Length:: 9:58 Mins
The BCST-10 Bluetooth Laser Scanner from Inateck is a solid performer, operating well in both Bluetooth and wired modes and lasting longer on a single battery charge than I cared to keep scanning barcodes. I was able to perform scans from 25 to 30 feet away consistently while connected via Bluetooth to my Galaxy SII smartphone, even with a closed door in between. Scanning in "offline mode" also works very well, storing scans for later uploading which persist in the scanner's internal memory even after the unit is powered off (or until the memory buffer is cleared by scanning one of the appropriate codes in the user manual).
Speaking of the user manual, it's the one sore spot in this package. Thankfully, the scanner performs superbly in spite of it, but the manual is vague, poorly translated, confusing, and contradictory in several places. It's also very essential; the manual is filled with codes you have to scan for connecting to different devices and changing internal settings, so you'll probably want to pack it with your scanner wherever you go. If you lose it, Inateck has a printable copy of it in the support section of their English website, "Inateck.com."
The instructions for pairing the scanner via Bluetooth are pretty straightforward, at least - find the section in the user manual for the operating system you want to connect with (Windows XP/7/8, Mac OS, Android, iOS), then scan its barcodes in order and follow the instructions for entering any necessary pairing PIN codes. Connecting it via USB to a computer is even easier; just plug it in, and the system should recognize it as an input device and allow you to start scanning codes without any further setup required.
The user manual's other sections aren't quite so straightforward, unfortunately. Let me preface the following information by saying that none of the below should dissuade you from actually purchasing this scanner. The scanner itself is a very solid performer, and that's where it really counts. These are merely annoyances that can be overcome with trial and error, the help of other users (including this review, hopefully), a little intuition, and if all else fails, Inateck's Facebook page, where they are active in answering questions and do so in well-written English. So, let's rip off the bandage and get right to it:
➣ Vague instructions. The user manual tells you to "Restart the scanner" in certain areas, but nowhere does it tell you how to actually turn the scanner on and off. Since the scanner has only one button, it didn't take long to figure out that you hold in the button to turn the scanner on and then hold it in again for a couple of seconds to turn it back off, but it would have saved some head-scratching if that was explicitly mentioned in the manual. Since the scanner has an auto-power off feature, I initially and mistakenly assumed there was no way to manually turn it off.
➣ The manual's translation. Inateck appears to be a German company, judging from its "Inateck.de" domain name, and poor translations aren't anything new for non-English companies selling in the U.S. market. Given the quality of the scanner itself, though, you would think Inateck could have sprung for a decent translation of the manual into English.
➣ Using the "Common Function Barcodes" in Section 9. Unlike other code sections that have "Enter Setup" or "Start Setting" barcodes that you initially scan, and then "Exit with Save" and "Save and Quit" barcodes you scan once finished, Section 9 simply has codes for several more in-depth settings. It took me a few times scanning these codes before I realized you must first to scan the "Enter Setup" code in Section 10 before scanning the function code in Section 9 you want to apply, and then scan the "Exit with Save" code in Section 10 once you are finished. The functions in Section 9 will persist in the unit even after you power it off. This was confusing because I'd already tested the "Offline Mode" functions in Section 7, which also doesn't have the "Enter Setup" or "Exit with Save" barcodes. In that section, however, those setup and save codes are NOT needed.
➣ There are function settings in Section 9 that allow you to set the scanner to "Do not Apply Enter for suffix" and "Apply Tab for suffix." These do just what you'd expect - the first removes the carriage return/enter command off the end of each scan, meaning all of your scanned codes will show up in one connected line with no spaces or breaks. The second adds a tab command after each scan, just like if you were hitting the Tab key on your keyboard between each entry. The problem is that there are no commands included in the manual to revert these two settings to their previous state. That means if you want to use Tab as your scanning suffix for a few scans and then revert back to using Enter, you have to perform a factory reset of the scanner and then re-pair the scanner to with your Bluetooth device. Very annoying. Thankfully, there is an easy fix - Inateck may not have included the barcodes for these functions in the user manual, but if you know the proper setting codes, you can create your own barcodes for these functions yourself and print them out to use (do an internet search for "barcode creator" to find a website that allows you to create barcodes from numbers).
For "Apply Enter with suffix," create a barcode for the following setting code: 1340590061
For "Do not Apply Tab for suffix," create a barcode for the following setting code: 1340590064
I wouldn't be surprised if there are some other setting codes available that are also not in the manual. I wrote Inateck asking if there are codes for using (and subsequently removing) a Comma for the suffix, for instance, but as of this review I haven't received an answer back.
