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Perhaps this little printer is the shape of things to come. It certainly gives new meaning to the word ‘portable’ as it can be moved around an office and plugged into any computer without software having to be installed first (which pleases the average IT department). However, there is a price to pay for this convenience, more of which later.
The printer is lightweight in construction and pleasing to handle, powered by six AAA cells (not supplied) and an optional power adaptor (not supplied), and comes with P-touch Editor Lite software for designing labels. When running from the battery, the printer shuts down after twenty minutes idle time to save power.
The 1230PC is not an address label printer but is capable of printing continuous labels up to 12mm wide in Windows fonts of mixed sizes (multiple lines if required), along with images and symbols, and allows alphanumeric sequential numbering. Sequential numbering is possible only in steps of one but can be set to run between any start and finish number with multiples of each being printed as required.
Like most printers of this size, printing is slow, taking nineteen seconds to print the letters of the alphabet, which is close to the claimed maximum speed. The print resolution is 180 dpi which means text is readable (with your spectacles on) down to about 5pt.
The cutter is manual, but when a batch of labels is produced the printer can insert a marker (rather like a colon) to show where each cut should be made.
As for the label design software, there is good news and less good news. Because the P-touch Editor Lite software is available only while the printer is plugged into a USB socket and switched on (it behaves like a portable drive) there is no facility for a Desktop shortcut. On older computers running, for example, Windows 2000, each time you wish to launch the software you must open ‘My Computer’ and double-click the appropriate removable drive icon (which could be confusing if you have more than one USB device connected) then finally double-click a file called: PTLITE10.EXE. New computers running XP or Vista allow the software to be launched more easily, when you first switch the printer on, but should you close the software for any reason and subsequently need to relaunch it, you have to find PTLITE10.EXE and double-click it.
The software is very easy to use, not least because it auto-detects the size of the label in the printer. The design window is fairly small but can be stretched if required. The number of features is not great here but, for greater functionality, it is possible to download P-touch Editor 5.0 from the Brother website. However, P-touch Editor 5 installs to your computer, not the printer, which impacts on portability. We found using the sequential numbering feature an exercise in trial-and-error at first, because the interface did not seem particularly intuitive, being accessed via the context menu (mouse right-click). But once you are familiar with it, numbering becomes very easy.
Importing images in the ten most common file formats is supported, along with ten types of frame, fifteen languages, printing in bold/underline/italics up to a height of 9mm, which you can reverse (mirror) or rotate, all laid down on the TZ range of tapes. There is no database connectivity.
At the end of a printing session the 1230PC cannot simply be switched off. It is necessary to go through the ’safe to remove hardware’ process with which USB memory stick users are now familiar. On some computers, switching the printer off without first clicking the ’safe to remove hardware’ icon in the Task Bar leads to a message warning: ‘Unsafe Removal of Device’ and the possibility of crashing your computer or losing data (although, in practise, harm is unlikely). XP and Vista are more tolerant of the printer being switched off unexpectedly.
Leaving the printer connected permanently to the same computer does not simplify matters very much. At the end of a session, if the printer is switched off ahead of the computer, the same USB warnings apply. In this respect there is one further minor criticism. The cutter is fitted with an anti-jam sensor which shuts down the printer when activated. Consequently, disturbing the cutter while the 1230PC is busy causes the printer to stop and request a shut down, with all the aforementioned USB implications.
Notwithstanding these limitations, which will not worry most users, the 1230PC printer is likely to prove a popular addition to the small office and the home.
What’s in the box
- USB cable
- User manual
- 12mm black-on-white TZ tape (TZ-231)
Dimensions & Supported Operating Systems
- Dimensions: 55mm wide x 160mm deep x 100mm tall
- Print: 180 dpi