Magazine Article | April 25, 2013

Rugged 4-Inch Mobile Label Printers Product Review - Table Of Contents

Article by Mike Monocello, editor-in-chief
Testing by Paul Aldridge, sales manager, Paragon Print Systems

A VAR evaluates three 4-inch mobile label printers and shares the pros and cons of each.

A common printer in field service applications, the rugged 4-inch mobile label printer was a class of printers we were eager to test for VAR and ISV (independent software vendors) readers. For this review, we partnered with VAR Paragon Print Systems to leverage the company’s years of bar-coding expertise and facilities. To determine which printers to test, we relied on the results from January’s Best Channel Vendor survey. Using that survey data, which came from thousands of VARs and ISVs, we were able to narrow the field down to those printer manufacturers readers told us had the most reliable, feature-rich products. Using that data, we had a field of 11 potential manufacturers.

To determine our testing methodology, we had conversations with a handful of VARs, leaned on ScanSource’s resident bar-coding gurus, and sought advice from most of the 11 companies that could be included in the survey.

As our testing methodology became finalized, we then asked the manufacturers if they’d like to submit a product to be reviewed. If you read an early blog by me on this topic, you know that I was very disappointed in a handful of the companies we reached out to. Here’s how things washed out: Some companies just didn’t have a 4-inch rugged mobile label printer (understandable). Others had products but openly told me that they didn’t think they’d fare well in the review, or certain aspects of the review, because their products were outdated. So, if you’re wondering why your manufacturer of choice isn’t included in the review, rest assured it’s not that we didn’t ask. In the end, Datamax-O’Neil, Toshiba TEC, and Zebra submitted products for review.

Click Here To Read The Testing Methodology

-- Click Here To Read The Side-By-Side Product Comparison Article --


Individual Mobile Label Printer Product Reviews

 Datamax-O'Neil RL4

Datamax-O’Neil RL4

The Datamax-O’Neil printer has a large LCD display and was the only printer with battery life depicted as a percentage value on LCD display. Additionally, the RL4 displayed a warning on the LCD when the battery was close to needing to be charged.


Toshiba TEC B-EP4DL-GH40-QM-R

Toshiba TEC B-EP4

The Toshiba TEC EP4 printed 1,076 4” x 6” labels before the battery expired. The selected print speed was 4 ips, which is not user-changeable. Per Toshiba, the unit automatically varies speed depending on the print head temperature, environment temperature, battery voltage, printing ratio, and firmware setting. This proved to be true during testing, as it was the slowest printer overall. Again, consider that we weren’t testing overall speed of a batch print job, and that might not be important to you or your clients.


Zebra QLn420

Zebra QLn420

The Zebra QLn420 printed 1,100 4” x 6” labels (Walmart SCC-14) before the battery expired — the most labels of all three printers. The selected print speed was 3 ips and darkness was set to default. Aldridge reports that the printer pauses periodically when printing in batches to cool the print head. In fact, the VAR says that the Zebra unit paused more frequently than the other two units in batch printing mode. That said, remember that this isn’t typical operation for this type of printer, so the pausing could be a nonissue.