With hundreds of label printers on the market – how do you know which to buy? Expert Labels work with all the major brands and many of the specialist brands so we’re able to find the best thermal label printers to suit your needs and your budget. Read this article where we summarise the best barcode printers for less than £300. See our recommendations at the bottom of the page. Updated July 2019.
A note on prices – please contact us for up to date prices as prices change weekly. Prices have been included for comparison purposes. Prices exclude VAT.
Datamax-O'Neil E-Class MkIII Advanced - Also known as the Honeywell E-4205A
|Datamax-O'Neil - now Honeywell - have decades of experience with Thermal printers - gaining a popular and dependable reputation. |
* This printer comes with Serial/Parallel/USB and Ethernet LAN interfaces as standard.
* Comes with lots of options and accessories (at extra cost) - including a battery pack, external roll holder and a label peeler.
* Includes a 1 year warranty including printhead (unless it's printed more than 24KM of labels).
* Comes with Honeywell's own label design software (NETiraLD: Label Design Software). This is based on Seagull Scientific's BarTender - so it's well known and supported.
|* Direct thermal only. Good for labels and tags that have a limited life. |
* Won't print onto plastic media.
|Datamax-O’Neil E-Class Mk III Basic – Also known as the Honeywell E-4204B||Datamax-O’Neil – now Honeywell – have decades of experience with Thermal printers – providing a popular and dependable reputation. |
* Remarkable low cost.
* Comes with lots of options and accessories (at extra cost) – including a battery pack, external roll holder and a label peeler.
* Includes a 1 year warranty including printhead (unless it’s printed more than 24KM of labels).
Because of an extremely competitive price – this make the E-4204B one of the best thermal label printers you can buy.
|Compared with the advanced model, the Basic doesn’t include Ethernet support. |
* Direct thermal only. Good for labels and tags with limited life. Won’t print onto plastic media.
* Prints at 100mm per second.
|Zebra GK420d||* Comes with Zebra’s reputation for quality and ease of use. |
* Market leading brand with widespread support and availability of printers and consumables.
* This model is the direct thermal model.
* Comes with Zebra Designer label design software included for free.
|* No LCD panel. |
* Average print speed – 127mm per second.
|Zebra GK420t||* Zebra quality and support. |
* If popularity is a measure of the best thermal transfer printer – then this model is the best.
* Most widely used thermal transfer printer in the UK and Europe.
* Easy to use.
* Thermal ribbons, labels and tags widely available.
* This model is the thermal transfer model – producing long life labels and with the ability to print onto clear and waterproof labels.
* Tried and tested.
* Based on it’s popularity this is one of Zebra’s best thermal label printer.
|* You pay a premium price for the Zebra range. |
* The thermal ribbon length is just 74m.
* Label roll diameter is 125mm, there are printers that print longer between label and ink changes.
|Zebra GC420d||* Best value 4″ wide Zebra printer available. |
* Meets 90% of users’ needs.
* Easy to use.
* Media widely available.
* Uses the same software as the Zebra desktop printers.
|* Just direct thermal – so thermal labels and tags need to be used. |
* Only USB/serial/parallel interfaces.
* Prints at 100mm per second, slightly slower than other printers.
|Zebra GC420t||* Excellent value 4″ wide Zebra printer. |
* Uses the same Zebra printer language as the other members of the Zebra desktop family.
* Widely available media.
* Uses Thermal Transfer technology – for long life labels and print to plastic labels and tags.
|* 74m ribbon length. |
* Slower than most printers at 100mm per second.
* Limited to USB/Serial and parallel interfaces.
|* Extremely compact in size. |
* Compatible with other Zebra printer software.
* Comes with Zebra designer label design software.
* Includes Bluetooth as standard (as well as USB).
* Even prints at 6″ per second compared to 5″ for most other printers)
|* Limited to labels and tags 58mm wide. |
* Direct thermal print only – suitable for short life labels and tags.
Toshiba TEC B-FV4D
|* TEC reputation for product quality. |
* Prints at up to 150mm per second.
* Comes with Serial or parallel and USB and Ethernet as standard.
* Comes with Bartender Ultralight label design software.
|* Direct thermal print only – short life labels and tags. |
* Not as widely available as other printer brands.
|Toshiba TEC B-EV4T||* Thermal Transfer printers – for long life labels and tags. |
* Uses ribbons 300m long – means fewer ribbon changes.
* Comes with Ethernet connectivity as standard – in addition to USB, and Serial or parallel.
|* Not as widely available as other brands of printer. |
* Ribbons aren’t as easily available as other brands.
|* TSC make printers for other better known brands – so you’re getting the same quality for a better price. |
* The TDP-247 is fast – printing at 177mm per second.
* Emulates Zebra printers – so can be used as a direct replacement.
* Has an Ethernet and Bluetooth option (at extra cost).
* Widely available media.
|* This is the Direct Thermal model – so not suited to long life labels or tags.||£250|
|* Intermec, now part of the Honeywell family, have a long reputation for quality build and design. |
* The PC23d is very fast – 200mm per second.
* It’s also easy to use (you can reload labels with one hand).
|* Only 2″ wide printing. |
* Direct thermal only – so only good for short life labels and tags.
* Difficult to source – not as well stocked as other brands of printer.
* Only has a USB interface.
|* Intermec, now a Honeywell company, have been building printers since the 1970s – so they know a thing or two. |
* Like it’s little brother the PC43t is very fast – 200mm per second and
* Easy to use (single handed label loading).
* Takes a 300m roll of ink for longer unattended printing.
|* The PC43t is difficult to source compared to other brands of printer. |
* Only has a USB connection.
Best Thermal Label Printers – Our Recommendations
For value for money and durability from a well known brand name – we’d recommend the Datamax O’Neill/Honeywell E-Class printers. They are extremely good value for money, come in a wide range of configurations, use 300m ribbons and they’re easy to use. Not as small as other desktop printers – so if space is an issue – look again.
No list would be complete without the market leader. Zebra printers are widely available, well supported and cover almost every possible application. Which model you choose depends on how many labels you print, what interfaces you need and size of printer.
We think the Zebra ZD410 is the best thermal label printer for narrow labels and tags. It’s feature packed – it’s fast, has lots of connectivity options as standard and comes in at a competitive price.