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Best Thermal Printer: Top Picks for Receipts, Stickers & Labels

No matter if its for business labels, receipts, or even printing stickers - the best thermal printer could be just what you need
Last Updated on April 15, 2024
Best Thermal Printer

Unlike traditional printers, we primarily use a thermal printer for shipping labels or stickers – as these units are a speedy and silent means of batch-producing small prints, ideal for small businesses. Most people who’ve worked in retail or commercial sectors will no doubt be familiar with thermal printers, but if you’re looking to strike out on your own and start an e-commerce or business venture of your own, or simply want to upgrade your current label-making practice, then you may be wondering what the best option for you is.

We’ve compiled a list of the best thermal printers for you to choose from, accounting for an array of factors and tastes. Whether you are a sole trader working with limited funds or an established business looking for a more efficient thermal printer for shipping labels, we’ve got you covered with our top picks!

Products at a Glance

How We Picked the Best Thermal Printer

Due to the relative niche that the best thermal printers occupy, you may believe there are fewer factors to consider. Although not as complex as the best printers for graphic design or other versatile crafts, there are a few elements that went into our decision. Reliability, longevity and productivity were our main contention points, opting for printers that were fast, durable and consistent in their results. Though most thermal printers are monochrome, the ability to print in an additional color was also given some kudos in our rankings. Likewise, overall portability was considered favorably – so long as the effect on quality wasn’t too adverse.

We settled on five products that each matched the median of these different factors, each highly suited as a thermal printer for small businesses or sole traders. So as to not alienate different price points, we considered thermal printers across a range of budgets. Though each has its respective merits, they are all worthwhile purchases – we’ll explain why as we go through our choices…

Our Recommended

Product Reviews

1
PROS
  • Compact design
  • High-resolution label printing
  • Custom label styles and fonts
CONS
  • No wireless printing

Dymo label makers are among our favorites on the market, but the Dymo LabelWriter 4XL is on a different scale altogether. Capable of a range of designs in stellar quality and speed, this high-quality label printer is an cinch for the top spot as the best thermal printer on the market!

Print labels up to 4″ x 6″ in size, with resolution up to 300 dots per inch (DPI). At 29 prints per minute, this machine can turn your shipping into a productivity powerhouse. The LabelWriter 4XL supports 60 different label styles, with configurable fonts and styles, so you can tailor your designs to your heart’s content. Compact and lightweight, this thermal printer is as easy to store as it is to set up. 

That said, the limiting factor in that ease is the lack of a wireless connection, meaning you have to tether this thermal printer to your PC or laptop, which can be frustrating. It’s a small hurdle, however, and the LabelWriter 4XL remains our best thermal printer 0n the market!

2
PROS
  • Affordable
  • Compact and portable design
  • Highly functional smartphone app
CONS
  • Rudimentary controls

The Brother P-Touch Cube topped our list of the best label makers on the market, and all the qualities that endeared it to us there make it an ideal thermal printer for shipping labels and stickers – along with the added bonus of a stellar budget price tag.

The P-Touch cube is a highly versatile unit for its size, compatible with everything from your PC to your own voice – as it boasts voice-to-text features for added functionality. The intuitive design app allows you to choose from over 60 frames and 450 symbols to configure your design. With a print speed of 20 ppm, you’ll be able to create an array of stickers and labels quickly and easily. We’re big fans of Brother products, and the P-Touch Cube is yet another sterling addition to their arsenal.

If we had to pick a flaw with the P-Touch Cube, it would be that it is both accessible and inaccessible as a thermal printer. Whilst the smartphone app and asset library is welcome, printing more varied designs from a PC is a cumbersome process, which can be frustrating for more involved designs. But for an affordable thermal printer for all your sticker and label needs, this is still the best budget thermal printer on the market!

3
PROS
  • Fast printing
  • Supports USB and Bluetooth
  • Low-cost paper
CONS
  • Not suitable for label printing

If your business deals in physical receipts for products, consider the Epson TM-T20II. This unit – designed for receipt printing – runs incredibly affordably and makes for quick and easy receipt printing. If you want the best thermal printer for small business receipts, look no further!

The TM-T20II can print receipts 3.1″ wide, but up to 230″ long – which is great if you encounter a big spender! Compatibility with USB and Bluetooth means that you can use this thermal printer in a range of locations without issue. This Epson printer is highly economical and efficient, printing as quickly as 200mm/s, and rated for over 60,000,000 lines of printing before needing maintenance.

Although we love the TM-T20II as a receipt printer, that’s unfortunately the limit of it’s capability – as it’s not possible to use this thermal printer for shipping labels, stickers, or any other business materials. As a barebones but brilliant thermal printer for receipts, this unit is still worth the low cost of use!

