Best Label Makers of 2020
The DYMO LabelManager 160 is incredibly easy to use. There is no setup process and the user interface is self-explanatory thanks to the device's large buttons and their intuitive symbols. The dedicated numeric keys in combination with the qwerty configured keyboard make entering characters a breeze. The LabelManager 160 also comes programmed with a decent collection of symbols and clip art that can be used to indicate high voltage, fragility, and many symbols that are just for fun.
With the simplistic design and functionality of the DYMO LabelManager 160 comes a lack of certain settings and features. It is only able to print one generic font which is fine for many but not ideal if you're looking to get creative with your labels. This particular model does not have the ability to print barcodes so if you need a label maker for retail or warehouse applications this is not the one. Despite the 160's short list of flaws, we think that this is one of the best label makers out there and will do a great job for most people.
New to the world of label makers are wireless models that use Bluetooth technology — our favorite device for this genre is the Brother P-Touch Cube Plus PT-P710BT. This label maker links to a smartphone, tablet, or computer using a free app. Once connected, it is very easy to create labels using your favorite device. One great feature of the PT-P1710BT is that it has a large variety of pre-programmed templates for specialized labels such as those for cables, cabinets, files, and several sizes of barcodes.
The downside to Bluetooth technology is that it requires a third-party device to interface with the label maker. If you want a model that has a keyboard on the maker itself, the PT-P1710BT is not the way to go. This particular model is also a bit spendy. Unless you are really after the latest and greatest in cutting edge label maker technology a more affordable model might make sense. That said, this device is a great choice for those that want to use a smartphone or tablet to make labels.
If you're looking for a bare-bones simplistic label maker the DYMO Organizer Xpress Pro is the one. Completely manually powered, this device will never require an additional battery purchase or an annoying battery change. To make a label, you just turn the dial to the preferred letter or character and emboss them into the tape by squeezing the handle one letter at a time. The Xpress Pro is also dirt cheap — you won't see much of a dent in your bank account if you choose this model.
The manual powered design of this DYMO Organizer does come along with a few flaws. First of all, you have to turn the dial to emboss each letter which is a bit of a slow and cumbersome process compared to using a keyboard or a smartphone to define text. Unfortunately, the Xpress Pro only offers one font — if variety is a determining factor for you this is not the right choice. Still, we think that this model is perfect for a garage, shop, or for those that don't want the hassle of dealing with batteries or apps.
If you're looking for a digital label maker but you're shopping on a budget we recommend the Brother P-touch PT70BM. This device is programmed and ready right out of the package — just slap some batteries in and it's ready to go. We find that qwerty keyboards such as the one on this model are easier to use than those with buttons in alphabetical order. The PT70BM has a button dedicated to a time & date stamp which can be very handy for keeping things organized.
The PT70BM does have a few shortcomings. First of all, there are very few options for letter sizing, fonts, symbols, and it does not print barcodes. We also weren't thrilled that a shift key is needed to switch between letters and numbers — other models have buttons solely dedicated to numbers that make typing faster and easier. The PT70BM has a bit of a lag time between when characters are entered and when they show up on the screen. Lastly, when it comes to printing this device is outright slow. But, when it's all said and done the P-touch PT70BM handles most label maker tasks at a fraction of the cost of much of the competition.
When it comes to printing shipping labels it would be hard to top the DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo Direct. The software for this model has several easy-to-use templates, one of which is dedicated to printing addresses. With the 450 Turbo Direct software, you can also buy subscriptions officially licensed by the United States Postal Service to print postage labels so you'll never have to visit the post office in person. This model uses direct thermal printing so you won't have to worry about running out of ink. It's also incredibly fast — the 450 can print 50 addresses per minute making it the ideal tool for boosting your shipping productivity.
