Host-Based Printing – Is This The Future?

Host-based printing is defined by PC Magazine as “A printing system that relies entirely on the host computer to perform all the printer processing. The computer’s CPU rasterizes the data, which creates the bitmaps of the printed pages. It also sends commands directly to the print heads.”

Most of the label printers used today are not host-based, the processor in the printer is taking the label data (supplied in the appropriate printer language such as ZPL for Zebra printers and DPL for Datamax) and converting into a bitmap format to enable the image to be printed on the label.

The idea with host-based printing is that since the printer needs less computing power, it can be simpler and less expensive.

Would this be an advantage for our customers? Call me a Luddite if you like, but I’m not seeing it. For a client with a lot of printing taking place, this would put a lot more stress on the computers and increase the amount of network traffic – much simpler to send a simple text file with the label data to the printer and let the computers get on with other jobs.  Let’s face it, barcode label printers are pretty inexpensive these days, so there wouldn’t be huge cost savings.

Zebra's ZRaster host-based image processing technology for high-speed printing and outstanding images.

We do have an example of a host-based printer sitting in our office at the moment – the Zebra ZXP Series 3 card printer. Zebra has a concept called ZRaster that converts the data from the card design software into a rasterized image ready for the printer to print the card.

The concept does work well, but it does show up any shortcomings in the computer specs. We’ve been running it on what I swear is the first laptop ever sold by Michael Dell and there is plenty of time to go and get coffee while waiting for things to load in Zebra’s CardStudio software.

Using host-based printing for ID card printing is not a bad idea. Very few organizations have 100s of card printers so there isn’t going to be a huge increase in network traffic. For label printing though….

What do you think? I’m not an IT expert so maybe I’m missing something obvious here. Feel free to educate me as to why host-based printing is a great idea!

Oh, that ZXP3 is a great little card printer, regardless of how it handles the data!


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