4
PROS
  • Works with Chromebook
  • Supports Wi-Fi printing
  • Durable and fast printhead
  • Small footprint
CONS
  • No label software

Offering a blistering 80 prints per minute, the MUNBYN P941 is a high-speed thermal printer for shipping labels of any kind. Alongside it’s high speeds, this unit is highly durable and sure to accelerate your brick-and-mortar or e-commerce business practices.

Compatible with PC, Mac and Chromebook via USB cable or wirelessly; the P941 offers fast and affordable shipping label printing up to 4″ x 6″ in size – the standard for most major retailers like eBay, Amazon or FedEx. If you ship in heavy quantities, don’t doubt that this printer can keep up with demand. The Rohm Printhead makes for almost triple the longevity of other thermal printers, drastically improving print efficiency.

Whilst this is one of the best thermal printers for shipping labels, like with the TM-T20II you’re exclusively limited to printing those: with no proprietary design software, you’ll have to invest in some design software of your own to print your own unique stickers and labels. However, for high-speed label printing for high-demand shipping businesses, the TM-T20II is the ideal thermal print solution.

5
PROS
  • Long printhead lifespan
  • Auto label identification
  • Doesn’t require proprietary paper
CONS
  • Limited to USB printing

A less well-known brand, the Rollo USB Printer is a great median of speed, quality, and price. Integrating seamlessly with e-commerce platforms like Amazon or eBay, this thermal printer is ideal for shipping labels and stickers in a wide range of designs and styles.

With an extensive library of graphical assets – plus functionality to upload your own images – this thermal printer allows for highly varied prints. The results arrive quickly too: with a print speed of 60 ppm for full-size shipping labels. The companion app is intuitive and easy to use, as is the printer driver – compatible with PC and Mac. You also have a range of paper options available, which can be rare among thermal printers for shipping labels.

That said, the limit to a USB connection can be an inconvenience, especially as it makes transferring designs from the smartphone app a cumbersome task. It does little to detract from the Rollo’s value as a mid-range thermal printer, however, and we still endorse its efficacy.

Features and Considerations

If you’re investing in a thermal printer that’s not among our picks for the “best thermal printer”, then here are some factors to consider before buying:

Print Resolution

Though the requirements are low, there is a standard to be met for shipping label resolution – in order to ensure legible barcodes and overall quality labels. Generally, the minimum standard is 250DPI (dots per inch), but we recommend at least 300DPI for the best results.

Print Speeds

Thermal printers are generally faster than even laser printers due to their minimalist print process, but be sure that your thermal printer is capable of keeping up with your needs. For instance, a fast thermal printer may not be essential for creating stickers, but in a busy retail environment where receipts are in high demand, a fast print is essential.

Compatibility

Though nearly all printers have a USB port for connection to computers, not all drivers are compatible with all PCs. Chromebooks, for example, are often overlooked due to their proprietary operating system. This can be circumvented, however, with a more universal connection such as WiFi Direct or Bluetooth. Before you buy the thermal printer of your choosing, double-check that it features suitable functionality for your devices of choice.

Longevity

Thermal printers don’t use toner or ink like other laser or InkJet printers, instead using a heated element to impress colored text and imagery onto the paper. This means that you don’t have to constantly refill the printer with anything more than paper, though the printhead will eventually run dry. Check the longevity of your printer’s printhead, especially in high-volume environments, to ensure that your thermal printer doesn’t fail midway through its duty cycle.

 

How Thermal Printers Work

Thermal printers transfer pigments onto paper with a heated element transforming the coating of the special thermal paper from white into black. Unlike inkjet and laser printers, they don’t use ink cartridges or toners. The biggest advantage of this is their extremely low running costs compared to traditional forms of printing. They’re also smaller, portable, and much faster. 

However, as mentioned throughout this article, this does limit thermal printers to a handful of use cases. Whilst some models do offer multi-color printing, it’s still extremely limited and most commercial models only employ monochrome designs. Likewise, they aren’t suited for large-scale print projects such as documents or high-resolution photos.

They are highly suited to simple and small – yet high-demand – products, which is why businesses primarily use thermal printers for stickers and shipping labels to provide quick and efficient information in a simple design.

Can thermal printers print color?

Whilst some models offer multi-color thermal printing by heating different elements, most thermal printers can’t print in color. You can, however, get colored paper for them, to add variety to your designs.

Can I use a laser printer for receipts?

Yes: Whilst you can use a standard laser printer for receipts, it will be less efficient and require you to manually print them. The best thermal printers are tailor-made for fast and accurate receipt printing – laser printers are best suited to invoices.

Our Verdict

Though the lack of wireless connectivity is a hassle we could do without, the DYMO LabelWriter 4XL remains our pick for the best thermal printer for businesses of any size! High-quality and highly efficient, this printer is ideal for labels, stickers and shipping manifests in a variety of formats – including custom ones of your own!

If your small business is beginning to expand, you may need more efficient ways of paying your contractors – check out our guide on the best printers for printing checks today!