In this blog, we shall review some Brother thermal printers that we think are best suited for small businesses. Note that none of these are discontinued models.

With Brother, we get treated to Japanese ingenuity. The company makes various sorts of printers, and their line of direct thermal printers is one of the most diverse in the market today. Most of their devices are appropriate for small- to medium-size businesses, as seen from their functional speeds, prices and other features.

In terms of capabilities, Brother gadgets are somewhere in between industrial-caliber printers like Zebra and Sato and smaller-scale machines like Dymo. However, they can perform some tasks that others don’t. Indeed, there are plenty of reasons to consider buying a Brother label printer. The ones that are relevant to small businesses are discussed below.

 

Why Brother?

 

Customers usually choose Brother thermal printers for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They are fairly quick, with maximum speeds ranging from 4 to 8 inches per second. 
  • Many models have a maximum resolution of 300 x 300 dpi, letting them print crisply horizontally and vertically. Some even reach 300 x 600 dpi. The ability to print more dots in at least one direction enables them to make even clearer images.
  • Compared to Dymo and newer brands like Rollo and Arkscan, Brother has a broader selection of 4″-wide printers for making shipping labels. Small business owners are much better off investing in wide printers as they allow the creation of a greater variety of labels from just one machine.
  • QL800 models print in two colors, red and black, enhancing customizability. At this point, no other direct thermal printer maker openly experiments about creating color versions of these machines.
  • They have variable interface settings and power sources. These features make some units desktop-only and the others portable, thus suiting different needs.
  • They are easy to set up, with most not requiring a driver. They are compatible with Android, iOS, Linux and Windows devices.
  • Most Brother units have flexible connectivity. Some are Mfi-capable, enabling them to connect with Apple devices instantly. The ease of device interfacing is useful to businesses, as we shall explain in the next blog.
  • They are less prone to logjams.
  • Some units have a built-in auto-cutter and an optional peeler for efficiency.
  • They have more uses in healthcare settings because of their mobile-ready features and clear imaging.
  • Brother labels come with their own spools, making reloading easy. Authentic Brother labels are also cheaper than original Dymo labels.
  • Brother offers one- to two-year warranties that may be extended, depending on the machine you purchased.

 

On the other hand, some of Brother label printers’ setbacks are the following:

  • They generally tend to be more expensive than their American counterparts.
  • Their fairly lower media loads limit their use in industrial settings. So if you’re scaling up, you may want to consider other brands.
  • Brother printers use proprietary labels. Using third-party labels invalidates their warranty. Depending on your preferences, this may keep you from using low-cost aftermarket and free shipping supplies when you need to. Original Brother labels are also slightly more expensive than Zebra direct thermal labels.
  • It is sometimes difficult to access Brother’s customer support and online technical information. Specifically, the Brother USA website reroutes you to the business home page after spending some time on their website.

Other than these, Brother units are fairly comparable to Zebra’s, which are the industrial standards at this point.

Below are our top choices from the Brother line of label printers, and we think small business owners should highly consider them.

 

The TD 4-inch Series

 

This line consists of Brother’s 4″-wide desktop thermal printers. They all print in black unless they have both thermal transfer and direct thermal modes. Their maximum resolution varies between 203 and 300 dpi. This line has a 2-year warranty.

In terms of interfacing capacity, some models are wireless-enabled, but most are not. Some units that connect by USB are Ethernet-ready. Some wireless-capable devices can link directly to Apple devices by Mfi. Their maximum media load has a 5″ outer diameter (industrial-grade printers have at least 8″). They can process both Brother label rolls and fanfolds. They have cutters and optional peelers that enhance efficiency.

Our top recommendations in this line are the TD4550DNWB and TD4420TN.

 

TD4550DNWB

 

Some Facts About the TD4550DNWB

Dimensions (inches)

7.08 x 8.82 x 6.10

Weight (lbs)

4.58

Compatible OS

Windows, Android, iOS, Linux

Interface

Wide Connectivity + MFi

Maximum Print Width (inches)

4.27

Maximum Print Speed (inches per second)

6

Desktop or Portable?

Desktop

Maximum Resolution (dpi)

300

Has a thermal transfer function

No

Can print on linerless media?

No

Print Color

Black

Price

$575

 

The TD4550DNWB is on this list because, among the wireless printers in this line, it is the most affordable one, and it also has a good resolution. Others are priced at least $125 more, not necessarily due to better performance, but because they also function as thermal transfer printers.

The TD4550DNWB lets you multitask between walking through your inventory and printing shipping labels remotely. You can take advantage of its wide applications without spending significantly.

