January 12, 2024

Best POS Hardware for Business in 2024

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At TechnologyAdvice, we assess a wide range of factors before selecting our top choices for a given category. We rely on our extensive research, product information, vendor websites, competitor research, and first-hand experience to make our selections. We then consider what makes a solution best for customer-specific needs.

By defining business needs, we can determine the essential features organizations in various sectors require and select platforms covering all bases. Reputable providers known for their ease of use and customer satisfaction are added to our compilation list for further analysis. We then evaluate each solution based on the features it offers, considering the platform’s usability, integration capabilities, customization options, mobile access, and any other relevant functionalities. Price plans, hidden fees, customer reviews, and customer support are also assessed in the selection process. 

TechnologyAdvice writers often take advantage of free trials and demos to get a first-hand user experience of available software. Finally, we curate a comprehensive list based on the previously stated factors, ensuring readers have the tools to make informed decisions.

We rely on an internal algorithm to calculate star ratings based on 25 factors, including various pricing, operations, analytics, and other criteria. My research focused on your top-of-mind concerns like price, core and advanced features, and user experience.

​​As the market changes, we reevaluate our choices so you always receive the best insight for purchasing decisions.

As we enter 2024, the market is brimming with innovative solutions, each promising to revolutionize how transactions are conducted. This comprehensive guide delves into the best point-of-sale (POS) hardware options available, scrutinizing their features, usability, and compatibility with diverse business needs. Whether you’re a small boutique, a bustling café, or a multi-chain retailer, our expert analysis aims to equip you with the knowledge to make an informed decision that aligns with your business objectives and budgetary considerations.

Based on our evaluations of 17 solutions, here are our choices for the top POS hardware overall in 2024:

Read more: Best Restaurant POS Systems

Square POS: Best for small businesses


Pros

  • Easy setup
  • Affordable pricing
  • Flexible payment options
  • Mobile app
  • Deep list of features (even in free version os OS)
  • Integrates additional services (including payroll)

Cons

  • Higher fees for keyed-in transactions
  • Limited customization options
  • Limited customer support

Payment variety: Accepts multiple payment types, including cards and digital wallets.

Software integration: Seamlessly connects with Square’s sales, inventory, and analytics software.

Ease of use: Simple, intuitive interface for quick learning and operation.

Security: Implements strong encryption and complies with PCI standards to secure customer data.

Cost-effective: Affordable, with no long-term contracts and a pay-per-use pricing model.

Square Reader for Magstripe: Free for the first reader; $10 for each additional reader.

Square Reader for Contactless and Chip: $49

Square Stand for Contactless and Chip: $169

Square Terminal: $299

Square Register: $799

Square POS, with its latest updates, continues to be a strong option for small businesses seeking ease of use and efficient management.

In comparison to its rivals, Square POS holds its ground with its user-friendly design and cost-effective solutions. It outshines in regard to initial purchase cost, maintenance, and transaction efficiency. Clover POS, offering robust app integration and hardware versatility, might appeal to businesses seeking a blend of value and customization. Shopify POS, excelling in omnichannel integration, is a top pick for businesses with significant online presence. Toast, with its restaurant-specific hardware, serves the unique needs of the food service sector.

Square POS is ideal for small businesses valuing simplicity, affordability, and an integrated ecosystem. Its recent updates make it a more dynamic option for fast-paced business environments. However, for more specialized needs, particularly in retail or restaurants, competitors like Clover, Shopify, and Toast provide tailored functionalities.

Pricing: 3/5

Core features: 4.4/5

Advanced features: 4/5

Compatibility and user experience: 4.8/5

Square’s evolution in POS hardware since 2009 is quite impressive. They started with the simple yet revolutionary magstripe reader, turning smartphones into credit card processors. Over time, Square expanded its hardware offerings to include various devices like chip card readers, stands, and registers, catering to businesses from mobile vendors to physical stores.

In 2023, Square introduced an updated reader with enhanced connectivity (BLE 5.3), improved security, and extended battery life, allowing more transactions on a single charge. This was part of a larger update that included nearly 100 new features, enhancing everything from appointment scheduling to online selling.

Notable additions include Waitlists for Square Appointments, the beta of Square Subscriptions, and integrations with OpenTable for restaurants. They also integrated Afterpay’s Buy Now, Pay Later option, offering more flexibility in payments.

