We have spent over 25 hours researching and thoroughly testing each aspect of the seven best label makers including handheld, computer-connected and combination models. The Brother P-Touch PT-D600 was the clear choice due to its ease of use and the option to use either its keyboard or plug it into the computer.
If you are one of those people who loves to stay organized, or maybe you’re just trying to get organized, then you know the importance of labelling things clearly and correctly. Sometimes it is easy to just label something freehand, but the perfect typeface and semi-permanence of an actual sticky label you physically place on something can help keep things in better order, which will increase your overall efficiency and lead to fewer lost or misplaced items.
If you’re looking for something very mobile and quick then the handheld EPSON LabelWorks LW-400 is a perfect choice as it has a bunch of one-touch features. And as a great side note, it also has the most cost-effective standard labels. Because of an unprecedented variety of options of fonts, tape widths and types, the DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo was deemed the best label maker that requires a computer to print.
Top Pick: Brother P-touch PT-D600
The Brother P-touch PT-D600 is the hybrid of a handheld and computer-compatible label maker that allows you to use up to six different tape widths and import images and symbols printing with the best resolution of 360 dots per inch.
Table of contents
- How we selected products to test
- The seven best label makers
- A bit about organization
- Why someone would need a label maker
- Handheld vs. computer plug-in
- Important features to look for
- How we tested
- The best label maker overall – Brother PT-D600
- The best handheld label maker – Epson LW-400
- The best computer connected label maker
- Other finalists
- The bottom line
How we selected products to test
In our search for the best, we went through multiple web pages like reddit, the best-seller lists on Amazon and we read other reviews (and watched video reviews) to see what the lifetime-users had to say. From there we found out what the most important aspects of label makers were and refined our list. With our criteria, decades spent using label makers and looking at some top choices from places like The Sweet Home, only seven ended up making the cut.
Upon completion of the selection process, we examined these products in a way that would best mimic normal use. For example, we used the labels on common materials like glass, plastic, cardboard and paper and placed them in the freezer and dishwasher to see if they could stand the test of time. We took into account the versatility of the label makers, their user-friendliness and other attributes that made them stand out from the pack.
The seven best label makers
|Product||Price||Type||Power Source||Barcodes||Resolution (DPI)||Font Sizes|
|1. Brother P-touch PT-D600||$$$$||Handheld/PC Connectable||6AA or plug||Yes||180/360 (from PC)||8/∞|
|2. EPSON LabelWorks LW-400||$$||Handheld||6AA||Yes||180||5|
|3. DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo||$$$$||PC Connectable||Plug with Lihium-ion battery (recharges automatically via USB)||Yes||300||∞|
|4. Brother P-touch PT-D210||$$||Handheld||6AAA or plug||No||180||3|
|5. DYMO LabelManager 160||$||Handheld||6AAA or plug||No||180||6|
|6. Brother PC Connectable PT-P700||$$$||PC Connectable||6AA or plug||Yes||180||∞|
|7. DYMO Plug N Play||$$||PC Connectable||Plug with Lihium-ion battery (recharges automatically via USB)||Yes||300||∞|
A bit about organization
We all know it is important to stay organized and usually end up creating a system that works for us, but is it actually worth it? The debate continues on whether those who are organized are smarter than those who are disorganized. But, taking intelligence out of it, there is indisputably a certain peace of mind when things are organized.
The easiest way to stay ahead of the chaos life brings is to create a universal system wherein your stuff is labelled clearly and everything has a specific spot, even if that means a drawer for miscellaneous items. Printed labels are a great tool because they are “semi-permanent”, meaning you can change them if you really want to, but if you don’t then they are there to stay.
Staying organized can be scoffed at by those who dismiss its importance, but it has been found that “clutter can up your anxiety levels” (this was a testimonial study). An easy way to reduce bad stress is to use labels to create a system that will help you stay organized.
Why someone would need a label maker
Label makers help facilitate organization by allowing you to specify where certain objects are supposed to go or keep track of what herbs are growing in your garden. Labels help create a “system of stuff”, otherwise your memory is taking on the load of knowing where everything is. So with the advent of professional-looking labels, the task of getting and staying clean becomes much easier.
