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-- by Joel T. Patz and James E. Powell
When you need to print one or two labels from your PIM or word processor address book, you don't have to load a full sheet of labels into your regular printer. CoStar's LabelWriter XL Plus and Zebra's Barcode Anything A100 Label Printer are compact printers for the one or two labels you need daily.
These direct thermal printers use a spool of labels suitable for small jobs. But for large jobs like mass mailings and mail merges, you'll find the combination of a desktop printer and sheets of labels faster-and probably more cost-effective.
CoStar LabelWriter XL Plus
The LabelWriter XL Plus uses a serial interface, which allows you to operate your current printer and the XL Plus at the same time. A power light and buttons for power and label feed are on the face of the printer. Under the cover, an adjustable spindle holds the roll of labels. We never had problems with label alignment, as we did with the A100, although the noise level is higher.
The LabelWriter XL Plus measures 6.5 by 4.5 by 7 inches and weighs just 1.25 pounds.
CoStar's AddressMate software provides predefined label sizes for proprietary label stock. For mail merge, AddressMate is easier to use than Barcode Anything Label, but it's limited to PostNet and FIM bar codes. CoStar includes three versions of Easy LabelWriter software for creating mailing labels, badges or labels with 13 types of bar codes.
Zebra Barcode Anything A100 Label Printer
The Barcode Anything A100 Label Printer, designed principally for bar-coded labels, has a maximum print speed of 2 inches per second, twice as fast as the CoStar. (The software also lets you set the printer to 1.5 inches per second for marginally higher quality.) The A100 can handle a 5-inch thick roll of labels, the largest capacity we've seen.
A feed button, power status light and fault light are found on the boxy unit's top. Labels discharge directly or can be threaded through a roller so the printer removes the labels' backings, delivering ready-to-apply stickers.
The A100 measures 6 by 7 by 9.7 inches and weighs 3.35 pounds. A power cord connects to the rear of the unit. The A100 uses a parallel interface; because it does not offer pass-through to your existing printer, you'll want to add a parallel A/B switch if you only use it occasionally.
Both the Barcode Anything and the LabelWriter make use of bundled software for designing and printing labels. The Barcode Anything includes Barcode Anything Label software. It runs rings around CoStar's AddressMate software, with more sophisticated options (such as hiding text) and the ability to handle more than two dozen bar-code formats.
Print quality compared
While the print quality on both printers was acceptable, the LabelWriter proved consistently darker, with cleaner font definition; the A100 test unit produced noticeable foggy stripes across a label's dark print. The A100, which prints labels horizontally, was faster than the CoStar, which prints sideways. However, at a few seconds per label, print speed is largely irrelevant for small jobs. As you'd expect, labels are not interchangeable between printers. The CoStar per-label costs are significantly higher than both the A100 and generic sheets of labels for use with a laser printer.
The A100's print quality needs to improve, while the LabelWriter's label costs may seem prohibitive. The CoStar LabelWriter XL Plus, however, gets the nod for ease of use, better-quality output and simpler software.
Windows Magazine, October 1997, page 176.