Our team of home office experts researched more than 75 label makers. We then purchased the top 15 to compare via our series of side-by-side tests. We carefully unpackaged, set up, installed, and printed with each of these label makers until we thoroughly understood each device's strengths and weaknesses. Our product testers broke the assessment down into three metrics — ease of setup, ease of use, and features and settings. Our analysis enables us to put each machine to the test to determine which are truly the best for different applications.
Power Source: Integrated Battery/AC Cord | Maximum Label Width: 0.75"
REASONS TO BUY
Works seamlessly with DYMO Connect desktop software
REASONS TO AVOID
Relatively small label width
The DYMO LabelManager 420P is impressively versatile. At face value, it works similarly to other models with integrated keyboards — once it's powered up and turned on, you simply type what you'd like and press "print." With an internal lithium-ion battery, this model is ideal for stores, laboratories, warehouses, and offices where you need to be mobile while creating labels. Where the 420P stands apart from the other transportable versions is that it is also made to connect to a computer with an included USB cable to act as the printer for DYMO Connect label-making software. Once linked to the software, this seemingly generic label maker can print any font on your computer, shipping labels, barcodes, QR codes, and more.
The DYMO LabelManager 420P does have a few small drawbacks. Many models use Bluetooth connectivity, allowing the user to create labels on a smartphone or tablet to be wirelessly printed with the device. With the 420P, you will either need to use the keyboard or connect it directly to your computer with a USB cable. The label width is limited to ¾", so if you're looking to print larger labels such as name tags, badges, or larger shipping labels, you'll need to choose a different model. Flaws aside, we still think this version is the best choice for those who are in the market for a great all-around label maker.
Power Source: Built-in Lithium Ion Battery | Maximum Label Width: 0.94"
REASONS TO BUY
Great computer and smartphone programs
REASONS TO AVOID
The Brother P-Touch Cube Plus PT-P710BT is our favorite label maker that utilizes Bluetooth technology. This device wirelessly links to a smartphone or tablet using the Brother P-touch Design & Print 2 app. The newly revamped version of the app is vibrant, easy to use, and offers a ton of templates. Suppose you'd like to connect your label maker to a computer. In that case, the Brother P-touch Editor provides even more features and templates than the smartphone app, ranging from retail to hobby and health warnings to kitchen organization.
The downside to Bluetooth technology is that it requires a third-party device to interface with the label maker. If you want a model with a keyboard on the maker itself, the P-Touch Cube Plus PT-P710BT is not the model for you. It also is not designed for wider label types, such as shipping labels for larger packages or nutritional information stickers. Despite these small shortcomings, the PT-P710BT is the way to go if you're in the market for a Bluetooth label maker that has a huge variety of tape colors and templates.
Power Source: 4 AAA Batteries | Maximum Label Width: 0.47"
REASONS TO BUY
Time and date button
REASONS TO AVOID
We recommend the Brother P-touch PT70BM if you're shopping for a digital label maker on a budget. This device is programmed and ready right out of the package — slap some batteries in, and it's ready to go. We find that qwerty keyboards, such as the one on this model, are more comfortable to use than those with buttons in alphabetical order. The PT70BM has a button dedicated to a time and date stamp, which can be very handy for keeping things organized.
The PT70BM has a few shortcomings. There are very few options for letter sizing, fonts, and symbols, and it can't print barcodes. We also weren't thrilled that a shift key is needed to switch between letters and numbers — other models have buttons dedicated to numbers that make typing faster and easier. The PT70BM lags between when characters are entered and when they appear on the screen. Lastly, when it comes to printing, this device is outright slow. But the P-touch PT70BM handles most label maker tasks at a fraction of the cost of much of the competition.
Power Source: Integrated Battery | Maximum Label Width: 0.6"
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Small tape size
If you want a Bluetooth label maker but don't like the price tags on the high-end models, the MakeID Label Maker might be the perfect option. This model has a super user-friendly smartphone app, and unlike similar models, does not require you to create an account or register in any way. If you know that you just want to make simple and fun labels and stickers, the MakeID has tons of templates. Many of the smaller models we've tested come with teeth for tearing the printed labels off, similar to an old-school receipt printer, but this model has a handy button that easily slices through your completed labels.
