Over the years, Datamax has build up a huge I-Class installed base and it has remained a top seller even as more up to date designs such as the H-Class and M-Class have been launched.
Personally, I’ve tended to lose interest in the I-Class and I usually offer the other two models for most applications. For a while, I’d assumed that one the current I-Class got to the end of its manufacturing life, it wouldn’t be replaced.
The Datamax-O’Neil folk saw things differently however and wanted to make sure there was still a machine in the product line up to offer to all those happy I-Class users. As a result, we now have the new I-Class MkII.
I’ve been using a beta version of the MkII for a while and I can safely say that if you’ve liked the original version, you’ll be happy with the new one as well. Actually, on the outside (with the exception of the new front panel and display) everything is pretty much the same.
Our beta unit is the 600 DPI version and has the designation I-4606. This means it has a 6 inches per second maximum print speed, compared to the 4 inches per second of the previous model. I guess more speed is always good, but I tend to run most printers at their slowest speed anyway so not a huge deal for me.
The rear of the printer has a big improvement, finally the I-Class comes with USB connectivity as standard along with the serial and parallel connections. This particular one also has an Ethernet port which unfortunately remains on options list. All printers should have networking as standard, as far as I’m concerned. Wireless networking is another option, for those that might need it.
There are 3 models in the new MkII range, 203, 300 and 600 DPI print resolutions. This means that 400 DPI has not made it over from the old machine and it seems as though it might be dropped from the H-Class as well at some point. A couple of years ago, I might have been annoyed about this (400 DPI remains the only sensible way to print a 7.5 mil barcode on small labels) but the fact that 400 (really 406) DPI Datamatrix codes fail UID verification due to being slightly too small, means I don’t mind so much.
The MkII included Datamax’s latest in intelligent printhead technology and the printhead is designed to be more abrasion resistant than the one on the previous machine.
There also doesn’t seem to be an RFID enabled version at this time.
Using the I-Class MkII
The first thing users of the current I-Class will notice is the new front panel for the printer. This is basically brought over from the M-Class and is a huge step forward from the tiny display used in the past. Although the layout is different, the menu is still the same – no need to go and re-learn where things are.
Open up the cover and everything will look very familiar – nothing really has changed at all. The label gap sensor seems to be the same as the one used in the M-Class, a good thing because I’m not a huge fan of the H-Class one which I don’t think is as precise.
One part I did hope would have changed is the little green plastic label guide. The H-Class one is so much easier to adjust and the old style guide on this printer was hard to get exactly in the right place – of course, it must be noted that this isn’t a production machine and the final ones might have a smoother fit.
The little guide excepted, threading the labels and ribbons is just as simple as the older machine.
I wanted to give this beta machine a good workout, so I’ve been grabbing some of our toughest jobs and running them on the MkII.
This has included a lot of UID labels for our defense industry clients as well as some of the more difficult labels we need to run.
Here’s a good example – each of the small labels is 0.3 x 0.09 inches.
The I-Class MkII did a nice job on all the jobs I gave it to do (there were a couple of quirks due to the firmware still being unfinished, but these should be fixed by now) and on the whole, the printer performed just as well as our 600 DPI H-Class that would normally run these jobs.
On the very small labels, I think the label registration of the MkII is slightly better than the H-Class – probably because of the better label gap sensor.
Because all the jobs I’ve used the printer for have been on synthetic materials, I’ve not been doing any speed testing – much more interested in print quality than inches per second. I’ll try and do some testing at the maximum speeds before I have to send the printer back to Datamax.
Just as Zebra’s Xi4 update was basically an XiIII with a new display, the same could be said about the I-Class MkII being the same as the original – but with a new display.
I know that there can be a lot to be said about the “It’s not broke so don’t fix it” syndrome, but it would be great to see some innovation from time to time (to Zebra’s credit, the Xi4 RFID is clever so I’d give some innovative points for that).
The I-Class MkII sits right between the M-Class and H-Class in the Datamax line-up, where there really isn’t much of a gap. The DMX folks have made a little room by increasing the price on the H-Class and removing a few M-Class options.
You can see from this family portrait that the I-Class is just about the same size as the H and still a fair bit bigger than the M-Class.
What would I buy? Well, if I had an organization that was full of I-Class printers and I was happy with them, I’d have no problem getting some MkII’s to keep them company. The original I-Class was a great printer and the new one will obviously perform just as well, maybe even a bit better.
Otherwise, I’d tend to stick with my current plan of using the H or M models.
What I’d really like (and I’ve been boring people with this for years now) is to have the M-Class upgraded with the full set of available print resolutions and a better printhead pivot mechanism. That would be my favorite of the bunch.
Oh, one final piece of fantastic news – the new printer is being assembled here in the USA at the Datamax plant in Orlando. I believe Datamax is the only label printer that is built in america – this certainly would be a factor in my purchase decision! We can order the Mk ii from today, although there is no indication as to when shipments will start.
Which Datamax printer would you buy? We’d be happy to help you figure out which one is best for your particular application. You can use the contact form to get in touch.
Update: The I-Class Mk II is already shipping so if you want one we can get it to you quickly. Better yet, to get things off to a good start, Datamax has some very nice rebates available. See our Printer Manufacturers’ Rebates story for more info.