Epson TM-T88V

May 27, 2010

WordPress has some fun analytics and stats for how visitors find the site, and lately I’ve been getting a lot of traction on the term TM-T88V. Apparently I tossed a typo up on the TM-T88IV video review post and thought people were hitting the site off their own typo. And then I got a press release about the Epson TM-T88V receipt printer, and a couple requests to get it up on the site. So it’s sharing time!

The TM-T88V receipt printer continues Epson’s quest for the ultimate printing experience. At a blisteringly fast 11.8″ per second, the TM-T88V is the fastest receipt printer on the market. Stock up on bandaids because your employees are going to suffer from chronic paper cuts after you install this printer. It’s also 50% faster than the TM-T88IV, so if they keep that pace the TM-T88X will print at 83″ per second. I can’t wait for that, the paper will just appear magically.

The mean time between failures (MTBF) is a determination of how long a product can operate before it fails to the point that it has to be sent in for repair. It’s usually calculated in hours run, and is a sign of how awesome a product is. The TM-T88V has a MTBF of 360,000 hours. I love back of the envelope math, and that’s a little over 41 years of constant use. 41 years. Who does that. So one of these printers is like 340 bucks, that cuts it down to $8.30 per year, or $0.001 per hour of use. Tenth of a cent per hour, and that’s the average failure time.

Either receipt printer manufacturers got tired of returns on legacy hardware or USB interfaces actually cut production costs, because almost every company is building dual interface USB/Legacy receipt printers nowadays, and the TM-T88V is no exception. I guess it helps that a product with a potential 41 year lifespan has the potential to connect to current computers. I really do appreciate the dual interface method; as a tech supporter I used to feel horribly when a customer would get a new PC and try to install their parallel printer on their now USB-only PC.

Energy and resource-efficiency is gaining footholds in the POS industry and so now manufacturers are starting to apply these techniques to their printer lines. Star’s TSP100ECO and now the Epson TM-T88V are Energy Star compliant, so you can save on energy costs and maybe even media. The TM-T88V also allows for print options & configurations so you can use less paper per receipt. So if you combine the printer with its low energy & paper usage with BPA free paper, you can get some pretty solid karma and good feelings. Dude. Karma.

We’ve been getting more calls lately from customers wanting to use their cell phone to scan barcodes and track inventory. Usually they reference various applications that interpret barcodes they capture with their built-in camera and assume that should be more than enough. The big one we’ve heard about lately is the Android Barcode Scanner Software, which is built on the Google ZXing Project. While these apps are good enough for consumer scanning of the odd product for online price comparison, they definitely won’t help you track your inventory.

The biggest issue I’ve run into with camera-based barcode scanning is that the devices aren’t designed to scan barcodes. They’re built to get the picture of the dog with the sunglasses when you’re at the farmers’ market, or capture when your buddy’s had a few too many and decided that dancing on the table would be a good idea. Some can zoom, some can focus a bit, but they’re really very average in terms of repeatedly getting a really detailed image of something small. You also run into the issue of illuminating the barcode to better see the contrast between the bars & gaps. Most cameras have an LED flash, which is fine for lighting up stuff a couple feet away. But when the barcode is close enough to get a good read, usually 4-8 inches, the flashes I’ve encountered blow out the contrast or wash out the barcode entirely. It’s just a lot of work for needing VERY ideal conditions.

On the other hand, a real, actual barcode scanner is designed to just scan barcodes. Most 2D scanners can do image capture for things like inventory verification, but the images usually look grainy and horrible. But those scanners can read 1D and 2D barcodes like it’s going out of style. There is a higher cost to get this set up, but you end up making it back in saved time scanning.

Pairing a cordless scanner with a Blackberry or Android phone does require some secondary software, so it’s not all barcode scanning fun & games. CM Software developed wedge software for the Android & Blackberry that allows the CipherLab 1660 barcode scanner send whatever it scans into an open text field. You were probably wondering when I’d start talking up something we sold. Well there it is. The 1660 runs on a couple AAA batteries and with the CM Software wedge, you’re set as a lower-cost data collector.

