Sneak Preview – Zebra Xi4

If you’ve read my RFID printer shootout, you’ll know my thoughts on the rather elderly XiIII design. The Xi series of printer has been Zebra’s flagship model for a few years now and, let’s face it, is in serious need of a facelift!

While the XiIII still performs well, it has been overtaken in the market by several other models, notably the Datamax H-Class. Of course, Zebra didn’t get to be the biggest and baddest barcode printer company by sitting around so it was only a matter of time until something new arrived.

Well, that time is nearly here – a new Xi4 model is due to be launched early next month.

The Zebra crew are doing a good job of keeping the details under wraps – Steve Jobs would be proud of them. There are a few pictures to be found though – one I have is in an email that says confidential so I’m not going to publish it. The one you see here I found on the site of an industrial design company – presumably Zebra had used them as part of the development.

It is clearly a rendering, but the fact it looks just like the official Zebra photo suggests that this is what Zebra’s new high performance model is going to look like, and a handsome looking beast it is. And look – a proper display, the terrible one on the old model being one of my peeves.

The Zebra photo shows the Xi4 with the cover open. It looks very similar to the XiIII inside, but different enough to make me hope that the ribbon is going to be easier to thread and I really hope Zebra has finally dumped those nasty spring loaded screws for printhead pressure adjustment – I’d love to see something like Printronix uses.

I’d love to tell you more but that’s all I have right now. I’m hoping to be able to get hold of a real one to review before long. It’s not everyday that Zebra updates the Xi series so this will be an interesting launch.

What do you think? Do you have any info on the new Xi4? Do you believe this machine will restore Zebra’s place at the top of the pile?

Update: With the release date getting closer, there are more images to be found. Here is an official Zebra one.

zebra xi4Update 2 – After sitting in on Zebra’s webinar to introduce the Xi4 Series, it is clear that this isn’t really a new product. Indeed, we were told that between 85 and 90% of the parts are shared with the old XiIII Plus.

The main new features are the display and the fact that the print speed is now a bit faster across the range. The better display is welcome, but I usually have printers running at minimum speed anyway, so a speed increase doesn’t help.

I was happy to to leatn that the internal network card is now a standard feature across the line.

Two things I was hoping to see improved are not likely to be included. The annoying spring loaded screws for printhead pressure are carried over to the Xi4. I had been hoping that Zebra had purchased a Printronix printer and copied the nice repeatable system they have for this adjustment.

Also, I fear that the threading path for the labels and ribbons will be the same, I was hoping the Xi4 would have something simpler.

In anycase, as an update to the XiIII Plus, the Xi4 is certainly an improvment and will give that platform a few more years of production.

Want more info? Here is the product brochure from Zebra.

So what’s next? Now that the Xi4 is developed, what would you like to see Zebra produce next? I have some ideas, that I’ll include in a future post. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me for any labelnig needs you might have.

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