 

TD4420TN

 

 

Some Facts About the TD4420TN

Dimensions (inches)

8.1 x 7.0 x 11.1

Weight (lbs)

4.4

Compatible OS

Windows, Mac, Linux

Interface

USB, LAN Ethernet

Maximum Print Width (inches)

4.25

Maximum Print Speed (inches per second)

6

Desktop or Portable?

Desktop

Maximum Resolution (dpi)

203

Has a thermal transfer function

Yes

Can print on linerless media?

No

Print Color

Black

Price

$475

 

The TD4420TN is one of the lower-end models in this line. It is not markedly costlier than the TD4410D and TD4420DN, and you get additional features like a thermal transfer mode and Ethernet connectivity. With the thermal transfer function, you can customize your labels more, which should pique your artsy side. Ethernet capability lets you print stickers through LAN-connected networks.

On the other hand, this model’s setbacks include limited resolution and speed. It is, however, faster than a Dymo LabelWriter 4XL, and it prints clearly enough for most retailing purposes.

 

The TD-2000 Series

 

We normally recommend wide printers to address various labeling needs. But if you prefer to have separate slim and wide units, one model to check out is the TD2130N.

TD-2000 machines print in monochrome black. Some units have batteries and built-in or optional wireless function, making them mobile-ready. Their typical print width is just above 2″, so you cannot use them for making standard postage stickers. Print speed is normally 6 inches per second. Resolution varies between 203 and 300 dpi, and these smaller printers lack the thermal transfer mode. This series has a 2-year warranty.

 

TD2130N

 

Some Facts About the TD2130N

Dimensions (inches)

4.33 x 6.77 x 8.46

Weight (lbs)

2.91

Compatible OS

Windows, iOS, Android, Linux

Interface

USB, LAN, optional Bluetooth

Maximum Print Width (inches)

2.2

Maximum Print Speed (inches per second)

6

Desktop or Portable?

Desktop and Portable (with optional battery)

Maximum Resolution (dpi)

300

Has a thermal transfer function

No

Can print on linerless media?

No

Print Color

Black

Price

350

 

The TD2130N is at the lower end of this product line. It is the least expensive unit that has a 300-dpi resolution and options to go mobile. You can transform it into a totally portable device by buying a separate battery and Bluetooth wireless interface. The PA-BI-001, the unit’s wireless interface, costs $121 when purchased from Brother. 

If wireless function is critical to your operations, you can also look to the next models up the line. The TD2130NW and TD2130NB have wifi and Bluetooth built in and are both priced at $480. If you can operate without wireless capability, you may consider the low-end models in this series. They are cheaper by $50-150, although they only have a 203-dpi resolution. The battery for the TD-2000 series costs $165.

Compared to QL800 printers, the TD2130 has a higher label capacity, a more flexible control panel and greater memory for sticker templates.

 

The QL Series

 

The QL series is a line of dedicated direct thermal printers having variable print widths, print color and connectivity options. The more modern units have automatic cutters and resolution of up to 300 x 600 dpi. They are all Windows- and Mac-compatible, with some having wider compatibilities than others.

Low-end units like the QL500 and QL700 can produce great images. However, they do not print on wide media, and they have limited connectivity. They are still great for barcoding if you need a separate slim labeler that can be bought inexpensively. On the other hand, among the wide printers, the QL1110 is a good choice if connectivity is not vital to your daily business activities.

Our top picks in this product line are the QL1110NWB and QL820NWB. These choices are explained below.

 

QL1110NWB

 

Some Facts About the QL1110NWB

Dimensions (inches)

6.7 x 8.7 x 5.9

Weight (lbs)

3.9

Compatible OS

Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux

Interface

Wide Connectivity + Mfi

Maximum Print Width (inches)

4.09

Maximum Print Speed (inches per second)

4.3

Desktop or Portable?

Desktop

Maximum Resolution (dpi)

300 x 300

Has a thermal transfer function

No

Can print on linerless media?

No

Print Color

Black

Price

$279.99

 

The QL1110NWB is on our list because it is rather inexpensive for a high-resolution wide printer with flexible connectivity. It directly prints from an Apple device and is compatible with Linux and Android units as well. Despite its multiple interface options, it is not portable because it lacks a battery.

Compared to the similarly priced Dymo LabelWriter 4XL, you get more bang for your buck with this Brother unit because of its faster print speed and other cool features. On the other hand, its closest counterpart in the Zebra line is the ZD420, though the latter is more expensive by at least $70. The ZD420, however, is portable, carries a higher label load and prints faster. Both the Dymo LabelWriter 4XL and QL1110NWB are easier to set up than the ZD420. 

