Symbol Video Review-a-thon

October 16, 2008

Hey check it out, this time we’re covering the Symbol LS4208, LS4278, and LS3008. Just for a quick rundown:

LS4208: Good for higher volume retail. It scans pretty quickly, and is aggressive. It is a little spendy, but it’s going to give you more bang for your buck than the less expensive scanners.

LS4278: The cordless version of the LS4208. It has a 70 foot range and built-in rechargeable battery. It’s not ruggedized, so it’d be better at home in retail environments as opposed to warehouses.

LS3008: Not only is it yellow, but it has an IP54 seal, so it can be sanitized pretty easily. I like to think of IP54 as making things “sneezeproof.”

All three can shoot a secondary rasterized laser pattern. Rasterization, in POS, is using mirrors to propagate a laser into more places. All laser barcode scanners do this by design, otherwise it’d just be a dot shooting out of the scanner. The secondary one on these barcode scanners gets the beam to wave up and down, helping increase accuracy on crappy barcodes, and gives certain models an easy way to scan PDF417 barcodes, which are 2 dimensional.

Yeah, the video’s a little washed out. We’re working on a location that provides more even lighting, while not sounding as echo-y.

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HHP 3800g Video Review

September 29, 2008

Hey kids, feast your eyes on yet another review. This is the HHP 3800g. It may soon be the Honeywell 3800g, or it already is. Honeywell buys lots of companies, and HHP was one of them. Before HHP, they were Welch-Allyn. But this scanner is pretty rad for its price. Super durable, light immune, can read like everything ever that’s 1D. I’m a fan of that.

Yeah so the audio’s a little rough; we’re learning this as we go along as well. Hopefully we’ll have a better mic for the next one.

As I’ve mentioned before, we review products that we sell. It’s no big secret that 95% of the POS retailers out there probably have a good handle on their product lines, but they don’t share that with the customer. Maybe they just like to feel special. I don’t know. Anyway, we’ve got about 35 reviews up live right now, but we’re not getting a lot of traffic through them, so my boss had me check out the metadata to see if anything weird was going on there. I give it a look and find out that half of them are identical to our template. No biggie, just means I have to make words up so Google looks at the pages and says “Ohhhhhhh, that’s a Symbol MC35 review, awesome!” instead of “Ohhh that’s a pos review what is that again?”

So I spent about a day whittling away at these descriptions, making them actually reference the product properly, as well as a little blurb about the contents. It was challenging after a while to be unique for each review. I’m pretty sure every 5th one has the same format with different main words. Oh well. It’s the thought that counts.

I don’t know when the site’s going to get crawled again, but here’s hoping that helps bump them up a bit too.

Motorola Scanvisor

April 20, 2008

Given my position as glad hander, manufacturer buddy, and product manager, I get to see a lot of the new stuff manufacturers are trying, generally on the day it’s released.

The Motorola Scanvisor is a pretty new thing from our Motorolian/Symboliotic friends. Motorymbol’s doing a lot to help the customer tell the difference between their product line and intended uses, and I know our sales staff and the end user are going to really dig it. For instance, it doesn’t seem like there are huge differences between the Symbol LS4208 and LS3008 aside from the paint job. Bright yellow=industrial, btw. The scan engines are comparable, they have similar warranties, but the LS3008 is designed for environments needing sterile equipment and can be cleaned with no ill harm. I kind of want to toss one in the dish washer and see how it fares.

I know this just from hacking through data sheets, spec information, and putting the products on the site. Customers aren’t going to have such an intimate knowledge of barcode scanners, and maybe our categorization doesn’t match their industry properly. The ScanVisor now lets them search by industry, environment, and myriad other uses as well as let them compare products. And it’s all in flash, which, as we know, is one of the many ways to tell if something’s high-tech.

I’d really like to apply a similar technique to our product review data so customers can find the right scanner with minimal work. Maybe have some input fields for different values, such as scan range, wireless capability, seal specification, etc. So then if they need a barcode scanner that can read from contact to 8 inches and has bluetooth capabilities, they can get a Metrologic FocusBT or Symbol LS4278.

Regarding the request for video of barcode scanner chucking, it’ll have to wait until I can find our Hi8 camera. But it should be awesome. Really really awesome.

Product Reviews

April 13, 2008

About 8 months ago, I had the wicked idea of writing up comprehensive reviews of the products we sell. It may work to parrot the data sheets, but I always like to have more in depth information regarding a potential purchase, especially when it could set me 500 dollars.

The biggest hurdle we had to overcome was accessibility to products. I don’t have easy access to products from the marketing arena, and shipping gets mad if I make the stuff we sell less than mint-in-box. So, with hat in hand, I get to call manufacturers and cajole them into sending some demo units out for our perusal. Many were hesitant at first, mostly because we had no proof of these reviews up on the site to back our claims. But with time, manufacturers have come around, and less work is required to get products in my hands.

I’ll talk about the barcode scanner review process this time around, mainly because we’ve reviewed a ton of them, and they’re the most easily quantifiable in terms of skills for bill paying.

The first round of testing involves functionality and form. We check the balance on the scanner, general ergonomic feel, and may pass judgment on it’s aesthetic. Normally that’s the ice breaker that stays out of print. I don’t really think it’s polite to refer to a scanner as “something only a mother can love,” and it’s just, like, my opinion. Next up we check out what barcodes it can scan out of a few sheets with varying densities, widths, colors, and damage. Most of this helps peg scanners as being good for retail, health care, or locations where barcodes are obfuscated or nearly shredded.

Next up we work on optimal scanning conditions, including range and light resistance. For these we always use a 100%-sized UPC-A barcode. It mostly helps keep everything standard and is a pretty easy to read barcode. Optimal range is pretty straightforward, we just hold up a tape measure and see how far back the scanner can go before reads become inconsistent. For light resistance, we use a 150 watt bulb and measure how close it can get to the barcode before reads become inconsistent. If it does alright, or we’re not convinced as to how much light it resists, we’ll take it outside and give it a shot. As a sidenote, scanners with class II lasers or ccd imagers with advanced scan engines will generally be light immune. Light immunity is the shit, especially if you have a lot of sidewalk sales.

Finally, our favorite portion of the review process, and the one that makes manufacturers cringe on occasion, takes place. Durability testing is where we separate the wheat from the chaff, the rugged from the chinsy, and see to what abuse these scanners survive. Our current method is not quite as awesome as the previous videos I linked, but it’s still fun to learn. So far we do 5 drops at 3 feet, 10 at 6 feet, and 5 at 13 feet. And so far, only three scanners have survived the damage, the HHP 3800g, IDTech Econoscan, and POS-X Xi1000. I’ll argue that losing the audible response doesn’t take away from the Xi1000’s skill. With the Econoscan, we were able to throw it across a warehouse about 5 times without it breaking at all. We had a few extras of the Econoscan so we weren’t as hesitant to break it.

So that, in a very large nutshell, is how we figure out what scanners perform better or worse than the competition.

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