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SiPix, Inc
www.SiPix.com

IS/Complete, Inc.
www.ISComplete.com

PalmInfoCenter.com Bottom Line:

The Price:
  • Pocket Printer: $150
  • A6 Paper Roll: $10
  • 100 Sheets A6 Paper: $10
The Pros:
  • Really small and portable
  • Prints from paper rolls or individual sheets
  • Comes with AC adapter and pouch
  • Software well designed

The Cons:
  • Switching from roll to sheet a hassle
  • Can only print from built-in apps

PalmInfoCenter.com Ratings*:
Design:
Cost/benefit:
Coolness:
Overall:

*Maximum Rating is FIVE (5) InfoPalms



SiPix Pocket Printer A6 Review
By Ed Hardy
4/16/2001


Overview
The Pocket Printer A6 is a miniature thermal printer that can be used with any IrDA compliant Palm.

Hardware
The Pocket Printer is a small and light device. In fact, I think it is as small as it can be and still be capable of printing on decent-sized paper. We all realize our handhelds could be much smaller if they didn't have to have screens big enough to read. Well, the only way the Pocket Printer could be much smaller is if it was going to print on unreadably small paper. If you want the exact dimensions, it is 5.85 by 4.25 by .875 inches. It weighs only 14 ounces with the batteries installed.

The Pocket Printer comes with a carrying pouch, an AC adapter, batteries, RS-232 serial cable, software on CD, and a roll of the special thermal paper. The Pocket Printer uses four AA batteries, which last a good long time. I've been testing this printer for over a week making lots of print outs and I'm still on my first set. SiPix says it can print about 50 sheets per set of batteries. Of course, if you expect to be doing tons of printing, you can always plug in the AC adapter. The printer will shut itself off after a few minutes without use to save power.

The Pocket Printer doesn't use ink cartridges or anything like that. Instead, it prints on A6 thermal paper. This comes in either 8 foot rolls or individual sheets. A6 paper is 4.125 inches wide and the individual sheets are 5.75 inches. The printer comes with a single roll but no sheets. I found these on CompUSA's site for $10 per roll or pack of 100.

The printer can hold a roll of paper internally, which is quite convenient. Individual sheets have to be carried around separately and are fed into the printer through a slot in the top.

In case you skipped over it earlier, the paper this prints on is only 4.125 inches wide, which is about half the size of a regular sheet. If you think this is too small, SiPix suggests you put your print outs on a copy machine and double their size.

The only thing about this printer that I genuinely didn't like was how it handles switching from roll to individual sheets. If you are printing from a roll of paper and you want to run a single sheet through, there is a software change you need to make (more on this later) but you also have to open the back of the printer and physically remove the roll of paper from under the print head. When you want to go back to the roll, you need to open the back again and feed the paper back. Still, I can't complain too much; it is nice that the printer can use both rolls and sheets. The only other mini printer I know of can do only rolls.

Print quality is fine, though I'm not terribly fond of the font it uses. I prefer san serif but most people believe that serif fonts are easier to read. Also, the letters are a bit squeezed together but I understand SiPix's desire to get as much onto a page as possible. I scanned print outs from the Address Book and the Memo Pad but I almost didn't run them. The scans aren't nearly as good as the actual pages. Look at the scans to see what you think about the font and layout of the pages and rest assured that the actual printing is a lot sharper than what appears here. SiPix says it prints at 400 dots per inch.

The handheld communicates with the printer via infrared. This means no cables are necessary. Just point your IR port at the printer's and the two devices can communicate. I had a small problem with this but it might be related to my IIIx. The printer is so small, I was tempted to lay my IIIx next to printer in order to use it. This was especially true when I was printing lots of pages. But if I actually lay the IIIx next to the printer, they can't make an IR connection. I suspect this is because the IR port on the IIIx is too low. I'm not sure whether other Palms will experience this but to solve it I just used a pencil or something to prop up one end of the Palm.

Software
The Pocket Printer uses a special version of IS/Complete's IrPrint. This allows it to print from all the built-in applications. I think it handles this in a very cool way. In order to print something, just launch the IrPrint application. This brings up a screen with large buttons to open any of the built-in apps. Tap on one of these and the actual application will be opened. You can do anything you would normally do in this app, plus each now has an "IrPrint" option added to its first drop-down window. Clicking on this will open the print driver.

