Buying Advice for Windows Touchscreen POS Terminals
POS Terminals are integrated all in one systems where the computer (CPU, motherboard, memory, storage, ports) are all neatly built into a slimline touch panel, usually mounted on a counter-top stand.
Difference Between Brands
The main differences between the various brands of POS terminal manufacturers is the terminal design, the quality of the casing material and internal chassis, the type of touch technology, any waterproof features and other protection ratings, and the length and type of manufacturers warranty. Collectively these factors determine the corresponding price of each machine. Within a manufacturers range of terminals, there will of course be different options and pricing based on the type of processor, memory, storage and included peripherals.
Touch Screen Size
15" is the universal POS screen size supported by the majority of POS software applications. It is an optimum size to allow sufficient buttons on the screen, and balanced with compactness so as not to use up too much valuable shop counter space. Most screens use the conventional 'square' format (4:3) screen ratio.
For specific requirements smaller touchscreen terminals (10" and 12"), tablet pos systems, widescreen 15.3" / 15.6" widescreen, and larger 18" / 19" POS touchscreen terminals are also available from TecStore.
Older terminals tended to use Resistive (5-wire) touch screens, which effectively rely on a pressure sensor to determine the point of the touchscreen that has been pressed. More recent terminals use Projective Capacitive (PCAP) touch technology that utilises electrodes, which yields a faster and more accurate touch response, and also supports features such as 'multi-touch' where it can sense different points of the screen being pressed at the same time. PCAP also allows true flat touchscreens to be used, and are generally brighter in display. PCAP screens are more durable as they do not rely on physical pressure that Resistive screens do.
Processor & Memory
Most point of sale software applications are not processor or memory intensive programs. Typically you scan a barcode (which is like keyboard input) or select a menu item on the screen, that is then looked up in a local or cloud-based database, and added to a bill, sales / stock files are updated on the database and a mini receipt of a few lines may be printed - it is really very simple processing. So POS terminals do not usually require powerful processors, expensive graphics cards or large amounts of memory, as the surplus power will not be used with most software.
For the majority of mainstream POS applications, whether in retail or hospitality, an Intel Celeron Dual Core processor (say 2.0Ghz) and 2GB of RAM is adequate. If your POS software has greater requirements, or you require a machine which will be more futureproof long term and capable of supporting newer operating systems, newer software and/or different software architectures, then at TecStore we offer a range of more powerful machines with Core i3, i5 and i7 processors and memory upgrades of 4gb, 8gb, 16gb or even upto 32gb RAM if required.
Most POS terminals support at least 100Mbit/s for Ethernet communication. Some of the higher end terminals support faster Gigabit Ethernet.
If you are using a cloud-based POS application, it does not matter how powerful your local processor or network board or how much memory you have on your POS terminal if the performance bottlenecks are caused by slow internet speed or issues on the remote website or remote server.
Hard drives, which mechanically spin around continuously and make a whirring noise, were the greatest weakness historically in POS terminals and the highest failing component. Fortunately, in recent times, nearly all POS terminals use SSD rather than mechanical hard drives. SSD provide faster access and write times and are much more reliable and silent in operation. 64gb is the typical specification for most POS terminals - even if all the programs and data are stored locally that allows many years of transactional records to be stored. Options for 128gb, 256gb and Dual SSD are available on the higher specification POS terminals.
Some smaller POS terminals or tablet-based POS equipment may use Embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC) instead of SSD.
If the machines is dedicated for POS use, then it is unlikely you will be downloading videos, email attachments, large documents etc. The machine will either just hold temporary data for cloud-based POS applications, or reference data (products/prices) and transactional data for installed POS applications. In either case, 64gb in practical terms is sufficient for most requirements.
A Magnetic Stripe Reader is an optional add-on peripheral available for most POS peripherals. It allows you to swipe a magstripe card, either for staff login or to identify a customer for membership or loyalty points. Note: it only has these uses, it cannot be used to process credit/debit card payments.
iKey / Dallas Key Reader
iKeys or Dallas keys are small fobs that facilitate staff login, instead of using magstripe cards or pin numbers. An optional Reader has to be fitted to the POS terminal and you will need to allocate a specific key fob to each staff member, if your POS software app supports this.
This is an optional peripheral available for some touchscreen terminals. If your POS software app supports it, it can be used for staff login or to verify a customer.
Rear Customer Display
As standard, most touchscreen terminals do not include a rear facing customer display. These are optionally available if you wish to display items and prices as they are registered on a rear customer-facing screen, or if you wish to run advertising graphics, promotions and other information displays.
Customer Displays can either be integrated into the rear of the terminal, or they an be externally mounted on a pole or bracket and connected to the terminal with a cable.
The lowest cost option is a 2-line character display. Depending on your software app, this will typically show a 'Welcome' message at the start of the transaction, and then show the item name and price as sales are registered, followed by the Total Due and the Change Due.
A popular option is a graphical customer display. They are usually available in 10" (ranging from 9.7" to 10.1") and 15" sizes, but some terminals offer alternative size options. This larger size customer display allows multiple lines of a transaction to be displayed while a sale is in progress. In the surrounds or outside of a transaction, it can display graphics. Depending on your software app, this can range from large text messages, jpeg files, mp4 videos and html/css content with video and audio.