Square focuses on intuitive, user-friendly designs in both hardware and software, ensuring a smooth experience for merchants and customers. However, it’s worth noting that Square’s simplicity comes with transaction fees that might be higher for businesses with high transaction volumes. Also, while the integrated system is efficient, it may not suit businesses needing more specialized or customizable solutions.

Clover POS: Best for overall value


Pros

  • Variety of hardware options and apps
  • Built-in payment processing capabilities
  • Aesthetically appealing design
  • Access to First Data’s merchant services
  • Offline functionality

Cons

  • Higher cost than some competitors
  • Tied to First Data for payment processing, limiting merchant services provider options
  • Early termination fees

Diverse hardware options: Clover provides a variety of hardware choices ranging from portable devices to complete station setups.

Integrated payment system: The hardware has built-in capabilities for processing various payment forms, including credit cards and digital wallets.

Customizable app marketplace: Clover’s platform offers an app market that allows businesses to tailor functionalities to their specific requirements.

Offline functionality: Clover POS systems can process payments even when offline.

User-friendly interface

Reporting and analytics: Clover provides detailed reporting and analytics tools.

Clover Go (mobile card reader): $49

Clover Flex (handheld): $499

Clover Mini (compact countertop): $749

Clover Station (comprehensive countertop): $1,349.

Clover Station Pro (upgraded comprehensive countertop): $1,649.

Choosing Clover POS as a valuable option for overall value in the competitive field of POS hardware is informed by several key factors. Firstly, its ease of use and setup, combined with a large app market for extensive integrations, positions it as a versatile choice for retail shops and restaurants​​​​. The aesthetic appeal and loyalty program offerings further enhance its attractiveness.

Compared to Square, which limits users to its payment processing system but offers hardware flexibility, Clover stands out with its variable pricing. This includes affordable monthly software options, reduced fees for multiple registers, and interest-free hardware financing options, offering a cost-effective solution for businesses​​. 

Clover’s software features, like diverse payment acceptance, online ordering capabilities, efficient inventory management, and restaurant-specific functionalities, provide a comprehensive toolset for business operations​​.

While Clover may have higher upfront costs and a requirement for its proprietary hardware, its overall value is bolstered by flexible pricing options, a broad range of features, and an expansive app market.

Pricing: 4/5

Core features: 4.4/5

Advanced features: 3.8/5

Compatibility and user experience: 4.6/5

Clover, a versatile player, presents a unique blend of functionality and style, especially catering to retail shops and restaurants. It’s celebrated for its ease of setup and a large app market, which allows businesses to customize their systems according to their specific needs. 

The aesthetic appeal of Clover’s devices is a bonus, adding a touch of elegance to the user environment. However, this comes at a cost – the initial investment can be high, and users should be wary of potential scams and poor customer support. Clover’s limitation to its proprietary hardware means businesses can’t mix and match with other systems.

Shopify POS: Best for omnichannel businesses


Pros

  • Integration with Shopify platform
  • Easy setup
  • Supports selling across different channels
  • Customizable with apps
  • Reporting and analytics capabilities

Cons

  • Requires a monthly subscription to Shopify
  • Limited offline capabilities
  • Advanced functionality often requires purchasable apps

Unified commerce platform: Integrates in-person and online sales, allowing for centralized management of inventory, orders, and customer data.

Mobile POS app: Offers a mobile app for sales transactions, making it suitable for on-the-go businesses and pop-up shops.

Customizable hardware options: Provides a range of hardware choices, from card readers to complete POS kits, adaptable to various business needs.

Extensive app integration: Access to the Shopify App Store for additional functionalities like loyalty programs and inventory management.

Comprehensive analytics and reporting: Features robust tools for tracking sales data, customer trends, and inventory levels, aiding in strategic decision-making.

Support for multiple payment methods: Accepts a wide range of payment methods, including credit, debit, and mobile payments, enhancing customer convenience.

Shopify Chip & Swipe Reader: $29

Shopify Tap & Chip Reader: $49

Shopify Retail Stand (For businesses using iPads as their POS system): $149

Shopify dock for tap & chip reader: $39

Shopify Retail Kit: $229

Shopify POS Go (all-in-one mobile POS solution): Prices vary based on features and specifications.

*Using Shopify POS also requires a Shopify plan, which starts at $29 per month for the Basic plan. Higher-tier plans offer more features and lower transaction fees but come at a higher monthly cost. Additionally, transaction fees may be associated with payments processed through the system, especially if not using Shopify Payments.

Shopify is a prime choice for omnichannel businesses, primarily due to its integration with Shopify’s expansive e-commerce platform. 

