Home tools Buyer's Guides from tech enthusiast who loves technology and clever solutions for better living.
Best label printers 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]Last Updated April 1, 2019
Best label printers of 2018
Now, let’s get to the gist of the matter: which are the best label printers for the money? Customers need to be careful on how they spend their money on these products. I have a variety of material used in the construction of label printers including metal, plastic, and glass. If you get well acquainted with these basics, you shouldn’t have a problem choosing a label printers that suits your need.
Test Results and Ratings
|Ease of use||
Why did this label printers win the first place?
I am very happy with the purchase. It is definitely worth its money. The product is top-notch! The product is very strong. Its material is stable and doesn’t crack. The rear part fits perfectly! It is mounted really tight and reliable. I don’t know anything about other models from this brand, but I am fully satisfied with this product.
Why did this label printers come in second place?
I really liked it. It is amazing in every aspect. It did even exceed my expectations for a bit, considering the affordable price. This is a pretty decent product that perfectly fitted the interior of our office. Seems that the material is good. It has a very beautiful color but I don’t really like the texture. I recommend you to consider buying this model, it definitely worth its money.
Why did this label printers take third place?
We are very pleased with the purchase — the product is great! It doesn’t squeaks nor bents. Looks great in my apartment. It is inconvenient to use due to the size. I am going to get something different next time. This price is appropriate since the product is very well built.
label printers Buyer’s Guide
How direct thermal printing works
A direct thermal printer contains a thermal printhead with hundreds of heating elements. Each element is electronically controlled to emit the right amount of heat (thermal energy) in a specific location during the printing process. The more saturated the image, the longer the image will last under various conditions.
The problem is that you can’t easily see the difference between a fully saturated direct thermal printout and a less saturated one. The saturation depends on a combination of the particular direct thermal label and the print setting you choose. Setting “Default” on your printer isn’t necessarily the solution. And adjusting the printer’s heat energy settings without knowing the correct one can damage the print head.
Remember that the temperature in the area where you are printing your direct thermal labels is not necessarily equal to where those labels might end up. If you’ve ever left a receipt produced by a direct thermal printer in a hot car, you know that some thermal papers are highly sensitive to heat and light because that piece of paper turned black. The paper reacts to the heat in your vehicle in the same way it responds to the heat from the print head; it activates a chemical reaction. In this case, the entire paper turned black.
Choosing the Right Barcode Printer
Thermal based barcode printers provide a very economical way to create high quality labels, tags, wristbands, receipts, and tickets. Compared to other printing technologies, thermal-based options require less maintenance, have less expensive media, and print faster while maintaining excellent print quality.
Knowing how you’ll be using a printer will help you decide what type, print method, and other features you’ll need. Understanding and going through the following features will help you determine the best printer for your needs.
Industrial printers are larger and more rugged than desktop models for high volume print applications. From a couple thousand labels per day to printing all day long, these printers are designed to hold more media and there are models that support printing from.5″ to over 8″ wide. You’ll find printers like the Datamax I-420in manufacturing and distribution centers as well as large retailers. If you are printing any type of media in large volumes, industrial label printers are your most reliable option.
Even though standard label printers can also create wristbands, a dedicated wristband printer offers several advantages and a lower overall cost. For applications that are making wristbands every day like hospitals, theme parks, and concert venues, a dedicated wristband printer is the perfect fit. While other printers have their media on a roll, wristband printers have cartridges that simply drop into place to keep you printing with almost no downtime. These printers also have a higher print resolution standard for clear, accurate printing of images or logos. Added to this, most models have a special anti-microbial case to meet the demands of any healthcare environment. If you need custom printed wristbands on a regular basis, a dedicated wristband printer like the Zebra HC100 will be the most efficient and easiest to use solution.
Ticket printers are another specialized thermal printer that excels at printing on thicker paper for ticketing applications. If you are making tickets for concerts, festivals, or any other type of event, a dedicated printer will help you make them faster with less hassle. Since most tickets come in a fan-folded stack instead of rolls, these printers have a taller case to accommodate more stacked media. They can also still use roll media but with a larger stack of tickets you will spend less time reloading the printer. These printers also have an opening on the back of the case to easily feed ticket stock externally. Models like Datamax ST-32are a high performance option for demanding ticketing applications.
Direct thermal printers utilize heat-sensitive media that blackens as it passes under the printhead. Because they print without a ribbon, direct thermal printers are noted for their simplicity. Direct thermal printed labels typically have a considerable shelf life but are not well suited for environments that expose them to heat, long periods of direct sunlight or abrasion. Because of this, thermal labels, tags or ticket stock are often top coated to resist these elements. Direct thermal printing produces sharp print quality with good scan ability using only one consumable. For any short term labeling application, like shipping labels, direct thermal is the most efficient print method.