The simplicity of label makers lets you quickly create labels that are always perfectly neat. There is no doubt you can make your own labels with some DIY tricks (if this system works for you then go for it!) but we found that using a label maker is more conducive to remaining organized because it takes no preparation to print or reprint a label. And you don’t have to spend a load of money, you can just grab a DYMO LabelManager 160, type something out and push ‘print’.
With label makers you can keep a consistent style that is much harder to maintain with handwriting. You can also set the mood of your organization with different fonts for specific needs, like a professional font for your office or a more fun one for the kids’ rooms. When you use a label maker there is no discrepancy about what it says. In short, label makers are the easiest and most effective way to make labels and stay organized.
Popular uses for label makers
- Boxes: holiday decorations, linens, towels, cloths, toys
- Drawers: pens, paper clips, rubber bands
- Travel mug/water bottle
- Inventory management
- Flash Drives
- Power cords
- Cabinets: dishes, spices, flour/sugar, pills
- Refrigerator/Freezer: leftovers (dates), fruit/vegetables, meat, homemade sauces
- Garden: plants, herbs, “water twice a day”
There are many different ways to use a label maker effectively, one of which is on food products. Ever avoid looking for that specific spice or herb you want because your cupboard is absolute chaos? We’ve all been there. Or what about when you don’t know how long ago Grandma’s special home-cooked spaghetti sauce has been in the back of the freezer? Labels have purpose (and are freezer-compatible!).
Alongside using labels for containers themselves, you can categorize the inside of your fridge and cupboards with them: “Fruit”, “Meat”, “Leftovers”, “Glassware”, “Bowls”, “Plates”… you can have a spot for everything and everybody is able to see what should go where. This clear compartmentalizing really holds the power to ease the mind.
Household objects and office supplies
Another key way to take advantage of this organizational tool is to use it for your office and house in general. You can use labels to cover the inside of all cupboards and closets for blankets, towels, toys and whatever else. Remember, starting organized is the key to staying organized.
You can use labels for anything that is unknown on the outside like boxes, flash drives, CDs and DVDs. Think about holiday decorations: (possibly) a disaster waiting to be organized. There is usually not a good spot to just write on big plastic containers. And if you choose to do so, then it is permanent. Although permanence is good when it comes to organization, you still want things to be able to change. That is why using label makers is perfect: you can take them off.
Of course the stickability is an important aspect to labels, which we’ll get to later, but the semi-permanence of labels produced from a label maker puts it way ahead of writing directly on a container. It allows your system of organization to be dynamic when it needs to be, an exquisite balance between flexibility and rigidity. For example, if you need to switch your HDMI from the XBOX to the TV you can use the Brother P-touch PT-D210 to easily make new cord labels.
More areas that can be organized with labels include office files, wires and power cords, toy boxes, sports containers, art supplies and the list goes on. A huge contributor to why label makers are so useful is because it gives off this professional aesthetic, which makes us more likely to abide by our own organizational code. On top of that, the ability to easily change the label of a container, if needed, and the capacity to quickly make up a new label allows for a near-seamless process of organization.
Learning new languages
This may sound a bit off the cuff but in our initial research we came across people that have used labels for everyday objects to help them learn a new language, for example before they go on a trip. It makes sense if you think about it, and usually the people who are organized enough to use a label maker are those who will plan ahead for a trip they are taking to Cabo to get those everyday necessities down.
Handheld vs. computer plug-in
These are print-on-the-spot label makers. They are incredibly quick and easy to use. There is no other hardware or software involved, just this mini-machine you hold in your hand. You just type out what you want printed, press print and boom! Label. (Sneak peak: EPSON LabelWorks LW-400 was our favorite.) Though some store recent prints and have save functions, these are typically used for one or a few labels at a time.
Computer plug-in only
These are label makers that require a computer to use. There is no keyboard on the machine itself so you would usually keep them on your desk or close by. On most there is no requirement to download any software so that you can print within seconds of plugging them into a USB port.
DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo
This is the best choice for taking care of business inventory or multiple addresses as it has an automatic setting which prints more than one label per second.
Computer plug-in label makers are best if a lot of printing is required as they can print large volumes for things like address books and business inventory (the DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo and Brother PC Connectable PT-P700 proved to be especially valuable in these areas). And it’s the same type of deal: you just plug it in, type what you want, click print and bang! Label! Label! Label!
These are a bit more rare and incredibly versatile label makers. Just what it sounds like, it has its own keyboard which you can use to type what you want and print from there and it can be plugged into the computer. These are used for those who have multiple preferences on what they’d like printed, sometimes wanting a more elaborate, imported design and other times wanting the quick there-in-the-moment print job.
Important features to look for
Printer Style: If you think you are the type who is going to be printing as you go then you will probably want a smaller hand-held label maker. On the flip side, if you are the type to plan out what you want to print then a computer-compatible printer may be more in line with what you’re looking for.
Versatility: There are a lot of attributes to look for: amount of lines, font sizes, tape width, types of tape, symbols and colors. So first step, figure out what exactly you need it for or what you may want to use it for.
Performance: In terms of the label you should look for something that prints with your preferred resolution and sticks well to the materials you are going to use it on.
For the label maker, if it is impossible to change to the font you want, or the desired size, then there is little reason to buy it. We recommend you check out its rating on ease-of-use where we determined which label makers were the most-user friendly and whose software can be most easily navigated through.
Energy source: All of the label makers we tested can use batteries (both AAA and AA) and some can be plugged in as well. The computer-compatible label makers are the ones that can be plugged in for power, some even have a lithium-ion battery inside that charges when plugged in. Another thing to keep in mind is how long these batteries can power the product.
Tape efficiency: One of the biggest user complaints is wasted tape. This is the blank, unused tape on either side of the print on the label. So you are going to want something that either allows you to chain-print a bunch in a row, which you can then manually cut, or that allows you to minimize the amount of unused tape on each side.
The cost of the tape itself is another thing to look at because, assuming you actually use the label maker, you are going to need to buy refills and a variety of types of tape. Also, the durability of the tape is involved here as the tape that lasts longer is going to be more cost-effective (though, after our testing, we’ve found that this is a minimal cost to bear in mind).
Screen legibility: A huge part of the label-making process is the preview of the print. If you can’t see what you’ve typed and what is going to print then it becomes an ineffective guessing game. You can look for ones that are backlit and that have a big screen to best see what is going to print.
Keyboard type: Most people are used to typing on computers that have a QWERTY keyboard and unfortunately some label makers use an ABCDEF keyboard. If that doesn’t bother you then feel free to purchase whichever type, but all of our choices were QWERTY keyboards.
How we tested
We first used each label maker before reading any user-manual or guides just to get an initial impression (and because we figured that is what most people do anyways). This semi-subjective first impression definitely played a role in our “overall rating” of the ease of use, but was by no means the only thing considered, especially after reading the user-manuals.
Ease of use
After getting a general feel for each label maker, and creating a general network of comparison between each one, we looked at the overall navigation of each label maker. The objective measurements included things like recording the amount of “button presses” it took to do a specific task, such as changing the font size or decreasing the amount of unused tape. We also considered the ability to save past prints and the access to a history of recently printed items.
Once we recorded the amount of presses for a multitude of categories we then compared them to each other. On top of that we rated how well the software was formatted, how easy it was to maneuver through and do any particular task without having to refer to the user-manual (that you will probably throw away with the box it came in). So the combination of the subjective inferences and objective efficiencies is what resulted in our overall rating on the ease of use.
The versatility of the label maker refers to how many different tasks it can be used for. For this category we took into consideration nearly every aspect of the fonts and tapes possible, including the amount of lines, sizes, types, widths, colors and symbols. We basically measured how many different things the label maker could do. This will become easier to see once you look at the charts.