Unlike Clover POS, which is highly effective in offline settings with its comprehensive analytics and vast app library, Shopify excels in seamlessly bridging the gap between online and offline sales​​. Its intuitive backend, extensive CRM features, and capabilities for tracking stock levels across channels are key differentiators. Additionally, Shopify’s POS system shines with its online store-building prowess, offering advanced e-commerce tools, extensive payment options, and integrations with numerous e-commerce, marketing, and accounting tools, something that is not as developed in Clover’s offerings​​.

While Clover POS is an excellent all-in-one solution for predominantly offline operations, Shopify POS is more suited for businesses looking to scale across multiple locations, offering support for transactions in over 175 countries and a variety of tools to enhance customer loyalty and engagement​​. This global reach, combined with Shopify’s sophisticated online store capabilities, makes it a superior choice for omnichannel businesses, particularly those looking to integrate and manage their online and in-store operations under one unified system.

Pricing: 3.3/5

Core features: 4/5

Advanced features: 4/5

Compatibility and user experience: 4.8/5

Shopify POS is particularly suited for retail businesses operating online and brick-and-mortar platforms. Its integration with Shopify’s leading e-commerce platform offers a seamless experience for omnichannel sales, effectively syncing in-person and online transaction data. The system supports many payment methods through Shopify Payments, including popular credit cards and mobile payment options, with a consistent rate and no hidden fees​​.

Significant features of Shopify POS include inventory and product management capabilities, especially with the Pro version, which offers tools like demand forecasting, stock adjustment, and detailed inventory reports​​. It also excels in staff and customer management, providing functionalities like unique PINs for secure login, manager approval workflows, and rich customer profiles​​.

Shopify POS’s checkout features are advanced and user-friendly, supporting offline transactions and customizable smart grids for checkout. The Pro version further enhances this functionality, offering features like savable carts and custom-printed receipts​​. Reporting and analytics are another strong suit, with an integrated dashboard and the ability to generate comprehensive financial reports, crucial for business performance tracking​​.

While Shopify POS has fewer hardware options compared to some competitors, its available solutions, including POS Go, are advanced and affordable​​. Ideal for retail companies looking to integrate their online and offline sales channels, Shopify POS is a versatile choice, though it may not be the best fit for businesses focused solely on in-person sales or those requiring specialized features for specific industries like food service.

Lightspeed: Best for retail


Pros

  • Variety of hardware options
  • Integration with Lightspeed software
  • Strong reporting and analytics capabilities
  • Flexible cloud-based system
  • Retail-specific apps and features

Cons

  • Hardware compatibility issues reported
  • Additional transaction fees if not using Lightspeed payments

Diverse hardware range: Lightspeed provides a variety of hardware options, from mobile devices to full POS stations.

Integrated payment solutions: The hardware supports multiple payment methods, including contactless and mobile payments.

Cloud-based operation: Allows remote access to sales data and management tools.

Comprehensive analytics and reporting

Compatibility with Lightspeed software: Designed to work seamlessly with Lightspeed’s software for efficient sales, inventory management, and customer tracking.

Strong support and training resources

iPad hardware bundle: $700

Desktop hardware bundle: Starts at $900

Receipt printers: $300 to $400

Barcode scanners: $100 to $250

Cash drawers: A standard cash drawer can cost around $100 to $150.

Card readers: $50 to $200.

Lightspeed POS, as of 2024, is that it is recognized for its retail-focused features and top-tier stock management, making it an optimal choice for retailers with large or complex inventories. It supports a multi-channel sales strategy, and its CRM and loyalty features benefit growing customer bases. However, it may not be the best fit for small stores or businesses that require specific features like expiry dates and weighing scale integration​​.

The system offers detailed reports, sales forecasting, and strong 24/7 support, outperforming many competitors in these areas. Lightspeed’s powerful inventory control tools are especially suited for businesses like sports, jewelry, clothing, toy and hobby stores, pet stores, furniture sellers, and pharmacies​​​​.

While Lightspeed’s pricing is relatively high compared to its competitors, it provides value through features like omnichannel customer loyalty and the ability to analyze sales data, which are crucial for businesses aiming to expand and optimize their operations​​​​. Its e-commerce integration allows for a consistent brand experience across in-person and online sales channels, though businesses prioritizing e-commerce might find Shopify a better fit due to its in-house platform.

Pricing: 3.3/5

Core features: 4/5

Advanced features: 3.8/5

Compatibility and user experience: 4.6/5

Lightspeed POS, tailored primarily for retail and hospitality industries, is renowned for its comprehensive inventory management and sales analytics. 

