Brother P-touch D210
Standalone label printers like the Brother P-touch D210 ($39.99) come in two basic designs: handheld and desktop. Handhelds are longer than they are wide, so you can hold them in one hand while using the other to enter text for the label. They usually have ABCD keyboards. Desktop designs are wider, making them hard to hold as you type—unless you have large hands—but they also have QWERTY keyboards, which makes entering text a lot easier. The PT-D210 is one of the better examples of the desktop category, making it our Editors’ Choice for an inexpensive, standalone label printer.
The PT-D210’s competition includes handheld models like the Brother P-touch PT-H100 and the Dymo LetraTag 100H Plus, along with other desktop models, most notably the Dymo LetraTag Plus LT-100T. All four of these label printers are small, light, inexpensive, and capable. The PT-D210 stands out for having both a QWERTY keyboard and a row of number keys at the top, complete with a shift function for common symbols like @ and $. The Dymo LT-100T’s QWERTY layout offers an embedded numeric keypad with a shift function instead.
Basics and Setup
Aside from rounded corners, the PT-D210 has a basically rectangular footprint, at 6.2 by 5.9 inches (WD). The height ranges from 2.7 inches at the back of the printer to roughly 1 inch in front, tilting the keyboard on the top face to help make it comfortable to use.
The keyboard is too small for touch typing, but it works nicely for two-finger typing. At only at 1 pound 6 ounces, complete with batteries, the printer is also light enough to hold in two hands and thumb type, if your thumbs have suitable reach. I found it easy, but I have to add that my hands are too big to thumb type on most cell phones.
Setup for the PT-D210 is typical for the category. Just snap in the supplied tape cartridge and six AAA batteries, which you’ll have to buy separately. If you plan to leave the printer sitting on a desk, rather than move it from place to place, you can forgo the batteries and use an optional AC power adapter ($27.99) instead.
Brother offers 33 variations of label tapes to choose from for the PT-D210. Color choices include black on clear, white, red, or yellow; white on black, clear, satin gold, lime green, or berry pink; gold on black or satin silver; red on white; and navy blue on white. Roughly half of the tapes are 12mm wide, with 3.5mm, 6mm, and 9mm widths available as well.
Label types include standard laminated types; labels with extra strength adhesive for uneven surfaces or harsh environments; non-laminated iron-on fabric versions; and labels with an acid-free adhesive, so you can use them on, say, a photo, without damaging it. None of the four types is available in every color combination or width, however. Prices range from $13.99 to $19.99 per tape.
Creating and Printing Labels
The PT-D210 makes it easy to create labels and print them. To get started, you can simply turn the printer on, type in some text, press the Print button next to the 15-character LCD, wait for the label to print, and then cut off the tape with the manual cutter.
There are also several buttons above the keyboard that you can use to adjust the format, add frames around the text, and more. The choices include Font (for changing the font style, size, and alignment), Label (for changing the label length, margins, and other formatting), Frame (with 99 choices of frames you can put around the text), Symbol (with more than 200 symbols available, in categories ranging from Mathematics to Family Pictographs), and Template Library (which lets you choose a design template that can, for example, mix two different fonts on the same label, which you can’t do with manual formatting).
Other command buttons include navigation controls for working through the various choices in the menus and a Print button. There’s also a File button that lets you save up to 30 labels to reprint as needed and also retrieve saved labels—using the navigation controls—for reprinting.
One potential issue is that the LCD isn’t backlit. However, it’s readable in most lighting conditions, and not having a backlight helps extend battery life. Also note that it does not show you exactly the format of the label before you print it.
The PT-D210’s speed is more than acceptable for this category of label printer. Brother rates it at 0.79 inches per second (ips). I timed a 4.9-inch label with the text PCMag: Printer Test at 6.6 seconds—or 0.74ips—not including the time for manual cutting. As a point of comparison, the Dymo LT-100T and the Dymo LT-100H Plus are both only about a third as fast on our tests, at 0.25ips. The Brother PT-H100 is essentially tied with the PT-D210.
If you need a label printer designed to hold in one hand while you enter text and commands with the other, you’ll want to consider the Brother PT-H100 and the Dymo LT-100H Plus. Either one can also serve on a desktop if you don’t mind the ABCD keyboard. If you prefer a QWERTY keyboard, however, the Brother P-touch PT-D210 is the obvious choice. It’s a few ounces heavier than the Dymo LT-100T, but it’s faster, and it has the added convenience of offering a row of number keys above the letter keys, two features that help make it our Editors’ Choice inexpensive standalone label printer.