The Best Thermal Shipping Label Printers (Updated for 2023)
Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes trying to ship something to their customers knows that an exemplary shipping label printer makes or breaks the process. With the number of 4×6 label printers on the market, it can be daunting to figure out which suits your business needs the most. This article will look at what we think are the best shipping label printers and identify which we think you should look at specifically.
Why Use a Dedicated Thermal Shipping Label Printer
There’s an easy and understandable argument for using the printer you already have to print your 4×6 shipping labels. For most, that’s their existing inkjet or laser printer, printing onto 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets of paper and folding them in half.
The downside with this is mostly waste. Typically, this includes half of the paper sheet going to waste, and ink or toner is consumed more frequently. With a thermal shipping label printer, no ink is used, and in some cases, you can acquire entirely free shipping labels on which to print.
Pair that with any actual volume, and I’ll bet dollars to barcodes that the math would make a thermal printer attractive quickly.
What is the best Shipping Label Printer?
There are dozens of options on the market, depending on the budget and the volume of shipping labels you’ll need to print. I’ve broken down the list into the best printer for most folks, a WiFi alternative, a roll-friendly printer, and non-WiFi and high-volume printers.
These printers are platform-agnostic, so each could also be the best label printer for Mac or the best label printer for Windows.
Having an excellent shipping label printer is nice, but to make your shipping processes sing, pair it with the best service for printing shipping labels. Check out our favorites.
Rollo X1040 Wireless Thermal Label Printer
I’ve long argued that the Rollo X1038 is the best bang for your buck. The Rollo X1040 belongs in this top spot because it’s not just a superb printer–it’s the successor to the X1038 featured below and does a great job carving out a spot in the WiFi-enabled thermal printer market, too. This is likely the best label printer for eBay sellers, Amazon sellers, or any small-to-medium business that ships physical products.
Adding Wi-Fi to an excellent shipping label printer means putting it where it should be, even if there’s no computer nearby. Skip the USB cables, the workstations, and everything else that was getting in the way. We think this is likely the best printer for small businesses and individuals. The Rollo X1040 nails wireless thermal printing, and for the price, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better.
FreeX Wireless Thermal Label Printer
Before the Rollo X1040 was released, the FreeX was in a class of its own (check out my review here). After raising the price substantially (before any promotions or discounts), the FreeX started to look less attractive unless you’re really into or need wireless printing.
Since then, they’ve brought the price back down in the style of a discount that’s seemingly always available.
It’s still a good unit, albeit not as quick over WiFi as the Rollo. Its defining capability is holding shipping labels inside rather than out the back, creating a smaller footprint on your desk or work surface.
Dymo 4XL Thermal Label Printer
One of the stalwarts in the industry, Dymo is known as the go-to for many users. Unlike the rest of the shipping label printers on this list, it’s easy to find Dymo printers, with the Dymo 4XL existing in most retail office supply stores across the United States and Canada.
I’m a Dymo user (I have the 450 Turbo for addresses and SKU labels) and greatly enjoy the quality. The quality carries over into the larger 4″ x 6″ label size, too.
Under the category of address label printers, the 4XL prints just as well as the smaller units. Its larger size means it can hold larger address label rolls, too. If you’re looking for dual-purpose, the 4XL could be the best address-label printer on this list.
The Dymo software is decent. It’s nothing I would write home about, but I also believe that we wouldn’t be using the Dymo software most of the time, if at all, anyway.
My biggest qualm with the Dymo 4XL is the price. If you can find one new in the box from an authorized reseller, it’s hard to beat the value you get from this internal-roll-fed thermal printer.
A potential downside for some: the Dymo 4XL shipping label printer doesn’t support feeding shipping labels from outside the printer like more commercial-oriented units like the Zebra ZP-450. Only label rolls that can fit inside the printer are supported, which takes larger, bulk-quantity label rolls off the supplies list, adding to the cost. If you often rock 1000-sheet rolls, grab yourself a holder and either of the Rollos on this list instead.
A Note on the LabelWriter 5XL
Since this blog post went live, Dymo has since released an updated version of this printer, the LabelWriter 5XL. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend anyone buy the newer LabelWriter 5XL (or any 500-series LabelWriter for that matter) because you require Dymo-specific labels. Dymo’s labels have an NFC tag that the printer checks for to notify you when the labels run out. However, that also means you cannot buy less-expensive labels that are arguably just as good of quality. Because Dymo has decided to add DRM to their printers effectively, I cannot, in good faith, recommend the newer LabelWriter 5XL printer.
Rollo X1038 Thermal Label Printer
I put the Rollo X1038 on the list not because it’s an underdog that’ll blow all these other printers away–it is, frankly–but because it’s just straight good, and a just straight good printer is often enough for a lot of folks. Its price is also hyper-competitive compared to the Dymo, so it’s hard not to consider it a viable alternative.
At roughly 75% of the price of the Dymo 4XL and even less compared to some others, it’s an attractive entry point into the thermal-printing space. It’s also an exciting format in its rectangular shape and convenient feed mechanism (in the back, out the front).
