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Labelling can take many forms, from adding an address to an envelope, to signage in offices, shops and around the home. There's quite a market for labelling machines, from the humble handheld Dymo embosser through to fully electronic, PC-enabled desktop machines like the Brother P-touch 2730. This is one of the latest in a long line of dedicated, laminated tape labelling machines and really does have all the bells and whistles.
About the size and shape of a half-scale portable typewriter, this machine, in its dark slate and ice-white case, looks neat and functional. The miniature, rubber keyboard includes a number of special keys to help insert symbols and accents and to control the look of the text itself.
Behind the keyboard is a fully bitmapped, backlit LCD display, which can show up to four rows of characters as well as simple black-and-white graphics, of which the machine has a huge array. These range from technical symbols, through lots of simple clipart to full templates and pre-designed labels, where you just edit the text to suit your needs.
All labels are printed on one of Brother’s range of TZ label cartridges, with widths varying from 3.5mm up to 24mm and with a range of background colours. All cartridges offer 8m of tape and vary in price mainly according to their width. The cartridge clips into a holder under a flip-up cover at the back of the machine and installation really is the work of seconds.
Although the Brother P-touch 2730 can be used entirely independently, working from the LCD panel and keyboard, there's also a USB socket on the right-hand side, so you can connect the machine to a Windows PC or a Mac.
Brother's own label-editing software, P-touch Editor, is a well-designed piece of software that will be very familiar to anybody who has ever used a desktop publishing program. With it, you can do everything from typing in a simple text label to adding frames, rules and bar codes, or loading predefined templates, which you can adapt to your particular requirements. It has both Express and Professional interfaces, so you can delve into it at two different levels, depending on how frequently you print labels and how much time you have available.
As well as providing access to all the supplied Brother templates and fonts, using the P-touch Editor adds in all the fonts installed on your PC or Mac, giving you much more typographical scope.
Also on the right-hand side of the machine is a socket for a low voltage power supply and a suitable power plug is provided in the hard plastic case the printer is supplied in. You can run the printer from AA batteries, as well, though you will have to clip eight of them into the compartment on its underside.