We thought thermal paper was dead and buried along with mimeograph paper, but look out, it’s back!
Folks who are nostalgic for the ’80s can get their curly thermal-paper fix with Planon’s portable PrintStik printer. Designed for road warriors, the PrintStik is a self-contained, battery-powered portable thermal printer. It’s small enough to fit in your bag, and if your expectations are low enough, it does the job. How low? It’s a gray-scale thermal printer, so you won’t be printing color graphics with it.
About the only thing it’s good for is printing directions or a legal contract that you need signed right that freaking minute. You certainly wouldn’t use it to print a resume—unless you’re trying really hard not to get that job.
The PrintStik charges via a standard USB port and will churn out about 30 pages on a charge—10 more pages than the printer can hold. Thermal paper is usually cheap, but not with the PrintStik. Planon charges $25 for three 20-page rolls, which is pretty steep pricing given the output quality. We thought about simply refilling the printer with generic thermal paper, but Planon has you there: The rolls are integrated into a cartridge, so you’re stuck buying from the company. Thanks, Planon.
The PrintStik is like a teleportation device back to the 1980s.
The printer can connect to a device via USB or Bluetooth. The latter could be used for connecting to a phone, but only BlackBerry drivers are currently available—Planon says it will add other phone types. We tried to print from our Bluetooth-enabled notebook PC but failed. We can’t necessarily blame Planon; if you can actually get something that’s Bluetooth-based to work, you should either buy a lottery ticket or steer clear of lightning storms. Success with the wireless standard is that rare.
Unfortunately for Planon, the USB installation wasn’t much better. We had to repeatedly cycle the power button on the printer to get it to work. We finally gave up on one machine and moved to another with the same result. Just as we were about to fling the PrintStik against the wall, the blasted thing started to work properly—on both machines.
To sum up, what you get is curly, monochrome output with terrible graphics reproduction in an expensive, albeit tiny, printer. To us, that’s just not a winning proposition. We do acknowledge that it has some utility for an extremely small set of users. For those people, it certainly is better than writing something out longhand, but for the rest of us, it might be better to just break out the Ticonderoga No. 2.