When my our family owned Brother PT1250 stopped working in 2012, it had served us for eight reliable fuss free years as an electronic labeller in the home. From being able to be used for cookbooks, food bags, folders and anything that need a manual but professional label attached to it, the Brother PT1250 could handle the task of providing easy to peel and stick labels. My late father eventually developed blindness in one eye due to this heart medicine, but he adored the labels as it made life easier for him to look up index files that he had previously labelled with smaller hand written details when both of his eyes were fine. Due to the easy purchase of its long lasting "TZ" ribbon cassettes as well as a few alternative colours of the ribbon tape available for labels, I scoured auction sites as well as private stationery companies for another Brother PT1250 model but was dismayed to find that it had stopped production many years ago and had since been replaced by quite a few different electronic labellers from the Brother company, most of which had become smaller and designed to fit in the palm of a hand. Thus at the time of purchase with just one parent who was soon to develop macular eye disease in her later life, I was determined to find another Brother Personal Touch electronic labeller to replace our ever faithful model.
At the time of purchase I could not find any other Brother thermal labeller that was cost effective with only alternative models that could offer PC connectivity which I knew in my mother's hands she would not use, as she never quite liked the idea of PC computers and very much relented using anything electronically based until she clapped eyes on her lovely Janome Brother sewing machine - but still refused bluntly to have anything to do with computers in general. On EBAY I soon discovered a nearly new Brother PT1280 and at a cost of £45-00 with an unused guarantee registration card, I was quite lucky to find this product along with a hard PVC carry case that keeps the machine, plug, tape cartridges and everything else together.
Nar2's Quick Skip Product Spec
* Brand & Model: Brother Personal Touch (P-Touch) 1280.
* Electronic thermal production labeller with cassette style ribbon.
* Size: 15 cm x 16 cm x 5.9 cm, Weight: 470 grams.
* Uses 12mm/1.2cm ribbons, available in different colours, style type TZ.
* 10mm per sec print speed & 180 dpi resolution.
* Full QWERTY keyboard with Italic, bold and 5 sizing options, 39 keys.
* Styles: Bold, italic bold, italic outline, italic shadow, normal, vertical, outline, shadow, italic, Mirror, underline, frame.
* Helsinki font default style with 1 line, 12 characters on screen.
* LCD screen and colour coded buttons.
* Ribbon press cutter at the top & 8 watts total power consumption.
* Comes with carry case, manual, tape picker, mains adaptor and 2 free TZ ribbon 0.5"/12mm black on white starter cartridges.
* Can also be powered by 6 AAA batteries and comes with an original 3 year warranty.
* Price in 2004: £99-95, comes with hard travel case.
* My Price in 2012: £45-00 from EBAY UK. Average £40 to £75 second hand on EBay or Gumtree.
* Price in 2013 £43-00 from Amazon UK.
General Design & Quality
If you haven't used an electronic thermal labeller before, the Brother PT1280 is a good starter machine to consider because of its general size, basic tag feature, general durability and features. It is the natural successor to the model we owned beforehand, the chunky Brother PT1250/LB and has a slightly more modern angular shape with well designed controls and easy to use decals. The PT1280 looks like a tiny QWERTY based desktop computer from a distance as it has a silvery glittery grey appearance with a black plastic surround central LCD screen and has a permanent sloped angle on the top rather like a corded desk phone. Compared to so many more modern models on the market, if you require an electronic labeller that has it all, the Brother PT1280 is a good machine to start with because the control panel is so well detailed; it is impossible to confuse the functions that it offers and doesn't suffer from buttons on a display all crammed together to get an LCD screen onto the design! Unlike so many that now have connectivity options to plug into a PC and enhance as well as print, this labeller is just a basic strip tape based machine that will print on its built in default 1.2mm width thermal heat bonded sticky labels that Brother automatically sell provided by a daisywheel plastic cartridge that simply locks into the back of the Brother via a recessed hatch. For a labeller on the go, which has its own carry case including a handy partition for the corded UK adaptor that comes with it, the Brother PT1280 is a handy and portable label printer to consider.
Aside from its features, what I adore about the Brother PT1280 is that it feels and mirrors the outgoing performance of the Brother PT1250. The buttons all have a rather good quality feel about them with a mix of hard plastic and rubberised function buttons that confirm their status when pushed on the LCD screen and as before you can adjust the settings to your liking with super quiet performance and power that isn't too high.
What I find more impressive is that this machine now offers 3 favourite settings and has a one-touch program that puts the machine into the printing mode I require without looking at the user manual. As before, you can also use this machine without the mains plug via three AAA batteries, which fit snugly into the back of the printer. Now, that's handy for me, as my experience will shortly reveal!
General Performance & Downsides
Like the outgoing Brother PT1250, the Brother PT1280 still uses heat transference bonding when it comes to the processing of the words, numbers or symbols that this little desktop printer supplies. That doesn't mean the sticker that comes out the back ready to cut from the machine will be hot to the touch! As before when it comes to use, it is a simple matter of just typing in whatever text you wish to print out and hit the "print" button before a tiny whirr of the Brother's motor can be heard and at the top of the machine, a little wisp of the adhesive print strip slowly emerges out the top right hand side, ready to be cut via the built in push down guillotine button and you have your tag!
Generally this printer also has a resolution of 180 dpi by 180 dpi, which doesn't move the game on from the previous model. However, I'm generally pleased about this as I have never found an issue with clarity and there are a few more options to consider in terms of the colours available where the printing adhesive labels are concerned because the machine comes with 2 starter cartridges as standard with either white coloured tape with black letters or black coloured tape with white letters available. Brother also sell other 7 other TZ 1.2mm tape colours ranging from mostly all of the primary colours such as black, blue, green, yellow, red, clear tape and even a stripy type! The tape has excellent adhesiveness when applied on textures but if you make a mistake of placement, they can also be taken off easily unless you've applied brute force to stick them down in the first place. More importantly the tape doesn't leave a sticky imprint behind, a reason to why I keep with the Brother brand, alone.
