Handheld barcode scanners are any scanners that are held with hands. Fixed mount Barcode Scanners which are attached to a counter, assembly line, or wall and aren't operated by the user in a direct way would be the opposite of the handheld scanner. Most handheld barcode scanners have a design with a trigger and a grip similar to a handgun to activate the scanning operation. Some scanners are designed with a button on top instead of a trigger below and with a grip. However, Portable Data Collectors (PDTs) are also scanners that are better related to the handheld barcode scanners and these PDTs can either be totally mobile computers, with different operating systems or Pocket PC or else can have their inherent data collection software running which functions to attach important information such as quantity stamps and time to the barcodes scanned.


When searching for handheld barcode scanners, there are some important performance specifications you should consider before purchasing which are minimum distance from the target, PCS value, maximum barcode width, resolution, scan rate. The minimum distance is the distance the target can be away from the scanner and it is important for non or near-contact only. The contrast level buy a barcode scanner between bars and background to be high enough for consistent readings is measured by PCS which stands for Print Contrast Signal. The "X" dimension sometimes refers also to the minimum resolution and it equals to narrowest space or bar in the barcode which can be used to determine the density of a barcode that is the number of characters per inch.


The scan rate refers to the number of scans per second that a barcode scanner can differentiate between. The choices of optical head include CCD/ LED or laser. Both LED and Laser scanning methods result in a digital signal that has be translated into computer-compatible or recognizable data. Using a certain algorithm, each bar coded message is identified and interpreted by the decoder, then the decoder either transmits that data directly to the host computer or utilizes that data for additional purposes. Any device inserted between the terminal that translates the digital signals into usable codes and the scanner is referred to the term "wedge".


Other important parameters you should consider when specifying the handheld barcode scanners are software interfaces, user interface options, reading specifications, environmental operating conditions and other general features.