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Best Thermal Printer 2024: Ideal for Small Business, Stickers & Labels

No matter if its for shipping labels, receipts, or even printing stickers - these units could be just what you need

Reviewed By: Kevin Pocock

Last Updated on April 29, 2024
Best Thermal Printer
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Unlike traditional home printers, a thermal printer is perfect for small businesses, allowing you to print out shipping labels, receipts, or stickers far more efficiently. Most people who’ve worked in retail or commercial sectors will no doubt be familiar with thermal printers, but if you’re looking to start an e-commerce or business venture, then you may need the right thermal unit. We’ve compiled a list of the best thermal printers below for you to choose from, accounting for an array of business use cases and needs.

How We Choose and Test Thermal Printers

Due to the relative niche that 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, so we opted for printers that were fast, durable, and consistent in their results. When testing the speed of these models we check the clarity of the print, versatility of the printer, and general efficiency.

Best overall thermal printer
  • A Dymo LabelWriter 4XL label printer open with a roll of labels on a wooden desk beside a potted plant, with a "ps guide" logo visible on the image.
  • A Dymo LabelWriter 4XL label printer on a desk next to a plant, with a roll of labels partially inserted into the printer.
  • A Dymo LabelWriter 4XL desktop label printer with an open lid and a sheet of paper featuring the Google logo halfway through printing, positioned on a dark wood surface.
  • A Dymo LabelWriter 4XL printer on a wooden surface, displaying a label with a cartoon character on its screen.
  • A black Dymo LabelWriter 4XL label printer on a wooden desk, with a potted plant and a monitor in the softly lit background.
Specifications
  • Printer Output: Monochrome
  • Printer Type: Thermal
  • Connectivity Technology: USB
What We Think

For anyone looking to streamline their shipping process or even get on top of stock management, the Dymo 4XL could be the perfect label printer for you.

Reasons to Buy
  • Fast, clear printing
  • Easy to use with intuitive free software
  • Compact
Reasons to Avoid
  • Need to use specific label types specifically for Dymo printers

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 prints in stellar quality and speed, this unit is everything your business needs to start shipping more effectively.

Print labels up to 4″ x 6″ in size, with a resolution of up to 300 DPI. 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 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 may not be optimal for some. It’s a small hurdle, however, and the LabelWriter 4XL remains our best thermal printer on the market.

Best Thermal Printer for Small Business
  • A Zebra ZD421 barcode printer with a partial roll of printed shipping labels emerging from its slot.
Specifications
  • Printer Output: Monochrome
  • Printer Type: Thermal
  • Connectivity Technology: USB
  • Duplex Printing: No
What We Think

For reliability and quality, a Zebra model may be all you need. This prints clear labels quickly and efficiently, making it perfect for  any small- medium sized business.

Reasons to Buy
  • Efficient printer with crystal clear results
  • From a reliable manufacturer that delivers long lasting products
  • Fast label printing makes this ideal for business logistics
  • Direct thermal printing (up to 4×6)
Reasons to Avoid
  • Direct unit can’t print as large as the other available versions
  • Higher DPI available on the other versions

Zebra is a well-known point-of-sale brand – delivering everything from label printers to barcode scanners. The Zebra ZD421 relaces the highly favored GK420d, printing a max diameter of 5″ and width of 4.25″. This is capable of printing your standard 4×6 labels and does so relatively quickly.

The printer has a 203 DPI with a max print speed of 8″ per second, making it a solid solution for small to medium-sized businesses. Efficient and reliable with quality prints assured – a great choice.

Best For Labels and Stickers
  • A pink Munbyn RW401AP label printer on a desk, printing a label with a barcode and text.
  • A pink Munbyn RW401AP label printer on a desk, processing a roll of vinyl stickers, with a plant in the background.
  • Close-up of a pink Munbyn RW401AP mobile phone showing its camera, flash, and contactless payment symbols.
  • A pink label printer on a dark surface with a blurred green plant background.
  • A sleek, pink and white portable battery pack on a dark wooden desk, next to a potted plant with a blurred background, labeled with Munbyn RW401AP.
Specifications
  • Printer Output: Monochrome
  • Printer Type: Thermal
  • Connectivity Technology: USB, WiFi Direct, AirPrint
  • Duplex Printing: No
What We Think

The Munbyn RW401AP is a fast, versatile thermal printer and is great for small business owners looking to ship items to customers. Furthermore, the app and ability to customize small stickers can really add a bit of flare to your overall branding and shipping process.