There are a few elements of the DYMO LabelWriter 450 that we weren't very impressed with. For one, the software installation and setup process is time-consuming and difficult compared to models with phone apps or no setup at all. Also, this model requires a power cord and must be hard-wired to a computer with a USB cable, so it isn't meant to be portable. However, if you're looking for a super-fast shipping label printer that's very easy to use we think the 450 Turbo Direct is a great choice.
If you're looking for a label maker that can survive the everyday conditions of a dirty, dangerous job site, we recommend the Brady BMP21-PLUS. 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 & communications, sound, 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'd recommend going with 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, we still think it is the way to go if you're working in the field.
Coming up just short of winning an award is the DYMO MobileLabeler. To print labels using this device the user must install an app on a smartphone or tablet in order to connect to the label maker via Bluetooth. This technology has several advantages as opposed to a standard keyboard. In an office setting several people can connect to the MobileLabeler and it can be left in a central location for everyone to use. The DYMO Connect App uses Apple and Google fonts in addition to the brand's own borders and templates — this model offers limitless customization of labels.
Unless you have an interest in using a smartphone or tablet to make labels, the MobileLabeler is not the best option. The main drawback we found with the DYMO MobileLabeler is the price. During our assessment, we found other Bluetooth models that offer similar performance at a significantly smaller cost. Still, if you are a fan of DYMO or already have other devices that use the DYMO Connect App this model could be the right label maker for you.
The DYMO LetraTag LT-100H offers some attractive elements. We love that this label maker doesn't require any sort of setup — once the batteries are installed it's good to go. The LT-100H is also very intuitive to use. Featuring large buttons and clearly marked symbols along with a cartridge loading system, you won't spend much time fiddling around with this device while printing labels. The DYMO LetraTag LT-100H includes a magnetic holder that can also be mounted to a surface with bolts or screws so that your labeler will always have a place to live.
We weren't' thrilled to find out that the keyboard on the LT-100H is in alphabetical order. We find that most of us are very used to qwerty keyboards and that they are much more efficient and intuitive to use. This model also only offers one font in five different sizes. If customization is key for you, we recommend going with a model with more settings.
If the ability to get creative with your label making is crucial for you we suggest you go with the Brother P-touch PTD210. This device comes programmed with 600 symbols, 97 frames, and 14 fonts to suit the needs of anyone looking to get crafty with labels. Brother TZe tape comes in a wide variety of colors, types, and sizes to match your individual wants and needs. The PTD210 keyboard uses a qwerty layout which quickly became our favorite layout during our hands-on assessment.
The biggest downside that we found while testing the Brother P-touch PTD210 is that it requires 6 AAA batteries — this is an awful lot to deal with and inherently adds an operating cost for using this device. We also found that there is a fraction of a second of lag between when a button is pushed and when it registers on the display. It's not a big deal but can become annoying if optimal productivity is the goal. Despite its flaws, we'd still recommend the PTD210 to those looking for a label maker with a ton of fonts, frames, symbols, and tape types.
Why You Should Trust Us
We aim to create the best product reviews on the planet with absolutely no bias, so we purchase everything that we test from the same retailers as our readers. We never accept prototypes, demonstration models, or handouts from manufacturers.
To tackle the task of reviewing label makers we chose our review editor Ross Patton. Ross has a long list of technical electric product reviews under his belt including Bluetooth trackers, Wifi extenders, and cordless electric chainsaws. He has been testing products for more than a decade. With his extensive experience coupled with a formal education in environmental science, you can rest easy knowing that Ross has put these products through the wringer. The first thing we did was put in hours and 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 the lab.
Analysis and Test Results
To score these products we divided our assessment into three separate metrics — ease of setup, ease of use, and settings & features.
Ease of Setup
To begin our tests we first looked at how long it takes to get each model out of the packaging and start actually printing labels. We were surprised to find a large degree of variance between many of these devices when it came to the setup process. Some come ready to go directly out of the box, some require installation of batteries, others require smartphone apps and a charging period, and others require an app to be installed on a desktop or laptop computer. Deciding how much setup you are willing to deal with might be a large determining factor for your purchase but keep in mind — a longer initial setup time might save a lot of time in the long run.