If you need a model that will print barcodes, QR codes, shipping labels, or imported files, the MakeID is not the one. This model is much more geared toward simple home or hobby use than industrial or professional use. The MakeID also has a small label width compared to the high-end professional models. That said, professional use is not the purpose for which it was designed. This compact version is the perfect Bluetooth model for someone seeking simplicity, especially considering the price.
Power Source: Wall Plug | Maximum Label Width: 2.3"
REASONS TO BUY
Brother P-touch software works great
App senses roll size
REASONS TO AVOID
No keyboard or Bluetooth
If you're looking for a desktop label maker that prints incredibly quickly, it's hard to top the Brother QL-800. This model prints a ridiculous 97 standard address labels per minute, so if you've got a lot of parcels to send, you will not be waiting on this machine. Brother's newest version of their P-touch software is nothing short of awesome. It has templates for all kinds of labels, including ID badges, barcodes, hobby uses, and even wine bottles. If you can't find a template you like, the software also allows you to import files or create labels from scratch. The QL-800 is postage ready — just pay for your postage online, download the file, print a sticker, and you're ready to send. One of our favorite features of this model, as opposed to similar versions, is that it automatically senses the size of label tape you have loaded into the machine.
Unlike mobile models or hybrids, the Brother QL-800 is meant to stay in place. It needs to be connected to a computer via USB as well as an AC power source to function. It lacks a keyboard and does not offer Bluetooth connectivity, so the only way to create a label is with Brother's desktop software. However, for those in the market for a super-fast desktop label maker, we think the QL-800 is the way to go.
Power Source: 6 AAA Batteries | Maximum Label Width: 0.75"
REASONS TO BUY
Presets for trade work
Many font sizes
REASONS TO AVOID
We recommend the Brady BMP21-PLUS if you're looking for a label maker that can survive the everyday conditions of a dirty, dangerous job site. This device has passed military standard shock and vibration testing to 810G standards. In other words, it can take some physical abuse. The BMP21-PLUS has several presets for applications in the field of video and communications, sound, and electrical, and it can print barcodes. If you're looking to print extra large lettering, the Brady BMP21-PLUS is the way to go — this device prints up to a size 40 font.
The BMP21-PLUS isn't exactly compact. This model weighs 1.6 pounds and measures more than 9 inches long and 4 inches wide with a thickness of 3 inches. If you're looking for a label maker that can easily slip into a desk drawer, we recommend using a smaller, lighter model. This device is also a bit on the pricey side for the number of capabilities that it offers. Despite its flaws, it's the right model for dirty job sites and industrial applications.
Our label maker testing is divided across three rating metrics:
Ease of Use (45% of overall score weighting)
Settings and Features (35% weighting)
Ease of Setup (20% weighting)
Ross has been testing products for over five years. With his extensive experience, coupled with a formal education in environmental science, you can rest easy knowing that he put these products through the wringer. The first thing we did was put in hours of research to narrow the field down to the top models. We then purchased the best ones based on our findings, and finally, we gave them a head-to-head comparison by printing hundreds of labels in our testing lab.
Analysis and Test Results
We broke our total score down into three separate sections — settings and features, ease of setup, and ease of use.
The application for which you plan to use your label maker will largely affect the dollar amount you'll need to spend. For those that are looking to organize a workshop, a kitchen, or a home office and nothing more, there's no reason to buy anything pricier than the Brother P-touch PT70BM if you want an integrated keyboard or the MakeID Label Maker if you'd like a rechargeable Bluetooth model. The Brother P-Touch Cube Plus PT-P710BT is another lithium-ion battery-powered Bluetooth model that costs quite a bit more than the MakeID but offers substantially more functions, including barcode, QR code, and shipping label printing. For tradespeople who need a label maker for industrial applications such as labeling wire panels and circuit boards, the Brady BMP21-PLUS is well worth the investment. Suppose you want a rechargeable handheld version with an integrated keyboard that also connects to a computer for creating shipping labels, barcodes, QR codes, and more. In that case, we recommend the DYMO LabelManager 420P, though the versatility will put a larger dent in your bank account than the models above.
Ease of Use
For this section, we subjectively judged how difficult each device is to use once it is unboxed, turned on, and all necessary Bluetooth connections, drivers, and applications are installed. We carefully examined the tape cartridges and assessed how difficult they are to install or remove.