However, this also means that you’ll find yourself getting a holder of some kind for those with rolls, which adds about 30$ to the cost. The Rollo is designed for fan-fold shipping labels since they can sit nicely behind the printer without additional support or hardware.
The Rollo X1038 shipping label printer is compatible with every shipping solution that would work with anything else on this list, making it an excellent option for those who see the higher-priced printers on this list and have difficulty finding extra value in the higher price tags.
Zebra ZT230 Thermal Label Printer
Side-loading of shipping label rolls and a blistering 6 inches per second print speed are standard. For those doing the math at home, that’s one label per second. This shipping label printer also boasts a higher DPI print quality at 300dpi, meaning labels come with better detail, and those barcodes will be even more crisp, giving beaten-up barcode scanners less of an excuse to work right.
If you order your shipping labels by the 1000s, you’ll be pleased to see that 8″ rolls are supported. Specifically, for those that get their labels from UPS, the massive label roll they send you will fit snugly inside without issue. The ZT230 supports all the label feed formats: continuous, die-cut, hole, and black mark.
I wasn’t joking when I said it’s a big one. At 20 lbs, it’ll need a nice, sturdy place to sit.
Frequently Asked Questions About Shipping Label Printers
What features should I consider when selecting a shipping label printer?
In our preferred order, we recommend looking for printers based on this priority list:
- Printing speed
- Printing quality
How Can I Find a Shipping Label Printer on a Budget?
We recommend taking a look at eBay for a used shipping label printer. You’ll likely also find inexpensive new printers. However, we wouldn’t recommend buying one of those–they’re usually cheap for a reason, and you may find yourself replacing it sooner rather than later, anyway.
What is the Best Label Printer for Ebay Shipping?
The printers on this list will all work great for printing eBay shipping labels. The key is ensuring the platform generates 4″ x 6″ labels rather than half-sheets or other sizes.
The label format can be changed when choosing the shipping service and speed after you receive an order.
What is the Best Label Printer for Poshmark Shipping?
We don’t have a specific printer we’d recommend–they’ll all work great for Poshmark. Our only suggestion is to make sure you’re printing 4″ x 6″ shipping labels using a thermal label printer.
Check out this Poshmark help site page for more information on configuring your shipping label settings to print 4″ x 6″ labels.
What is the Best Label Printer for Shopify Shipping?
All the printers outlined in this article are great for Shopify shipping. The key is ensuring the platform generates 4″ x 6″ labels rather than half-sheets or other sizes. There does not appear to be a specific settings page outside of an order to make adjustments.
Check out this Shopify help article for how to change the shipping label format for your Shopify store, if necessary, to print 4″ x 6″ labels.
What is the Best Label Printer for Amazon Shipping?
While we have general favorite shipping label printers, we think all the printers featured above will work fine for printing Amazon shipping labels.
Amazon FBM will present an option to adjust the shipping label format when choosing the shipping service and speed for the order you’ve received. There is no other global setting so far as we can tell.
How do I print a shipping label if I don’t have a printer?
You may have options depending on the service you’ve used to generate your label.
For example, some services can generate a QR code you can show the person at the retail counter. You may also be able to use a self-serve kiosk at the Post Office to generate a label. Your local UPS or FedEx retail store can also help generate labels.
However, we highly recommend getting one if you don’t have a printer.
What are the advantages of using a thermal printer over a regular printer?
There are several advantages to using a thermal printer for printing shipping labels:
- Lower cost of materials – A thermal printer does not need ink or toner refills.
- Less waste – shipping labels are made for that purpose; no tossing half-sheets of unprinted paper.
- Weather resistance – shipping labels printed with a thermal printer do not bleed or run when wet or exposed to the elements.
- Adhesion – shipping label paper is adhesive and can be applied directly to the shipping box without additional tape.
Which type of paper should I use to print shipping labels?
We recommend only ever using thermal shipping labels with a thermal label printer. Regular printer paper cannot be run through a thermal label printer.
How do I calibrate my printer to optimize the output of my shipping labels?
Each manufacturer has their process for calibration. Refer to the user manual or online documentation for your printer.
How often should I replace the printing ribbon of my shipping label printer?
Thermal label printers do not have ribbons. Instead, they take electricity and burn the writing onto the paper and thus do not need to be replaced. Refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines if you have a shipping label printer that takes ribbons.
Are there any restrictions on what I can print on a shipping label?
You can put any supplemental design around the label as long as the original label graphic is unaltered. Some companies have their own custom label stock with a pre-printed design, but the actual shipping label graphic with the address and tracking barcode is printed unaltered and in its original form.
A shipping label printer is an excellent asset for any business that ships products. A shipping label printer saves time and money by allowing businesses to print their labels instead of outsourcing the printing. Shipping label printers are also good for businesses because they allow businesses to customize their labels to include branding or other important information. While we’re fans of the Rollo products, there are other great printers on this list that we’re sure you’ll enjoy.
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