What You Need to Know about Barcode Types before You Buy a Barcode Scanner

Learn about Barcode Types before buying a barcode scanner. If you’re doing retail arbitrage, choosing a barcode scanner isn’t a simple task. Most people use their smartphones, but a smartphone isn’t as quick as a barcode scanner.

But not all barcode scanners are created equally. We’ll go over the different barcode types and scanner types so that you can purchase the right scanner for your business. Even if you save a few seconds per scan by choosing a better scanner, that can add up to minutes per day and hours per month!

Don’t just buy the cheapest or highest rated scanner on Amazon. You may be introducing delays or increasing the time it takes to complete the workflow.

Barcode Types

There are two main barcode types you’ll encounter when you go shopping: 1D and 2D.

1D, One-Dimensional or Linear, barcodes are the ubiquitous codes you see on tags in retail stores. Linear barcodes use a series of spacing and variable-length lines to represent numeric or alpha-numeric values. These codes are represented and read horizontally (one dimension only).

These barcodes are generally used to identify and associate inventory with a database since they carry little information—storing any more data in a 1D barcode would require more space and lines.

Sample UPC Barcode

2D, or Two-Dimensional, barcodes store data and are read both horizontally and vertically. Because data is stored in two dimensions, these barcodes can include much more information. You’ve probably seen 2D barcodes on business cards, on specialized inventory that requires tracking, or in advertisements.

Sample 2D barcode

Barcode Scanner Types

There are three main barcode scanner types: lasers, charged coupling devices (CCD), and imagers (or area imagers). We’ll go through the advantages and disadvantages of each.


Laser scanners use a red diode laser to reflect the barcode back for processing.


  • Very fast scanning compared to other types, up to even 200 scans per second for some scanners
  • Can read barcodes from farther away depending on the strength of the laser and ambient conditions
  • Accurate


  • Difficulty reading barcodes in environments with a lot of brightness or sunlight
  • Limited to 1D barcodes
  • Difficulty reading faded or damaged barcodes
  • Difficulty reading barcodes on digital screens like computer monitors or tablets

Charged Coupling Device (CCD)

CCD scanners take an image of the barcode and then decode it.


  • More durable than laser scanners
  • Can read 1D and 2D barcodes
  • Generally cheaper than laser scanners
  • Works on digital screens
  • Works in sunlight or bright rooms


  • Can’t read barcodes wider than the imaging line
  • Distance from barcode is more limited than laser scanners

Imagers or Area Imagers

Image scanners take a picture of the entire field and then decode it.


  • Able to scan almost any type of barcode, including 1D and 2D
  • Can scan in almost any environment
  • Can scan on almost any surface, including digital screens like tablets
  • More successful reading damaged barcodes because of decoding ability


  • More expensive than laser or CCD scanners

Now that you have the basics, buy your barcode scanner with confidence! If you’re doing retail arbitrage, then chances are laser scanners will be your best bet since most retail stores use 1D barcodes (UPC barcodes). For those few instances where you’ll encounter 2D barcodes, you can always use your smartphone to scan the product.

While you can use your smartphone to scan barcodes, it’s not going to be as fast as a laser scanner. You won’t have to deal with adjusting your smartphone just so that you can get the right angle or distance from the product. Barcode laser scanners will reduce the time it takes to scan, saving you precious minutes.

Looking for third-party UPC barcodes for your Private Label products? Make sure you read our article on the confusion amongst sellers with Amazon’s UPC policy before you make your decision.

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