That explanation might not be clear so I'll walk through an example. Say you have an Address Book entry to want to print. First, open the SiPix application and choose Address. This will open the Address Book app allowing you to look up the address you are interested in.This is the regular Address Book; you could add, edit, or delete any entry at this point. But instead you want to print one so you find it and open it. If you tap on the Menu silk screen button the Record drop-down box will appear. At the bottom of this drop-down box is a new entry: IrPrint. Tap on it. At this point, it is necessary to be pointing your palm's IR port at the Pocket Printer's. The Palm will spent a few seconds finding the printer then open a window of options.

Once you are in the printer driver, you can choose the number of copies, roll or sheet, and the style of the address. You can print the entire entry, a business card version, or even a mailing label. Choose OK and the entry will be beamed to the printer. This can take about 15 to 30 seconds per page.

Unfortunately, there is no way to print from any other applications besides the built-in ones. This means that DOC files or spreadsheets can't be printed. I tried to use PrintBoy with the Pocket Printer but it didn't work.

The IrPrint app comes on the CD with the printer. Windows users need only double click on this app and it will be added to your list of ones to be copied over on your next HotSync.

Mac users face a slightly more complicated process. SiPix claims no support for the Macintosh but it is possible to install the driver off the CD; I know because I did it. However, for some reason the necessary Palm application on the CD came up named, and I'm not making this up, \\>=?\mp. There is only one file on the root level of the CD; no matter what it is named it is the one you are looking for. Copy it onto your desktop, rename it IrPrint.prc, and double click on it to add to your list of files to added to your Palm on the next HotSync.

The instruction manual says you can download the latest drivers from support pages on the SiPix and IS/Complete sites. When I checked, neither site had these up.

Incidentally, the Pocket Printer can be used to print from a Windows PC, too. That is mostly what the serial cable is for and drivers come on the CD. However, I decided this was outside of the scope of this review.

Conclusion
I gave this a genuine coolness test. I took it over and showed it to some friends, who all said "Cool". I think this is a fine little printer that does just about everything you could want. It is it a bit pricey at $150; however, I think they are aiming this at business users who can easily afford it. Also, they have just released it so I'm sure it will drop in price eventually. And you know how it is with electronics; the smaller it is, the more it costs.

I'm not the only one who likes the Pocket Printer. Palm liked it so much they invested in the company.

p.s. If you are wondering why some of the pictures look a bit rough, I took them with my PalmPix camera. That's as good as the pictures get with the III series version. I have hopes that the m500 series version will be a lot better.

Article Comments

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Forget about the printer...

I.M. Anonymous @ 4/16/2001 5:09:05 PM #
Forget about the printer, where can I get that flowered wallpaper? ;)

RE: Forget about the printer...
jayhawk88 @ 4/16/2001 5:28:52 PM #
Forget about the printer, where can I get that flowered wallpaper?

1975 would be my guess ;)

RE: Forget about the printer...
Ed @ 4/16/2001 6:08:54 PM #
Renovating an old house has many advantages but it also involves living with the previous owner's poor fashion decisions until you can afford to fix them.

---
Plenipotentiary
Palm Infocenter

Cool

atrizzah @ 4/16/2001 5:58:48 PM #
This printer is cool, and if i had $$$ i would buy it. Also, I hope the company allows PrintBoy, TealPrint, or PalmPrint to have functions to print to this printer

Peace Out
Alan
RE: Cool
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/17/2001 11:11:26 PM #
So Far, I've tried PalmPrint with it and Bachman Print manager. Both resulted in "Fatal Alert" messages and required a reset. Not the printer's fault, but rather the software itself.

I've e-mailed both of those companies with the details of the "Fatal Alerts". If I get a response back from them within a few days, I'll repost them here!

RE: Cool
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 8:18:51 PM #
Actually Sipix Pocket Printer A6 does work with the latest version of PalmPrint.

I think its version 3.12

www.stevenscreek.com/palm/palmprint.shtml

Hope this helps.

Alex

But, but...

PalmPlan @ 4/17/2001 11:14:07 AM #
Doesn't thermal paper fade in time just like fax paper? Another thing I'd like to know is whether printouts using the roll will result in little pieces of rolled paper. Does it have a cutter to cut the roll into individual sheets once it's finished printing or do you have to tear it off?

PalmPlan

RE: But, but...
Ed @ 4/17/2001 11:21:27 AM #
I haven't had any print outs long enough to see if they fade with time, though I wouldn't be surprised. I also suspect that they change color fairly quickly if left in the sun. I just put a piece in a sunny spot; I'll get back to you on whether it turns dark in a few hours.

