Zebra P100i plastic card printer - Review

Zebra P100i plastic card printer - Review

Zebra P100i plastic card printer - ReviewPrint your own plastic cards with this convenient desktop device

Pros: Small format; relatively inexpensive; full colour printing on PVC and PVC composite cards; magnetic card and smartcard encoding

Cons: Single-sided printing only; single card feed; additional software required to fully exploit data-encoding facilities

Bottomline: Worth considering by the small business needing to print plastic cards in volume

Price: €1,395 (£1,245)

Manufacturer: Zebra Card Printer Solutions

You might be able to get away with printing the odd business card using a standard desktop laser or inkjet, but there’s little point trying to extend that to employee ID, gift, loyalty or any other kind of plastic card – it simply can’t be done.

What you need is a specialist card printer, such as the recently released P100i from Zebra Technologies, which puts full-colour, plastic-card printing within the grasp of the small business, even adding support for magnetic strips and smartcode encoding.

The P100i is a compact desktop printer that uses thermal technology to print on plastic cards in either monochrome or full colour at a more-than-decent 300dpi resolution. It takes up little more room than an ordinary inkjet and is easy to configure, with a pop-in ribbon that slots into place under the lift-up cover, together with a separate cleaning roller.

Replacement ribbons are good for up to 200 cards and cost E75 (£57 ex Vat). Zebra can also supply a variety of compatible cards starting at E45 for 500 plain PVC cards, and there’s a built-in holder to keep cards clean and ready for use, with cleaning supplies the only other expense to bear in mind.

A separate AC adapter provides the power and there’s a choice of either direct USB or network connectivity courtesy of a built-in 10/100Mbits/sec Ethernet port and integrated Windows print server. A test button at the rear can be used to print out the network settings on a card and the necessary interface cables and sample cards are also included.

The usual web-based interface is provided to manage the printer remotely, but we found this to be basic – although it does the job, with SNMP support and email alerting options.

The only control on the printer itself is a large chrome button underneath a small LCD status panel. This is used to put the printer into cleaning mode, respond to errors and eject cards, should the need arise.

Windows drivers are supplied on CD-Rom or can be downloaded from the Zebra website. These can be installed on any PC running Windows 2000 or later with, in addition to the drivers, a number of sample card layouts in Microsoft Word format, although it’s useful that the P100i can be used with any Windows application.

Using the templates provided we were able to print a variety of cards for our tests and were impressed with the speed and quality of the results. Blank cards are inserted individually via a slot at the front, taking just two or three seconds to print before being ejected again through the same aperture. Colour reproduction is good, with identifiable photographs on ID cards and no drying required.

If you want to take advantage of the magnetic encoding facilities, you can do that directly via the driver or by embedding commands into a Word document. However, neither is particularly user friendly and for a total solution you’ll need additional third-party software, such as the popular card design and printing tools available from Nfive, which can also handle smartcard encoding.

For small companies needing to produce plastic cards in quantity the Zebra P100i is a good-value choice, providing the flexibility of an in-house solution without the high price normally associated with such products.

1 Comment:

This is very good idea and the opportunity so for for the plastic card.