Cost-efficiency and refills
The way we determined cost-efficiency was to find cost per label. We used standard labels of both half inch and full inch widths (when applicable). And because there is no set length of tape we calculated an average cost of 10 feet of the standard label tape. We then made labels using two inches of words (the length from first letter to the last was two inches) with each label maker to incorporate the wasted tape.
Integrating the amount of unused tape we were able to calculate the total amount of labels that would be produced with the 10 feet of tape. So, using the cost of the tape and the total length of tape wasted per label, we determined the cost per label.
We also looked at the chain-printing ability on some that drastically decreased the cost per label (by over a third!). Chain-printing is used when you need the same label printed multiple times. The label maker will print your desired number in a row, without giving you time to manually cut the tape. And with this function the label maker doesn’t need the usual required amount of tape to begin printing so it lessens the overall amount of tape used by minimizing the waste.
Quality of labels
The quality of the labels is based primarily on their stickiness and durability. We evaluated both these qualities by putting all the standard white labels, of equal lengths, on surfaces for which they would most likely be used. These surfaces included plastic for Tupperware and containers, glass for spices, cardboard for shipping boxes and paper for folders and letters. We used both flat and curved surfaces when appropriate.
We then conducted a general sight test to see if any of the labels lifted on their own. After that we put some Tupperware in the freezer for two weeks to see how they held up. Next we put the Tupperware and glassware into both the microwave and dishwasher. We microwaved them for a total of 10 minutes each and ran the dishwasher five separate times after they were fully cooled.
After all was said and done, we peeled off each one (if they weren’t off already) to see how hard it was to pull off each label, and if it came off in one piece or not. For the labels used on the cardboard and paper we looked at how much material was taken off with the label as a more objective testament to its stickability.
The best label maker overall – Brother PT-D600
This is where it all comes together, where the versatility, user-friendliness and overall quality of the label maker meet. Of course we all have our own desired uses and specific functions we’d like our label makers to serve, so the most multi-faceted one easily stood out. When you want to be able to print right then and there, on the spot, or import a custom symbol or picture from the internet or your phone the label maker that can do both is paramount.
Brother P-touch PT-D600
The Brother PT-D600 has the widest and brightest print preview function allowing you to clearly see what you are about to print as well as stores over 600 symbols and 99 files.
In deciding the best overall label maker we looked at what could be done, how easy it could be done and how well it was done. The Brother P-touch PT-D600 was by far the best overall label maker. It can do the most out of any “standard” label maker (non-computer) with eight different font sizes and six different tape widths. It has an incredible amount of symbols within its program and can almost double the amount of lines per label as compared to the next best.
At first it seemed a bit big and clunky, which makes it more of a hassle to move around compared to the others, but after putting it to use the size was forgotten. It has a great chain printing function which reduces the cost of two inches of words to seven cents per label. The PT-D600 can store 99 labels inside it and is computer-compatible (both PC and Mac) which makes its storage essentially limitless. It prints barcodes and has the highest resolution at 360 dots per inch (DPI) when printing from the computer.
One of our favorite features is the quality of the print preview, there is no mistaking what you are about to print. It is clear and very well backlit. Also there is a great home page from which to navigate where there are a very good amount of templates to choose from (that you would actually use!). This Brother PT-D600 ended up with one of the highest scores on our user-friendliness as it was beyond easy to navigate through.
Another cool feature specific to this label maker was the automatic cutting. In order to get a label from all of the other label makers you had to push down a button to manually cut the label. It’s 2017, who wants to work that hard? Obviously this is not too big of a deal, but nonetheless it is still pretty cool and worth a mention.
- The handheld and computer-compatible Brother P-touch PT-D600 is the most versatile label maker as it has wide-ranging capacities on the machine itself, like 600 plus symbols and six different tape widths, and can be connected to a PC or Mac where you can import images and symbols to customize your labels as you like.
- Its print preview function is the best out there. There is a wide screen that has a white backlight allowing you to see what you are trying to print before you do.
- The interface is very clear and provides the user with an easy-to-maneuver main menu where files and templates can be simply accessed.
