Understanding EPOS Hardware
A review of what you need if you’re a clothing, sports or footwear retailer and how important to have a right hardware because the wrong hardware will create problems and be unreliable.
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A typical EPOS till has five major components and while brands, specifications and quality will vary this article is not a list of makes and models – rather it is review of the types of hardware you will need to consider.
Which brands and what specification we leave to you but the elements, that together make a complete till, are always the same – although they come packaged in different ways. In essence you are always buying the same things, so with the exception of a Queue Buster till, one way or another you will need the following:
- A Computer Screen
- A Touch Screen
- A Receipt Screen
- A Barcode Scanner
- A Cash Draw
Whichever specification/type of these elements you select, you will have to allow for power cables, an internet connection and the data cabling between components. Many retailers will also want a credit card machine and possibly a customer display.
It’s worth noting that elements bought separately are not always entirely compatible with each other and there should be less to go wrong if you get the hardware from your EPOS system supplier, although this is not normally essential.
Modular PC till
Being modular, each component is completely separate and linked via cables, each element could even be a different brand from a different supplier – being based around a full PC its speed and capacity is vast.
This is a good mid/top range solution which looks best when the touch screen and scanner are elegant/designed well and are visible on the counter, while all the other components are out of site underneath/behind the counter. If the visible elements look good then it achieves most of the same goals as a designer till but at a lower cost. Hardware support and parts are normally widely available.
DESIGNER PC TILL
The Designer Till computer and touch screen are one unit and their colour/design matches that of the printer and ideally the barcode scanner, while the cash draw can be out of sight. Technically it isno different to the modular PC till, but it is designed as a style/fashion statement in its own right, and so is visible on the counter as part of the retail experience. Like the modular till, because it usually incorporates a full PC, its speed and capacity is vast.
This is usually the most expensive option, and as the PC and touch screen comes as one unit this means there will be marginally less cabling between components. Hardware support is usually tied to the supplier/brand – so ensure you can get good, fast, hardware support from them because you cannot easily go to someone else. With some models a sophisticated customer display screen is built into the main unit, but this is not an essential to the tills functioning and will not always be supported by the EPOS software you select.
This is generally the cheapest fixed-position till option. As a modern tablet is effectively both a computer and a touch screen monitor in one it will have its own operating system, generally either Android or Windows. With the addition of a tablet-stand, the tablet and a barcode scanner can sit on the counter, with the other peripherals being out of sight underneath or behind. If you need a till that can be moved, to use elsewhere, on a fairly frequent basis then this is an option you should consider.
Cabling to the tablet may be a little more visible than to modular till or designer till and tablets are not yet as powerful as full PC’s, so the thousands of size/colour combinations in a clothing or footwear outlet may result in issues if the till is very busy. Apple tablets are fairly powerful and robust but expensive to replace; with a more limited selection of printers and other hardware elements. Android and PC tablets tend to be inexpensive and have a shorter life.
Ensure that the tablet you buy supports the operating system needed for the EPOS software you have selected.
Optional Peripherals (Queue Busters)
TABLET ONLY TILL
This is the usually the cheapest of all hardware options. Whether a small or large tablet the hardware overall is cheaper because there is less of it, but this means that it is inherently more limited in its functionality as, in its purest form, it is a tablet and nothing more.
If the tablet is hand held size then the EPOS till software needs to have been especially designed for this size screen. If the tablet is larger, and you want the tablet to move around a shop, then you will need a way of both holding the tablet and at the same time using the touch screen eg a band that holds the tablet in place on your arm.
There are a number of ‘work arounds’ that make this solution better but because they have to work with a mobile solution, they will push up the Queue Buster costs, sometimes to more than a conventional tablet till.
Bluetooth barcode scanners are available and small receipt printers that can be attached to a trouser belt – or a more standard receipt printer can be located nearby and use wi-fi to produce the receipt. If you have none of these then the only receipt facility is by email, and if you don’t have a cash draw then ‘credit cards only’ is an option. Overall, unless you really need till mobility on a day to day basis, then the fixed-position till hardware above is easier to work with.
Can I Integrate Peripherals to My EPOS System ?
Historically, tablets were limited in this respect but some of the new generation of tablets are far better. Most other EPOS hardware will support any modern peripheral you wish to attach.
EPOS hardware suppliers UK
There are scores of UK hardware suppliers although most parts are actually manufactured abroad and imported into the UK, sometimes under a variety of brand names. Design and quality will vary and the choice will be daunting unless you approach the task methodically.
Generally speaking, its best to select your software first, then take the advice of your chosen supplier with regard to the capacities of Modular tills verses Tablet tills (a Designer till option is purely a ‘look and feel upgrade’ to a modular PC till). If you already have modern hardware then your EPOS software suppliers can usually work with all or most of these components.
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