Label makers are simple machines that perform simple tasks, and you either can't live without them or have absolutely no need for them in your life. If you're a fan of labels, either for scrapbooking or cable management or just putting labels on everything you own, even electronic label makers can be kind of a chore. Software is usually outdated if you have one that connects to your computer, and the chances of that software getting updated is usually slim to none. Epson has been working for a little while now on connected label printers with APIs that make their devices more useful, and the LW-600P is the latest and greatest in that kine of devices.
Epson has made a Bluetooth connected label printer capable of running on either AA batteries or the included power cable, with software capable of accepting instructions from iOS, Android, Windows, and OSX. The printer is cartridge fed, which means any of the dozens of supported cartridge types can be inserted and removed at will. As soon as you attach a cartridge to the printer, the software becomes aware of what your print dimensions are and allows you to quickly print and swap as needed. Included in our review unit was six different cartridges, some for cables and clothing or fabric iron-ons and others for scrapbooking and good old fashioned labels. The only real buttons on the device are for power and Bluetooth, because whether you are connected via USB or Bluetooth everything is done through apps.
While the printer is portable, you can choose to keep it tethered to a wall if you prefer. The benefit to this is that the printer will stay powered on, so you can connect to it and give commands at will. When battery powered, the printer will only stay on long enough to print a label, and it powers down shortly after. This isn't a huge deal if you have the printer right beside you, since all you need to do is tap the power button to wake it up, but if the printer is across the room you'll need to hunt it down before using it every time. The benefit to the printer's insistence on powering off after it thinks you are done is that the batteries last quite a while. At the time of writing this the printer has pushed out 45 labels and has been on for several hour across three weeks, with no sign of needing new batteries.
The Epson iLabel app, which is available on iOS and Android, is a straightforward control for this printer. You connect to your printer via Bluetooth, launch the app, and you're immediately presented with options for printing. If you want traditional word labels, you can type in whatever you like and just hit print. There's a few basic font size and alignment choices, and a collection of basic icons to print alongside the text, but that's about it. If you're interested in printing things like barcodes and QR codes, you enter whatever information you want to add to the code and the results appear in the field below as a preview before printing. There's also a collection of pre-made labels for things like "Do Not Enter" and "Staff Entrance Only" for you to just tap and print.
At the current moment there are no other apps for the LW-600P, but Epson's developer application for their LabelWorks platform includes access to APIs that give control to third party developers for creating labels. LabelWorks is a relatively new platform that already supports services like STKR.IT, so hopefully this means more apps and features for the device as time goes on. Especially when combined with the volume of supported label cartridges made by Epson, there's quite a bit that could be done with this platform.
Naturally, something this connected with proprietary printer cartridges comes with a price. Epson's LabelWorks LW-600P will run you $99, and included int he box is everything you need to get started. From the app you can order additional cartridges as you need or want them, and most of them will set you back right around $30 for each one. Compared to a very basic label printer there's a huge price difference, but if your goal is to have a smarter label printer there's no better option out there for you.