What is the Difference Between QR Code, PDF417 and DataMatrix?

What is the Difference Between QR Code, PDF417 and DataMatrix?

Basic introduction

A QR code (Quick Response code) is a 2D barcode type. It consists of black squares arranged in a square grid on a white background, which can be read by a camera, scanner, or other imaging devices.

PDF417 barcodes are a type of stacked, variable length, bi-directional 2D barcode. It is one of the most widely used 2D barcodes, most commonly found in logistics, transportation (boarding passes), government identification (driver licenses and identification cards), inventory, and document management (postal packages).

The Datamatrix is a 2D high-density barcode symbol. Since 2000, this barcode has been recognized as a standard of ISO/IEC 16022. It encodes text, numbers, files, and data bytes. It uses small square modules and the perimeter of these modules is purposely different from the interior. This helps a barcode scanner identify cell locations for proper decoding.

QR vs PDF417 vs DataMatrix

A quick comparison table

Barcode Types

QR Code


DataMatrix Code


High density

High density

High density

Character Set




Maximum Capacity

  • Numeric: 7089

  • Alphanumeric characters: 4296

  • Bytes: 2953

  • Numeric: 2710

  • Alphanumeric characters: 1850

  • Bytes: 1108

  • Numeric: 3116

  • Alphanumeric characters: 2335

  • Bytes: 1556

Error Detection & Correction

QR codes use the Reed-Solomon algorithm, which enables the code to be read even if up to 30% of it is damaged

PDF417 barcodes use the Reed-Solomon algorithm, which enables the code to be read even if up to 50% of it is damaged

DataMatrix code ECC 200 symbologies use the Reed-Solomon algorithm for error detection and correction; ECC 000-140 uses convolutional error correction

Usage Scenarios

  • online or app payments

  • augmented reality

  • mobile operating systems

  • website login

  • loyalty programs

  • virtual stores

  • marketing and advertising campaigns

  • boarding passes

  • driver licenses

  • identification cards

  • postal packages

  • direct parts marking

  • electronics product

  • packaging

  • posters

  • pill bottles

QR Code vs. PDF417 vs. DataMatrix Code

  • PDF417 barcodes are variable in dimensions, most commonly seen in the rectangular shape. DataMatrix codes and QR codes are basically square.
  • QR codes have a larger capacity than PDF417 and DataMatrix codes.
  • QR codes are extremely popular for mobile applications.
  • PDF417 is a barcode with several linear rows of stacked codewords. It can be read from left to right in linear order with a simple linear scan. However, QR codes and DataMatrix codes are 2D matrix barcodes; you should use a 2D imaging scanner to read them.
  • QR codes have the ability to encode Kanji characters.

Take the Next Step

We hope this helps you to determine which barcode type you are going to choose. Now it’s time to read the barcodes. You can download Dynamsoft Barcode Reader to implement barcode reading functionality into your application.

After downloading the Dynamsoft Barcode Reader, you can start your free 30-Day trial and Try Online Demo of Barcode Scanner.

A series on different types of barcodes

If you’d like to compare other barcode types, please check out our online barcode comparison tool.