Usually for 2-line rear integrated displays, a single serial cable will connect the rear screen to the terminal for both signal and power. For graphical displays, they usually have a separate power cable, and a separate signal (VGA or HDMI) cable. Either way, the required cable(s) are included with the rear screen.
On some terminals, it is possible to get an interactive rear touchscreen which would allow the customer to interact, such as make choices (1 sugar / 2 sugars, Brown Sauce / Ketchup etc, or take part in surveys. Your software app would need to be capable of supporting such features.
Many POS terminals have VESA-standard holes at the back (75mm square, 100mm square) and these are used to remove the standard stand and fit your own VESA-standard bracket for mounting the terminal to a wall, on a counter-top pole or ceiling-suspended pole.
Most counter-top POS terminals will not have integrated WiFi, but instead an RJ45 Ethernet port for wired connection to a local router. In a commercial business environment, this guarantees connection reliability and speed. Some tablet-based POS terminals may have bulit-in WiFi as they are usually too thin to support an RJ45 port.
Where WiFi or 4G (mobile sim card) connectivity is needed on a POS terminal that does not support it, in most cases these will have to be via a third-party add-on, typically connected by USB cable.
Most POS applications expect peripherals to be connected by cable, and this physical link guarantees connection at all times in busy business environments.
Barcode scanners are usually connected by USB or RS232 Serial port, although you can use wireless (RF or Bluetooth) scanners which interact via a cradle/transmitter that is in turn wired to the POS terminal by USB cable or RS232 Serial cable.
Receipt printers and kitchen printers are usually connected by USB, RS232 Serial to the terminal or wired Ethernet or WiFi connection to your router. Where connectivity is via router, your POS terminal will need to be connected to the router too.
Some software apps will support Bluetooth connectivity of printers. scanners and cash drawers where your POS terminal / tablet equipment supports Bluetooth.
Cash drawers can be connected directly to the POS terminal if it has an RJ11 cash drawer port, but in most cases connect to the RJ11 cash drawer kickout port at the back of the receipt printer. Newer POS terminals tend to support both 12v and 24v solenoid cash drawers. With a receipt printer connection, you will usually require a 24v cash drawer.
POS integrated weighing scales will normally connect to a 9-pin RS232 serial port.
POS integrated card payment machines - depending on the provider - may connect via RS232 Serial, USB, Ethernet or WiFi.
POS integrated change machines usually connect by RS232 serial port or Ethernet.
POS integrated signature pads usually connect by USB cable.
In all cases, your software app will determine what method of connectivity it supports for each of the different types of peripherals, so please check with your POS software provider to ensure your intended POS terminal / tablet has the necessary ports or wireless connectivity options.
Where a peripheral will use RS232 Serial connectivity, you will need to be aware that some terminals have 9-pin D-shaped serial ports, and others have RJ50 serial ports (which look similar to an RJ45 ethernet port). You may need to use an adapter cable if your terminal and peripheral have different types of RS232 Serial connections.
Microsoft Windows Operating System Version
Most of our POS terminals are pre-installed with Microsoft Windows 10 IoT Enterprise which is essentially Windows 10 Enterprise, a business edition of Windows 10 Pro, with removal of default settings for forced Windows updates (which could interfere with daily business operations) and so updates limited to important security patches only. The latter is referred to as LTSC - Long-term Servicing Channel and updates may only occur once every 2-3 years. Windows 10 IoT LTSC is designed to give security and stability to single-function devices such as POS terminals, ATM machines, medical equipment and so on which do not require regular feature updates or such updates may risk compatibility with already working apps and peripherals.
Win 10 Ent IoT replaces the previous Windows Embedded POS Ready 7 which was the most prevalent Windows version on POS terminals before Windows 10 IoT.
You can read more about Windows 10 IoT on the Microsoft website
Depending on your POS software application and system memory, the 32-bit version is the standard specification. If your POS software specifically requires it, you can opt for 64-bit version instead and this is covered by the same Windows IoT license. Note: 32-bit Win 10 IoT cannot readily use memory over 4gb, so if your POS terminal will have more than 4gb memory and your POS software supports it you should opt for 64-bit.
If, for any particular reason, your POS software application (unusually) requires the standard Windows 10 Pro then this can be installed on most POS terminals although the full license will need to be purchased, and various drivers for the touchscreen and interface boards will need to be obtained and installed from the manufacturer. You will also need to concern yourself with update settings and filters for USB, keyboard, gestures, dialog box / notifications and other parameters which may interrupt the continuous running of your POS software.
Depending on processor, there is Windows 10 IoT Ent 2019 ENTRY version for standard processors like the J1900, and Windows 10 IoT Ent 2019 VALUE version for the more powerful Core i3. i5 and similar processors, and the HIGH END version for i7 and similar grade processors.
Tablet-based POS machines normally use Windows 10 IoT Mobile Enterprise version.
In most cases the most suitable Windows version for your hardware configuration will be preloaded prior to despatch.