We recently started integrating magnetic readers into our software - and initially started development with a less expensive reader.
We're using them to scan the magnetic stripes on: Drivers Licenses, Credit Cards, and Concealed Handgun Licenses.
The first model had fairly frequent accuracy issues; but, since it was the first scanner I had used, I figured that was normal. On top of that, just swiping the card again would give correct results so it didn't seem like a huge deal.
When we got to a point where more readers were needed, I decided to grab one of these simply because of the removable cable - but it turned out to be far better for several reasons:
1) The accuracy is pretty much perfect! The first scanner probably had a 10% error rate, but this one is as close to zero as we could expect.
2) The USB cable is removable and the USB port itself swivels to point out either the side or bottom. That makes it perfect for attaching to a monitor and routing a short cable down the side where it's out of the way. (Double sided tape is also included for mounting these readers.)
3) It's very easy to switch this reader between HID and Keyboard interfaces using a tool on the MagTek website. I'll mention more on this later, but we opted to use the HID interface because it integrates more fluidly into our software.
4) It seems to be compatible with just about everything.
At the end of the day, this is definitely a case of 'you get what you pay for'. It works perfectly - but still isn't crazy expensive.
I would definitely recommend giving this a shot if you're looking for a reliable magnetic stripe reader!
[*** Programming Considerations ***]
I know this won't interest most readers; but, if you're looking to integrate this into your application, the HID interface is the way to go. It's a little more work than using the keyboard interface - but the end result is worth it because you can process an entire swipe at one time rather than trying to parse our keyboard character events.
For a great example (including a sample for accessing this MagTech reader), just look at the 'mikeobrien/hidlibrary' sample on GitHub.