With all the moving pieces in any given business, it can be easy to overlook the smaller, but equally integral pieces. For example, despite it being one of the most active pieces of shipping hardware, it can be easy to take the thermal label printer for granted.
However, different thermal labels have different advantages!
When it comes to parcel shipping, efficiency and accuracy are incredibly important, and a high-quality thermal label printer can be an essential tool, especially when it comes to sending out multiple packages.
Don’t have the time to do the research and make the most informed decision regarding which printer is right for your business?
Luckily for you, the Freightcom team has done the research, so you don’t have to!
What Is A Thermal Printer?
Unlike inkjet printers, a thermal printer uses thermal heat to produce text or images on a medium.
The heat from the printhead activates a special chemically treated paper (aka. thermal paper) to transfer ink from a ribbon and bond it to the medium.
Thermal Label printers are most often used for printing labels, barcodes, and receipts, and are often used across a wide array of different industries, such as:
What do We Think are the Best Thermal Label Printers for Parcel Shipping?
Below are just a few of the many thermal printers currently on the market. While all of them have strengths and weaknesses, we’re confident that any of them could be a useful tool for your business.
For smaller businesses, or those for whom parcel shipping is a more occasional concern, the Brother QL600 may be the right printer to help manage your needs.
At 5” x 8.7” x 6” and 4.4 pounds, The QL600’s compact size and weight make it easy to fit in even the smallest office space, and its 300dpi resolution and print speed of up to 71mm/s means that when the time comes to ship your packages you can get reliably high-quality shipping labels relatively quickly.
Bearing that in mind, the QL600 does fall short in terms of scalability rather quickly. The lack of wireless connectivity may quickly become inconvenient, and some users report minor overheating after extended periods of use.
Bottom Line: If you’re in the market for a printer for occasional parcel shipping without a huge investment, this is for you.
Brother ColAura Photo and Label Printer
Simply put, colour printing simply isn’t a chief concern when considering thermal label printers, especially for shipping. This doesn’t mean that this functionality is without merit, however. Something as simple as a pop of colour on a shipping label can help your business stand out from the rest.
If you’re looking for a printer to give your labels that extra touch of personality, the Brother ColAura could be the answer.
At 4.5’ x 4.6” x 3.8” and 1.45 pounds, the QL600’s colour-capable cousin is more compact across the board, and with wireless functionality and compatibility with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, the ColAura takes a big step up in versatility, as well.
With this convenience, of course, comes a cost. While the upfront cost of the printer itself is in the same general price range as many black and white thermal printers, replacement cartridges for the ColAura are substantially more expensive than most thermal printers’ monochrome counterparts.
Further, at only 8 mm/s the ColAura also has a slower print speed than most black and white thermal printers, making it less than ideal for medium-to-high-volume day-to-day use.
Bottom Line: If you want to make a bold statement with your shipping labels, give this a try.
If your business is at the point where you’re printing dozens, or even hundreds of labels daily, the Zebra GX420d could be the workhorse label printer that you need.
The GX420d is the heftiest printer on our list, sizing up at 12.95” x 9.13” x 8.07” and weighing in at 5.7 pounds. It also has the power to match its size, with print speeds of up to 127 mm/s.
Despite this, the GXD420d may not be for every business.
While it is not only the largest printer on this list, it comes with the largest average price tag, and while it is able to print blindingly fast, its resolution maxes out at 203 dpi.
Further, the GXD420d is only compatible with Windows, so if your day-to-day shipping operations are running on anything else, you’ll be out of luck.
Bottom Line: For businesses on the “medium” end of the SMB spectrum, this fast, reliable printer can handle your high-volume shipping needs handily.
DYMO LabelWriter 4XL
For a thermal printer that ticks all the boxes of size, cost, and ease of use, it’s hard not to recommend the DYMO LabelWriter 4XL.
The LabelWriter 4XL sizes up just slightly larger than the Brother printers at 5.5” x 7.8” x 7.3”, and 1.82 pounds.
It offers crisp black and white prints at 300 dpi resolution, with a comparable print speed to the Zebra, clocking in at 127 mm/s.
While the LabelWriter 4XL’s drawbacks may be minor to some, they could be a non-starter for others.
To start, the 4XL uses DYMO’s proprietary labels exclusively, making it slightly inconvenient when it comes time to replace empty rolls.
Further, despite being compatible with both Windows and Mac OS, the 4XL doesn’t offer support for iOS or Android. That, combined with its lack of wireless connectivity make the 4XL less than ideal for shippers who handle most of their business’ shipping and fulfillment on a tablet.
Bottom Line: The great bang for your buck, provided you can look past the compatibility limitations.
L+H2-560 Thermal Label Printer
At Freightcom we call ourselves shipping experts for a reason, so when we have a preferred thermal printer at the office, you can be sure it’s for good reason.
The L+H2-560 covers all the major selling points one looks for in a thermal label printer. Sizing up at 9.25” x 7.05” x 6.57” and weighing 4.23 pounds, the 560 is compact without feeling fragile. This printer is fast and easy to set up on either Windows or MacOS, with plug and play functionality on Windows making it that much faster to set up and get printing.
As the most cost-effective printer on our list, one may assume that there would be a trade-off on quality, however with a 300dpi print resolution and speeds of up to 150mm/s, it easily stands toe-to-toe with its competitors.
Like other printers on this list, the 560 is lacking in wireless connectivity and compatibility with mobile device OSs. While it’s possible that this could be a deal-breaker for some, the comparatively lower price point of the 560 vs the other printers on this list makes this feel like a more manageable concession.
Bottom Line: All the power and functionality with a fraction of the price: what more needs to be said? This printer gets our seal of approval.
Save on Shipping when You Print Labels with Freightcom
Now that you have a better idea of which thermal label printer is the best for your business, it’s time to make sure you’re getting the best rates on your parcel shipping services, and Freightcom is here to help with that.
Our easy-to-use, all-in-one platform offers businesses discounted rates on parcel and LTL shipping services, providing real-time quotes from the leading carriers in North America.
With services that range from domestic Canada and US, cross-border between Canada and the US, international parcel shipping, and more, Freightcom is your one-stop shipping management platform.
Best of all, there are no upfront or monthly fees, simply sign up for your free account and optimize your shipping process! So contact one of our shipping experts today and see how Freightcom can optimize all of your business shipping.
Written by Brandon Draga
Brandon Draga is a full-time content writer at Freightcom, the leading shipping solution for businesses in Canada. When Brandon is not writing content to help businesses with their shipping needs, he can be found at local skate parks or writing fantasy novels.