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      Datamatrix and QR code: What’s the difference?


      Here at COUTH, we want to use this post to make sure you know the difference between Datamatrix and QR codes. To this end, the first thing you should know is that they are both 2D codes, also known as 2D bar codes.

      Manufacturers today frequently use 2D codes thanks to their great features. These features include information storage, which provides for controlling and tracing parts and products, links to the webpage for users, information in addition to information on containers, security measures to prevent falsification, and more.

      One need not pay a license to use Datamatrix codes and QR codes, since they are public domain. Specifications and requirements for printing are available on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) webpage.

      To tell the difference between Datamatrix and QR Codes, the first thing you need to know is the definition for each.

      What is a Datamatrix code?

      This is a two-dimensional code consisting of a set of black and white or dark- and light-coloured cells with high contrast laid out in a square pattern. It may contain numerical data and/or text, and its storage capacity depends on the number of cells.

      It should be noted that Datamatrix codes meet ISO/IEC standard 16022, which you can consult to learn requirements for use.

      Features and Application

      Generally, they are printed in black and white, but they can also be printed in different colour combinations as long as there is sufficient contrast between them.

      They can store up to 3,116 numerical characters or up to 2,335 alphanumeric characters. The codes contain a percentage of redundancy to decrease the possibility of losing information to scratches.

      Their legibility is omnidirectional, which means they can be scanned from any angle. They can be read with a hand reader or a high-speed reader, which are standard industrial devices. They can also be read with a smartphone camera through certain apps.

      This point partially answers the question about the difference between Datamatrix and QR Codes, since QR Codes can be read by smartphone cameras without apps.

      They have an L-shaped ID pattern next to the code, which creates two solid adjacent edges that help the reader with the code’s location.

      As far as the application of Datamatrix codes is concerned, they are normally used in the industry to mass identify products, so that each part can be identified and tracked.

      What is a QR code?

      This is a two-dimensional code known as a matrix code or quick response code, consisting of black and white cells or cells with different colours, but with high contrast, contained in a square-shaped pattern or grid. They may include information with numerical and/or text data.

      QR codes meet international ISO/IEC standard 18004, whose requirements for use you can view.

      Depending on the number of cells in the code, its length may vary. It should be noted that its content includes some redundant data to reduce the risk of losing information in the event of scratching.

      Features and Application

      QR codes can include up to 7,089 numerical characters or up to 4,296 alphanumeric characters, which are determined by the number of rows and columns that the code contains.

      QR code legibility is omnidirectional, since they can be read from any angle.

      To read a QR code, you can process them with standard industrial devices, like hand readers and very high-speed readers. However, you can also read them with a smartphone camera, since different models include the QR code-reader feature with no need to download an app for this purpose.

      As far as their localization pattern is concerned, QR codes have three identical square structures located in the corners: upper right, upper left, and lower left of the surface.

      In terms of QR code application, we find that their initial role was traceability for products and manufactured parts. However, digital marketing has given them new uses that provide connections between users and brands.

      What is the difference between Datamatrix and QR codes?

      As we have observed, there are many similarities between both codes, but they are clearly not identical. For this reason, we will now delve in detail into the differences between Datamatrix and QR codes so that you can choose the one that best fits your company’s needs and characteristics.

      In terms of size, Datamatrix codes are smaller than QR codes. This means that they have a high density of information in small spaces, which is highly useful for very small products or parts, such as small-sized electronic components.

      Additionally, Datamatrix codes are the only two-dimensional bar codes with GS1 approval for regulated healthcare items. They are also the default code for aerospace and automobile applications.

      Additionally, in terms of differences between QR and Datamatrix codes, QR codes are larger and provide more data storage.

      Datamatrix codes can only encode data through alphanumeric and numeric characters, but QR codes can store kanjis and other character sets since they were created in Japan, so they are suitable for languages other than European languages.


      Comparison Table

      To more specifically summarise the difference between Datamatrix and QR codes, we have:

      DifferenceDatamatrixQR Code

      They have 2 cells:

      Minimum cells 10 x 10

      Cells up to 144 x 144

      They have 4 cells:

      Minimum cells 21 x 21

      Cells up to 177 x 177


      Numeric characters: 3,116

      Alphanumeric characters:  2,335

      Binary characters: 1,556

      Kanji/kana characters: not admitted

      Numeric characters: 7,089

      Alphanumeric characters: 4,296

      Binary characters: 2,953

      Kanji/kana characters: 1,817

      Error correction level (ECL)

      Automatically determined by the Reed-Solomon error correction algorithm. Error correction capacity at 25-33%

      Non-adjustable level


      Reed-Solomon error correction algorithm

      There are 4 error correction levels:

      ● Level L: 7 %

      ● Level M: 15 %

      ● Level Q: 25 %

      ● Level H: 30 %

      The level can be manually adjusted; the higher it is, the greater the need for data backup capacity and the code size will increase.

      When you know the difference between Datamatrix and QR codes, you can figure out which 2D code best fits each need:

      Datamatrix code

      • These are used for product traceability and used in small parts like electronic components.
      • They are highly useful to avoid falsifications.

      QR Code

      • These go hand-in-hand with digital marketing strategies and can provide additional information on the product or brand.
      • Their size means that instructions for use and other documents can be added.
      • Posts on social media can be made.
      • Includes a link to request replacements and to register the warranty.
      • Different promotions, drawings, and leisure and entertainment activities can be included.

      Learning the difference between Datamatrix and QR codes is highly useful in a complex field like bar codes so you can make the right choice to make the most of them.

      That being said, if you still have any questions or are looking for industrial marking solutions that include your preferred bar code, please do not hesitate to contact us at COUTH.