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Laser Printer vs. Thermal Printer for Shipping Labels – Comparison
By Sarah Hansen, Dec 19, 2016

A frequent question that comes up with online sellers is if they should invest in a thermal label printer to end constant purchases of printer ink, or just stick with a versatile laser printer that can handle multiple tasks.

To help you decide, I’ve taken two solid performing printers: One thermal, the Dymo 4xl, and one Laser, the HP LaserJet Pro M203dw. I chose these two printers because they are both business focused, have a good price to performance ratio, and have consistent high reviews online across the board.

I’m going to compare a few areas of interest to come up with a winner when it comes to printing shipping labels cheaply and quickly.

1 – Printer Purchase Price

This is a one-time cost to factor into your printer purchase. For the two comparison printers, I went to each printer’s respective Amazon page. Both printers are eligible for Amazon Prime if you want to take advantage of the free shipping. Please note that pricing can fluctuate and you should look online to compare stores and find the best price.

HP LaserJetPro M203dw on Amazon – $181.08

Dymo 4xl on Amazon – $237.36

From a one-time pricing perspective, the Dymo is clearly the more expensive option.

Winner on purchase price: Laser Printer

2 – Toner / Ink

This is a recurring fee that gives business owners and even consumers nightmares. Ink toner, by weight, costs more than fine wine and the world’s most expensive perfumes.

The HP LaserJet Pro is sold with a high-yield business grade toner cartridge (Amazon link here) that costs $102.83. While that is a high price, it averages 3,500 pages of toner, and at 2 shipping labels per page, that’s an estimated 7,000 shipping labels you can churn out before your toner runs out. While this may seem like a lot of labels, there are shippers that can push out 3,000 labels in a day that dread dropping over a hundred dollars on toner every week.

Thermal printers don’t require toner. In fact, that’s their entire appeal.

Winner on toner: Thermal Printer

3 – Blank Shipping Labels

For blank shipping labels, I’m going to compare prices through product pages on OnlineLabels.com for consistency. Also for comparison, we’ll be assuming both printers will put out 4”x6” standard adhesive shipping labels.

On the laser printer, I’m going with 500 sheets of standard shipping labels, two labels per page. This comes out to 1,000 total shipping labels.

On the thermal printer, I’m going with 4 rolls of 250 labels that are compatible with Dymo thermal printers, totaling 1,000 shipping labels.

500 blank sheets (1,000 labels) on OnlineLabels.com – $69.95

4 rolls of 250 thermal shipping labels from OnlineLabels.com – $26.95

Winner on blank shipping labels: Thermal Printer

4 – Print Speed

Speed matters when it comes to processing orders. Many sellers quickly realize how much time it takes to process each order when they start coming in by the dozen, and you can’t spend the same amount of time on each order like you used to.

From each product’s description pages, the HP LaserJet prints out one page per 6.4 seconds, while the Dymo Thermal Printer prints one 4″ label in a little over a second.

Looking at the print speeds, you must also take into consideration swapping out label rolls and refilling paper trays. If you are printing packing slips and labels from the HP LaserJet, that is extra time to switch out the paper for labels.

Winner on print speed: Thermal Printer

Conclusion

If we take into consideration the 4 metrics we compared these printers on, the Dymo 4xl comes out on top. With recurring costs, the thermal printer will be worth the investment, and the recurring savings carry more importance than the onetime cost of purchasing your printer. Please note that depending on sales and a model that fits your business needs, these specs can change and research should be done prior to the purchase of a printer.

In the end, having a dedicated thermal printer makes a lot of sense if your shipping volume starts to increase, or  is already very high. If you’re not quite there, having a laser printer handle labels and packing slips would suffice for some time, but splitting the work between a thermal printer for labels and a laser printer for packing slips and pick lists makes a lot of sense in terms of organization, recurring costs, shipment processing speed, and long-term savings when your shipping volume starts to pick up (or is already up there).

Winner overall: Direct Thermal Printer

 

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Sarah is a Marketing Associate at ShippingEasy in Austin, TX. She loves sharing her knowledge of eCommerce and helping businesses with their shipping pain points.

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