We couldn't imagine a label printer easier to use than Epson's LW-300 Label Printer, a stand-alone labeller akin to the popular Brother P-Touch. A label maker should be on the must-have list for any small-business or department manager that wants to stay well organized. And Epson offers two: the $39 LW-300 model with one-line LCD reviewed here, and the $49 LW-400, which adds bar-code printing, a two-line backlit LCD and more options for label types and colors.
About the size of a thick paperback, the LW-300 with its curved edges and bottom finger hole (and window to the label cartridge) can be held securely with one or two hands, and was most comfortable to input with two thumbs. For testing, Epson sent the CRN Test Center the Iron-on Kit, which includes two reels of iron-on labels in two of its three available colors. To get started, just pop off the bottom cover, slap in six AAA batteries and a label cartridge, hit the power button and input text on its large qwerty keyboard. When finished, press the big green print button and the text comes crawling out of a slot near the front. A cutter button on the side chops it off and the label is ready for application.
Other dedicated keys further simplify selection of about a dozen fonts, their size and shape, height and width. Character spacing, too, is adjustable, and provides control of the overall length of a printed label. A preview key displays the exact length (in inches or centimeters) of the label that's about to print and then scrolls its text. There's also a key for selecting from the scores of built-in symbols arranged in categories for office, home, sports, food, activities, shipping, math, occasion, prohibition and others. Printed text also can be enclosed in any of nearly a hundred frames ranging from beer to baby and winter scenes to the tropics. The LCD includes a battery-life indicator and energy is preserved by a 5-minute auto shut-off.
NEXT: More Special FeaturesThe LW-300 automatically stores the most recently used label, including its text, font style, symbols, frames and any other special characters used. The last-used label reappears whenever the unit is turned on. What's more, the device can store as many as 30 preset labels for later use, which might help offset its lack of a PC interface.
Text can be oriented horizontally (default), vertically or inverted. The LW-300 also can print up to nine copies of a label and supports printing a series of labels in a numbered sequence, and will automatically increment the sequence. For tight spaces or to minimize the amount of labelling used, the LW-300 contains narrow characters and also can reduce the amount of space between characters. Like a hardware keyboard, there are two shift keys for accessing uppercase letters and another to toggle between the upper and lower case. And like many software keyboards we're seeing these days, there's a dedicated key for punctuation; Epson adds another for accented characters. A setup button provides access to special text-handling capabilities.
We like the preview feature, but thought it should do more. For example, it doesn't display frames, character orientation or other special formatting -- only label length and inputted text. Also, we found that the LCD was a bit hard to read in low light conditions and its five contrast settings didn't help much. With its LCD backlight, the LW-400 obviously solves that problem and supports more colors and tape styles, including a width up to three-quarters of an inch. For the LW-300, other available labels include plain, clear, metallic, glow-in-the-dark and those with extra adhesive, and most in various colors. Epson offers about two dozen tapes for the LW-300, ranging from a quarter- to a half-inch wide.
Overall, we found the $39 Epson LW-300 a good value; it's a capable label printer that's easy to use, comes with a protective carrying case and is flexible enough for most situations. An AC power adapter is a $25 option.
PUBLISHED APRIL 18, 2013