The roll is tightly wound so the print outs from it come out curled. They look like those really big receipts you get from some stores now, though the Pocket Printer's paper is a lot thicker.

Removing paper from the roll after it has been printed on is something I should have covered in the article. You have to tear it off and I was never able to get a good straight tear. On every one I did the edge was a bit rough. Maybe the next model should feature at least a metal tear strip rather than the plastic one it currently has.

Because of the curling and tearing, I prefer to use the individual sheets. I think you actually get more paper for your money by buying them individually, too.

---
Plenipotentiary
Palm Infocenter

RE: But, but...
Davy @ 4/19/2001 5:33:42 PM #
This is the same kind of thing as the game boy's printer. It's thermal, and if you get the paper to hot, it turns black, and if you rub it, it easily smudges. If you try to blow it double sized in a copier while the glass is hot, you might end up with a bunch of solid black 8 1/2 by 11 sheets of paper.

RE: But, but...
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/19/2001 7:05:06 PM #
Davy obviously does not own a SiPix Pocket Printer A6. While it is a thermal paper, it is much more advanced than old thermal papers. As far as fading is concerned, any thermal media will fade over time. The difference is that old thermal papers had a lifespan of 6 months, where the SiPix paper should last years. I even went so far as to leave a printed sheet on a windowsill for a week, and it was barely even yellow. This was a surprise (I was expecting it to turn black) because it was hot all week. Smudging has also been taken care of. Even right out of the printer the image will not smudge. I think the way that they are getting around these problems is by using a much higher activating temperature. I am going to see if I can find out the temp at which it changes.........

RE: But, but...
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/28/2002 3:36:20 PM #
I have need to print with that printer , and keep the printed paper for 10 year couse is a document , how can i do that, some spacial paper can do that?
txs

Where can you buy one?

I.M. Anonymous @ 4/20/2001 3:26:34 PM #
Who sells these things? I can't find them anywhere.

RE: Where can you buy one?
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 8:21:53 PM #
I got mine at pcmall.com

Staples and CompUSA are also supposed to have them, according to SiPix's web site. (www.sipix.com)

RE: Where can you buy one?
alexl @ 5/3/2001 8:24:26 PM #
Look at Sipix web site.

www.sipix.com/ordering.html

Hope this helps.

Alex

RE: Where can you buy one?
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/10/2002 11:12:37 PM #
I just got one, on Clearance rack @ Staples = $38. Now to see what I can print from the iPAQ. Thanks for excellent review and excellent comments from readers.

-Gizmo

The printer (Thanks Ed)

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/7/2001 8:12:58 AM #
I have the printer, bougth it before I read this article. Actually I love it, specially for the size. However I am resentfull that I cannot print from applications like ActionNames.

I printed from a program that is called checklist, What this program does is export the list to the TODO (impresive I think) and then you can print it out from the ToDo list that is built in the application. Unfortunately not all applications have this function (not that I noticed yet anyway).

I also tried printing from my laptop and from software like Wordperfect and it does its job to shrink the document to the paper size (the software does this). However, the cable supplied with the package did not work with my computer, I had to buy an IRport (my laptop did not come with one) And then it worked to perfection.

I also think the price is a little steap, but because of the portablility I can almost justify it. I can also see this printer targeted to sales people that are on the road and could print a receipt for their customers.

As Always I think your reviews are exellent and to the point. And most of all OBJECTIVE.

Thanks,
Maddie!

RE: The printer (Thanks Ed)
alexl @ 5/8/2001 10:28:14 PM #
Maddie,

I think you are using ISComplete software that came with the print.

If this is the case you may want to check out PalmPrint from:

www.stevenscreek.com/palm/palmprint.shtml

Using PalmPrint you can use SiPix Pocket Printer to print from a lot more Palm Applications.

As far as a laptop goes I did not have any issues printing from my Compaq laptop using included cable.

Alex


Sipix A6

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/30/2001 7:29:30 PM #
I was ready to buy this till I read this article. I manage 11 sales people who use Palms and have a quote form on Quicksheet. I cannot believe you can't print from other applications. Everyone keeps saying "Great for salespeople who have to print receipts". Exactly which built-in program would you print receipts from?
I was excited, now I am bummed.