Thermal transfer printers use a ribbon, similar to a fax machine, which is melted onto the label by the printhead. This method makes it easy to use label materials beyond paper including synthetic materials, like polypropylene and polyester, for outdoor and harsh environments. Beyond the added durability, thermal transfer printed media also has a very long shelf life making it perfect for product labels, asset tags, and outdoor wristbands. Since you are using a ribbon, you also have the option to change the color of your print beyond just black. With the right combination of labels and ribbon, you can make a label for any environment or application. Though it does cost a little more to print thermal transfer media, the added benefits ensure your label or tag is readable throughout its life without ever needing to reprint.
Why you should trust me
But it’s not just my own expertise you should trust. In addition to talking to several at-home labelers, I also interviewed Elizabeth Halen, owner of Flying Monkey Bakery in Philadelphia to get an idea of what small businesses could need from a labeler; as well as Amanda Sims, home editor of Food52; and Certified Professional Organizers Amy Trager, Ellen Delap, and Helene Segura.
Brother laminate labels were far superior to the Epson labels, which resisted removal and reapplication and failed the dishwasher test miserably.
The coated Brother labels performed well in our handling and durability tests. It was easy enough to lift up a corner and remove the label, and labels were still sticky enough to reattach. They suffered a bit during their time in the dishwasher, but if allowed to be left in place, they re-adhered as they dried. In this regard, Brother laminate labels were far superior to the Epson labels, which resisted removal and reapplication and failed the dishwasher test miserably: The Epson labels slipped off during the dishwasher test and one became stuck to the bottom of a plate. It took a razor blade to remove all remnants of the label.
The Brother PT-D2is easy to maintain. To access the tape and battery compartment, you push a clearly marked button on the top edge of the unit to release the latch. The back panel swings open, allowing easy access, while also remaining attached to the unit along the bottom edge. Once you’ve inserted the tape or batteries, it closes smoothly and with a satisfyingly sturdy click. The Gadgeteer review of the PT-D2has a good photographic rundown of how to do this if the manual isn’t enough.
An unanticipated, but welcome, side effect of having the tape on the back is the fact that the PT-D2doesn’t produce any noticeable fumes while printing. The same couldn’t be said of the Brother PT-D400 and D600 label makers, which have a separate tape compartment on the front of the machine. As a result of the tape compartment’s more prominent location, you get a faint odor of permanent marker when using it. This can be a huge turn off for those with sensitive noses.
Who else likes our pick
Our biggest complaint about the PT2is that it prints more margin on each label than is necessary. This means you burn through tape a bit faster than you should. It is possible to set the margins to narrow, but that only shortens the right side of the label. Because of the way the interior was engineered, the machine can’t reduce the amount of label on the left side. Instead, it prints a cutting guide on the left side, so that you snip off a bit to make the label even on both sides. It’s a nice touch, but nicer still would have been a way to waste less label tape.
Another frustration is that the LCD screen doesn’t offer any kind of illumination; there were times I found myself wishing that it were backlit. I might not have even registered the issue, though, if I hadn’t been testing against other, higher-priced models.
Being limited to tapes no wider than a half-inch shouldn’t be a problem for most at-home labeling needs, but if you anticipate needing more space for whatever reason, you should read about our upgrade pick for business use.
Long-term test notes
The Brother PT-D2remains our top pick. The battery life is excellent, the finished tapes are durable, and we continue to appreciate how intuitive the device is to use, even after a prolonged labeling hiatus. Sourcing replacement tape is easy, and a set of third-party rechargeable batteries has solved the power issue for us.
If you’re planning on giving your label maker heavy use, or want one for a busy office environment, consider upgrading to the Brother PT-D400AD instead. It does everything the PT-D2does and has the same easy-to-use keyboard layout, but it adds the ability to print barcodes. It also accepts tape up to ¾ of an inch and can print up to seven lines of text per label instead of the PT-D210’s two lines. It also comes with an AC adapter, which helps offset its higher sticker price.
The PT-D400 (right) is significantly larger than the PT-D2(left). It’s more at home on a desk than in your hands. But the two have similarly intuitive keyboard layouts.
The PT-D400 is bigger and heavier than the PT-D210—like a fat iPad Mini—and designed for desktop as opposed to handheld use, which isn’t ideal for home users. But it would feel right at home in a mailroom or at an admin desk. It also comes with a quick startup guide that could be laminated and posted next to the unit, allowing it to become a labeling station that would be easy for the whole office to use.
For the labeling power user, a PT-D600 might be the right fit. It does all that the PT-D400AD can do, but adds the ability to connect to a PC for label layout and design. It can also accept tapes up to one inch wide and has an even easier to read, backlit color display. It’s a mighty machine (with a bit steeper learning curve) than the average home user needs but would be right at home in a professional setting.
