When it comes to barcode scanners, I’d be the first to admit that I usually turn to Symbol. Whether the low cost laser scanners for linear barcodes or cordless scanners, I’ve always found the Symbol products to be really nicely thought out – and basically just work.
Anyway, just for a change I have an Intermec SR61 on my desk so I thought I’d try it out.
The SR61 is a robust design and competes with the LS3478 or LS3578 in the Symbol range.
The SR61 is basically a nicely designed handheld scanner – the balance is good for anyone working in a scan intensive environments. It isn’t tethered to a computer, instead it uses Bluetooth wireless technology to allow the operator more freedom of movement – up to about 100 feet away from the host.
Intermec sell the SR61 with a choice of their scan units, linear imager, area imager and the sexy EX25 imager for both long and short range.
Personally, I don’t like linear imagers, I’m a laser guy when it comes to linear barcodes. I therefore wouldn’t consider the linear version of the SR61, I’d go with the Symbol LS3578 if I only had to scan linear barcodes.
I reviewed the EX25 scanner from Intermec here and I think it matches up very well against Symbol’s Lorax long range scanner – especially since it can read both linear and 2D barcodes.
The SR61 on my desk has Intermec’s standard style area imager and I’m not a fan. The much better EX25 imager has a really accurate aiming mark, whereas the imager in this scanner really has no accurate way to aim it at the barcode. This is OK if there is only one barcode in the field of view, but this isn’t always the case. Why can’t the area imager have an aiming point like the EX25, the Symbol scanners or (best of all) the Cognex 750 series?
How a barcode scanner connects with the user’s computer system is obviously very important. The Symbol cordless scanners are simple enough – each uses a Bluetooth base station that is connected to the host PC via a cable – usually USB these days.
Intermec has taken a different approach – the SR61 comes with a familiar looking cradle, but there is no wireless connectivity. Instead the scanner comes with a little USB Bluetooth adaptor to plug into the host PC.
After sticking the adaptor into a USB port I had no difficulty pairing with the scanner. This however is about as far as I could get. Out of the box, the Intermec system doesn’t provide keyboard input into applications on the PC. The only way I could find to scan into applications such as Excel would be to buy Intermec SmartWedge software which retails at $140. All in all, a painful process to achieve functionality that comes out of the box with the Symbol and most other brand scanners.
But wait – you might think I’m giving up on the SR61, but I haven’t just yet. There is another Intermec workaround for this issue – the SD61 Bluetooth base station. There is one with my name on it on the FedEx van today.
The adventure continues …
OK, the SD61 arrived safely. It is a rather cheap and cheerful plastic box with a USB connector and (hidden under a little plastic door) a non-standard D-type connector as well. The sad thing is that there is no USB cable to plug into the port.
Much hunting around and I find an Intermec USB cable, not sure if the correct one though. The scanner pairs with the SD61 easily enough, by scanning the barcode on the box and I went to the trouble to download the Intermec EasySet software to configure everything.
Everything done and ready to scan. Seems to be working but no data is transferred to my PC. The USB cable I’m using is not the same part number as the one suggested in the manual so I’m wondering if I need to invest in the correct one.
Thanks to our friend Gerry, our helpful Intermec guy, I finally get the proper cable and (after a firmware update and getting some setup files from tech support) the SD61 is up and running.
The list pricing for the SR61 is very similar to that of the equivalent Symbol scanner.
For example, for someone needing to be able to read linear barcodes only, a Symbol LS3578 has a list price of $1,028 for a kit containing the scanner, base station, power supply and USB cable. The SR61 with linear imager lists at $1,055 for its kit of scanner, cradle, power supply and Bluetooth dongle. If you need to get the scanner talking to your Windows apps, you’ll need either the SmartWedge software (list $145) or the SD61 base station (list $450)
I’m not really sure what to make of the SR61. I don’t understand why a product would be released that is so difficult to set up, especially when competitors devices work right out of the box.
As much as I like the dual range EX25 scan engine that is available, I don’t believe the other two (the linear imager and the area imager) are in same class.
I also am not at all sure about the connectivity. I’m sure this is because I’m so used to the Symbol (and the old PSC Powerscan RF) way of doing things with a dedicated base station/cradle for each scanner. I don’t like having to buy additional software or another base station to get the scanner capable of doing simple tasks.
I’ve tried to get my head around this product and why it works the way it does without success. One feature with the SD61 base station for example is that up to 7 scanners can be paired with it at one time. Very interesting, but why? I can see that this would reduce the cost by allowing scanners to share a base station, but having numerous scanners all sending data to the same PC doesn’t seem like a good idea to me!
The EX25 scan head is so good, that if I needed very long range scanning, I’d consider the SR61 – even with all the drawbacks. The perfect application would be for a warehousing job needing long and short range scanning where the scanner would be communicating with a Bluetooth enabled Intermec vehicle mounted computer, rather than with a desktop PC.
For more routine scanning jobs, I’d be buying elsewhere – the SR61/SD61 combo is too much hassle. It makes no sense for a VAR to have this system drop shipped to a client, unless the customer already knows how to make it work. I recently purchased another, eight months after the first and the system still does not work with USB out of the box.
Have you used the Intermec SR61 scanner with SD61 base station? How do you like it? Am I totally missing something here? I’d love to get your thoughts.