 

QL820NWB

 

Some Facts About the QL820NWB

Dimensions (inches)

5.0 x 9.2 x 5.7

Weight (lbs)

2.6

Compatible OS

Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux

Interface

Wide Connectivity + Mfi

Maximum Print Width (inches)

2.4

Maximum Print Speed (inches per second)

For monochrome: 6.9

For two-color prints: 0.9

Desktop or Portable?

Desktop and Portable (with optional battery)

Maximum Resolution (dpi)

300 x 600

Has a thermal transfer function

No

Can print on linerless media?

No

Print Color

Black and red

Price

$174.99

 

If you need different machines for different label sizes, we’d rather have you try a QL800 series printer for slimmer labels. This is currently the only line that offers two-color printing, which enhances customizability. The low-end units create great-looking labels, but their connectivity is limited.

By comparison, the QL820NWB has more flexible interface options. It is also mobile-ready because it is equipped with a battery. It may not be suitable for making standard shipping labels, but colored tags certainly look good on just about everything else.

All in all, the QL800 models are more cost-effective than the TD-2000 line.

 

The RuggedJet 4 Series

 

The RuggedJet 4 series is Brother’s answer to Zebra’s ZQ500 portable thermal printers. Both product lines are encased in military-grade material, making them suitable for rugged industrial conditions. They can also print wide and accommodate linerless media, enabling them to print both shipping labels and non-adhesive receipts. Consider these mobile devices if your business is ready to expand.

Here, we feature the RJ4230BL, which is currently the bestselling model in this series.

 

RJ4230BL

 

Some Facts About the RJ4230BL

Dimensions (inches)

6.02 x 6.26 x 2.68

Weight (lbs)

1.87

Compatible OS

Android, Mac, iOS, Windows

Interface

Wide Connectivity + Mfi

Maximum Print Width (inches)

4.09

Maximum Print Speed (inches per second)

5

Desktop or Portable?

Portable

Maximum Resolution (dpi)

203

Has a thermal transfer function

No

Can print on linerless media?

Yes

Print Color

Black

Price

$945

 

The RJ4230BL has drop protection from a height of 6.9 feet. It can withstand contact with corrosive substances, moisture, dust, radiation, etc. Its 3000 mAh battery can power it up for an entire workday. You can charge it through a power outlet or your car lighter slot. 

It prints in monochrome black. Its dual-direction tear bar lets you remove stickers and receipts easily. Just like the other devices on this list, it comes with a 2-year warranty.

Unlike the ZQ520, its closest Zebra counterpart, the RJ4230BL lacks an exoskeleton and buttons fit for gloved hands. Also, it has no power-saving features, but it has a battery life indicator. The RJ4230BL connects to Apple mobile devices through AirPrint. Meanwhile, the ZQ520 has Link-OS, which needs the Zebra Utilities app to link to Apple mobile gadgets. The ZQ520, with its battery, costs an average of $700-850, while the RJ4230BL costs $945.

 

Other Brother Direct Thermal Printers

 

Aside from these units, Brother offers direct thermal printers that process media different from paper sticky tags. They include the following:

  • M-print series—these are devices that print small linerless receipts only. You can use them at points of sale inside your store.
  • PocketJet series—these portable devices are pocket-sized document printers. You can use them to print on plain 8.5″ x 11.5″ thermal paper. Although they have a 300-dpi maximum resolution, they have limited capabilities compared to portable inkjets and laser printers. Also, they’re not as cost-effective. They sound like dot-matrix printers when printing and have a bit of lag time before starting a task. They can print as many as eight pages a minute.

PocketJet printers only use original Brother thermal paper, which is available in continuous rolls, perforated rolls and cut sheets. They are made for highly mobile people who prefer to have a handy printer everywhere they go. 

  • P-touch series—these gadgets are similar to the Dymo laminated labelers that rely on direct thermal technology. They make durable, industrial-grade barcodes and other slim sticky tags. These machines are durable and rarely jam.

 

Conclusion

 

There are different kinds of Brother direct thermal printers, each one with a specific purpose. These gadgets have features that put them in the middle of industrial-level and small-office printers. Not every unit is an all-in-one device, but the ones most suited for small businesses’ needs have been presented here. Brother label printers expand your options because of their unique features, so they are truly worth considering when choosing a label maker.

At this point, we have reviewed Zebra, Dymo and Brother label printers at length. They are three of the most popular brands in the market today. But how do they fare compared to their lesser known counterparts? We shall again discuss these different printers and more in future blogs.

 

enKo Products Provides Solutions to Your Labeling Needs

 

With original Brother labels being a little expensive, we can help significantly reduce your printing costs. If you haven’t tried enKo Products before, now is the best time to do it. We offer the following top-quality labels at affordable prices:

Try enKo Products today and see a huge difference!

 

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