Can a Thermal Label Printer Replace Your Inkjet or Laser Printer?

Rollo Wireless Printer
The Rollo Wireless Printer has Wi-Fi and can connect to mobile phones, computers and tablets without cables. TYLER HAYES

A while ago I got rid of my inkjet printer in favor of a laser printer. Doing this was such a great life hack for this digital native who doesn't print photos and only really needs the convenience of printing shipping labels and the occasional document for signatures. Instead of measuring the life of ink cartridges in months, the laser printer allowed me to measure the life of toner in literal years.

My next attempt at leveling up my printing game was to try a thermal label printer. If you're unfamiliar, a thermal printer doesn't use any ink at all; it's process is akin to burning-in on special paper. My job is unique in that I'm constantly sending products back and forth, so the majority of my printing needs revolve around shipping labels. But I've noticed that my wife's printing needs over the last several years have also become primarily shipping labels, too. Anyone buying a majority of their goods online may also be in the same boat.

I decided to give the Rollo Wireless Printer a chance to see if it could handle all my shipping label needs and to see if this was a viable option for other people to consider, as well. The end result is that this category of product isn't for casual consumers, at least not yet. The good news is that this Rollo Wireless label printer is excellent for anyone with a business, from new creators to established small businesses, and those regularly shipping out goods.

TL;DR

Pros:

  • Excellent mobile app for iOS and Android
  • Integrated services for commerce platforms
  • Wireless connection was fast and reliable

Cons:

  • No paper feeder or tray

Buy at Rollo.

Rollo Wireless Printer Features

I scoured the internet in search of a consumer-friendly thermal label printer but came up with very few options. These devices are primarily aimed at businesses, small and large. There are some low-cost options, but they don't have Wi-Fi or support mobile devices well. There are others that do have wireless connectivity but are expensive and still not really meant for full-featured app use.

Rollo, on the other hand, is the most consumer-geared thermal label printer I've seen. More creators and individuals are beginning to handle their own commerce so it makes sense that they would need a convenient way to create and print shipping labels to mail out merchandise or other goods.

The Rollo Wireless Printer has Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth, and can print natively from iOS, Android, Chromebooks, Windows and Mac. The printer can accommodate different size labels between 1.57 inches and 4.1 inches wide—with no height restriction. The Rollo Wireless Printer also works with any Direct Thermal Label, so you don't need to buy special labels from the company.

Rollo Wireless Printer
The Rollo Wireless Printer is compact and attractive, but it doesn't come with a paper tray or spool to hold the blank labels. TYLER HAYES

In terms of things it's lacking, there's no paper tray or label feeder. There are add-ons you can buy, but out of the box, you'll need to find a way to set the labels behind the printer.

Rollo for Business Use

Rollo Wireless Printer
The Rollo Wireless Printer opens with the press of a single button. TYLER HAYES

The real benefit of using a label printer like this is for businesses to handle shipping outgoing orders. This Rollo printer supports ShipStation, ShippingEasy, Shippo and ShipWorks, among other software. It also has its own free software called Rollo Ship Manager.

Rollo Ship Manager will let you receive orders from well-established commerce platforms like Amazon, but it can also handle shipping payment and scheduling pickups.

To be more specific, there are currently 13 selling channels that you can log into to connect with using Rollo Ship Manager. These include Amazon, eBay, Shopify, Etsy, Squarespace, Walmart, WooCommerce, Big Cartel, Wix and more. UPS and USPS are the available shipping options currently in the app, too.

Testing the Rollo app on an iOS device, I was impressed with its build quality. Instead of software that felt old or neglected, the Rollo app is modern and responsive. It's easy to use and full of convenient features, including being able to schedule free USPS pickups right in the app. The free web-based Ship Manager is also well done, in my opinion.

Rollo Wireless Printer
The Rollo Wireless Printer works well for 4 inch by 6 inch shipping labels, but it can handle smaller ones, too. TYLER HAYES

Adapting a Thermal Label Printer for Personal Use

I'm not running a business, but I do ship a fair amount of boxes. The challenge for consumers printing shipping labels is that those are provided in all kinds of shapes, sizes and even orientations. It would be nice if there were a way for consumers to easily crop and print return labels on these thermal printers, but that doesn't seem to exist yet.

The easiest way to print a shipping label from your mobile phone is to take a screenshot of it. A lot of labels come on a page full of other text, so you'll need to pinch and zoom with your fingers to position the label to crop out all the excess. Tapping the share icon and selecting print will automatically adjust that screenshot to fit the default 4 inch by 6 inch labels.

Rollo Wireless Printer
The Rollo Wireless Printer is a thermal printer designed for shipping labels, but it can print anything sent to it—including this picture of itself. TYLER HAYES

Sometimes you'll need to save a PDF and then rotate it with your fingers before taking a screenshot. Again, none of this is particularly ideal, but it will work. Is this better than a cheap laser printer? Probably not for most people. I didn't mind the hassle though, because it meant I didn't have to waste an 8.5 inch by 11 inch sheet of paper and lots of tape each time.

It should be noted: While thermal printers like this Rollo one are geared toward shipping labels, they can print anything that is sent to them.

Should You Buy the Rollo Printer?

Thermal label printers are a product category that seems ripe for modernization. Rollo appears to be the first product to really put in the work and make the hardware and software experience easy to use with the devices that people use regularly, primarily their mobile phones and tablets.

The Rollo Wireless Printer is sleek and attractive, plus its setup was simple and its Wi-Fi connection was always reliable for me. Its Rollo Ship Manager software seems to be well maintained and is pleasant to use. The price is more expensive than a standard wired thermal printer, but I think the Wi-Fi on this device provides is well worth the cost. (Rollo also makes a cheaper, wired version if you really don't need Wi-Fi.) Any entrepreneur and small business owner frustrated by outdated label printing should definitely give the Rollo Wireless Printer a look.

For general consumers looking for a simple way to cut down on ink and paper waste when they print shipping labels, this probably isn't the solution. But it definitely can be made to work if you really want it to.

Buy at Rollo for $279.99.

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