Portable barcode readers are available in two main categories. 2D and 1D. 2D barcode reader sales are growing at an impressive rate. 1D scanner sales are quite stable year over year. The question that many potential buyers of 2D barcode readers are asking is: “What are the main advantages of using a 2D barcode reader versus a 1D barcode reader?” This article looks at just a few of the many benefits. There are some disadvantages to consider when making a decision.


The most important advantage of using a 2D barcode scanner is the ability to read and decode 2D barcodes. Data Matrix, Aztec, QR Code, and Han Xin are examples of 2D barcodes in use today. 2D barcodes can contain much more data than 1D barcodes in the same physical space or less. Product manufacturers can put hundreds or even thousands of characters into a single 2D barcode.

Having the ability to read barcodes omni-directionally is another great advantage of using a 2D barcode scanner. All portable 2D barcode readers use an image sensor to capture an image of the barcode. That image is then run through a software decoder program that resides in the scanner’s firmware. The software decoder program has the ability to locate the barcode based on the unique characteristics of each barcode, regardless of the orientation of the barcode. This system allows the user to keep the scanner in the same position for each barcode reading regardless of the barcode position. The scanner does not have to be oriented to align with the barcode being read. User fatigue and overall read times are greatly reduced.

The image sensor uses the same technology as today’s digital cameras. The only main difference is that 2D barcode scanners use a grayscale imager instead of a color one. Because it is an imager, many scanners have the ability to take a photo and send it to the computer it is connected to. Taking photos of signatures such as proof of delivery, damaged packages, form recognition, and off-the-scanner image processing are just a few of the applications used with images from 2D barcode scanners.

Reliability is another great advantage of 2D barcode scanners. There is only one moving part in a 2D barcode scanner. The trigger switch. All scanners use trigger switches rated for millions of activations. There will rarely be a failure on the field. No failure means no downtime for customers, which translates to greater efficiency, less frustration, and a lower total cost of ownership.

These are just some of the advantages of using a 2D barcode scanner instead of a 1D barcode scanner. There are more benefits that are not listed here. There are also some downsides. Typically, the pros outweigh the cons, but the cons should be considered when making a decision.


Price. 2D barcode readers are a relatively new and constantly evolving technology. Image sensors with more pixels, faster decoding algorithms, improved lighting, and aiming patterns are being modified and improved. Due to all these investments in technology, the price of 2D barcode readers is higher than that of 1D barcode readers. But that price gap is narrowing rapidly. All scanners come close to the price point where they are considered a basic product.

The working range of 2D barcode readers is a second disadvantage. The working range is defined as the furthest point from the scanner where a barcode can be read minus the closest point where a barcode can be read. For example: a UPC-A barcode can be read at a distance of 10 inches from the scanner. That same barcode can be read at a distance of about 2 inches from the scanner. 10 inches minus 2 inches equals 8 inches of working range. 1D barcode scanners could read that same barcode at a distance of 18 inches and a distance of close to 1 inch. That lower working range can be a problem in some applications.

Portable 2D Barcode Scanner – Advantages and Disadvantages

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