A good label maker can be portable and hand-held, attached to your computer via USB, or somewhere in between. It needs to print good labels that are readable and that will last, whether they're in a filing cabinet, your pantry, or your freezer. This week we're looking at five of the best.
Photo by Jamie.
The following models can print everything from simple labels for your plastic containers to heavy mailing labels. Here they are, in no particular order.
If you need a label maker that can pump out labels quickly, go with you just about anywhere, has a library of over 150 symbols as well as all the standard letters and numbers you need, and can do it all in a worksite-friendly package with an easy to use QWERTY keyboard and LCD display, the DYMO Rhino 4200 is a good bet. It will set you back $134 direct from DYMO, and while it's a little on the bulky side, it's capable of printing wire or cable wraps, label flags, wide and long labels, fixed-length labels and more.
The Rhino 4200 can also print on more than standard black-on-white or black-on-clear labels: You can also print directly onto flexible nylon, polyester and vinyl, or even right onto heat-shrink tubing. It's also ruggedised, with rubber bumpers on all four corners to protect it from drops, shocks, and falls. It also works with DYMO's range of industrial labels, which gives you a bit more flexibility in the type of material you use to label your stuff.
Epson's LW-300 is a household label maker that's earned top marks from The Sweethome. It's capable of printing quickly in over 14 different fonts, 10 different text styles, over 300 built-in symbols and 75 different label "frames". The LW-300 has built-in memory that supports 30 different files, or labels you can call up and print out quickly without having to re-enter those labels' style, contents, and font. It's comfortable to use two-handed, has a QWERTY keyboard, an LCD screen and does everything completely free of a computer, so you don't need to plug it into your PC for anything.
It's capable of printing two lined labels, supports specialty labels like reflective tapes, iron on labels, and decorative tapes, and it's small enough to go anywhere, whether you're using it in the kitchen to label containers or you're in the office labelling file folders. Best of all, it's reasonably affordable: $59 from Epson.
The Brother PT-90 is a simple, easy to use label maker that won't break the bank (RRP: $49) and that gets the job done without a ton of extra bells and whistles. The simple screen is a one-line display and the labeler itself has a simple QWERTY keyboard that makes lettering and numbering your labels simple. It supports up eight different kinds of custom labels, can print one or two lines of text in nine type styles, and close to 200 different punctuation marks and symbols.
It's designed largely for home office application, although the labels can be used for organising kitchen cabinets or the pantry as well. It even supports some laminated and non-laminated tape types, so if you're looking for a label that will stand the test of time, you can have it (as long as you buy the right tape.) If you're not in the market for a more complicated model with tons of symbols or features, this might be the one for you.
The DYMO LetraTag Plus LT-100H is a one-handed, "personal" label maker, designed to be used quickly and easily with a single hand, an alphabetical keyboard, and is narrow enough to fit into a pocket or into a bag. Unlike wider, more robust models, this one uses simple, top-loading replaceable tape and bottom-loading replaceable batteries, and is designed firmly for small office or household use.
The LetraTag's huge LCD display is a nice feature though, and it uses its phaser-like shape to really expand that screen so you can see all of the lines you're printing, the options you have available, and easily let you switch between the five different built-in font sizes, seven print styles, various box and frame styles, and entries in its 9-label internal memory. It can even print your label with a date stamp, or print in three different languages. The LetraTag LT tape comes in plastic, metallic, laminated, and even magnetic and iron-on label varieties, so you can choose a tape and load it quickly depending on what you need to do. It can even print on thermal paper. Best of all, it's also affordable — only $35 at Officeworks.
If you need a label maker that connects to your computer and can print from just about any application, or need to print barcodes, the P-Touch PT-1230PC might be a good option for you. It's a small, simple USB label printer that's small enough to fit just about anywhere next to your computer. It's powered by AAA batteries, so you don't need to plug it in to a powered USB port, any hub will work with it, and you don't even need special software to make use of it — just connect it to your computer, add it as a printer (if Windows doesn't auto-detect it, and mind you, Brother says it's Windows only), and print from any text editor. (Although if you want, you can download Brother's P-Touch Editor and use their software.)
The printer itself prints 12mm, laminated labels, and prints them pretty quickly, so if you have a big organising job you need to accomplish, or you label folders, storage containers, or documents often at work, you can do it without leaving your computer with this model. It can even print multiple lines, supports TrueType fonts, and can even print graphics. In short, if your computer can print it, the label maker can give it a try, too. It's $99 direct from Brother.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Don't just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is — and make your case for it — in the discussions below.