- It has a great automatic chain-printing function that cuts down the cost per label to around seven cents and contains a more-than-necessary 99 labels in storage.
The best handheld label maker – Epson LW-400
The best simple label maker was a tough choice because they were all more or less scored the same in user-friendliness. But when we went through all of the comparisons, the ability to save up to 50 labels for reprinting, use a label width of ¾” and print barcodes, the EPSON LabelWorks LW-400 became the clear winner. It can also print twice as many lines on one label (four) as its competitors in this category.
With over 300 symbols to choose from and one-push changes there is little to complain about. Well, actually, in the beginning it was a bit harder to get used to because it uses symbols to describe specific actions as opposed to words. So this made the learning curve a bit longer, but ultimately it allows for the quickest changes between font sizes and types, lengths and saves. This makes it incredibly easy and quick to work with.
EPSON LabelWorks LW-400
This label maker was the quickest to change fonts and style, from horizontal to vertical printing and wrap around text and has a computer-like keyboard allowing for incredibly simple symbol usage.
Something that stood out to us was that this LW-400 will not allow you to print if the text is too long (if you’ve chosen to stray from the automatic settings). There is a nice preview of the print as well, which most of the label makers we tested have, but nonetheless became a favorite function of ours. Another useful aspect of this compact printer is the ability to print up to nine copies so you don’t have to keep pressing print for each copy.
And because there is a shift key it is like using a computer keyboard to input symbols on the number keys, which avoids a lot of hassle (the Brother P-touch PT-D210 has a shift key as well). The wrap-around function allows you to print a label for cables or wires with just one push of a button.
There is also a plethora of tapes that you can use with this label maker. And you can print in up to seven languages. One of the drawbacks is the cost of its labels. Though 12 cents per the label is not too costly (using the same standard two inches of print from beginning to end), it was one of the highest priced labels we tested.
- Once you get used to the interface, the handheld EPSON LabelWorks LW-400 has the most one-push changes that allow you to quickly switch up the label contents.
- You can print up to four lines with this label maker due to its maximum ¾” thick tape, which is 50% bigger when compared to the other handheld options.
- It scored near-perfect on the stickability and durability of the labels which is nice to see because the cost per our standard label (two inches of font) averages about 12 cents.
- This was the only solely handheld option that allowed you to print barcodes for shipping.
The best computer connected label maker
When deciding which computer-compatible label maker was the best (excluding the best overall which was a hybrid) it was a bit of a toss up because each one was dominant in different categories. After much thought, we figured that someone who is buying a computer-compatible label maker is most likely going to want to use if for shipping labels, barcodes and addresses. So we crowned the DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo.
DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo
The DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo proved to be the best in the game for quick and massive prints for things like multiple addresses for letter heading as it can print at an astounding 71 labels per minute.
In terms of tape size and type, this printer has the most variety out of any we tested. All of the computer-compatible choices can link up with the address book in your computer. Plus, this DYMO 450 Turbo is really fast, allowing you to print over 70 labels per minute. Unfortunately the standard tape that came with it is not laminated so it performed terribly in the dishwasher (it was the only one whose print faded on the Tupperware and that fell off completely from the glassware).
Something else that was not as impressive as the other options was the software. It was harder to change certain things, for example, moving or getting rid of an imported symbol or image took many more clicks. It was as if it wouldn’t register perfectly and did not allow you to maneuver imported images seamlessly like the other softwares.
There were little downsides in comparison, however, as the Turbo’s labels are incredibly cost-effective and ended up being the cheapest ones we found (reminder: the unlaminated standard labels it comes with are not compatible with the dishwasher). There is very little unused tape and it can print with a resolution of 300 dots per inch.
Alongside the wide variety of tape sizes that are compatible with this printer (more than any other label maker we tested). The types of tape are not necessarily as flashy as the others but DYMO provides you with many durable options that are resistant to heat, cold, water and UV (that are presumably compatible with the dishwasher).
- The computer-connected DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo provides you with the most overall choice. There are more than 10 different tape widths you can choose from.
