A quality shipping label printer is critical to running a successful e-commerce business. Printing clean, high-quality shipping labels fast and without hassle from all devices is paramount to getting things done quickly and returning to running the business.
I’ve used a half-dozen shipping label printers since I started selling stuff on the Internet–from Dymo to Zebra–and even past versions of the printer Rollo offers that I’m covering in this review. Skipping to the good part: the Rollo Wireless Printer X1040 is one of my favorites. I’ve included it in my best printers list because of Rollo’s reputation and ease of use.
This review will detail the Rollo Wireless Printer X1040 and see what makes it great.
The Rollo Wireless Printer X1040 is a high-performing thermal label printer that, while bigger when fully set up compared to others in its class, prints clean, crisp, easy-to-scan labels and performs beautifully both via USB and over WiFi.
- Visually appealing design with the white shell and bright status indicator
- Price competitive with other WiFi-enabled printers
- Wireless print speed is quick and consistent
- Print quality is clear and detailed
- Free pack of 4×6 labels with your purchase
- Required footprint is more than many internal-roll-holding thermal printers because of the blank label stock placed behind the device.
- Resetting Wi-Fi isn’t apparent unless you reference the status indicator card. Always read the manual, folks.
Unboxing and First Impressions
Focusing on the printer first, the outside packaging appears well done. It’s the level of detail I would expect from a device appearing on retail store shelves. I don’t remember the packaging being this nice when I owned one of the original Rollo printers. As a brand that sells primarily on Amazon and its site, it didn’t have to spend this much time on its packaging but chose to. I have to give them a nod for that alone. Things are improving exponentially over there, and I’m here for it.
Opening the box reveals a handful of printed materials worth reviewing. Namely, we find a setup card that points us to the Rollo app, a cheat sheet on what all the status indicators on the outside of the printer mean–being a color-coded system is a nice touch–a contact card in case you or I get stuck, and a neat little sample pack of labels… 15 to be exact.
Note: I’ve seen a few folks struggle with their Rollo blinking red. This error indicates that the printer isn’t confident about the label size and needs to (re)learn. Press and hold the top button until it beeps once. The printer will start measuring and sensing the label.
A message on the back of the sample labels reads, “this side should face down.” “Should” is generous. “Must” is more accurate; this printer–as with just about every thermal printer on the planet, only prints on one side. Included with the sample labels is an alcohol pad. There are no specific directions on its use, but I suspect Rollo included it for printer cleaning (never use soap).
Next up in the box is the Rollo X1040 printer itself. If you’ve owned the wired Rollo X1038 or one of the Chinese knock-offs like it, you’ll recognize the shape. Weighing in at 906g or one pound and 15.96 oz, this type of printer falls into the category that I like to affectionately call “InO” or “In-’n’-Out,” with no relation to the fast-food chain. Labels enter on one side and get served out on the other. Woodworkers will recognize this type of motion in planers. (Thermal label printers are quieter, less noisy, cheaper, and smaller, though.) The printer measures 182 millimeters or 7.17 inches wide, 82 millimeters or 3.23 inches deep, and 88 millimeters or 3.46 inches tall–91.5 millimeters or 3.6 inches with its feet.
The unit feels solid and sturdy, and the opening and closing mechanism doesn’t have any extra give. The exterior finish is shiny plastic. If it were in anything but white, I’d be mildly concerned with fingerprints–I had a piano-finish black iPhone 7 Plus, so I’ll speak from experience on that one. The finger latch to open the printer is strong, though it’s not apparent that it is to be pressed toward the front of the printer and has a bit of a curve to its motion. You’ll see what I mean if you find yourself pushing the top more than the bottom.
Last in the box is an AC 100-240v power brick of the 24-volt, 2.5-amp output variety with a barrel connector. If you ever have to replace it, you’ll have no trouble–it’s a standard power supply. The wall-end of the power supply uses a C13 plug so go nuts with those international power cables. The Rollo logo is on the top of the power supply, which is neat. In a world where we have external power bricks for many of our electronics, knowing which brick belongs to what devices by visual identification help; some of us label everything, and Rollo is trying to save us from ourselves.
Each Rollo X1040 ordered from the Rollo site comes with a complimentary pack of 4×6″ labels, which is a nice bonus. When opening, you’ll be greeted with a more muted but still unquestionably Rollo package. The stack of 500 Rollo labels clocks in at 1,208g or two pounds and 10.61 oz and measures 156 millimeters by 106 millimeters by 74 millimeters (6.14 inches by 4.17 inches by 2.91 inches). The 500-stack of labels expands linearly in a fan-fold style; unfolded, the top-most label faces down, with the second label facing up. The back also has Rollo branding like the samples.
