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The KDC200i -- a Great Choice with the iPhone!

We recently had the opportunity to try the KDC200i scanner from KoamTac and, of all the small scanners we've tried, it is our favorite!   It combines almost all of the advantages that we had found with the KoamTac 300 with a small form factor, long battery life and an ease of use that far outstrips any of the other small laser scanners we've tested.  

The major differences between the 200 and 300 are the price (the KDC200 is about half the price of the KDC300) and the fact that the KDC200i laser works horizontally, while the KDC300i is multidirectional.


KDC200i is roughly as long as the iPhone is wide -- lightweight and portable

The KDC200i uses its Bluetooth connection to connect to the iPhone either as a keyboard or as a serial device, depending on how the interface is designed.  

  • KoamTac notes that as a serial device, the scanners can “talk” to the Android, the iPad or the iPod, devices running the Symbian O/S, Windows Mobile and the Mac OS/X.
  • As a keyboard device, they can “talk” to the iPhone, iPad and iPod.

Our testing was done on an iPhone using the version of Digit-Eyes that runs in the Safari mobile browser.  We also tested with the iPod and iPad and the results were identical.  In this configuration, the scanner performs as a keyboard device.

The KDC200i has an internal battery and, like the iPhone, need to be hooked up to a powered USB connection and charged prior to use.   It also needs to be recharged periodically, much like the phone.   We found that the battery life was fairly good with the scanner lasting at least a full day of normal use before needing to be recharged.

The KDC200i comes with a handy rubber boot (which KoamTac very strongly suggests that you use), a USB charging cable, a ribbon tether that has a nifty retractable cable attached to it, a CD and a page of printed instructions.  The tether does not have a breakaway link, so for safety reasons, we’d recommend replacing the tether if you were planning on hanging the scanner around your neck. The retractable cable could be removed and easily attached to the safer cable; it also has a pocket clip.   Because we were planning on evaluating the use of the scanner in the context of shopping, we also had a special holder for it, the finger trigger glove which holds the scanner out of the way on the back of the hand and allows the user to easily activate it.   This is such a useful product that we are devoting a separate review to it, so stay tuned!

The CD proved to contain (very nicely) the manual for the device in English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and German.  It also contained setup and interface software for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows as well as for the Mac.   Like most PDFs, the PDF proved to be only minimally accessible using the VoiceOver utility on my Mac

Pairing the KDC200i to the iPhone was relatively simple -- once the pairing codes were found.   The codes are on the nice little folded manual, but with limited or no vision, it is difficult to tell which are the two that are needed.   For your convenience, they are reprinted below and also appear on our downloadable sheet of KDC200i control codes

Scan code above to indicate iOS
Human Device Interface

Scan code above to start
Bluetooth Pairing Operation

Because the KDC200i does function as a keyboard, it interrupts the pop-up keyboard on the iPhone.   This takes a little getting used to, but once paired, the keyboard can easily be started and stopped using the scroll keys on the side of the device and the keyboard re-enabled.

Having successfully paired the KDC200i, we started scanning.  The major thing that distinguishes the KDC200i from the KDC300 — other than price — is that the laser is oriented horizontally in the KDC200i whereas the KDC300 imager is omni-directional.  This means that the KDC200i can read bar codes that are on a horizontal plane (plus a healthy tolerance for skew -- as long as the laser can catch the bars at the end of the code, it will read).

The problem is that manufacturers do not necessarily locate their codes horizontally.    In our sample of 20 common products, 5 (25%) had vertically-oriented bar codes.  These items included sour cream, a canned soft drink, tomato paste, soup and our perennial favorite, the can of Spam.  The practical effect was that without using vision, we found we had to put the item on a flat surface (the kitchen counter), put the laser facing the item and turn it to scan all surfaces.  If the code was vertical, it was captured, if not, we rotated the item and repeated the process.   This was not difficult and in most cases, we captured the item quickly.

One of the places that we thought the KDC200i might excel (and we were right!) was at the supermarket.   The Kroger grocery store in our area has shelf tags that generally reflect the UPC numbers, although this was about 95% in our sample.    The Tom Thumb/Safeway chain has many of their items UPC coded, but appear to be in a process of transition with about 50% of the items converted.   The Target grocery is 100% UPC coded.    Using the 200i paired with the iPhone, we were VERY pleasantly surprised about how easy it was to shop the Kroger store.    The Kroger shelf tags are quite small and the scanner had to be within about 18 inches, but almost all of the items were successfully identified by Digit-Eyes and finding even the codes on the bottom shelves was simple.   We compared the speed of the retrieval to another manufacturer's laser-based device and the combination of the KDC200i and the iPhone lookup proved to be significantly faster.

Our conclusions?

Bottom line: We’re still a fan of scanning with visible light and using the Digit-Eyes app on the iPhone.  In most cases, the optics on the iPhone and the new iPod and iPad are good enough that the visible-light scanner performed very well.  Most of us need only to read the occasional code and it is very nice to just have the one multipurpose device and not have to carry a bunch of extra little bits and pieces of hardware. 

However, if you are scanning a lot of things and, particularly if you are needing to read a lot of codes, having a scanner can be a very nice tool.  We really do like the top-of-the line KDC300, but on a price-performance basis, we think the KDC200i is very hard to beat, particularly if you have a little bit of vision.  When we used the KDC200i with the finger-trigger glove, it became an extremely useful tool for handling product inventories and would be an invaluable aid in applications such as working in a retail store where UPC coding was freely available.


For more information or to purchase, contact KoamTac

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