While the Brother PT-D2remains our preferred label maker, I do want to give a shout-out to the Epson LW-400 for crafters and sewists. The Epson interface isn’t as intuitive as Brother’s, but Epson makes an array of labels made from ribbon and fabric, which allow you to print iron-on name tape for your kids’ clothes and make customized ribbons for scrapbooks and gift wrap. (Brother also makes an iron-on tape for labeling clothes, but it has more user reviews complaining that the labels fall off after just a few washes.) The LW-400’s slimmer form factor gave it superior ergonomics for handheld use when compared to the squatter shapes of the older Epson LW-300 and our Brother picks. Like the Brother PT-D210, it uses half-inch tape, but unlike the PT-D210, it can do barcodes—a feature only available on the higher-end Brother label makers.
The LW-400 (left) is more comfortable to hold than the LW-300 (right).
However, learning and navigating the Epson interface was a real slog. During testing, I could not change the font size without direct consultation with the manual, and it is frustratingly easy to accidentally wipe out the all the label formatting you’ve scrolled through menu after menu to construct.
Also worth noting, Epson tapes tend to sell for about 47¢ per foot compared to the roughly 37¢ per foot the other brands’ tape sells for. The Brother may be more limited in its abilities, but it is better at the things most people would use most of the time.
Daily print volume
Finding the right label printer depends a lot on how many labels need to be printed on a regular basis. Think about the number of labels that you need to print and if the answer is a low number, then perhaps an entry-level machine is more suitable. On the contrary, if you have to print larger volumes of labels then getting a more professional machine will do the trick.
Thermal printing resolution is measured in dots per square-inch or DPI. The market offers some varied selections but usually, 200dpi is the standard resolution for most printers. For most applications like barcodes and larger text on the label, this resolution is sufficient. These machines also tend to be less expensive. However, there are also label printers that can give your labels a more professional finish with crisper details as they offer higher resolutions like 300dpi or even 600dpi. These label printers are worth considering if you have a bigger budget and you want to make a really solid investment in the quality of your labels.
If speed is your primary requirement when purchasing a new printer, you’ll need to decide between laser and inkjet, as both offer excellent speed and performance depending on how much you’re willing to spend. In times gone by, inkjets were slower than lasers, but new developments from HP, Epson and Brother mean that top of the range inkjets can now compete with laser printers in terms of print speed.
Invest in a high-end laser or inkjet machine, and users can expect around a twenty sheet per minute print speed. Compare this to the six sheet per minute print speed of cheaper inkjets, and the initial purchase cost of a range topping machine could prove worth it.
Combination Ink Packs
Combination ink packs offer a cost-effective way to purchase two or more cartridges at once. These handy units usually contain both black and colour cartridges, making them perfect for those who have recently purchased a brand new printer. Though expensive, combination packs do offer good value when compared to the cost of individual cartridges – provided you use both coloured and black ink that is.
Let’s get started.
Each printer has different characteristics, including the label width they are capable of printing on. You wouldn’t get the same label printer used for e-cigarette labels as for a cleaning solution jug.
You may know the type of label you want to create in-house, but before you go making any decisions, you really need to know the width you require.
If you know what size labels you need, you should be able to have them printed out just as you want them on the first run. After all, this is supposed to make things easier for you.
The Zebra ZQ110
The Brother PT-P-300BT
Examples include the Brother PT-P-300BT (which we reviewed earlier this year) and QL-810W (unlike most models in its category, this one can print in two colours), Epson LabelWorks LW-600P (which takes advantage of the voice recognition system on certain smartphones), and Zebra ZD500 (with optional 300dpi resolution).
ID card printers
Small businesses sometimes need to produce their own ID or membership cards – gyms are an obvious example, or you might want to restrict loyalty discounts or offers to the customers that earned them, not their friends or family.
Light and heavy media
Printers are designed to handle a certain range of paper thicknesses, and most manufacturers recommend against the use of very thin or very thick stock. For example, the Epson WorkForce ET-4550 in our office specifies 6to 95gsm (typical office paper is 80gsm).
But if you look around, you can find exceptions. One is the Oki C911dn which handles 5to 360gsm. It can also print on sheets as small as Aand on banner material up to 1.3m long. Gloss paper, film, transfer paper, waterproof paper and other types of material are supported.
We’re treating this as a catch-all category for wide-format printing for proofing, packaging and outdoor marketing, because we suspect that most of these printers go into businesses that provide print services for clients rather than for purely in-house use.
Here are some options that illustrate the diversity in this market.
The Epson SureColor P7070 is sold largely on its ability to deliver 9or 9percent of the Pantone range, depending on whether ‘light light black’ or ‘violet’ is selected as the tenth ink. The main applications are fine art printing and colour-accurate proofing.
The HP Scitex family comprises industrial-scale presses for printing signs, displays and packaging.
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
Most important, have fun and choose your label printers wisely! Good luck!
So, TOP3 of label printers
- №1 — DYMO Authentic LW USPS Postage Stamp Labels for LabelWriter Label Printers
- №2 — DYMO LW Mailing Address Labels for LabelWriter Label Printers
- №3 — DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo Thermal Label Printer