Last year, one of our most popular articles was a product review of all-in-one touch terminals. For that review, we worked with Greg Nelson, CTO of VAR and ISV GWare, who tested seven different units. To level our playing field, we asked each vendor for a unit that met a certain spec we wanted as a baseline. Price was not a consideration. Nelson conducted a series of tests and, in the end, we discussed the highs and lows of all the units reviewed.
This year, we wanted to do something a little different. Specifically, we received feedback from readers that, while they enjoyed reading about powerful machines going head-to-head, they often get asked by customers for low-priced options. Therefore, this time we asked each manufacturer to send us its best (highest spec) unit that was under $1,300 dealer cost. We didn’t care so much about the other specs. In the end, we were going to see who provides the most bang for the buck.
Some manufacturers opted to skip this review, because they claimed to not sell on price. Some didn’t have a unit at that price point. Fair enough. Others followed our instructions and sent us a $1,300 unit. And some sent us very affordable units. How affordable? One of the units tested is almost half the cost of the $1,300 max. In the end, we received units from Touch Dynamic, GenPOS, Aures/J2, NEC, POSBank, and Pioneer POS. Oh, and we also included a Harbortouch unit to see how the “free” POS variety stacks up.
We once again partnered with Nelson to conduct our testing. Last year, Nelson wrote a custom application he could run on each unit to stress the processor. He conducted tests on the touch screen sensitivity. He commented on the fit and finish of each and the ability (or lack thereof) of each unit to be serviced in the field. He commented on the software and configuration of each unit. Finally, he even made some tweaks and recommendations. He did the same for this review.
The first step in our review was to test the processors/performance of the units. Nelson installed his custom application that read and wrote large chunks of data to an SQL database. The goal was to monitor the processor and network utilization and see how quickly each could complete the test.
The Pioneer POS unit was the fasted tested, coming in at 49 seconds. The Harbortouch unit came in at 56 seconds. That said, don’t get too hung up on the numbers. The 49 versus 56 seconds is just a way for us to compare the units. All the units performed at a level adequate to be used in real-world environments. In fact, every unit tested this year performed as well as, or better than, all the units we tested last year (including units from NCR and HP).
Another interesting note of comparison between last year’s test and this year’s is the introduction of SSD memory. Some of the units shipped with good old-fashioned SATA drives, while the others, including Harbortouch, had SSD. The result? The SSD units booted very quickly, but beyond that, there were no performance improvements. Until ISVs code to take advantage of SSD memory, there’s not much value. To satisfy his curiosity, Nelson performed some registry tweaks to make additional use of the SSD memory. The result was a 20 to 35 percent speed increase in the test results.
The draw and screen test had similar results. Nelson performed a series of touch-and-drag gestures and noted the lag experienced. As with the speed test, all performed adequately. The Touch Dynamic unit was the only one that showed any signs of lag. Upon inspection, Nelson found that the unit was using the generic plug and play drivers for video. In fact, he learned that all the units shipped with generic drivers. After installing the proper drivers, screen performance increased. We saw similar things last year. “Whose job is it to make these units shine?” asks Nelson. “I think the manufacturers need to install the right drivers and ensure customers are getting the most for their money.” The reality is that a properly “tuned” machine will outperform a higher spec’d and priced competitor that’s using plug and play drivers and not optimized.
Fit, Finish, Repairs
This is where things get a little subjective. We trust Nelson, as an industry veteran, to apply reasoning and his experience to determine whether he’d want to service the units in the field or on a bench back at the office. While all the manufacturers might claim their units could be worked on in the field, practicality would dictate otherwise.
Nelson found the GenPOS and NEC (once he figured out its unique levers and latches) units the easiest to access for repairs. The Pioneer POS unit was also easy to service. The Harbortouch unit was among the most challenging to work on, so Nelson would recommend bench repairs only.
As far as fit and finish are concerned, Nelson had his favorites and some he was less than fond of. The Harbortouch unit is the oddity in our roundup due to the company’s unique monthly pricing model. That said, it performed well in our speed tests. Nelson’s biggest complaint was the difficulty in servicing the unit. He also questioned the large size of the power brick. “Most competitive units have much smaller bricks or build them into their units,” he says. “This thing could get in the way if counter or floor space is limited.” Also, the Harbortouch unit was running POS Ready 2009. Most of the units tested were running POS Ready 7. No other OS options are available to date.
So, who has the best? Nelson has his favorites, but his reasoning might differ from yours. When pushed, here’s what he recommended. For grocery settings, he’d feel comfortable using the GenPOS, NEC, or Touch Dynamic unit (once he installed the right drivers). For retail, he thought all were good enough for mom-and-pops or boutique settings. For busier stores, he’d recommend GenPOS, NEC, or the POSBank unit. Finally, for restaurants, he’d recommend the Pioneer POS and Touch Dynamic units (although all the others would be fine in restaurants as well).