The cassette that holds the adhesive tape ribbons are of the daisy-wheel cartridge type that fit into two roller wheels inside the printer when the flush recess door is opened up at the back and supported by two permanent hinges, the access area is wide and large to accept almost all kinds of fingers to push the cartridge in as well as a manual rewind facility to wind back the tape should tape bunch up when installation is required. A simple slot onto the rollers confirms the tape cassette is placed as well as the optional battery placement area and the door can be closed back over, locking into the machine's base. Keep the box handy that the cartridge comes in though as it acts as a recycling box both for itself and the plastic cartridge once it is done.
The whole internal assembly is very well made and it isn't hard to fathom how to change print tapes over, let alone look at the very helpful user manual, itself a well worded document with clear diagrams and a great troubleshooting section. The tape at the end of the day is of the laminating consistency, so they are very thin tapes rounding up to 1.2mm thickness, giving off an ultra thin "sticker" at the end of the Brother's performance and at the back of the labels there are two split adhesive greased backings that can be easily prised off to stick the label onto the desired surface. As before, my model came with a plastic-stylo tool where you would insert the tape into the threader hole and a quick pull would release the plastic backings off the tape to reveal the sticky texture. These days the tool is defunct since the tape at the back has two symmetrical pull parts.
The best part of the Brother PT1280 however is just how versatile and easy it is to use! From working in many schools as a freelance teacher, I've often taken my little Brother PT1280 for the classroom pupils to use and they've had a lot of fun with this machine, not just creating tags for their own names but also stickers for fun thanks to some of the symbols on board that the machine provides. Generally once you hand a machine like this to a child, I find there is no stopping them to the hours of fun of what they can dream up with and from an education point of view it doesn't just teach pupils about spelling but also allows them to find the time to think about words and phrases in general. It is however faster with the final process result though, being able to handle 1cm of tape per second and with its default label measuring 3cm, with its safety cutter on board, a lot of labels can be made stress free! The length can also be adjusted by simply changing the size of the margin on board if you want a sizing to your liking.
Thus, the PT1280 is slightly better to use than the outgoing model and has a faster way of both processing the words and processing the labels. The QWERTY keyboard still have rubberised keys but they are squarer and slightly wider to accept all sizes of fingers. Being white in colour provides a contrast but to any child, it gives them full access of use. A print button with a printer decal on the right hand side of the machine is similarly well decked out and the largest button the machine for ease of location and procedure.
An additional set of decal buttons on the main fascia then allow you to further change the size of the font to three different sizes such as small, medium and large and there are three extra font sizes that make the letters very narrow, thick or thin. This is then confirmed on the LCD screen with permanent dashes and a symbol to confirm the decision. But like before, within that though, you then have options to have normal printing, Italic or Bold, or a combination of the two. Vertical printing is available, Italic outline, Italic shadow, Mirror, Underline and Frame are further features to jazz up you're the phrases or text you want in general!
A big improvement to what went on before is the choosing of numbers with the Brother PT1280. It no longer has those pesky triple function buttons, but more simply offer double function buttons with a single strip of buttons for numbers and by pressing the shift key to get the similar symbols that you would find on a PC/Mac keyboard layout, for example number "3" can also access a pound sign.
However different than the Brother is in terms of delivering different fonts, the basic default font is that of "Helsinki," and to the best part of clarity, the printing quality is excellent and is totally blot free due to the heat transference process, meaning you can grab the just printed strip the moment it is set to emerge. It is however a downside to find that like the previous Brother we had, the LCD screen is not lit which would make it easier to see in poorer light.
Other Costs, Sorts & Final Thoughts
The only outlay of additional costs concerned is the print ribbon cassettes since there is nothing else on this machine that requires additional purchasing. Generally and individually the tapes cost between £12-99 and £14-99 and dependent on how much printing you go through, I tend to find that ONE ribbon cassette lasts me a whole year when the printer has had average use at home. In school when given in lessons, the ribbons can wear down pretty quickly though this is understandable given the amount of pupils that this machine seems to enlighten! This is when I buy up any old TZ tapes that don't seem to be popular, such as red tape or white tape where prices are slightly cheaper than the more popular white text on black or vice versa colours. A dark green ribbon used to be available and this can be bought rather cheaply, though it does pay to shop around! Generally though even with a recession it seems to make more sense to buy two or more ribbons at the time of purchase, as sellers do tend to make some great offers and left in their boxes in a dark place ensures the ribbons don't get damaged and can last for years before actually being used!
As with other brands, Brother are notorious for filtering the market with so many electronic thermal labellers, that it is impossible to keep track on the very latest of machines and though they attract a small minority of buyers, the PT1280 itself is a very old printer that still sells online pretty well, dependent on a quick Google search and a further cheaper model known as the "PT1280SR" is available without a UK adaptor, designed for battery use only.
Brother sell hand held "similar" products but they have a rather industrial look and start at £59-99 and upwards. Speed of printing has improved though, so you're looking at the compromise here as well as added connectivity possibility to a PC, but still restricted by the default 12mm sizing of tape that you still have to buy over and above.
When considered what this can do with its cheaper print ribbons, longevity, durability and simplicity, the Brother PT1280 is a reliable unit that pretty much promises what it says and delivers a consistent, clear and professional touch to labelling in general. When taking into consideration its downsides though, this machine isn't left wanting despite the lack of PC connectivity - the fact that a child of primary years can use it without much instruction pretty sells itself on universal approval and general simplicity! Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2013.