The 10 Best Thermal Transfer Printers

video play icon

This wiki has been updated 16 times since it was first published in March of 2019. Whether you need to create asset tags, specimen labels, or any other long-lasting identification media, thermal transfer printers are your best option. Your text and bar codes will last well over a year and won't be susceptible to heat or sunlight, as with direct thermal labels. Although you'll have to periodically replace the ribbon, there's no need for expensive ink or toners with these options. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Zebra ZD500t

2. Zebra GX430T

3. Zebra ZT410

Editor's Notes

December 31, 2020:

Not to be confused with a thermal printer, which needs to be used with special thermochromic paper, these thermal transfer printers use a ribbon and a heated print head and can be used on a range of different media such as sticky labels, wristbands, and even heat shrink tubing. In this update, we made sure that the ranking includes models for a wide range of purposes, from smaller units ideal for home use or point of sale, to larger industrial-sized machines with a high throughput.

We added the Zebra ZD500t, because, while there are several other units from Zebra on the list, this model is a good all-round choice that combines a high output of six inches per second with a relatively small footprint. It also has built-in controls and a digital display, something only usually found on larger, more expensive models like the Zebra ZT410 and the Wasp WPL618. Also included is the Citizen America CL-S621 and the Sato CL6NX. The former is a versatile model that can be used in both direct thermal and thermal transfer modes and has a simple interface, whereas, the latter can be used as a stand-alone printer or easily connected to peripheral devices such as a barcode scanner or keypad,

April 18, 2019:

We ranked our selections based upon functionality, print quality and speed. Besides those, another major attribute you should keep in mind is printer footprint, which is tech-speak for how much space the printer will take up. Bulky models like the Sato CL4NX and Zebra ZT410 weigh over 30 pounds and only make sense for those who have high-volume printing needs. They also consume more power and are more expensive.

Desktop-sized printers like the Zebra GX430T are better suited for the more casual labelers among us.

Another crucial thing to pay attention to is what features are factory-built into a printer and what features require you to buy an accessory before you can take advantage of them. Some models require an adapter to be able to connect via Bluetooth, while the Wasp WPL618 requires you to buy a cutting mechanism separately.

4. Brother P-Touch Edge

5. Sato CL6NX

6. Wasp WPL618

7. TSC TTP-247

8. Brother PT-P950NW

9. Citizen America CL-S621

10. Zebra TLP2824 Plus

Chris Gillespie
Last updated by Chris Gillespie

Starting his career in the building industry, Chris built and managed a plumbing and heating company in northern England. After 13 years, seeking a more fulfilling lifestyle, he moved to southeast Asia, eventually settling in Vietnam, where he teaches writing and comprehension at a number of international universities. Drawing on his previous experience, and his passion for kitesurfing and windsurfing, Chris is knowledgeable in all things water related both recreationally and within the construction industry.

Thanks for reading the fine print. About the Wiki: We don't accept sponsorships, free goods, samples, promotional products, or other benefits from any of the product brands featured on this page, except in cases where those brands are manufactured by the retailer to which we are linking. For more information on our rankings, please read about us, linked below. The Wiki is a participant in associate programs from Amazon, Walmart, Ebay, Target, and others, and may earn advertising fees when you use our links to these websites. These fees will not increase your purchase price, which will be the same as any direct visitor to the merchant’s website. If you believe that your product should be included in this review, you may contact us, but we cannot guarantee a response, even if you send us flowers.