The plastic wrap is easy to remove, and they smell like paper. What can I say? They’re labels. We’ll see how well they print later.
The printer’s top surface features two-button indicators: the square feed button and a smaller, less-obvious-a-button Wi-Fi button. Around the back are the ports: power and USB, and a dedicated on-off switch.
With the labels placed behind the printer, you’ll find yourself needing about 30 centimeters by 20 centimeters (12 inches x 8 inches) of a work surface to put your setup. With the in-and-out method of printing, this isn’t uniquely a Rollo problem. While it’s majorly the product of the label assembly method, it’s decidedly more than label printers that hold the label rolls inside themselves.
Rollo Label Holder
We have the Rollo label holder to complete the kit, suitable for managing fan-fold and roll labels. It is the exact or, at least from memory, quite nearly the identical holder I had a few years back with my original Rollo printer.
It assembles well enough, and I had no trouble holding my roll labels back then, nor does it have a problem now. Its presence will add substantial work surface real estate consumption, though, clocking in at 234 millimeters by 151 millimeters (9.21 inches by 5.94 inches) of consumed desk space. If you’re working with exclusively fan-fold labels, I’d argue it’s not necessary, but if you want to pair a roll of thermal labels with the Rollo printer, it’s a great addition.
Software and Configuration
Properly functioning and good quality Rollo thermal label printers are table stakes for folks like you and me, so for this review, I wanted to dive head-first into setting it up wirelessly as they recommend.
Plugging in power and turning it on for the first time, I’m greeted with a couple of beeps, a green power indicator (is that a J or a feed symbol? I’m not sure), and a purple-yellow status light that turned white after a few moments. Give it a few more moments, and it’ll turn purple (though it’s probably not receiving a job like a helper card would have you believe), and a nice little welcome message is expelled from the front of the printer.
Scan the QR code, and you’re taken to the Rollo website with links to download the app for iOS and Android. I’m using an iOS device, so I tap that link.
The Rollo app pairs with the printer via Bluetooth. If the printer is never connected to a Wi-Fi network, it supports operating in AP mode, meaning it generates its ownWi-Fii network mobile devices can use. This is helpful for mobile printing, though if you have a mobile hotspot, the Rollo printer will work with those, too.
Once paired, the app asks for the Wi-Fi network. It’s not apparent from setup or through any material provided, but when attempting to feed it a 5GHz Wi-Fi network, it appeared to have no trouble hooking up. It’ll support 2.4GHz Wi-Fi if that’s all you have, too. I point this out because support for 5GHz Wi-Fi is not standard by any means. It’s a welcome addition.
The printer spewed out a welcome message nearly immediately. A nice touch.
After setup, the Rollo app asks about signing up for a Rollo account. We’re skipping that as it’s not required to use the printer, nor is this review about the Rollo service. That also means we’re entirely done with the Rollo app for this review, though the app does come with its own perks like functioning as a mobile shipping station from your phone, so you don’t necessarily need a full computer with you in order to print shipping labels. The Rollo app also directly ties into the Rollo Wireless Thermal Label Printer, which is a nice touch and a few saved taps.
The Rollo wireless printer supports all the common printing standards, so it’s not surprising to see it appearing as a potential printer on my computer, as well, with no additional effort on my part. A couple of clicks and 10 seconds later, I’m ready to go there, too. I would expect a similar experience for the vast majority of computing environments–tablets and mobile devices included.
Time to print some labels!
With the mediocre WiFi printing performance I received from the FreeX printer, I immediately started printing labels to see how the Rollo unit does. The machine came with a sample set of blank Rollo barcode labels good for printing 4×6″ shipping labels. I used the sample 4×6 Pirate Ship label PDF. When printing the test label on my computer, The Rollo printer required that I declare the correct paper size, but only from a couple of options. I can’t fault the printer for that, necessarily, and it’s a nice touch only to see the sizes the printer natively supports. It’s progress, and I wonder if it’s an operating system limitation not to declare only the correct paper sizes, in addition to an “Other” 8.5″ x 11″ size.
(Aside: during my testing, I had forgotten to change the paper size to 4×6 from the default “Other: 8.5 x 11” that was set on my system; it did not affect anything so far as I can tell–the labels printed just fine and at the correct scale.)
