Completely self-contained label printers like the Brother P-touch PT-H100 ($34.99 direct), generally come in one of two form factors. Some, like the Editors’ Choice Brother P-touch PT-D200 offer a more or less rectangular shape, and are wider than you can easily wrap your hand around. Others, like the PT-H100, are designed precisely to hold in one hand, with curved sides designed for a comfortable grip. For those who prefer the fully handheld design, the PT-H100 offers an inexpensive, easy-to-use option for printing labels without a computer.
Like the PT-D200, the PT-H100 prints the sort of laminated labels suitable for indoor or outdoor use. In fact, it prints on the same tapes as the PT-D200, at widths of 0.14 to 0.47 inches and a variety of tape types including standard laminated labels; flexible labels; labels with extra strength adhesive for uneven surfaces or harsh environments; non-laminated iron-on fabric labels; and acid-free labels, which actually means labels with acid-free adhesive so you can use then safely on, say, a photo without damaging the photo.
Despite the fact that they use the same labels and are relatively close in price, the two printers offer different sets of features beyond their shapes and keyboards. In particular, the PT-H100 has only one font, rather than eight; can store only 9 labels in memory rather than 30; and runs strictly off batteries, with no power adapter option. Rather than being essentially the same printer with a different form factor, in short, it’s a significantly different printer.
Physically, the PT-H100 is similar to the much more expensive DYMO LabelManager 420P, but smaller. It weighs roughly 1.1 pounds complete with batteries and measures 2.3 by 4.3 by 8.2 inches (HWD). However, it’s much smaller than you would expect from the measurements, because the maximum width and height applies only at the top right corner, where the manual cutter sticks out. The body of the unit is only about 7.75 inches long, and only about 2.75 inches wide for about half of that length, so it’s easy to hold. It widens out to about 3.75 inches on one end to make room for the 12-character LCD.
Setting up the printer consists of snapping in the tape cartridge and six AAA batteries. Brother doesn’t supply batteries, however; you’ll have to get them elsewhere. For my tests, I used both rechargeable NiMH batteries and alkaline batteries, just to make sure both work.
Creating and Printing Labels
Creating and printing labels is straightforward enough so you can learn everything you need to know without ever looking at the User Guide. The vast majority of the choices on the control panel menu and special purpose buttons are self-explanatory. The only feature that wasn’t obvious was how to save a label to memory, and even that took me only a few false starts to get right.
To print a label, you punch in the text on the keyboard, hit the Print button, set the number of copies, hit Print again, wait for printing to finish, and then press the manual cutter. You can set text size to Large, Medium, or Small; set the text to Normal, Bold, Outline, Shadow, and Italic; add an underline or a frame with various decorations on the left and right sides; and add any of 178 symbols, including options like a palm tree, four-leaf clover, and a standard warning icon.
One minor issue is that the LCD isn’t backlit. But since you’re most likely to be holding the printer in one hand, while creating the label with the other, you should usually be able to find a good angle to make it readable. On the plus side, the batteries will last longer than they would with backlighting. Also helping the batteries last is that if you forget to turn the unit off, it will turn off automatically, waiting just five minutes after the most recent press of a button.
Speed and Other Issues
Print speed for label printers varies primarily with the length of the label, with the printers often rated in inches or millimeters per second. Brother rates the PT-H100 at 20mm per second, or 0.79 inches per second (ips). In my tests, it came out a touch slower, printing a 3.8-inch label with the text PCMag: Printer Test in 5.1 seconds and a 3.5-inch label with the text PCMag Print Test in 4.7 seconds, or about 0.74 ips in both cases. That’s actually surprisingly fast for the price. The much more expensive 420P, for example, took 6.5 seconds for a 3.5-inch label.
Finally, note that Brother offers about 30 tape cartridges for the PT-H100. In addition to the variety of types and sizes I’ve already mentioned, they also come in a variety of color combinations, including black on clear, white on clear, red on white, black on white, navy blue on white, and black on yellow. Almost all of the tapes are either 26.2 feet or 16.4 feet long, with the fabric tape a bit shorter, at 9.8 feet. Prices range from $14.99 to $26.49 (list) per tape cartridge, depending on the type of tape.
If you insist on a QWERTY keyboard instead of one that’s alphabetical, the Brother P-touch PT-H100 is obviously the wrong choice for you, and you should be looking at the PT-D200 instead. Similarly, if you want a printer that can either print from a computer or work as a self-contained labeling system, you’ll want to look at the DYMO LabelManager 420P. But if you want the handheld form factor and don’t need to print from a computer, the Brother P-touch PT-H100 can serve nicely as an inexpensive choice for easy label printing.
More printer reviews:
|Color or Monochrome||Monochrome|
|Printer Category||Thermal Transfer|
|Direct Printing from Cameras||No|
|Maximum Standard Paper Size||0.5" inch tape|
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