Over the last couple of years, I’ve become a niche reviewer, where that niche is about as niche-y as possible. Shipping label printers have become a bit of a specialty over here, and when I discovered the HP KE100, I was immediately curious.
Coming from a company that’s made paper-based printing hardware for decades, I came into this review with high standards. A company that sells dozens of models of printers should be able to nail a shipping label printer. The HP KE100 is one of several models HP uses to enter the desktop/commercial shipping label printing space. This review will take a hands-on look at the KE100 and see if it matches the brand.
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A sturdy and quick thermal shipping label printer that supports all the major shipping software platforms and prints labels quickly and consistently.
- Use any thermal label stock to print shipping labels.
- Nicely sized work surface footprint
- Setup and driver installation are quick; no extra software is needed
- Works with any shipping platform
- One of the fastest printers we’ve tested
- A full calibration was needed out of the box to print labels correctly (see testing notes)
- A bit pricey given more budget-friendly models exist wit similar performance.
Comparison & Alternatives
HP KE100 Unboxing and Setup
Thermal label printers aren’t supposed to be fancy by design. They border on strict utility, and HP recognizes this with their packaging. Opening the box reveals nothing more than what you need: a little paperwork, including a quick start guide, power cable, USB cable, and protective material underneath, which holds the printer itself.
Assembling and connecting everything takes a few minutes. Setting up the printer on your computer takes only a few minutes. The quick start guide will point you toward a unique website at hpworksolutions.com/setup from which to download drivers. Windows may be able to pull down the drivers from Windows Update on its own, but macOS will need the drivers downloaded and installed. There is otherwise no additional software to install or maintain on your computer.
My test roll of labels (courtesy of UPS’ free supplies program) is fed through the back. After powering the device and pressing the button, the printer detects the label edges, and I’m ready to go.
Or, so I thought. Upon printing my first test label using the tried-and-true 4×6″ USPS test label I’ve used for all my reviews, the label came out misaligned. Approximately two inches of the blank area were at the bottom of the label as if the label was shifted upward.
No matter. I consulted the Getting Started guide to see if I should do anything differently during calibration. The guide describes all the different modes the button on the printer’s top surface has (HP calls it the “feed action button”). In addition to advancing to the next label, pressing the button for 4-6 seconds (or until the light flashes a rapid green) triggers a full manual calibration.
Running through this process took 10 seconds, and after printing a test label, everything lined up perfectly again. Crisis averted.
The print quality of the HP KE100 is good but not mind-blowing. It’s precisely what one should expect from a 203 DPI thermal printer. The barcode is scannable, and the text is legible enough.
HP also offers the slightly more expensive HP KE103 with 300 DPI printing at 7 inches per second for an extra $20. On the one hand, it’s only $20, but on the other, it’s crossing the psychological $200 threshold for a USB-only desktop thermal label printer.
Wired Print Tests
- On macOS, whenever I printed a label, I had to set the paper size to 4×6″. The default seems to be 8.5″ x 11″, and the printer does not automatically detect the label like the Rollo X1040. Looking more closely at the printer’s configuration, the HP KE100 appropriately declares the default page size, but macOS is not picking it up.
- I couldn’t get the printer into a state where I had to do a complete recalibration again. I might not lined the labels up correctly when setting up the printer.
The HP KE100 Shipping Label Printer is as no-frills as it gets if you’re in the market for a thermal label printer from a recognizable brand. Given its USB-only connectivity, this unit has no fancy features, which is fine. The price is on par with other top-tier form factors like the Rollo X1038, and depending on the retailer, the same price, too. Everything worked exactly as it said, short of manually triggering a complete recalibration. (I’m not sure I can fault HP for something I might have caused myself and can’t realistically prove either way.)
Yep, it’s a thermal label printer. Yep, it prints shipping labels. The HP KE100 Shipping Label Printer does what it says on the tin and nothing more.
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