Back in August, we wrote about the PlanOn Printstik Bluetooth printer for BlackBerry devices. This past week, PlanOn provided a review unit on loan, and allowed me to put it through its paces for several days. Now that the Printstik has been returned, what did I like about it? What could be improved? More importantly, is this an item that should be added to your gear for daily use? Let’s find out…
When I received the PlanOn Printstik PS905, I was immediately struck by how portable it really is , as the printer itself is but a mere 1.5 pounds. Inside the box, you will find the PS905 printer, a compact carrying case, USB cable, a variety of charging plugs ensuring that you can use the Printstik wherever your travels may take you, and a software installation CD (for the required drivers and alx file to run the Printstik printer from your BlackBerry, and PDF manuals).
The included USB cable will allow you to print directly from a computer/laptop, as well as giving you the freedom to print wirelessly from either a computer that supports Bluetooth or directly from your BlackBerry.
The layout of the Printstik is simple, with all of the controls practical, easy to find, and easy to use. The Printstik is very solidly constructed. The device uses thermal printing; meaning you won’t be forced to run out to frequently pick up toner. The thermal printing does prove, however, to be both a blessing and a curse (more on that later in the review).
While I didn’t conduct any drop tests on the review unit, the Printstik should be able to handle any travels to remote locations without a hitch. It’s size means it won’t take up too much room in your gear bag.
Small but powerful: the Printstik shown with a BlackBerry Bold
and iPhone to illustrate thickness.
While setup was easy, I did need to charge up the Printstik a full three hours (initial charge) and install the application to my BlackBerry using the Application Loader feature on BlackBerry Desktop Manager. Once the .alx file was on my BlackBerry, I confirmed the settings on my handheld, paired the Printstik to my BlackBerry Bold, and was off and running printing an email straight off the BlackBerry.
(Note: I was still charging up the PlanOn PrintStik when I made the video above.)
Now, as the video above illustrates, the thermal printing from the PlanOn Prinstik isn’t lightning-fast. There are quite a few limits with the Printstik. One is quality. It’s rather slow to print, using the heat-sensitive paper. The quality of the print is akin to a receipt, dot-matrix printer, or a fax. You can print in any color you wish, as long as you only wish for black. No color prints here, folks. You’re not going to be printing out professional presentations at a client site using the Printstik.
The paper rolls you use with the Printstik come mounted in cassettes. During my tests, I did not need to load a new roll, but the PDF manual does give you a step-by-step with written and illustrated instructions. As you can guess, PlanOn sells the paper roll refills ($59.99 for nine rolls). Given that you’ll probably get about 20 or so printed sheets using the Printstik, reloading the thermal paper rolls is something you’d have to get used to if you chose to make this part of your road warrior gear.
Cost is also a factor, as the Printstik 9S05 will set you back $299.99 and the paper rolls, if my math is anywhere close to right, come to about $0.33 per printed page if you go with the nine-roll refill option. If you truly want to be mobile, you’re also going to need to pony up for either the $70 universal mobile charger, or at least the $30 USB car-lighter adapter to ensure your Printstik has enough juice on the road to keep those prints coming.
The verdict? The PlanOn Printstik is definitely a niche item. In the so-called paperless era, one would wonder why such a device is needed at all — but anyone who does extensive business travel by plane, train, or automobile will attest to the fact that, yes, you’ll still frequently run into situations where you do need a printed paper copy of documents. Given the overall cost and the quality of prints, however, only the most dedicated road warrior who needs the portability of the Printstik is going to find any benefit.
What I Liked: Easy setup for wireless printing from your BlackBerry. The Printstik is truly light and portable (1.5 pounds). If you absolutely need a portable text printer for your BlackBerry, the Printstik will meet your requirements.
What Needs Improvement: While thermal printing means you won’t frequently be replacing toner cartridges, you are tied to thermal paper for printing. The overall cost of the device ($299.99) and the paper makes the portability of using the device quite expensive. The Printstik doesn’t print in color, and the quality of the prints is akin to an old dot-matrix printer or fax machine.
MSRP: $299.99 from PlanOn.