- The software isn’t the best but once you get the hang of it there are loads of different templates from which to choose, making it incredibly easy to customize.
- This was the fasted printing label maker, printing more than one per second, allowing you to print out your address entire book quickly and without any more effort than setting up the print.
- The standard non-laminated tape it came with are not dishwasher compatible and do not stick as well as the other similar labels. Nonetheless there is plenty of stick for sending out packages.
Brother P-touch PT-D210
The Brother P-touch PT-D210 was the runner up to the non-computer label maker. It is extremely clear and easy to use with a normal keyboard akin to that on a computer. The interface is as simple as it gets. There is chain-printing capability which reduces the price of an average label to about eight cents and you can also print multiple copies without chain-printing if you’d like.
There is an auto-store history function which was very nice to have as it allows you to reprint something you recently did without hassle. Unfortunately there are only three font sizes to choose from, but there are over 600 symbols available. As far as the non-computer competition, this PT-D210 stands out with its ability to print on labels only 1/8th of an inch, making it very useful for more detailed organizing.
DYMO LabelManager 160
This incredibly inexpensive DYMO LabelManager 160 can be bought for about $15 on Amazon.com (and its buttons have that amazing silky rubber feel to them). Even though the tape didn’t perform well on the cardboard, in all other areas it performed perfectly. So if you are just looking for something to get a quick job done and don’t want to spend more than $20 then this is your go to.
DYMO LabelManager 160
This is the most basic label maker out there, it is very transportable and prints great labels for plastic and glassware for a small fraction of the initial cost and cost per label.
It is definitely a take-with-you type of label maker. However, due to its compact size, it does not have a shift key which makes attaining certain symbols on the keyboard a bit more cumbersome than it should be. On the flipside, though, the LabelManager 160 makes it beyond easy to change font size, embolden, italicize and underline, as well as print vertical labels. And if you are trying to learn a language, this DYMO has 19 to choose from.
Brother PC Connectable PT-P700
The Brother PC Connectable PT-P700 had a tough start trying to download and install the software on a Mac, but did fine on the PC. The amount of tape-widths (and the maximum width) this label maker is compatible with, makes it more versatile than the DYMO Plug N Play. Unfortunately, the resolution is only 180 dots per inch on this computer-compatible label maker which really decreases the value of importing images.
Another thing to keep in mind is the cost of these labels. These were the most expensive labels we tested (at about 13 cents per label–again using our standard two inches of words) because of the immutable margins, which were an inch on either side. The labels themselves did seem to hold up well in all the tests though. This is another instance where the labels used are flat, which makes them easy to peel and place.
DYMO Plug N Play
Talk about easy to use. This DYMO Plug N Play has it in the name, it was actually plug in and go. You can print without downloading the full version (which you can do with all of the other computer-compatible label makers, but this one was exceptionally easy). However, upon downloading the full version, the recent history saved items would only keep one at a time as opposed to the option of storing many on all the other programs.
Another downside to this computer printer was its maximum tape size: half an inch. This was a bit disappointing because with such a great amount of dots per inch (300), the printer was not really able to show its full potential. And because of this lack in size, the amount and types of labels and barcodes diminishes. Nonetheless, this was an easy-as-pie label maker to work with.
Also, a quick note on replacing the the lithium-ion battery: it has to be purchased from DYMO and is about $25. This was one of the most common complaints from many of the review sites we checked.
The bottom line
When it comes down to it, the more you can do with a label maker, the better. And when we look at the versatility and performance of the hybrid handheld and computer-compatible Brother P-touch PT-D600, there was really no other option. This was our top choice because it has the most options in nearly every category, is very cost effective and outperformed every other label maker in testing with six different tape widths, 600 plus symbols and a beautiful display for previewing your label.
The handheld EPSON LabelWorks LW-400 was easy to use, could print bar codes and had great storage and proved to be a very smart handheld choice. If you want a specialty printer for address labels, stamps or barcodes then the DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo should be your pick. Though these two and the rest of the competition could hold their own in some categories, the Brother P-touch PT-D600 was the winner as it has the best of both worlds.