It integrates with online platforms to support multi-channel sales, enhancing omnichannel retail strategies. Lightspeed’s strong suit includes detailed reporting, customer relationship management (CRM), and customizable loyalty programs, making it ideal for businesses aiming to grow and retain their customer base. Its intuitive interface and diverse integrations with other tools streamline operations. 

However, its higher price point and specific feature set, like lacking scheduling and weighing scale integrations, may limit its suitability for smaller or specialized retail businesses.

Toast: Best for advanced restaurant-specific tools


Pros

  • Specifically tailored to restaurant industry
  • Comprehensive system including POS terminals, handheld devices, self-ordering kiosks, and kitchen display systems
  • Offline mode
  • Customizable for different restaurant types

Cons

  • Higher-end pricing
  • Locked into Toast ecosystem
  • Contract required

Industry-specific design: Toast POS hardware is specifically crafted for the restaurant industry, accommodating its unique operational needs.

Integrated payment processing: Includes built-in payment processing capabilities, supporting a variety of payment methods including contactless and mobile payments.

Offline mode functionality

Comprehensive hardware suite

Built-in online ordering and delivery features: Supports native online ordering and delivery options. 

Detailed reporting and analytics

Card reader: $99

Guest-facing display: $250

Handheld devices: $450

Kitchen display system: $600

Toast terminal bundle: $799

Self-ordering kiosk: $1,000

Toast’s tableside order management allows servers to take orders and process payments right at the table, increasing efficiency and customer satisfaction. This feature is complemented by the system’s notable reporting tools, which offer detailed insights into various aspects of the business, including sales and employee performance, across multiple locations. Additionally, Toast’s inventory management system is highly comprehensive, enabling restaurateurs to track each ingredient’s cost, ensuring efficient stock control, and reducing wastage.

Pricing: 3.2/5

Core features: 4/5

Advanced features: 3.8/5

Compatibility and user experience: 4.6/5

Toast’s primary strengths lie in advanced capabilities for tableside order management, comprehensive reporting and analytics, and efficient inventory management, all of which are essential for restaurant settings.

Toast’s tableside order management allows servers to take orders and process payments right at the table, increasing efficiency and customer satisfaction. This feature is complemented by the system’s notable reporting tools, which offer detailed insights into various aspects of the business, including sales and employee performance, across multiple locations. Additionally, Toast’s inventory management system is highly comprehensive, allowing restaurateurs to track each ingredient’s cost, ensuring efficient stock control and reducing wastage.

TouchBistro: Best for restaurants overall


Pros

  • Restaurant-focused design
  • Offline mode
  • Integrates with many third-party apps
  • Range of hardware solutions

Cons

  • Dependency on Apple products
  • Monthly software subscription required

Restaurant-centric design

iPad-based system: The system primarily operates on iPads.

Offline mode capability

Customizable hardware options: TouchBistro offers a variety of hardware choices, from standalone iPads to complete POS setups, adaptable to different restaurant needs.

Integrated reporting and analytics: Includes comprehensive tools for detailed sales, inventory, and customer data analysis.

Third-party app integration: Supports integration with a range of third-party apps for extended functionalities like reservations, online ordering, and loyalty programs.

Cash drawers: $100 to $150

Receipt printers: $300 to $400

Kitchen display system (KDS) screens: $250

Card readers:  Around $100, depending on the technology and features

TouchBistro POS, an all-in-one restaurant management system, is developed by restaurateurs who understood the gaps in the current market and fine-tuned the system to cater specifically to the food service industry. Running on Apple iPads, it equips restaurant owners with a suite of features to increase sales and enhance the guest experience​​.

Key features that stand out in TouchBistro’s offering include table management, which allows visualization of floor plans for efficient staff assignment and table tracking, and tableside ordering, enabling servers to take orders and process payments directly at the table. Menu management through the POS terminal is another notable feature, allowing for easy updates and customization​​.

TouchBistro’s flexibility and scalability are key strengths. It is adaptable to any food service environment and supports business growth with the option to add more features as needed. The 24/7 customer support further adds to its reliability, especially during peak business hours. However, it’s primarily designed for restaurants and may not be suitable for businesses outside the food and beverage industry. The system also requires a commitment to contracts, which may be a consideration for some businesses​​.