For the models that require a phone app, we thought that the Brother P-Touch Cube Plus was incredibly simple. The tape cartridges are simple to install, and the freshly updated Brother Design & Print 2 app is a seamless user interface for iOS devices. For those that want an affordable Bluetooth model that is still relatively easy to use, the MakeID Label Maker app is the way to go.
The P-Touch Cube Plus as well as the Brother QL-800 and Brother P-Touch PTD600, all use the Brother computer app called P-touch Editor, which is our favorite label editing software that we've seen to date. This program is incredibly user-friendly and offers a ton of templates from laboratory and industrial labels to office and craft uses.
The Brother P-Touch PT70BM and DYMO LabelManager 420P both have qwerty keyboards that are intuitive and straightforward. We love the extra-large buttons with elementary symbols on the LabelManager 420P. The PT70BM has a time and date shortcut button for keeping tabs on those details. The label cartridges for both models only require a moderate amount of know-how and effort to install.
If you choose to connect the DYMO LabelManager 420P to a computer to get the most functionality out of the device, you'll need to download the DYMO Connect software and a driver. Once installed, this program was one of our favorite desktop applications.
The Brady BMP21-PLUS tape cartridge snaps right into place on the front of the device, which made the process of changing tape super simple. We found that the rubber jacketing surrounding this device's body, combined with its handy lanyard, makes it incredibly easy to transport and hold on to — traits that make it ideal for use in a warehouse or at a job site.
Settings and Features
If you're looking for a simple label maker to keep things organized in the garage, you may only need the most basic of models. On the flip side, if you're looking for a label maker for arts & crafts or office use, it might make sense to get a model that offers a variety of fonts or Bluetooth connectivity. If you're looking to organize products or a warehouse, it'd be wise to get an industrial model with a lanyard that has barcode printing capabilities. For the last section of our review, we examined each model's features and settings.
Offering an unprecedented array of settings and options for label types and fonts are the Dymo LabelManager 420P, Brother P-Touch Cube Plus, Brother P-Touch PTD600, and Brother QL-800. All of these devices are compatible with most Google and Apple font libraries, there are tons of templates, and they print several types of barcodes. They're also great for crafts or labels for applications such as gift pack labels, wedding seating placements, or retail needs, thanks to their ability to use various tapes, including bright colors and even glitter.
For those in the trade industries, the Brady BMP21-PLUS has several attractive features, including many presets for electricians, scientists, and AV specialists. This device can also print barcodes for those working in a warehouse or retail setting.
Ease of Setup
For this metric, we considered how much time it takes to unbox each model and get them ready to start printing. Surprisingly, we discovered large differences in the setup process for each label maker. Some require an app to be installed on a desktop or a laptop computer, others require a smartphone app, some require charging or installing batteries, and some are ready to go right out of the box. Keep in mind — a model that takes longer for initial setup may ultimately save time and increase efficiency in the long run.
We recommend the DYMO Organizer Xpress Pro if you are looking for a model that is ready to go directly out of the package and doesn't even require batteries. This device comes with the tape preloaded, so you can start creating tags in a matter of seconds.
A few of our favorite models come pre-programmed and only require you to install batteries and take a glance through the instruction booklet before they are ready to go. This type includes the Brady BMP21-PLUS, DYMO LabelManager 160, DYMO LabelManager 420P, Brother P-Touch PTD600, and Brother P-Touch PT70BM models.
The Bluetooth models, such as the Brother P-Touch Cube Plus and MakeID Label Maker, require you to install an app on a smartphone, a tablet, or a computer before you can print labels. You also need to pair the device to the label maker, which can be a bit of a pain sometimes — and don't forget that the lithium-ion battery needs to be charged before using most Bluetooth models.
The models that are the most difficult to set up are those that require you to download and install an application on a computer. Unlike smartphone apps, computer apps are larger files that take longer to download. These types also require a USB cord connected to your computer to print, and some need AC power. Out of all of the desktop models we tested, we found that setting up the Brother QL-800 was the easiest, thanks to the seamless integration of the Brother P-touch software. If you'd like to utilize the DYMO Connect app for the Label Manager 420P, be sure to download the appropriate driver to unlock the desktop capabilities of this model.
The primary goal at GearLab is to guide our readers to the perfect products for their applications and needs. We thoughtfully examined each device during this assessment to provide you with the most accurate information. After reading this article, we hope you now have the knowledge and information you need to buy the ideal label maker for yourself.
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.