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Zebra ZT200 Series Printer – Hands On Review

Zebra ZT230 Barcode Label PrinterIt isn’t everyday that Zebra Technologies comes up with a new printer model, so we were pleased to have the chance to check out a couple of examples from the new ZT200 line.

The ZT200s sit at the lower end of Zebra’s line of printers, starting just above the plastic clamshell GX series and going upwards to be the replacement for the proven S4M.

The models we had, were the basic ZT220 and the better equipped ZT230. Both were 203 DPI models, although are optionally available with 300 DPI.

Outside

Both the printer models are finished in the usual grey industrial colour scheme – the 230 having a nifty two-tone look. The 230 also has metal covers (the 220 has a plastic cover). The cover on both models is a hinged bi-fold type – reducing the amount of space needed to operate the machines. I’d like to see all printers have this because usually opening the cover pretty much doubles the width of the machine.

As it is, the printers are less than 10 inches wide and are about 11 inches tall and 17 inches deep. Pretty compact for a printer of this type, pretty much the same size as the Datamax M-Class.

Round the back of the printer is the usual panel where the connectivity ports are collected.

Inside

Opening the bi-fold cover reveals a very simple inside layout. Both of our demo units were direct thermal printers, so none of that pesky ribbon handling kit to clutter things up. Of course, thermal transfer printing is an option. One thing to note is that the printer only seems to support coated side out ribbons – most new printer designs are made to be able to use both windings.

In the area of the printhead mounting are two things I really like; first the printhead pressure is adjustable by turning two yellow (everything intended to be touched by the operator is yellow in these printers) adjusters that have markings on them to allow precise adjustment. They are marked with sets of bars like a cellphone – obviously the designer doesn’t use AT&T because there is a good range of bars to be seen!

The other good thing is a proper pivoting printhead mounting. Way better than the old S4M, the ZM series (and the Datamax M-Class) this is a great feature. The ZT200 is the only Zebra printer I can think of where it is simple to thread the labels. I hope this design is carried over onto other models as well – the Xi series in particular often proving to be an exercise in frustration when trying to thread labels and ribbons.

As already mentioned, these printers were direct thermal so I couldn’t play with threading the ribbon. I’ll update the post when I get the chance to use a thermal transfer printer for a while. One word of warning, while most Zebra printers can use a roll of ribbon up to 450 meters long, to get to the compact overall size, the capacity of the ZT200 series is restricted to 300 meters long. Rolls of labels can still be the full 8 inches in diameter.

One other good thing inside the cover is the inclusion of a QR Code. Scanning this with the trusty QuickMark app took me off to a mobile friendly help page on Zebra’s site. A very nice touch and just the kind of thing I was thinking off when I recently wrote about QR Codes in Industry.

Very cool and something I believe we’ll see a lot more of.

Zebra ZT200 Series online helpControls

One of the main differences between the two models is that the ZT220 has no LCD display – just three buttons on the front of the printer for controls and setting up. For a customer looking to control everything over the network, this might be a good choice. The ZT230 brings a decent, but not stunning LCD display.

On the 220 (actually on both machines, but needed more on the 220) Zebra have provided a little row of LEDs on the front of the control panel to indicate various status conditions – thoughtfully a label inside the cover deciphers all the light combinations, allow the user to see what is going on. Because messages are displayed on the LCD screen of the 230, the lights (and the cool label) are somewhat redundant with this version.

The menu is basically the same as the Xi and other Zebra printers, you know – the having to scroll a long way to get where you want to be!

Connectivity

We’ve been spoiled of late with printer models, they tend to come with a whole set of ports to allow the printer to be hooked up to do some useful work. Not so with the ZT200, I’m afraid!

By default, USB and serial ports are provided, but Ethernet and parallel are options. This seems to be a backwards step for me and I’d have thought that with the money saved by moving production of their products to China, Zebra would have given us a full set of ports.

Printing

OK, I have to confess that we didn’t have time to do any serious printing tests. Since those Zebra guys and girls know how to make good printers, it is a reasonable assumption that everything will work just fine.
We are also told that the new printers are based on a new firmware platform that is totally backwards compatible to the older ZPL.

 

 

What I liked:

Compact size and bi-fold cover

Great printhead mounting and easy threading

Proper printhead pressure adjustment

The QR Code to get quick access to online help

Clean modern design

What I didn’t like:

Not made in USA

Taking away ports and making them optional

No resolution higher than 300 DPI

ZT230 Made in ChinaConclusion

All in all, a solid machine that should do well in its intended markets. The ZT220 fills the gap between the GX and the S4M and the ZT230 is better than the S4M (which it will replace) in just about every respect.

I’d be much happier about selling them if made in the US though!

What about you? Have you had a chance to check out or use the ZT200 printers? I love to know what you think.

Looking for a barcode printer for your operation? Give me a call at 603-598-1553 x237 and I’ll be happy to help!

 

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  1. […] We’ve had the chance to check out a couple of these new printer models – see my ZT200 Series Review for my first […]

  2. […] the cover of the new ZT200 Series printer, is a nicely printed QR Code. Scanning this, takes the user to an online help page with a lot of […]

  3. […] Zebra’s ZT220 is more of an industrial model, but is very compact and priced to compete with higher end desktop models. Intermec is also getting in on the compact printer trend with the PM43C – a real industrial printer in a very small package that is very nicely designed. […]

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