Cash Register, Point of Sale & Credit Card Information Central

Technology Stand-off: Traditional Cash Register vs Tablet POS in the Event Industry

Posted by Bryan Mueller on Wed, Jan 27, 2016 @ 11:42 AM


While it seems everything is getting smaller, faster and more technologically advanced, you may ask yourself how these changes affect the point of sale industry. Does the traditional cash register still have a place in today’s business environment? Are iPads the solution everyone has been waiting for?


This might not be a big deal for most businesses, but for the event industry, portability matters. The nice thing about iPads is they are small, light and easy to pack. Compared to using a cash register, you can pack 10 times as many iPads in the same space. Granted, you need to be a little more careful in how you store them.

Where the portability factor balances out is in the extras that are used with the iPad. If you don’t plan on constantly holding the tablet, you will also need to pack a stand for each one. Plan on accepting cash? You’re going to need a cash drawer. Handing out printed receipts? Guess you’ll need a printer too. Once you add in all the other stuff, packing needs are much the same. For some instances, going cashless and only doing emailed receipts will work fine.

Setup time can vary between the options as well. Pull a register out of the box, set it on the counter, plug it in, and it’s ready to go. The iPad on its own simply needs to be placed on the counter and turned on. If printers and cash drawers are involved, it takes a little more time. Bluetooth devices need to be matched to the corresponding, pre-paired iPad, or will need to go through the pairing process for each device.


Portability is also tied into keeping your equipment safe. At most events, product and equipment is left in booths or tents. When a cash register is left out, it isn't necessarily a desirable item for someone to take. The primary concern would be someone wanting to take whatever cash might be in it. Since very few people actually leave money in a register when no one is around, it makes sense to leave the drawer open. Would-be thieves won't have to break it so see there is nothing in it, and they won't walk away with something as conspicuous as a big cash register.

Tablets, on the other hand, are more of a temptation. They are easier to stuff into a jacket and no one would think twice about seeing somebody with one walking down the street. That means that each night, you'll need to take more precautions to keep them safe. Whether you hide them under the counter, lock them in a secure cabinet or room, or take them back to the finance office, they are going to get moved. 

Power Independence

One of the great things about mobile payment platforms is the freedom to go to your customers. That includes not being constantly tethered to an electric outlet. A cash register doesn’t have that luxury. In outdoor environments, where running power to remote locations is tricky or costly, iPad have the advantage. The battery life on an iPad with moderate to heavy sales will last 6-10 hours. Be sure to take your hours of operation into account when making a decision about power.

Don’t forget that any peripherals you use will also need power or a place to charge batteries. Printers, barcode scanners, and the like typically have a longer battery life because they aren’t in constant use. However, these pieces of equipment will need a spot at a charging station, too. This can create extra work by requiring several items being moved from a charging location to sales area, especially if multiple terminals are used throughout an event.


Traditional cash registers rely on paper reports to convey information. Financial data, PLU data, time reports, clerk reports and more are all available in printed form. Tablet applications take full advantage of their connection to the cloud. Sales data is stored online and consolidated for easy access. Given the number of POS apps, these reports are represented in different ways. Colored graphs, tabular data, selectable date ranges all make sales data easy to read and sort.

Online reporting is also available with a cash register using a special wireless modem. The same technology that transmits credit card transactions can be used to send sales data to an online portal. This is a separate piece of hardware and therefore is an additional expense. Many point of sale apps also charge a small monthly data maintenance fee. This fee is assessed only if you require access to the data months after the event or sale.

Cool Factor

There is definitely something to be said for looking modern. Perception is a huge motivation for many events. Music festivals and youth oriented conferences in particular go to great lengths to achieve a specific aesthetic. The sleek, clean look of an iPad is a show of technological relevance and familiarity. This also makes it easier for cashiers to acclimate to the touchscreen interface.

While cash registers have made improvements to their look over the years, they focus on function over form. The commercial grade registers are built to withstand some harsh conditions. They can take a little more abuse moving from venue to venue.


Everyone tries to keep an eye on the bottom line. Juggling between price and value are a concern. You want to make sure your system does everything you need it to for the lowest price.

A standard cash register is about the same price as an iPad on its own. A little less or a little more depending on the model. The difference grows quickly for a full point of sale iPad setup. Add in the software, a stand, cash drawer and printer, and the cost jumps up.


What features are most important to you? How do each of these factors influence your decision? Here’s how we ranked each system per category.

  Cash Register Cash Register
(with Online
(no peripherals)
(with printer &
cash drawer)
Portability ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Security ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦  ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦  ♦ ♦  ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦  ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Reporting ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Durability ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Visual Effect ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Price $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Tags: Events