Seiko hasnit been in the Mac label printer market since the late 1990s, due to a decision that retooling their software for Mac OS 8 wasnit worth the investment. But after noticing a beta Mac driver in May, Mac support in June, and the units at Macworld in July, we had to get one into The Mac Observer Labs. Our review of the SLP 430, their top-of-the-line unit, follows.
We were happy with the SLP out-of-box experience. Everything you need is in the box: the printer, cables, power supply, software, and even few labels to get you started. There are two cables, one for PC-style serial port, the other for USB. The software is for both Mac and PC.
Being adventurous and without consulting the Quick Start guide, we were able to connect the printer and load some labels. We were pleasantly surprised when a label we thought would be wasted, due to loading, was pulled back into the printer. Coming to our senses and examining the Quick Start guide revealed that holding down the Advance button when turning on the SLP will generate a test label, which reported the SLP is running Firmware Version 5.0.
Next was the installation of the software, which installs both an application and a driver. For the curious, thereis a SDK (Software Development Kit) option if youid like to develop your own application to work with the SLP. We found that after completing the installation, we were able to immediately use the Smart Label Printer application to print to the printer. However, the printer wasnit available to other applications until we manually added it via the Printer Setup Utility.
After an uneventful basic installation, we then moved to the application software. The software is called Smart Label Printer, with the Mac version recently being upgraded to version 1.1. For comparison, version 5.0 of the Windows software is beta and soon to be released.
The software starts with a screen that combines many pieces of functionality, and may be disorienting for those new to the program. A quick review of the documentation is recommended. The program starts in a mode where one can select a Template, change the Layout of a template, and even enter information to print a single label. The Layout options are impressive. There are Text, Image, Address, Return Address, Frame and Barcode options. The Address field supports an optional POSTNET barcode, which can speed postal processing.
Smart Label Printer Layout Screen
A Text field can use any font installed on your system, while a Barcode element can use one of seven bundled barcode fonts. Both these fields can be serialized, which means they can take on a new, unique value for each label printed. This can be great for a number of purposes where you donit want to bother creating the number yourself.
The Saved Labels section can be used to select a set of labels that youive previously defined, but to do this, youill have to first click on the oddly named Advanced tab. Once you click on this tab, you can view the variety of options one can use to define a set of labels.
Smart Label Printer Advanced Screen
When in the Advanced section, you can choose Manual Entry, Import File to import label data from a file, Address Book to retrieve entries from the OS X Address Book, or Entourage to retrieve data from this application. After using one of these options, you can then save the set of labels, which will then appear in the aforementioned Saved Labels section.
The SLP 430 is a fine piece of hardware, with a sharp look, easy setup and intuitive, well-placed controls. The software has some rough spots in usability, but many issues were addressed in the recent version 1.1 update, and usability should improve with future updates. For the experienced or sufficiently geeky, the Smart Label Printer software has lots of power when it comes to layout and import options. Those on a limited budget can opt for the SLP 410 or 420, which offer either slower print speed, or limited media handling options. For those who need to generate either a single label, or a large run, the SLP 430 is a great solution.