The Dymo LabelManager 280 is one of the few handheld label printers that can print plastic labels either when used with a computer over a USB cable or operate independently using battery power, and is inexpensive as such. For a little more than you’d pay for a standalone portable label printer, you get a more versatile machine.
The Dymo 280 is essentially the Dymo LabelManager 160 ($29.99 list), a purely standalone model, with the added ability to connect to a computer. It is similar to the Dymo LabelManager 420P, with a few differences. Its QWERTY keyboard is an improvement over the Dymo 420P’s alphabetical keyboard. The suite of buttons right below the screen, which include the On button, Print command, Menu, a 4-way controller, and a few others, are now labeled, touch-sensitive virtual buttons rather than physical ones. A downside is that the 280′s screen isn’t backlit like the 420P’s, making it harder to read in poor lighting.
The LabelManager 280 measures 3.5 by 7.5 by 9.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 0.9 pounds with battery pack and tape cassette in place. The printer is paddle-shaped—as is the case with the LabelManager 420P—and can be held in one hand. The keyboard is built into the 3-inch-wide handle, and the slightly wider top holds the 2.5-inch two-line monochrome display as well as some virtual buttons.
An upside for the keyboard is that it’s QWERTY style, with a row of number keys on top. The keys are narrow and spaced fairly close together, similar to many phone keyboards though a little wider than most, and typing on it is a little like texting. The Editors’ Choice Brother P-touch PT-2730 has a wider keyboard, with keys a bit larger and with more space between them, although typing on it requires a heavier touch.
The keyboard also has a space bar, backspace and carriage return keys, uppercase/lowercase shift, a key to access accents, and one for punctuation. All the punctuation (and other symbols) is lumped together under one button. It’s displayed in a scrollable grid, within which you navigate to your chosen character using arrow keys. Granted, punctuation isn’t nearly as critical on label printers as on document printers, but it shouldn’t take six keystrokes to enter a period.
Printing from a Computer
To use the LabelManager 280 with a computer, you must download software (for either Windows or Mac OS X) from Dymo’s site, from a URL given in the quick reference guide. After installing the software, you connect the printer to your computer using the included USB cable.
Printing from a computer has advantages; you can easily save and recover labels, and add images, boxes, and more. It lets you create an address book. Whoever made the sample address book has a sense of humor; one of the labels is for Ralph Cheatham of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe, Esq. However, when I printed out that four-line label on a half-inch wide label, the tiny text was barely readable—three-line labels are more legible. The software also gives you a wide range of fonts to choose from.
When composing a label on the printer itself, you only get three choices for fonts: Basic (sans serif), Serif, and the stylized Fun. Fonts are available under the first of four tabs when you press the Menu key. You can also change type size, add bold or italic text, a border, mirror text, and more. The second tab lets you add symbols (the same choices you get through the punctuation key), as well as clip art, date and time, auto-numbering, or saved text. The third tab lets you access saved labels (you can save up to 9), and the fourth tab lets you save language, label width, and date and time.
The LabelMaker 280 took 9.4 seconds to print a 4-inch label with the text, PCMag: Printer Speed Test. This compares with 11.8 seconds for the Brother PT-2730 and 6.5 seconds for the Dymo 420P to each print out 3.5-inch labels with the same text. However, the Brother automatically snips the label, while with the two Dymo printers you have to manually cut them. That said, speed is a minor issue with a handheld label printer.
Label Cartridge Choices
Dymo offers 18 choices of tape cartridges ($19.99 direct), each 23 feet long, for the LabelManager 280. They vary from a quarter-inch to half-inch wide, and come in clear, white, blue, red, yellow, or green plastic, with various type colors. This is a relatively meager selection, and lacking in specialty labels. Dymo offers 50 label choices for its 420P, at up to ¾ inches wide, while Brother offers 65 cartridge choices, up to nearly an inch wide, for the PT-2730.
It is easy to recommend the Dymo LabelManager 280 as a handheld label printer that can print either from a PC or as a standalone device. It’s relatively inexpensive as such, and offers some advantages over the Dymo 420P, such as the QWERTY keyboard and some touch-sensitive virtual buttons. However, trading the 420P’s bright, backlit screen for a smaller, non-backlit e-ink-style display is a step backwards. Also, the Dymo 280 supports a more limited selection of labels, and they max out at only ½ inches wide.
The LabelManager 280′s keyboard is more cramped than that of the Editors’ Choice Brother PT-2730, though it’s more responsive. The 280′s label selection is much smaller, and it can only save 9 labels in memory, to the Brother’s 99. The LabelManager 280 has no individual punctuation keys while the PT-2730 does.
For a little less than you’d pay for the LabelManager 280, you could buy a purely standalone label printer such as the Editors’ Choice Brother P-touch PT-D200 , but you’d miss out on the ease and versatility that printing from a computer affords you.
The Dymo LabelManager 280 gives you the versatility of being able to be used either with a computer or as standalone device. Although it lacks some of the features of other such label printers, it comes in at barely half their price. And although it costs a bit more than standalone label printers, it is money well spent.
|Maximum Standard Paper Size||0.5" inch tape|
|Direct Printing from Cameras||No|
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