I also printed the label files directly connected to my system over USB; it’s essential to compare the two speeds because there’s potential for a dramatic difference, as we saw with the FreeX unit.
Here’s how I conducted the test:
- I printed the Pirate Ship test label, both wired and wireless, from the Rollo and the Zebra ZP-450 hooked up to an external machine and connected over WiFi. The stats from the ZP-450 are carry-overs from my FreeX review to be used as a baseline.
- These numbers are an average of five runs in seconds.
- The 10-label and 25-label tests used the same file, duplicated to have 10 and 25 pages in a single file.
- The 10-label and 25-label tests are meant to mimic batch printing from shipping software.
- Default print qualities are used. For example, the Zebra ZP-450’s default darkness level is 13.5 on a scale of 1-30, and speed is 5 inches per second. The FreeX‘s darkness level is eight on a scale of 1-15, and print speed is 5 inches per second.
- Time is measured from the moment the Print button is clicked until the print is complete, and the last label has fully emerged.
Testing note: Since the printer supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless networks, I did the wireless printing test on both network frequencies to determine if the network frequency (and hence its bandwidth and range) affected the print times. It did not have a measurable effect in testing, so I have not broken out those numbers.
What I found fascinating was that wireless printing was faster than USB. I’m not entirely sure why USB was so much slower, but I’m also not sure if I care in this context. What also surprised me was just how quick wireless printing is with this Rollo unit. Its wireless performance puts it in the same class as my much speedier-per-label ZP-450 and costs less than that setup, too. We’re reviewing the Rollo X1040 as a wireless thermal printer, so that’s how we should judge its performance.
The spool time (the amount of time it takes to get the print job to the printer) for wireless printing averaged about 3.6 seconds, not much longer than my ZP-450 setup. USB printing took about seven seconds. Net per-label print times over wireless were sub-two seconds, averaging 1.6 seconds per label.
When resetting the Wi-Fi to compare 5GHz and 2.4GHz performance, I didn’t pay close enough attention to the status indicator card; you might not realize the Wi-Fi status light is also a button. The odds of needing to do this are slim, though, so I’m not sure if this is really an issue. I suspect the vast majority of users will set it and forget it. Although this printer supports operating in AP mode (self-contained Wi-Fi network), I did not test its print speed in that fashion.
Keeping in mind that I was doing this on purpose (repeatedly), feeding and re-feeding labels into the machine on occasion caused it to miss the separation between labels (about one in seven). In cases where it missed, nearly half the time, it found the break after a second attempt farther down the label stream, and the rest re-aligned after I pressed the feed button again. Only once did I have to manually re-seat.
Print Quality Sample
Both print samples were nearly identical. For day-to-day use, one would be hard-pressed to notice the difference.
Rollo Wireless Printer Alternatives
If you're on a budget (less than $100) and need a quality shipping label printer, we recommend looking at the Nelko PL70E thermal shipping label printer. Mimicking the same form factor as our much-appreciated Rollo printers, The Nelko sets a new floor for printing shipping labels without breaking the bank.
Optionally, connect to the printer over Bluetooth if generating shipping labels on your mobile device is a requirement. No WiFi connectivity is available on this device. Use the included USB drive to install the printer drivers, and when you're done, you'll have a free USB drive!
A unique take on the shipping label printer, the PitneyShip Cube features a built-in 15lb scale on its top surface, 300 DPI output, and can print up to 40 crisp, clear labels per minute, making it a one-stop shop for small businesses sending mail or shipping goods.
A sturdy and quick thermal shipping label printer that supports all the major shipping software platforms and prints labels quickly and consistently.
Having owned the previous Rollo X1038, I was already familiar with the quality of Rollo’s work coming into this review. They’ve taken the X1038, updated the outside to make it look like its price point deserves, and made a neat-looking, performant unit. Compared to the dark gray of the X1038, the white pops very well and almost looks too good not to have on display. Printing is quick, consistent, and clear. The performance rivals that of much more expensive and bulkier commercial printers. At $279, it’s cheaper than the FreeX printer and comes with a stack of Rollo 4×6 labels ($19.99 retail), giving it a net price of $259.
If you’re looking at the Rollo X1038 (dark gray, wired) and this unit, I’d strongly consider spending the extra money. Frankly, it’s so good it might even replace my ZP-450 as the new baseline printer for future comparison tests and my daily 4×6 driver. I didn’t expect to write those words when I started this review, that’s for sure.
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