Reasons to Buy
  • Clear prints with 300 DPI resolution
  • AirPrint works flawlessly with a Mac setup
  • Munbyn’s app adds a lot of versatility to this model, with a variety of pre-designed sticker templates
  • Prints fast
Reasons to Avoid
  • For shipping labels only you may want a more traditional solution
  • Voice commands seem a bit pointless

Munbyns latest thermal printer is perfect for your stay-at-home small businesses. It can rifle through shipping labels with no problem but is also versatile enough for a multitude of different options. This printer also has an app users can use to print out more personalized or branded stickers to accompany the shipping process.

One thing to note is that this model may require a little more desk room as it is fed labels rather than featuring an internal holster. Overall, the quality is perfectly fine for any shipping requirements but it probably isn’t the best solution for rapid shipping only printing.

Great value option for receipt printing
  • Close-up of an Epson TM-T20II printer showing the brand logo on a textured black surface with a blurred background.
  • An Epson TM-T20II thermal receipt printer with an open lid on a wooden desk, next to a potted plant and under soft lighting.
  • Close-up of an Epson TM-T20II thermal receipt printer with white paper being printed, focusing on the print output tray and control buttons.
  • Open Epson TM-T20II thermal receipt printer with visible internal components and paper tray on a wooden table, with a focus on the printer's interior.
  • Close-up of the back panel of an Epson TM-T20II thermal receipt printer showing various ports labeled rs-232, s01 k 06, and fg lay.
Excellent
Specifications
  • Printer Output: : Monochrome
  • Printer Type:: Thermal
  • Connectivity Technology:: USB + Serial|Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR|Ethernet
What We Think

Affordable, fast, and reliable – the TM-T20II is the perfect thermal printer for receipts. This is compact and extremely easy to operate making it ideal for any retail setup.

Reasons to Buy
  • Offers great value and performs exactly as expected
  • Easy to operate and refill consumables
  • Very reliable and highly capable of printing in the busiest of scenarios
Reasons to Avoid
  • Newer generation model now available

Unfortunately, the Epson TM-T20II has reached the end of its life, however, it is still widely available and a perfect receipt printer for any retail space. The newer model is more modernized but unless you need the extra 50mm per second printing speed (negligible difference), this model could be a nice money saver for your business.

Best for Printing Small Color Labels
Brother P-Touch Cube
Specifications
  • Printer Output:: Color
  • Printer Type:: Inkjet
  • Connectivity Technology:: Bluetooth
What We Think

This is very user friendly inkjet printer, capable of printing amazing quality color labels. This is suited for small labels and is overall a very durable model.

Reasons to Buy
  •  Affordable color printing
  •  Compact and portable design
  •  Highly functional smartphone app
Reasons to Avoid
  • 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. While the smartphone app and asset library are welcome, printing more varied designs from a PC is a cumbersome process, which can be frustrating for more involved designs.

Best Budget Thermal Printer
What We Think

A capable label printer at a much lower cost than the others. This may not be from one of the best thermal printing manufacturers but it is reliable, fast, and can handle small business needs.

Reasons to Buy
  • Affordable and fast
  • Auto label identification
  • Doesn’t require proprietary paper
Reasons to Avoid
  •  Limited to direct printing

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.

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.

FAQs

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

Verdict
  • A Dymo LabelWriter 4XL label printer open with a roll of labels on a wooden desk beside a potted plant, with a "ps guide" logo visible on the image.
  • A Dymo LabelWriter 4XL label printer on a desk next to a plant, with a roll of labels partially inserted into the printer.
  • A Dymo LabelWriter 4XL desktop label printer with an open lid and a sheet of paper featuring the Google logo halfway through printing, positioned on a dark wood surface.
  • A Dymo LabelWriter 4XL printer on a wooden surface, displaying a label with a cartoon character on its screen.
  • A black Dymo LabelWriter 4XL label printer on a wooden desk, with a potted plant and a monitor in the softly lit background.
3.5 /5
Editor’s Rating
How We Review
Specifications
  • Printer Output: Monochrome
  • Printer Type: Thermal
  • Connectivity Technology: USB

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.

Shaun is the editor of SPCR and a contributor to PCGuide. Shaun has a broad interest in technology from all things PC gaming to standard household tech.