We've looked at a number of different types of label printer at TrustedReviews before, but they've all been designed for use in an office, attached to a computer and primarily for printing addresses.
Brother's P-Touch range is rather different, though, since they are just as happy to print independently of a PC, as well as connected to one by USB. To that extent, the P-Touch 2100 even comes with a rugged plastic case, so you can rush out to the nearest troublespot and reduce tension with much-needed labels.
The printer is about the size of a small home projector and for some reason - possibly because we watch too many classic videos - vaguely reminiscent of a Star Wars snow speeder. The machine has a silver body, with a black underside and a black canopy in the middle of its top surface holding a mono LCD display. Although, most of the time, this display shows three lines of 16 characters, it's fully bitmapped, so can display symbols and other graphics, too.
In front of the display is a full QWERTY keyboard, using rubber keys, roughly 7 x 9mm. The keyboard works well enough and since most labels are relatively short, is comfortable enough to use. There are a few extra keys around the standard set, including one for flicking through the symbols built into the printer, several to cope with European accents and a set of five function keys for filing, font changing, label parameters, settings and clearing the contents of a label.
On the left-hand side is a vertical slot where the labels comes out and on the right are sockets for the 9V power supply provided with the machine and for a USB connection to a computer. Underneath there's a battery compartment where you can fit six AA batteries, so the printer can be used independently of mains power.
The only physical installation necessary is to clip the tape cartridge into place under the top cover of the P-Touch 2100, which swings up and back. To use the printer standalone, type the characters you want and they appear in the bottom line of the LCD display.
You can edit them, change their size, font and style and add symbols and borders. Predefined templates are also available for particular kinds of label and can be selected from a series of well-organised menus.