Opticon’s OPN 2002 can also connect with Blackberries, but it is considerably more expensive than the 1660. However, it runs on a rechargeable battery that charges over mini USB, so there’s a bit of a feature trade off there. These options really are ideal for people needing to scan more than a few barcodes a day. I don’t recommend dropping 300 bucks to scan the occasional Dio CD to see if it’s cheaper on Amazon, but if you’re looking at keeping track of stuff you own or stuff you loan out, it might be a good investment. And if you’re a business owner, going with a legit inventory management system is a no brainer.

I can make up words about most stuff we carry at POSGuys, primarily because the products are pretty similar to each other. Once you’re familiar with the different styles of barcode scanners it’s pretty straightforward to get a bead on where a new one fits. The MagTek Centurion secure card reader authenticator, and other new MagTek MagneSafe products, are a bit outside of my element, so they’ve taken me a lot longer to build up cheeky prose on their capabilities.

These card readers were made in response to the growing importance of PCI compliance and ensuring customer credit card data integrity is maintained. PCI compliance is a standard created by the Payment Card Industry (ooh, PCI) to help businesses identify potential weak points in their data security, and give some best use techniques to avoid data theft. After what happened with TJ Maxx and Heartland Payment, it became even more important to prevent this information from getting into the wrong hands.

For most card readers, the data is sent as plain text to the credit card processing software, which is then encrypted and fired across the internet to the credit card processing company. Unfortunately, the credit card processing software can be on computers used for myriad purposes, including trawling MySpace for new friends. This creates a vector for malware and other assorted nefarious apps to capture this information. The MagneSafe system is a hardware encryption scheme so that, if someone were to steal the data, they get gibberish instead of sweet, sweet credit card numbers.

What’s really great about these units specifically is that you can buy them unencrypted now, and if/when your credit card processor does support encrypted transmission, they can remotely reprogram the reader to match their encryption methods. So you don’t have the downtime of shipping it off to be programmed, and if something happens where you change processors, you’re still in luck.

Honeywell’s been working on their newest Adaptus Scan engine technology, and with the Xenon 1900 barcode scanner, they’re unleashing Adaptus 6.0 on the market. I haven’t gotten one in my hands yet, mostly just tech specs and whitepapers, but it sounds like they are kicking the imaging competition up a notch.

It’s following the design schema of the 3800g series, with a sleek body that puts it at home in most retail environments. The head of the unit is slightly bigger to house the 2D imager, but otherwise it looks like the 3800g’s older brother. I’m not sure if you can hammer a nail with this barcode scanner, but I’m sure videos will be cropping up on the internet soon enough to test the theory. Unlike other retail scanners, Honeywell had the Xenon 1900 IP tested, so it boasts an IP41 rating. While that’s not a hurricane-proof sealing, it does keep out dust and a bit of water, further enhancing the rough and tumble demeanor of the scanner.

So this Adaptus 6.0 scan engine, it comes in three fantastic flavors, Standard Range, High Density, and Extended Range, similar to what we’re used to seeing from the industrial side of things. They’ve also put the DS9808 and its capabilities in their sites, upping the motion tolerance of the Xenon 1900 to 240 inches per second. A little back of the envelope math converts that to a nimble 13.6 mph, so you could theoretically scan a barcode off of me when I’m cruising around on my bicycle. That’s not too shabby at all.

If you need some wireless scanning, the Xenon 1902 may be for you. Bluetooth Class 2 communication gives you about 33 feet of radio range, which should be plenty for most retail locations. It also fires data back to the communications cradle or Bluetooth-enabled device at 3 Mbit/s, so you shouldn’t see much, if any delay between scanning and displaying the data.

All this and a 5 year warranty for corded & 3 year warranty for cordless, and you have a barcode scanner that may be the last you need. Until something even more spectacular comes out. I’m still waiting for a barcode scanner with a bottle opener built into it.

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