First Look: Primera Labels Discs With Style
Let's face it: Disc labeling is a chore, albeit a necessary one. Adhesive labels don't look very professional, and while inkjet labels can be photogenic and colorful, they're painfully slow to produce, and not waterproof.
Enter Primera's $140 Signature Z1 CD/DVD Printer. A well-rounded thermal transfer ink printer for home and small-office users, the device can print across the entire disc surface. And although its layout options are limited and its print quality is rough around the edges (literally), the Z1 is by far the best labeling solution I've seen, short of a $3000 full-color thermal label printer.
Installing the printer was a breeze. I first loaded up the bundled label design software app, then the unit's driver. The lightweight, 2.2-pound printer connects to your PC via USB 2.0, and requires little more desk space than a hardcover Harry Potter book.
The unit's ink cartridge snaps in easily; it came with a black ink ribbon cartridge; additional ribbons cost $20 each, and are available in red, blue, and green, although you can only print one color at a time. According to Primera, the ribbons will last for anywhere from 100 to 400 discs, depending upon how graphics-intensive your disc labels are.
The unit also included one piece of sample media. You'll need to use special media intended for use with a thermal ink; Verbatim sells such media for about the same price as conventional CDs and DVDs.
The first of the Z1's many limitations was obvious from the outset, once I opened the included PrimeraPrint CD/DVD Printer Application (the only program you can use with the printer). This rudimentary utility does the job, but it's not intuitive.
You can select bulleted or numbered text, but beyond these formatting features, PrimeraPrint offers only minimal design options. For example, the software shows four available fields--two lengthwise rectangles above and below the disc's donut-hole hub, and two towering rectangles flanking the disc's hub--for adding text or images. If you click on the field, you get another box to enter your text (unless you push the slanted test icon, which enables curved text).
You then have to click on another icon to launch a separate box in which you enter your text. And no, what you see in that box isn't what you get--it does not show you the text size and font style. To change the font size, you move a slider to indicate whether you want the text closer or further away from the disc's hub.
Likewise, resizing images is frustratingly difficult. It requires three clicks just to get to the screen that asks you to select the image; then, to resize the image, you get to choose mm, pixels, or a percentage of the height and width of the image.
Snap, Crackle, Label
In my tests, I found the unit to be fast, but a bit noisy (though not annoyingly so). After I designed my label, I snapped the disc into the printer, hit Print on PrimeraPrint, and the printer engaged, laying down ink with an oddly reassuring crackling noise. Within 90 seconds, my first disc was finished. On subsequent trials, the unit took only about 30 seconds for a disc with a minimalist text label, and about a minute to print a disc with two images and one text label.
With its 200-dpi resolution, the printer is sorely limited in its graphics capabilities. The text I printed, using ordinary Arial font, was marred by jagged edges. And the pictures I imported into my label looked atrocious; count on only using basic clip-art (Primera provides a disc after you register), or an uncomplicated logo. But I still found the text the printer produced to be far more professional looking than my own chicken scrawl; and unlike an inkjet label, the label won't be affected by moisture.
In spite of my gripes--and my concerns about this printer's resolution constraints--I found plenty to like here. Overall, I was impressed by the Primera Signature Z1's solution to the age-old labeling quandry, and recommend it for both homes and offices.