RE: Sipix A6
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/13/2001 1:15:32 PM #
You should look at Investix Irda PX58 printer.This one has Esc Pos and Epson emulation and can print from all applications. The bigger trade off are its thickness and paper width (2 inch) but actually palm screen is also almost 2 inch width...This one is fine for business applications
look at www.investix.com

RE: Sipix A6
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/6/2001 2:31:24 AM #
A good alternative is the PocketJet A4 printer from pentax (see www.pentaxtech.com), which can print from any application on Palm, PC, Psion, Pocket PC, etc(which the printdriver allows)

Full Size Pocket Printer

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2001 2:36:19 PM #
Portability can be measured by volume and weight. Ed, you really ought to check out
Pentax Technolgies' PocketJet offerings. These models offer 8-1/2 by 11 print format for "full size"
invoicing, quotations, etc., with only a slight increase in volume, (add 4 cubic in.), and weight
(additional 3.5 ounces) over the SiPix. www.pentaxtech.com


RE: Full Size Pocket Printer
Ed @ 7/31/2001 3:32:46 PM #
Thanks, I'll see if they'll send me a review model. But $320? Whew!

---
News Editor
Palm Infocenter

SiPix Pocket Printer A6

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/20/2001 5:58:35 AM #
Um! Where do I start....

Nice idea on paper, but where did it all go wrong?

The printer looks good, ok build, solid feel to it which impressed me to buy one!

After reading the website and seeing a picture of a compaq ipaq pokect pc working with it, i was sold!

150.00 quid later, gets the printer home only to find that if i want to be able to print from the ipaq i would have to spend another 50 quid to be able to print from only a few of the ipaqs programs.

Not very good considering the Sipix website does not tell you this at the time!

Customer support is also just as poor with a small problem i had, i am still waiting 4 weeks on to a reply from a help link on there web site.

My advice, if it works ok with the palm and you have nothing better to do with a 150.00, then i guess buy it, if you use windows ce, forget it, do something better with your 150.00 and dont give the sipix a second look unless your like me and use it as a paper weight!

Over all, im not at all impressed with the printer or the customer support. I would not advise anyone to buy it, but hey, thats my experience of the product.

EXCELLENT 4/5 RE: SiPix Pocket Printer A6
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/12/2002 11:09:27 AM #
There are a few items most reviews do not mention. Portable printers are not meant to compete against laserprinters or ink jets. They are made to provide printouts under non-office conditions, i.e., field use, and except for environs were extreme heat-in-the-shade --- like desserts, are operant, a thermal printer is most reliable, needs little maintenance and consumes few resources.

Thermal printouts are used all the time as TRANSITORY computer output on paper, such as ATMs, gas station receipts etc., to give users a copy of output. I've used 2 thermal printers since 1984, and these printers have outlived their CPUs.

I use the printer as general output on a boat or a plane, often in transit to remote locations, exposed to high humidity and at times printing from within a ziplock bag. The IR signal penetrates the bag nicely, and allows printing in a water resistant container. Thermal paper doesn't run when wet, and when cold laminated, allows one to take printouts diving ... were water temps rarely exceed 90F.

Competing ink jet printers, while capable of A4 size sheets, can have comparably illegible fonts, higher cost and maintenance and print horribly under humid conditions. A4 paper is more incovenient to carry.

The Sipix is very similar to a thermal printer engine released by Alps in 1998:

http://www.alps.co.jp/press/new1998/f0325b-e.htm

A full spec sheet is available:

http://www4.alps.co.jp/pdf2002/pdf_e/printer/ptmbs60.pdf

It has a rated life of 50 million print impressions and paper advance mechanism life of 20km. That's roughly 17,000 prints or 72,000 sheets advanced of A4 paper. Using A6 paper, that's substantially more sheets.

Rolled Paper is Superior to Sheet Paper. Printouts rarely use the full length of a single A6 sheet, thus the unprinted area is wasted. In long printouts, type will span several pages, and sheet paper will be wasted on unprinted margins.

What is wrong with the Sipix is the cost, its not worth $150 retail. They can sell much more if the printer were roughly $80 retail, and thermal printers in 1984 cost $50.
The Sipix thicker thermal paper maybe less prone to curl, but it still does, and its not suitable for rolls. Roll paper are torn are various lengths. The Sipix paper is too strong and does not tear cleanly. Sipix paper is too expensive, even if heavily discounted to $5 a packet of 6 8-foot rolls. You can buy bulk A6 wide paper of over 76 feet per roll, of thinner grade paper for $35 for 25 rolls, and simply cut 8' rolls for convenience. That's about 14c US per 8' roll.

http://www.paperrollsplus.com/paper_rolls_section1.htm


M. Gozum



How can i

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/14/2002 1:10:53 PM #
Print from one appplication made by my own???

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