For our review of rugged 4-inch mobile label printers, we partnered with VAR Paragon Print Systems to leverage the company’s years of bar-coding expertise and facilities. To determine which printers to test, we relied on the results from January’s Best Channel Vendor survey. Using that survey data, which came from thousands of VARs and ISVs, we were able to narrow the field down to those manufacturers readers told us had the most reliable, feature-rich printers. Using that data, we had a field of 11 potential manufacturers.
To determine our testing methodology, we had conversations with a handful of VARs, leaned on ScanSource’s resident bar-coding gurus, and sought advice from most of the 11 companies that could be included in the survey. It took about a month’s worth of calls before our testing methodology became finalized.
The first thing we wanted to test was ease of setup. Specifically, we wanted to test the out-of-box-experience for someone unfamiliar with the units. Were there utilities available to set up and configure the printers for use? How easy were those utilities to use? Paul Aldridge, sales manager for Paragon Print Systems, found that each of the three printers tested had its own pros and cons, particularly when it came to the Wi-Fi setup.
Another area we were eager to test was the loading of paper into the printers. For instance, how cumbersome is the experience? Is it intuitive and easy to access the media door? We also tried to account for real-world applications like wearing gloves during a paper change.
Every manufacturer boasts about battery life and having the juice to perform over a full shift. For this test, we wanted to do something a little different by testing the number of labels that could be printed on a single battery charge. Aldridge ensured that all three printers were using new fully charged batteries and were configured the same way (i.e. Wi-Fi was enabled). The test was performed in batch mode, printing labels continuously over the wireless connection until the battery expired.
Another area we wanted to review was the LCD display. What we were looking for here was ease of navigating the printer’s menu system, as well as comparing how much information was viewing on the display at any given time.
As we concluded the testing, we asked Aldridge to give his thoughts on the overall fit, finish, and construction of the tested units. This is where we tested how the units felt when worn on the hip, as well as opinions on the build quality.
To read the results of all these tests, check out the full review.