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POS Printers: Thermal vs. Dot-Matrix

Today’s retailers use two main types of receipt printers with their POS systems: thermal printers and dot matrix printers. Both have a place in the world of evolving POS technology, and it's up to you to decide which is right for your business.

More and more retailers seem to be moving toward thermal printers, which are fast, reliable and better able to meet the requirements of certain POS systems. Thermal printers are quieter than dot matrix models and are capable of producing better graphics — a big plus in our image-driven world. But that's not to say there is no place for dot matrix printers, which still perform well enough to suit many retailers and have specific notable advantages.

The Pros of Thermal Printers

  • Thermal printers are fast, no question about it. On average, they print 20 lines per second, according to the MyPOSPrinter Blog, compared to dot matrix models that typically average about 3.
  • They’re quiet — much quieter than dot matrix models. And while that might not seem like a consideration, in boutiques and other high-end stores where ambiance is important, it’s a big plus.
  • While both thermal and dot matrix printers have the ability to print logos and other graphics, thermal printers use etching. Etching often produces images in greater detail than the ink used in dot matrix devices.
  • In general, thermal printers are built to last. They’re compact and have fewer moving parts, while dot matrix printers have heads that can break easily when they snag on their own printing ribbons.

The Benefits of Dot Matrix

  • When it comes to price, it’s an easy decision: Dot matrix models are less expensive than their thermal counterparts. Though prices will vary between product lines, thermal printers are almost always pricier.
  • If you need to make receipts with multiple copies, a dot matrix printer is a solid choice. These printers have an internal pressure mechanism that results in harder impressions. What does that mean? You don’t have to worry about the second receipt copy coming out blurred or indecipherable.
  • Dot matrix printers use ink to print, and ink actually smudges less often than etched receipts.

As with any other type of POS system hardware, there are pros and cons to both styles. Your POS system’s particular needs, your budget and the nature of your retail small business may determine which type of printer is right for you.

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