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In the 70's I think pretty well every household had a labelling machine - they were basic back then; sticky plastic tape which was embossed letter by letter by painstakingly turning a wheel. Things have moved on since then as I found out whilst trying to find something to label all those varied items like lunch boxes and files that populate every home, and which are prone to getting lost. After a bit of research I bought this hand held thermo printer which has turned out to be something I now wouldn't want to be without. I paid just under £18 for the printer from Rymans where it is currently available for £19.99 - I paid a lower price due to a discount for those in education, I've seen it available on offer in Staples for a similar price and it can also be purchased on line where prices seem to be up to £39.99.
The Printer came in a bubble pack and included the printer, one cartridge for black on white labels, full instructions and a 3 year guarantee. The six AAA batteries you will need to operate the unit are not included.
The Brother P-touch 1090 is part of a range of hand held printers and takes TZ tape (as opposed to some of the other tape formats brother make) in cartridge form, and can be used to produce sticky labels from 3.5mm to 12.5mm wide in Helsinki font and with a range of effects and images. It's a monochrome printer, but there are a variety of tapes available in paper, laminated and fabric finishes so that you can produce a range of colours from black on white through to red on clear tape, full range at the link at the bottom of this review. Being a thermo printer (ie it works by melting part of the coating of the ribbon), there are no actual ink costs for the printer, but the tapes will set you back anything from £5- £19 for 8m depending on which format you buy. Having checked it works out as similar in price, like for like, to the competitor's product - the Dymo labeller cartridges which come in 4m format. Whilst the cartridges are expensive actually in my experience 8 metres goes quite a long day for everyday use.
Once out of the box, the printer is relatively easy to set up. The back clips off and you need to insert the batteries and the cartridge, which is simple to do, and once you have done this and found "feed" on the menu which threads the tape through the printer head, you are ready to print.
I've got to be honest and say that the instructions (which come in double A3 sized form in teeny font) on how to use the printer are pretty bewildering and take some time to get used to. Whilst it is entirely possible to use the A-Z keyboard straight away and then press the very obvious print button on the top right of the keyboard, doing so will not see you get very varied results or prove to be efficient use of the tape itself. The reviews I read on amazon prior to purchase are full of complaints about the labels having too much tape at either end of them, and whilst this is true if you don't decipher the instructions completely, it is avoidable by becoming more familiar with the rather un-intuitive instructions and controls. In my opinion if you buy this device it is worth taking time to figure out how everything works but you should also remember that this is a low priced item and accept that it has its limitations.
The printer itself:
As well as having an integrated A-Z keyboard the P-touch also has a 12 character LCD display. To some extent this allows you to have some idea as to what your finished label will look like, character wise, however it doesn't show you how any added simple graphics or borders appear. The printer is quite light to hold, it's 365g, and sits comfortably in your hand being a compact 10.7 cm x 20.1 cm x 5.7 cm. The top right includes an integrated cutter for cutting off your printed labels. It's quite a simple machine as you would expect at this price, though you can also purchase an adaptor for it which plugs into the bottom if you wish to save on batteries. It's actually surprisingly well built considering how much it costs and all the buttons have a chunky rubber finish and are not too small to be impractical in use.
The Labels you can Produce;
The P-touch will produce a variety of colours and widths of labels. Thus far I've only used 12mm labels in 3 finishes, laminated, iron on fabric and paper. It's easy to see which I have in the machine at any one time by looking through the display window in the rear of the machine, and also to swap between cartridges. After some time fiddling with the controls and getting annoyed by the instructions I've worked out how to use all the functions. Through the simple menu and using the lcd display you can insert over 80 little mini graphics to your label to personalise them from a phone, through to skull and cross bones or cutesy animals. Different languages and accents are also supported and there are also 13 different text effects. It's not particularly straight forward and is annoying at times to anyone used to using a PC, and some options you are never going to use in all honesty; I personally haven't found the need to print off the time onto the end of my labels but I do use the graphics quite extensively.
You can save up to 9 label designs at any one time, which is handy when you have a ridiculously long surname as we do - it's not difficult as such to input letters but a little slow given that it's not a qwerty key board and the menus on the printer are cumbersome. Talking of which, I mentioned earlier that if you don't explore or the menus you will find yourself wasting tape. I've found that I maximise what I can get out of the strip by selecting the option to print multiple copies. If I do this and select "narrow" for margins then there is very little waste rather than the couple of centimetres either side of the writing other reviewers complained of when I did my research, it takes a while of getting used to the labeller to work this out however.
