Motorola DS4208 Barcode ScannerMotorola has a new 2D barcode scanner out, the DS4208, and it looks to be an affordable alternative to the high end 2D scanners that have come out in the past year or so. A lot of retailers may want to scan 2D coupons, or maybe read coupons off of cell phones, but can’t justify spending $400+ for such a scanner. Thankfully, this scanner hits a price point that should be a lot more palatable.

The scanner comes in three styles, Twilight Black, Cash Register White, and Healthcare White. Twilight Black & Cash Register White are the standard color schemes you see other Motorola hand scanners in, so that’s pretty standard. The healthcare model comes in hospital white and blue, and features the specialized plastic housing that can be cleaned by chemical agents without pitting or becoming brittle. And it matches hospital color schemes. You don’t want to clash at your hospital, that would be far too gauche.

Scanning with the DS4208 is pretty snappy, and you get a range of about a quarter inch to over a foot with standard retail barcodes. Performance was pretty similar to the LS2208, with the DS4208 able to read 100 mil reflective barcodes from about 8 feet back. I doubt many people will need this functionality from the DS4208, but it’s there, and that’s pretty rad. A red LED circle is projected before scanning to let you know what is about to be scanned. Aiming assistance is fantastic, and the LED helps especially with closely aligned barcodes.

There’s also some pretty legit motion tolerance for the scanner, with an ability to scan barcodes moving up to 100 inches per second, or about 6 mph. So you could catch the barcode on someone going for a light jog, maybe the wristband on a patient making a break for it, or maybe even use it to set split times on slot car racers. Or I guess you could also put it in presentation mode and scan high volumes of groceries & whatnot. That one seems more apt.

Motorola built the DS4208 to be pretty resilient, so this scanner could fit in pretty well at garden centers as well as retailers. The body is pretty sturdy and offers a drop resistance of 6-feet to concrete, so even falling off a shelf won’t really cause problems. And an IP43  seal, while not quite as robust & “sneezeproof” as the IP54 of burlier scanners, still keeps out some dirt and water splashes. I wouldn’t hose it down, but collateral damage from a water balloon fight might be okay.

And with all this fanciness you get a 5 year warranty. Used to be 2D scanners came with 2 year warranties if you were lucky. Now they’re so near bulletproof that manufacturers will give you another 3.

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Part of the fun of being a product manager is getting to know manufacturer reps. These guys & gals live and breathe their product line, and they’re more than happy to extol the virtues of their new fantastic product. I figure there’s either some kool aid involved, or the smell of new plastics has some sort of mind altering effect, because they exhibit a level of exuberance I’m more accustomed to seeing at a Disney theme park.

The reps seem to enjoy picking my brain about products as well. A few have said that often times we have a view of what our customers need that might not line up with other resellers or developers. Twelve cell phone radios might not be what our customers need. But sometimes a product comes out that so specifically hits our main user base that we know it’s going to be a knockout even when it’s just a 3D render and a few buzzwords.

The Motorola CS3070 barcode scanner is one such item. For the longest time, Motorola/Symbol (or Motorymbol if you dig synergy) had been manufacturing & shipping out the CS1504, a batch barcode scanner that ran on a few watch batteries and looked like something you’d find at the bottom of a toy chest. As far as I can tell, it wasn’t designed to take the market by storm, but it was a good and inexpensive way for businesses and consumers to scan a ton of barcodes and output them into a spreadsheet. We sold our share of them, and customers really liked the fact that you could perform basic inventory management for under $400.

But the scanner was pretty lacking and showing its age. The scan engine was an older model that seemed underpowered compared to its cabled brethren, 3 disposable watch batteries really doesn’t scream environmentally friendly, it was very much something that needed some refreshing. And whenever our rep came to visit, we’d mention that if they put together a newer unit, with a rechargeable battery, we could probably move a few. And so they did, and in a big way.

The Motorola CS3070 takes entry level batch scanning and makes it easier than you could imagine. Because people often imagine scanning tons of barcodes and exporting it to something else. They’ve built it with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that charges over USB no sweat. It’s available in two flavors, straight up batch data sending and Bluetooth. The Bluetooth model acts as a regular cordless scanner, or it can send batch data over USB like its radio-less partner.

What sets it apart from the Opticon OPN 2002 is that the CS3070 has 512 MB of flash memory. Motorola claims that’s enough memory to store over 1 million barcodes and timestamps, however the OPN 2002 can store around 20,000 with its 1 MB of memory. I did some a little math, because math is fun, and with a straight comparison, 512 MB could theoretically store 10.2 million barcodes. Possibly. I don’t know who has that many barcodes, but it’s a possibility.

The  CS3000 actually mounts as a USB device, so you can grab the barcodes manually and not have to install a bunch of drivers. And because the CS3070 mounts as a flash drive, you can install software onto it, and after setting up an autorun file on the unit, whenever you plug it in it’ll run the apps you need. So now instead of having one computer that syncs your devices, the device does all the work. I could see this being a fantastic solution for businesses who have gift registries and multiple checkstands. You don’t have to wait for the licensed computer to be open; the license travels with the device.

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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