- can run on battery power;
- paper is the only consumable.
- Expensive, especially if you need add-ons;
- moderate battery life;
- requires special thermal paper.
Although the ability to print when on the move is useful, the market for portable CE/EPOC-compatible printers is not overburdened with choice. One of the smallest and lightest available products is the PocketJet 200 from Pentax.
The PocketJet 200 weighs just over 500g, and at 3cm high by 25.5cm wide by 5.5cm deep is small enough to fit unobtrusively in a briefcase alongside a handheld computer like HP's recently released Jornada 720. The printer's quoted weight includes the supplied NiCd battery but not the AC adapter.
The technology behind the PocketJet 200 is direct thermal printing, which has both benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand there are no expensive and potentially messy consumables such as ink cartridges or ribbons to contend with, and few moving parts. On the other hand, direct thermal printers require special paper containing heat-sensitive dye, so unless you're confident of finding a source on your travels, you'll have to carry the paper with you. A 100-sheet pack of Pentax-branded thermal paper costs £8.80 (ex. VAT), giving a reasonable cost per page of 8.8p.
If the material you print has any lasting value, Pentax claims that there will be no noticeable deterioration in print quality for at least 10 years under normal storage conditions. That's just as well, because the print quality delivered by the 200dpi PocketJet 200 isn't great to start with. Our review unit delivered noticeably broken-up characters until we ran the supplied cleaning cloth over the print-head, which improved matters to an acceptable level. Even so, the output quality is little better than a good-quality fax.
Setting up the printer is simply a matter of installing the appropriate drivers on your Handheld PC or Psion (EPOC32) device and connecting up the printer via the supplied serial cable. If you want to print from a PC running Windows 3.1x, 9x, NT or 2000, you'll need the optional parallel adapter cable (£24 ex. VAT), while infrared printing requires another optional add-on costing £52 (ex. VAT). Cut-sheet paper must be fed in manually a sheet at a time, but the PocketJet 200 can accommodate fax-style rolls of thermal paper if you buy the optional mounting bracket (£40 ex. VAT).
When powered by the 150mAh NiCd battery, the PocketJet 200 is good for around 40 pages, which isn't a huge amount. Fortunately, it doesn't take too long -- 70 minutes -- to recharge. As you'd expect from a small device like this, print speed isn't anything to get excited about: it'll do a maximum of three pages per minute, although complex pages and darker print settings will slow the printer down.
The PocketJet 200 isn't cheap at £286 (ex. VAT), but you do get a good bundle of kit for that price: as well as the printer, battery and AC adapter, there's a carry case, a serial cable and a 100-sheet pack of thermal paper. You can download drivers for CE-based Palm-size and Pocket PC devices from Pentax's Web site, but these are time-limited and you'll have to go to third-party providers for full versions.
If you need to print from your CE-based Handheld PC or your EPOC32-based Psion at all times, then Pentax's PocketJet 200 fits the bill -- after a fashion. However, print quality and performance aren't great, battery life is limited, and you'll probably have to carry enough paper to keep you going.
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||25.5 x 3 x 5.5 cm|
|Consumables included||thermal paper|
|Maximum print speed (b&w)||3 ppm|
|Media sizes||A4 cut-sheet or continuous roll|
|Connectivity / expansion|
|System requirements / software|
|Operating systems supported||Windows CE, 3.1x, 9x and NT 4.0; EPOC32|
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