Which Thermal Label Printer Should I Buy?

by
October 9, 2018

ShipStation is all about efficiency. Which comes in handy as the holiday rush ramps up. This is the time of year to make order fulfillment as streamlined as possible. And one way to fulfill orders even more effortlessly is to invest in a thermal label printer.

If you are looking for a recommendations on a laser printer, check out these great recommendations from The Wire Cutter and TechRadar.

What is a Thermal Printer?

First, let’s recap what a thermal printer is. Thermal printers are printers that uses thermal heat to transfer ink pigments onto a surface, such as shipping labels. Thermal printers do not utilize ink or toner unlike other printers but largely depends on thermal paper for creating the images. You can even use fanfold labels instead of label rolls. Unlike label rolls, they feed directly into the printer to drive your cost per label down even further!

The Thermal Printers ShipStation Recommends


If you’re in the market for a new printer, we’ve got a couple of suggestions: The DYMO LabelWriter 4XL & Zebra ZD420. These are models we’ve either tested, used around the office, or have been praised by users. All three work with both Windows or Mac computers and work seamlessly with ShipStation Connect. Read about each model’s specs below.

 

DYMO LabelWriter 4XL

The DYMO LabelWriter® 4XL is one of the most well-known thermal label printer be e-commerce sellers. It’s a breeze to set up and unlike most other label printers, label misalignment is not an issue that you will likely encounter. It produces crisp, clear labels every time.

Pros:

  • The most user-friendly thermal label printer that we recommend
  • Doesn’t require you to calibrate the printer to realign the labels.
  • DYMO 4XL print quality rivals that of the Zebra ZD series.

Cons:

  • Slowest print speed
  • Doesn’t support fan-fold labels
  • Is restricted to specific label rolls (must have perforations between each label)

Zebra ZD420 Direct Thermal Printer

The Zebra ZD420 is a workhorse of a printer. It is a bit pricier than the DYMO, but it can be fine-tuned to print exactly to your preferences. It also is a bit more powerful and initiate print jobs more quickly. If you’re using something like Scan To Print, it can print out the labels as quickly as you can create them. If you are looking for something that can handle the pressure of printing labels all day, the Zebra ZD420 may be the best thermal label printer for you. Unlike the other two models being reviewed, the ZD420 also supports wireless and bluetooth connectivity. (Note: Though Zebra no longer manufactures the GK series printers, they are still great printers that we also highly recommend.)

Pros:

  • Quickest at sending print jobs to printer
  • Supports fanfold labels
  • Prints clearly at top speed, making it more ideal if you’re a high-volume seller

Cons:

  • More expensive (typically around $365)
  • More involved setup process
  • Standard Zebra driver is not ideal when printing shipping shipping labels on PC. We’ve found it works best with the third-party Seagull Scientific Driver
  • Currently, ShipStation doesn’t support the model’s wireless printing technology. You would need to use ShipStation Connect to accomplish this.

Rollo Thermal Label Heavy Duty Printer

Rollo is the new kid in town and it’s ready to make a name for itself. Not only does this compact powerhouse cost less than the DYMO 4XL, it also supports fan fold labels! So unlike the DYMO, which requires very specific rolls of labels, you can feed a box of 4”x6” labels into your Rollo and get to printing.

Pros:

  • Compact size, about as big as a heavy-duty stapler
  • Supports fanfold labels
  • Can print at speeds that rival that of the Zebra GK series

Cons:

  • Lesser print quality than that of the Zebra or DYMO models (though still effective for scanning/readability)
  • Does not work with ShipStation Connect (If used with ShipStation, you must download PDF in order to view and print labels)
  • Does not include container for the label spool or box
  • Is sometimes back-ordered, making you have to wait longer to receive unit

Side-By-Side Comparison


Model

Rollo Thermal Label Heavy Duty Printer

DYMO LabelWriter 4XL

Zebra GK420 Thermal Printer

Labels Supported

Supports both rolled and Fanfold labels

Only supports DYMO-specific label rolls

Supports both rolled and Fanfold labels

Setup Difficulty

Fairly easy

Very easy

More detailed, but allows for greater customization

Print Speed

*Up to 150mm per second

88mm per second

127mm per second

Print Resolution

Max. Resolution

 203 dpi

Max. Resolution

300 dpi

Max. Resolution

208 dpi

Bottom Line

The Rollo printer is an affordable, dynamic option that gives you the flexibility of a higher-end printer, but has a lesser print quality than the other models.

The DYMO LabelWriter 4XL is the easiest of these label printers to set up, but is much more restrictive in terms of supported labels, which can be a turnoff for some buyers.

The Zebra GK420d is ideal if you want a more customizable printing experience, but is better suited for larger volume (50+ shipments a day).

Setup

PC

Mac

PC

Mac

PC

Mac

Where to Buy

Rolloprinter.com

Amazon

DYMO.com

Amazon

Zebra.com

Amazon

 

*Works best if kept under 100mm per second

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