➣ The scanner's SPP (serial port profile) functionality. While most users will only need to use the scanner in its default HID mode (human interface device), it does provide SPP connectivity, as well. However, the manual doesn't make any mention of when you might find this useful. When I wrote Inateck and asked them what hardware, apps/programs, or situations SPP mode would be best suited for, they responded only with "it allows you to upload multiple scans at one time." I asked how that differed from the "Offline Mode" functionality, but I did not receive an answer back. If you need SPP functionality, you probably already know what it is and how to best make use of it. And if you don't know what SPP is, you likely don't need it anyway. That said, it still would have been nice to get a little more explanation of its usefulness in the user manual itself.
➣ "Offline Mode" in Section 7 could be more appropriately named "Internal Memory Storage Mode," as the scanner doesn't actually disconnect from its connected device while in this mode; it just stores your scans internally instead of instantly transmitting them to the connected device without saving them in its memory. You can scan the "Summarizing of uploaded data entry quantity" function barcode to transmit a line of text to your connected device that shows how many barcode scans you currently have saved in the scanner's internal memory. It's also worth noting that if you scan something by accident, there is no way to remove it from the memory without completely clearing all the codes (a "Remove last scanned entry" function would be very handy, if Inateck is listening).
The instructions for this section start off well enough, but they get fairly confusing after the first few sentences. Offline Mode simply stores any barcodes scanned into the scanner's internal memory until one of two things happens: you scan the "Manual data upload" barcode, or you scan the "Quit offline mode" barcode. Manual data upload does exactly what you would think - it sends the scans you've stored all at once to whatever device you're connected to, be it via USB or Bluetooth (if connected via both methods at once, the device connected via USB will take precedence). The "Quit offline mode" code does three things; it automatically sends all the scanned data to your connected device just like the "Manual data upload" function, but it also clears the internal memory and puts the scanner back into its default mode where it immediately sends scanned codes to your connected device.
Due to how it automatically sends all the saved barcodes and then immediately clears the memory when you scan the "Quit offline mode" code, I recommend using Offline Mode in one of two ways:
1) Enter offline mode, scan your items, and scan the "Manual data upload" function code when finished. Then scan "Buffer data purge" to clear the memory before scanning "Quit offline mode." This clears the scanner's internal memory before quitting so that you don't get double entries of all your scans upon exiting.
2) Scan "Enter setup" in Section 10 of the manual, scan "Disable Auto Upload" in Section 9, and then scan "Exit with Save" in Section 10. This will keep the scanner from automatically sending all the scanned barcodes when you scan the "Quit offline mode" code in Section 7. You could then enter Offline Mode, scan your barcodes you want to save, scan "Manual Data Upload" once you are reading to send them to your connected device, and finally scan "Quit offline mode" to clear the memory buffer and return to default instant-send scanning mode. This accomplishes the same thing as the other method I listed above, except that the "Disable Auto Upload" setting will persist in the device until you scan the "Factory Reset" code and re-pair the device (it would be nice if Inateck would provide a code to re-enable the Auto Upload feature without performing a factory reset, as well).
The reason for using the Offline Mode in this manner is to prevent possible data loss. You COULD use Offline Mode by simply entering the mode, scanning your items, and then scanning the "Quit offline mode" code to transmit your data and clear the memory. However, if you experience any sort of transmission problem (your Bluetooth connection drops, your USB cord unplugs, etc.), you are going to lose all of your stored barcodes since the "Quit offline mode" function clears out the internal memory by default once scanned. There's really no reason to risk that, and I personally use Method 2 listed above when doing scans in Offline Mode.
➣ The ambiguity and conflicting information in the user manual versus the specs listed on the box. The box states the scanner has a 1500mah battery and can store up to 2600 entries in its internal memory, whereas the manual states the scanner has a 1400mah battery and can store 1350 entries internally. It also states "Please use the matched power adapter offered by the supplier" in a small "Warning" area just below Section 9 in the manual. No power adapter is supplied with the scanner, and all that's required for charging the device is to plug it into your computer's USB port with its included cable, or plug it into a standard 5-volt USB power adapter like you'd use for AC outlets in your house or the DC power port in your car.
I realize that is a LOT of information about the included user manual and areas I found problematic with it. The good news is that, armed with the information above, you hopefully won't have to sort those issues for yourself, so they won't be problematic for YOU. Once you know how the setup codes and different modes work, using the scanner is a real joy. If I was rating this scanner based on its user manual, I would give it at 3 out of 5 stars. But I'm not. I'm rating the actual scanner itself, and taking into account all its features and how great it works once it's set up the way you want it, I wholeheartedly rate it a 5 out of 5 stars. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone needing a wired or Bluetooth laser scanner; I would just make sure they took all of the above information into account on the front end to insure that their setup process was a fairly painless affair.
Review disclosure: I was provided a sample of this product for the purposes of examination and review. No review or particular rating was promised in return, and the opinions expressed here are my own following my fairly extension first-hand experiences with this product.