger button to initiate scanning
  • Auto sensing scan
  • Barcode alignment 
  • Bluetooth wireless connection.

Our first purchase was the Honeywell Voyager MS9520 auto sensing with a stand (pictured above).  The thought was we'd place this on a table and allow the children to approach and scan themselves in.  The down side to this was that there was a learning curve as the children tried to get the distance and alignment correct for it to scan. We eventually removed it from the table stand and used it as a hand scanner to help align the reader to the tag. This proved to be the best method and why we recommend you get the "trigger" style readers as the Auto sensing version sometimes required us to "wake it up" to continue the scanning.
If you are willing to spend in the $400 plus range for a barcode reader then you might want the auto sensing with auto alignment (it figures out the orientation of the barcode and scans it, all you need to do is get it in front of the scanner). This would allow you to setup up a virtually automated system that could really speed up the check-in line.
* the city of San Marino in California used this scanner at two elementary schools and loved it.
The above scanners require a computer to accept the scan either over USB or Bluetooth. 
Your other option is to have a self contained scanner that stores the scans to a text file on the device which you later upload to the site.
This might be a great option if you don't have wifi access where you want to scan or if you are only interested in capturing trip data. The downside to this is that you can not provide the student with trip feedback and it also delays the sending of any notifications until the file is uploaded (again this might be a perfect solution for Junior High and High school age students where we are texting and emailing their updated stats.).  I tested the Motorolla CS3070 which is the Buetooth enabled scanner. This has two options, Bluetooth connects it witlessly to a device (I connected it to my computer, ipad and even iphone) and capture mode which saves the barcodes and date to a text file on the device. If you have it programed with the correct date you can easily capture multiple days, probably up to a week of scans. 
The Motorolla CS3000 is a capture only device without Bluetooth and costs a little less. 

We've tested these USB Scanners (requires a computer connection):


We've tested these self contained scanners.


Buying Advice

In the past I had recommended the the $40 generic Scanner, until I used it for two weeks. 
Mine might be defective, but on week two it was difficult to scan any barcode and I had to try multiple times.
Spending $150+ gets you a scanner that is more durable, reads barcodes faster and from further away. 
A good scanner really makes a big difference. This one is the next scanner I would buy: 

Help us out!

If you've had success with a particular scanner let us know so we can add it to the list.

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