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Brother MPrint MW-140BT: print receipts and other small documents on the go.

When I got a hold of the Brother MPrint MW-140BT portable printer, my first thought was, "OK, who in the world would need to print something so badly that they'd print it on this tiny paper?" But, it didn't take me long to think of several categories of workers who would jump at the chance: cable installers, vendors, sales-people on the road, and repair people. I can see the benefit of storing these kinds of transactions digitally until the time comes when the customer needs some kind of receipt.

The printer is light (10 ounces) and small (just under 4 inches wide by 6.25 inches long). It stands just three quarters of an inch high. At that size, it's more than tiny enough to fit in most laptop carrying cases or briefcases. It prints at a resolution of 300x300 in black and white, and it ships with Bluetooth built-in.

Getting started

As is often the case when it comes to hardware, I'm not a big fan of this product's software installation process. I chose to try it out on my PC first, and one of the first things I had to figure out was what COM port the printer was on. I had absolutely no clue, and there was no auto-detect to make this selection for me. It took forty minutes of configuring and fooling around to get it to work.

I was finally able to print what I had written of this review and the words were so tiny on the little A7 paper (a sheet just barely larger than a playing card) that I came dangerously close to getting out my loupe to read it. Talk about your fine print!

But, just because the printer has the ability to take a full letter-sized document and scale it down, that obviously isn't the optimal way to use it. I created a new Word document, set its paper size to A7, and created a fictitious receipt (figure 1).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

When I printed my receipt, I was much happier with the results. I got high-quality output. Due to its speed and the fact that it's not a color printer, you won't want to do much in the way of photo printing, but when it comes to letters, spreadsheets, and other text-based documents, the quality should be sufficient.

Printing on the go

The printer was slower than I had expected. From the time I sent my sample receipt to the printer via the Bluetooth connection, it took 23 seconds to begin printing. It then took about 19 seconds to print my one-page receipt. You'll have to keep this slow speed in mind when designing the applications that will be printing to this printer. It's doubtful that cable installers are going to stand there for ten minutes while a service agreement prints out.

My next endeavor was to install the drivers on my iPAQ. The Pocket PC 2003 drivers weren't included on the CD, and I didn't even know they existed until I stumbled upon their support site when I was troubleshooting the installation on my PC. I do have to say that this second installation went much faster, but the default COM port (8) was incorrect. I had tested most of the ports before discovering 6 was the winning number.

Because Pocket PCs have no built-in support for printing, the software download includes an application called Brother MPrint. This application lets you print notes, schedule information, e-mails, tasks, and a few other items. The ability to print from Pocket Word or Pocket Excel was nowhere to be found. However, I never print contacts, notes, or e-mail from my desktop PC, so even if the Pocket PC had printing capability, I most likely never would have used it for PIM information anyway.

Pricey printing

I should point out that the paper for this unit is on the expensive side. 50 sheets of this tiny stuff currently runs about $3.99 on Amazon. That's a little rich for my blood.

It seems to me that the price tag on this unit makes it undesirable unless you're someone who absolutely requires the ability to print on the go (and on tiny A7 paper). While it is definitely a small, light unit and the Bluetooth is a convenient feature to have, I would expect something like this to be in the low $100 range as opposed to its current price tag of just under $400. When you consider the fact that handheld GPS units, Pocket PCs, smartphones, and other much more powerful devices are on the market for about the same price, it seems questionable that this printer would cost so much.

UpShot

The product, for what it is, works well. As for the installation, I think we've more than arrived at a time when device installations should be pretty close to dummy-proof. This one definitely isn't.

But, after it's up and running, you'll be traveling all around with a printer and you won't even feel the weight of it. The speed could be doubled and the price could be cut in half, but hey--isn't that supposed to happen in 18 months anyway because of Moore's Law or something?

ADVISOR EVAL[TM]

BUSINESS BENEFITS

Portable, wireless printing in a tiny package.

+ Printing on the go

+ Print quality

- Speed

- Installation

- Price

Brother MPrint MW-140BT

http://www.brother.com

US$399

DIMENSIONS: .75" tall, 3.9" wide, 6.3" deep; 10oz

RESOLUTION: 300x300

PRINTING: Direct thermal; black and white

CONNECTION OPTIONS: USB, Bluetooth

Russ Nemhauser has served as an application architect, software developer, team leader, and project manager for several years. His projects have included enterprise applications, online commerce sites, and corporate intranets for Wall Street firms, Universal Studios, Microsoft, Seagram, and others. Russ actively participates in the development community through public speaking and technical writing. He also contributes to, and serves as a moderator of, popular .NET forums and lists. Russ is a Microsoft ASP.NET MVP and a Microsoft Certified Professional.
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Title Annotation:Portable Printer
Author:Nemhauser, Russ
Publication:Mobile Business Advisor
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2004
Words:998
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