I find it slightly easier to switch between size of letters and to make the font italic or bold. By adding borders, pictures and changing effect there is quite a range to what you can produce even though there is only one font. You can produce up to lines of text with the printer, but not more, so if you want to produce, say address labels, you will need a more sophisticated machine. This printer is great though for producing small name tags and putting your stamp on smaller items.
When I print out my labels, a pretty silent and quick affair - the printer spits out the labels at a respectable rate (up to 10mm per second according to the manufacturer). The print on the labels is clear whatever combination you are working at, it's billed as 180 dpi (ie dots per inch)- which meant nothing to me but having checked with someone more informed than me, 300 or so would be an average for a inkjet printer, so this is rather low-specced on the face of it. It is true however that given that the purpose of this printer is to print off recognisable letters and not detailed photos (the graphics you can do are basic pictographs) I don't personally think the image quality is substandard and the results look professional enough to me. The letters are fairly crisp looking and easy to read whatever the font size. Once made your labels can be stored until you need them - there is a backing on the label which you take off when you want to stick the label onto something, and the fabric ones iron on.
The labels themselves once printed and in place do seem to be very durable. The adhesive ones stick well onto different surfaces and I've found that they do not come unstuck in the dishwasher or fall of lunch boxes, and the fabric ones are of similar grip to commercial ones I've bought before. Brother, the manufacturer say their labels are made to survive "heavy abrasion, heat, cold,sunshine, water and chemicals" - in my experience they pass the kid test and whilst I haven't tested them for the full range Brother apparently have of -80c-150degrees C, the labels I have printed have variously survived the freezer, being in sunlight and there are no noticeable effects. The laminated labels seem very robust.
Languish in the Kitchen Drawer or Actually Use?
I was a bit worried when I bought this that it would be one of those objects where the novelty would wear off and it would be left in the drawer. In actual fact I've found this item very useful. We did go into a bit of a label frenzy when we bought it and labelled all kind of things like plugs, water bottles and food storage containers. It's great for labelling kids' shoes for schools and their varied possessions that always go astray at school. Whilst I don't use it on a daily basis it's very handy to have and much used. The screen could be a little better, it would be nice if it were "wysiwyg" (what you see is what you get) and the menus could be much better in terms of layout, however ultimately this is an entry level printer and good enough for my purposes. It's not too power hungry on batteries, and now that I've worked out how to print with it economically I find the labels fair value, given that they seem to be a quality item.
Overall I recommend this printer, particularly if you can pick it up for £20 or so, it's an extremely useful thing to own, and on that basis I recommend it.
Full range of TZ tape: http://www.brothersupplies.co.uk/g3.cfm/s_page/182990/s_name/tapelist
A little like a hefty calculator in appearance, if you are looking to create labels that are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use this model may be ideal for your requirements. It is equipped with a great array of features and options to create labels that are stylish and durable.
The Brother P-Touch 1090 comes in at 0.7 cm x 20.1 cm x 5.7 cm and weighs 365g. A good deal of the weight comes from the six AAA alkaline batteries that are required to power it, and unfortunately I discovered that despite there being an army of them, these batteries do not last as long as I would have liked. Battery life depends on a number of factors in this instance however; the features you use on the machine, how extensively you make use of its memory capacity, storage of the device and how often you use it. The memory feature is particularly useful, being as you can store up to nine different label designs at once, but you will probably find that calling up these designs fairly frequently will impinge on the battery life.
Aesthetically the P-Touch 1090 has a black plastic 'face' with white plastic casing down the sides. The LCD screen is of adequate size and the keyboard is ABCD type instead of the QWERTY type I would prefer. This takes some getting use to, but the keys are not so small you are prone to making too many errors, so this goes some way to compensate for the keyboard's layout. The features dial in silver is central to the device, and you can easily navigate this. You can choose to delete text and move backwards and forwards through it.
The only font available is Helsinki, but unless you are uber conscious of style in your label experimentation, the limited options will not be too problematic. You can, however, experiment with many different effects and styles. These include: Bold, italic bold, italic outline, italic shadow, normal, vertical, outline, shadow and italic. As the labels are laminated they are ideal for outdoor use too, and will adhere well to many surfaces, particularly glass and plastic. With a print speed of around 10mm per second you can churn them out fairly rapidly, too.
As well as the device itself the package comes with a thermal transfer roll and b-PAC SDK label printing software. This allows you to combine images, symbols, barcodes and logos into your designs, and the user is prompted at every step during this process.
I was very surprised by the array of features available on this model. For a product priced at just under £30 it is very versatile indeed. Some of the more advanced options take a bit of practice to achieve and you may find that you waste some tape at the beginning, but once you adjust to the design of the machine you will soon find that you can create tasteful labels with very little effort.