Complete Overview of Popular POS Hardware

Pavel Aramyan

Jun 06 2019

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POS hardware is the set of tools and devices that are used to accept payments from customers in a retail store.

A POS system, also known as a cash register, has long become a crucial component of any retail business that accept payments right inside the store. If you’re looking to sell your products or services, you’ll need a set of tools that will enable you to do this quickly, easily and efficiently, while being able to store the information for later use.

As a business owner, you need to know the ins and outs of POS equipment to make the most out of your efforts. In this article, we will go over the components of a POS system. We’ll also describe all the details to help you make informed decisions.

POS system components

The cash register consists of two major components: software and hardware. Usually, when you’re shopping for POS software, the same vendor will have POS hardware bundles for sale as well. For instance, market-leading POS systems brands like ShopKeep and Lightspeed offer personalized POS hardware bundles for retailers, restaurants, and quick service restaurants. It’s worth noting that all POS tools can be purchased individually, much like your home PC.

POS hardware components

Here is the full list of POS hardware components.

The computer

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The main component of a POS hardware system is the CPU, or the computer. The CPU runs the software and allows to carry out sales transactions, manage inventory, and generate reports. It either operates with a standard operating system or the dedicated POS software that is installed by the vendor.

It’s worth noting that such POS machines should only be used for the actions described above. You don’t want to surf the web or check your Facebook account to avoid any possible cyber-attacks and viruses. In some cases, the computer can be replaced with a POS iPad or a smartphone to carry out the same functions. This will preserve a lot of space and add mobility to your sales team.

Cash drawer

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The cash drawer is usually placed below the computer and opens automatically whenever it receives a signal from it. All checks, receipts, and cash are stored here. When buying the cash drawer and the computer separately, make sure that the cash drawer is compatible with your POS software and the rest of the hardware. It should also be sturdy enough to withstand multiple openings and closings.

POS monitor

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There is a high variety of POS monitors to choose from. The one you choose depends on your business needs and the amount of space you have. For instance, LCDs cost more compared to traditional CRT monitors, but they are less clunky and help preserve space. They are also a lot more modern-looking, which adds to your brand’s personality. On the other hand, if you’re a big retail store or a supermarket, you have the luxury to compromise space in exchange for saving money. Plus, the large CRT monitors generally won’t harm your brand image since they are very common in such organizations.

Keyboard

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To interact with POS machines, you’ll need a keyboard. The keyboards vary in complexity, size, and price. You can get anything from a standard, 101-key model that most people have at home on their PCs, or choose to go with industry-specific POS keyboards. Some businesses like groceries and restaurants opt to go for programmable keyboards. You can easily install quick access keys and other special functions.

POS touch screen

Depending on the business, some retailers prefer to allow customers to interact with the POS software via touch screen displays. This is generally done at quick-service restaurants or self-service stores. Customers can choose their own meals and products, pay for them and leave, without having to wait for someone to process their payments. On top of that, touch screen displays eliminate the need for a keyboard, preserving counter space.

Barcode scanner

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Much like keyboards, barcode scanners vary in shape, size, and complexity. Barcode scanners work by quickly reading the series of lines and numbers on a product and sending it to the computer to identify the item. They can also be used to add new items to your inventory in the POS software database. Small retailers usually tend to go with hand-held scanners. On the other hand, supermarkets complete a sale faster with the help of integrated large scanners.

Signature capture devices

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These devices are used to capture the digital signature of a customer, which is usually the pin code of a credit card. Modern POS systems have an integrated magnetic stripe reader in the monitor or keyboard. In this case, all that is left is a small pin pad. The good thing about credit card readers is that they also work with gift cards and loyalty program discount cards that your store may have, which helps reduce errors and paperwork at the back office.

Receipt printer

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Receipt or label printers are used to print the receipts for both the customers and the store. There are two common types of label printers – serial, dot-matrix printers, and thermal receipt printers. The serial, dot-matrix printers cost less upfront. However, they use ink ribbons and pins, which add to the overall cost of the printer in the long run. Also, these are very noisy and rather slow.

Thermal label printers cost more initially but use special paper that is cheaper compared to ink and pins, reducing the overall price of the POS equipment in the long run. Moreover, thermal printers are much faster and quieter, which is an excellent step towards providing better customer service.

Whichever model you choose, make sure that you have a bank of required supplies. These tend to expire extremely quickly. Also, when integrating a new label printer with an existing POS system, you’ll need proper cables for establishing the connectivity.

All-in-one, mini Android POS hardware

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Modern POS vendors, like ShopKeep, offer a compact version of the whole system, helping preserve space and streamline the checkout process. The compact all-in-one tablet POS comes with a built-in credit card reader, receipt printer, and touch screen display. This POS hardware bundle also includes two rolls of print paper, power adapter block and cable, USB and Ethernet cables, a screwdriver for self-setup and the user guide.

The differences between POS hardware devices

In case you’re wondering whether there are any major differences between various POS hardware components, the answer is more of a “no” than a “yes”. POS machines’ components are pretty much the same across all vendors. The differences lay in more subtle, yet equally important aspects, like service time, fast loading and processing speeds, and overall quality of service. Another difference comes with your approach to sales.

If you’re a restaurant, it’s a lot more convenient to approach customers with a POS credit card reader. This allows them to pay without leaving their table. However, POS iPads are becoming increasingly more common in the restaurant business these days, mainly because they can act as a POS terminal with the corresponding software. Moreover, they can also serve for many other minor tasks like taking order notes, showcasing various foods from the menu, etc. Also, card readers are a lot less bulky and don’t require a desk which needs to support the traditional POS cash register components. This makes them a great choice not just for restaurants, but for technically any small business.

Some retailers even go as far as turning their smartphones into a POS terminal. This is generally done at technology-oriented stores, where the salesperson doesn’t leave the customer’s side even for a second. This allows for a more sophisticated and complete shopping experience and greatly increases the chance of closing a deal.

Conclusion

When shopping for a POS system, make sure to consider your business needs and industry. While building a modern brand image is great, your POS hardware has to first and foremost become a revenue generator. If you’re a tech-oriented small business, then mobility and fancy gadgets like iPad POS will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in the whole sales process. For a large retail store or a supermarket, expensive tools may just be a luxury you don’t need.

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