In comparison to competitors like Clover, TouchBistro offers a more restaurant-focused approach, with specialized features that are highly beneficial for that sector. While Clover provides a broader range of POS functionalities suitable for various small to mid-sized businesses, TouchBistro’s focus on the restaurant industry makes it a top choice for those looking for a dedicated solution.

Pricing: 3.3/5

Core features: 4/5

Advanced features: 3.8/5

Compatibility and user experience: 4.6/5

TouchBistro POS, recognized for its comprehensive feature set tailored to the restaurant industry, offers an array of functionalities suitable for small to medium-sized independent full-service restaurants, as well as quick-service restaurants (QSRs), bars, coffee shops, and other food service businesses. Its core features encompass standard restaurant POS functionalities, such as reservation management, floorplan and table management, menu and inventory management, staff management, and reporting and analytics​​.

Key to its appeal is the system’s ability to cater to modern customer needs, including bill splitting, tableside payment processing, online order management, and loyalty programs. TouchBistro also supports diverse payment methods, including major credit and debit cards, and digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay, with an innovative cost-plus pricing model. Notably, its offline payment mode ensures uninterrupted service even during internet outages​.

Key components of POS systems

Each component plays a pivotal role in ensuring a smooth transaction process, contributing to a seamless customer experience and efficient business operations. As technology evolves, these components are becoming more advanced, offering businesses a range of functionalities beyond basic transaction processing.

Terminal and interface: The heart of a POS system, the terminal is where transactions are processed. It includes a user interface, typically a touchscreen, that allows employees to input orders and manage sales.

Card reader: An essential component for processing credit and debit card transactions, modern POS systems often support contactless payments and mobile wallets, offering customers more payment options.

Cash drawer: While digital payments are on the rise, cash remains a significant part of retail transactions. A secure cash drawer is crucial for businesses that accept cash payments.

Barcode scanner: For retail businesses, a barcode scanner significantly speeds up the checkout process and helps in inventory management by quickly reading product information.

Receipt printer: Providing physical proof of transaction, receipt printers are vital. Some POS systems also offer digital receipt options, catering to the growing preference for electronic records.

Optional accessories: Depending on the business type, other accessories like scales, customer-facing displays, and kitchen printers might be necessary.

Integration and compatibility: Most POS systems offer integration with various third-party applications and services like accounting software, CRM systems, and inventory management tools.

Benefits of using point-of-sale hardware

Integrating POS hardware into your business setup brings a multitude of benefits, central to which is the streamlining of transaction processes. Modern POS hardware, with its sleek designs and user-friendly interfaces, not only adds to the aesthetic of your business environment but also enhances the customer experience through quick and effortless transactions.

One of the most notable advantages of POS hardware is integrating various payment methods. Businesses can accept payments through multiple channels, including credit and debit cards, mobile payments, and contactless transactions. This flexibility caters to customer preferences and accelerates the checkout process, reducing queues and wait times.

Furthermore, with advanced security features embedded in POS systems, businesses can assure customers of the safety of their transaction data, a crucial aspect in today’s digital age.

POS hardware also plays a significant role in inventory management. By automating the tracking of sales and stock levels, businesses can maintain optimal inventory, reducing the likelihood of stockouts or overstock situations. This level of inventory control is invaluable for efficient business operations and for understanding purchasing trends, which in turn inform marketing and sales strategies.

Finally, the ability to integrate with other systems and software is a game-changer. Whether it’s linking to accounting software for seamless financial management or to customer relationship management (CRM) systems for personalized customer interactions, the connectivity offered by modern POS hardware extends its utility beyond mere transaction processing.

Finding the right POS equipment for your business

Understanding the unique strengths of each vendor within the point-of-sale market can significantly simplify the decision-making process. 

Each of these vendors brings something unique to the table, and the best choice for your business will depend on your specific needs, size, and industry. Whether it’s the simplicity and mobility of Square, the value of Clover, the omnichannel prowess of Shopify, the retail specialization of Lightspeed, the hardware excellence of Toast, or the restaurant focus of TouchBistro, there is a POS system out there that aligns perfectly with your business goals. 

In this diverse market, the key is to identify which features align best with your operational needs and customer expectations, ensuring that your chosen POS system enhances your business operations.

Featured Partners: Retail Point-of-Sale (POS) Software

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FAQs

For most small businesses, the essential POS hardware includes a POS terminal, credit card reader, and depending on the business type, a cash drawer, barcode scanner, and receipt printer.

Modern POS hardware often offers integration capabilities with various third-party applications, like accounting software and inventory management systems, to streamline business operations.

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