Given that you’re likely to be printing fairly short lengths of tape, print speed is not a major consideration with this machine. However, we printed a 100mm, two-line label in 17s, which is reasonable.
The TZ tapes the Brother P-touch 2730 uses are laminated, with a layer of clear PET bonded to a clear thermal layer and a coloured substrate. The thermal printhead heats the centre layer, which turns black, while still leaving the back and front of the label flat and unembossed. It has a resolution of 180dpi, giving a clean-cut, though sometimes slightly jagged, image.
One of the first things you notice when printing a label is that each one is preceded by the printer feeding a 23mm length of blank label and cutting it off. It’s a function of the way the mechanism is designed that it has to feed and waste these bits of tape.
And it’s quite a bit of wastage, particularly if you print short labels, individually. Using a typical label length of 100mm, this 23 per cent waste amounts to nearly 2m of tape in an 8m cartridge. If you print labels in sets, continuously, only the first label generates a 23mm tab. Rival Dymo printers don’t have to cut these tabs off, though they do have a minimum 12mm margin on their labels. It appears Dymo does this by backing the tape up before starting to print.
(centre)”’A sample of labels from the Brother P-touch 2730 thermal label printer”’(/centre)
The cost of TZ cartridges ranges from £8-£12 depending on width and we costed the printer using the cartridge supplied with it, which contains a 24mm wide, black-on-white tape. Again, assuming an average length of 100mm per label and that the vast majority will be printed individually, we allowed for the 24mm waste and produced a cost of 21.1p per label.
This is certainly not a price where you’d want to use the printer for labelling envelopes, though given the robustness of the all-plastic labels, they’re likely to be used for labelling in more arduous environments. The printer itself has an RRP of £140, which is steep compared with printers like Brother’s own P-touch 2100, though the new machine won’t be available before the beginning of 2011, so we don’t have a typical Internet price, yet.
Brother’s P-touch 2730 is a versatile stand-alone or computer-connected label printer, which produces high-quality labels in a number of different colours and widths with the minimum of fuss. The label cartridges are not that cheap, but are competitive with those for the machine’s main rivals, although it’s a shame about the wastage. The PC and Mac software supplied extends the stand-alone printer’s use and the wide range of pre-designed templates and samples increases its versatility further.