If you are looking for a model that is ready to go directly out of the package that doesn't even require batteries we recommend the DYMO Organizer Xpress Pro. 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 preprogrammed and only require you to install batteries and take a quick glance through the instruction booklet before they are ready to go. This type includes the Brady BMP21-PLUS, DYMO LabelManager 160, and Brother P-Touch PT70BM models. The Bluetooth models such as the Brother P-Touch Cube Plus require you to install an app on a smartphone, tablet, or computer that is needed to print labels. Also, you 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. Scoring near the back of the pack for this metric, we found the DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo Direct to be a bit difficult to set up. To use this model an application must be downloaded and installed on a computer and the label maker needs to be plugged into both the wall and USB port to receive data from the computer.
Ease of Use
Next, we subjectively assessed how easy each device is to operate once it is unpackaged, powered up, and all necessary applications, drivers, and Bluetooth connections were good to go. We also judged how difficult the tape cartridges are to install or remove.
For the models that require an app, we thought that the Brother P-Touch Cube Plus PT-P710BT was especially simple. The tape cartridges are simple to install and the P-Touch app is a very seamless user interface using iOS devices. We are also fans of the DYMO computer software used for the LabelWriter 450 Turbo Direct — this program is very efficient thanks to the use of an actual computer keyboard rather than buttons on the device itself. However, we did find that loading label rolls into the 450 Turbo was not quite as easy as models with cartridges and sometimes a few labels must be wasted to get everything aligned properly.
The Brother P-Touch PT70BM and DYMO LabelManager 160 both have qwerty keyboards that are intuitive and straightforward to use. We love the extra-large buttons with elementary symbols on the LabelManager 160. The PT70BM has a time & date shortcut button for those that are keeping tabs on those details. The label cartridges for both of these models only require a moderate amount of know-how and effort to install.
The Brady BMP21-PLUS tape cartridge snaps right into place on the front of the device — we thought this made the process of changing tape as easy as can be. We found that the rubber jacketing surrounding the body of this device in combination with its handy lanyard makes it especially easy to transport and hold on to — traits that make it ideal for use in a warehouse or at a job site.
The DYMO Organizer Xpress Pro is the most cumbersome out of our top ranking models. This particular device requires you to turn a dial to each individual letter or symbol and then squeeze a handle to emboss them onto the tape.
Settings and Features
Depending on what you are planning on using your label maker for you may or may not need extra bells, whistles, and options. People that are looking to label the hardware drawers in a workshop may not care for fancy fonts or colorful tape. Somebody looking to track products using barcodes or print shipping labels is likely going to want a different model than somebody who will be primarily using the device for arts & crafts. For the last bit of our review, we carefully studied the settings and features that each model has to offer.
The Brother P-Touch Cube Plus PT-P710BT offers a phenomenal array of settings and options for label types and fonts. This device is compatible with most Google and Apple font libraries, there are tons of templates, and it prints several types of barcodes. It's also great for crafts or labels for applications such as gift pack labels, wedding seating placements, or retail needs thanks to its ability to use a variety of tapes including bright colors and even glitter.
If you're looking to print a lot of shipping labels at a fast rate look no further than the DYMO Labelwriter 450 Turbo Direct. This device prints 50 address labels per minute and can even print postage if you subscribe to a licensed post office service. The 450 Turbo also prints barcodes, name badges, file labels, binder labels, or custom labels created by you.
The Brady BMP21-PLUS has several alluring features, especially for those in the trade industries. It has many presets for electricians, scientists, and AV specialists. This device also has the ability to print barcodes for those working in a warehouse or retail setting.
Our primary focus is to help connect our readers with the best products for their own individual wants and needs. For this review, we carefully tested and inspected each model to provide you with the best insight possible. We hope that having read this article you now have the confidence to buy the perfect label maker.
— Ross Patton