Which POS Hardware Should I Buy?

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Hardware stations are expensive, and the price range is considerable from $1,200 to $3,000 plus depending on hardware specifications, quality, and peripheral (receipt printer, barcode scanner, etc.) needs.  Which peripherals do you need?  Should you invest in the best or go on the cheap?  This post will give you things to consider and recommendations in navigating the POS hardware landscape.

The Computer ($800 – $1,600)

Operating System

The core of any POS hardware station is, of course, the computer.  Aluvii utilizes hardware device drivers (the software that the operating system uses to communicate to the peripheral device) compatible with and/or included with Windows operating systems (Windows 7 and above); therefore, though Aluvii can perform many functions on any device with a web browser (as with any browser-based application, there are varying experiences depending on device), a computer running Windows OS is required for printing receipts, tickets, and ID cards; operating cash drawers; and swiping or dipping credit cards.

Desktop vs Tablet

Because desktop computers have more internal space for computer components and are not subject to the rigors of a mobile device, they are capable of more power.  Just like resource-intensive graphic design tasks are not normally performed on a tablet, a POS station operating the front-end of an amusement business running several peripheral devices, processing payments, entering membership information, etc. is best performed on a desktop computer.

Tablets work great and are very commonly used with Aluvii software for single-purpose and customer-facing applications such as liability waiver stations, self-service kiosks, admission scanning gates, timeclock stations, etc.

Consumer vs Business Grade

A consumer grade computer with seemingly the same exact specifications as a business grade computer can be half the price.  Is the business grade computer really twice as good?  From what we’ve seen, the answer is yes! – they are at least twice as good.  If you have the money, under normal circumstances, you will get your return on investment by spending more up front for the business grade computer, because they are built with higher-quality parts that are built for the rigors of being used all day every day for years in abusive environments.  The warranties prove this out with warranties of consumer grade computers typically in the 6 month to 12 month range with business grade computers in the 2 – 3 year range.

Computer Recommendations

All-In-One computers (aka “AIO” is a computer that has the computer components and the monitor built into the same physical housing) are great for POS stations, because you don’t have to give up precious under-counter space for a computer tower or risk it being kicked over by employees.

If countertop space allows, a large touchscreen display of 21” or larger is ideal.  It provides plenty of real estate for large buttons that make it easier to see and touch as well as data entry tasks like entering membership demographic data.  The consumer grade models that meet minimum Aluvii specifications are in the $800 range.  The business grade models are in the $1,600 range.

Keyboard and Mouse

Don’t forget the keyboard and mouse.  Any keyboard or mouse will do; however, a corded, compact keyboard with a 10-key pad for faster typing of numbers  and a corded laser mouse is recommended.  Battery powered keyboards and mice look nice and work well at a personal desk or home computer where they are not used all day, every day and where a sleek, clean look is a higher priority than precision and performance; however, corded mice and keyboards are recommended for POS stations.

The Cash Drawer ($95 – $110)

Cash drawers are pretty straight-forward.  Consider how much cash and coin of the various denominations you’ll send out in the initial till in the morning and consider how many of your customers will be paying with cash and coin.  If you are an arcade that has any coin operated games, consider a larger drawer for quarters and tokens.

MMF brand printers are an industry standard; however, any cash drawer that can function with the OPOS driver will work.  Some recommended cash drawers can be found here.  Modern cash drawers are typically connected to the receipt printer, so be sure that a cash drawer “kicker cable” is included.  If it is not, they typically run an additional $15.

The Magnetic Stripe Reader or EMV Pin Pad ($65 – $1,000)

If you choose to only swipe credit cards, you can get a USB magnetic stripe reader for $65.  If you want to provide better security protection for your customers and protect your business from chargebacks and liability for security breaches, it is recommended that you get an EMV pin pad.

A recommended mag stripe reader can be found here.  EMV devices supported by Aluvii’s supported merchant payment services provider can be found here.

The Receipt Printer ($150 – $315)

For the tech-savvy, environmentally conscious consumer, Aluvii can email receipts; however, some customers demand a paper receipt.  The full line of Epson and Zebra brand receipt printers are compatible with Aluvii.  In addition, any receipt printer with OPOS drivers are compatible.  Some recommended receipt printers can be found here.  If your budget is tight, the receipt printer is a peripheral you can be stingy with, as I do not typically see a reason to splurge for anything above the base model.

The Barcode Scanner ($180 – $400)

If you work with barcodes (tickets, retail products, season pass cards, gift cards, etc.), you will want a barcode scanner to save time associated with hand typing in barcodes.

1 Dimensional vs 2 Dimensional Barcode Scanners

Barcode scanners come in 1 dimension (1D) or 2 dimension (2D) varieties.  1D barcode scanners are more finicky when trying to get a good scan, and they cannot scan barcodes off of mobile devices.  A 2D barcode scanner is far superior to a 1D barcode scanner with respect to barcode scanning reliability and speed and can scan barcodes off of mobile devices, so are the no-brainer recommendation for amusement facilities.

Corded or Cordless

Barcode scanners can connect to the computer using varying wireless and Bluetooth technologies as well as a USB cord.  Most customers will find that the less expensive and more reliable corded barcode scanners will be the best choice.  Sometimes cordless barcode scanners are necessary – the most common application for cordless scanners in entertainment facilities is the redemption counter where there are bins of toys, and the attendant must walk a large counter scanning various bins.  Cordless scanners will cost more and have more maintenance typical of any device with a battery.  Cordless scanners are also more easily dropped and damaged.

Some recommended barcode scanners can be found here.

The Wristband Printer ($350)

Wearing a wristband at an entertainment business goes as far back as I can remember.  The old days of rotating a colored wristband for different days or times have been replaced with printing a barcode and other data on the wristband.  If your business needs require more than rotating colors or want to include elements of security and access control, a wristband printer is a relatively affordable option.  Some recommended wristband printers can be found here.

The Ticket printer ($700 – $2,000)

Tickets can be printed on thermal receipts for situations where the ticket will have a short lifespan (like walking 50 feet from the ticket booth to the front gate); however, most businesses that print tickets will also need an option to print tickets onto classic ticket stock.  BOCA brand printers are the defacto standard in the amusement industry.  Aluvii is compatible with all BOCA printers.

The ID Card Printer ($1,400 – $1,700) 

Physical Cards vs Digital

Encouraging customers to go all-digital for their membership, is of course recommended and is the future; however, consider your customer demographic and process as you consider whether you need an ID card printer.

The Costs of Printing

Expect to pay about $0.36 in hard costs per color ID card printed ($0.32 for the print ribbon and $0.04 for the plastic).  This does not include the payroll waiting for the card to print (typically 30 seconds or more once the print job is sent), the initial card printer purchase, nor the card printer maintenance.

Networked ID Card Printers

Because print volumes are relatively low on ID card printers, Aluvii supports networking ID card printers allowing you to purchase and maintain only one ID card printer and having multiple POS stations print to that one ID card printer.

Datacard and Magicard are two compatible brands.  Other brands are also compatible.  Ask for more information on specific compatibility options.  Some recommended ID card printers can be found here.

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