The secret is out!
I got a first look at a pre-production model of this printer a few months ago but made a promise to keep my mouth shut about it. To be honest I’m not a huge fan of Dymo. I have a LabelWriter on my desk but I’ll always use the Brother QL-560 next to it. The software is slow and just isn’t flexible enough. None of their printers are smart enough to automatically know what label you’ve put in it so you have to tell it and only one model has an automatic cutter, the LabelManager 500TS. So it’s no wonder I didn’t have high hopes when I heard about new models coming out. That was unfair as I didn’t hear any specifications about it.
I was very impressed at the design of it. I was shocked by its size but it all made sense when I saw it can take tape sizes as wide as 54mm, has a QWERTY keyboard and a colour touchscreen. All this information impressed me. Don’t get me wrong, it is a big unit and I wouldn’t so much call it hand-held but more hands-held and on the verge of being a desktop printer. It has a small handle at the base of it so it’s easy to carry one-handed but holding while using it is a task in itself. Unfortunately this printer doesn’t have any form of label grabber so if you are printing labels while holding it, be ready to catch them.
- 11cm (96 x 56mm) colour touchscreen
- QWERTY keyboard
- Long life 14.8V 2000mAh Li-Po battery
- Tapes from 6mm to a whopping 54mm
- Continuous vinyl, polyester, heat shrink, self-laminating, pre-cut sizes and coloured safety tapes available
- Automatic electric cutter
- Automatic tape detection
- Very intuitive built-in software
- PC connectivity + import own logos
- Nice case
|Clicky QWERTY keyboard||Power-on speed|
|Colour touch screen||You might require a stylus for the screen|
|Huge selection of materials, sizes and colours of labels||Big, bulky, heavy|
|Automatic electric cutter||Will require TLC so as not to damage it|
|Wastes less tape than competitors||Fragile screen might damage easily|
One very subtle thing I noticed when I first switch it on is the small glimpse of a mouse cursor for about a second before it disappeared into the DYMO logo. Considering how powerful this system is I would happily bet that this printer is not running its own firmware and software like previous printers and their competitors, but more a Linux based OS with the software embedded right into it.
The keyboard actually acts more like a keyboard you get on a computer, such as holding shift and pressing an arrow button to select text. The keyboard is really nice to type on as it’s clicky so you get nice tactile feedback when typing. Weirdly though the buttons don’t move much and are more surface buttons than the type of buttons I’ve ever used for a keyboard.
Another subtle thing is the shift key can either be a toggle to turn on and off or push and hold. You can switch by either pressing it once to toggle it on (it automatically goes off after any other key press) or holding it to hold it on. It’s only a tiny feature but it makes a world of difference.
The screen is a resistive touchscreen meaning there is a thin film over it which registers your touch. These types of touchscreen are not usually the best and are usually disliked. On this screen the film is very thin and very close to the glass. You can easily use your fingers or a stylus without having to put much pressure on it at all.
The backlight brightness of the screen can be adjusted from full brightness down to 10% in steps of 1% so you can always get the best screen brightness for your current environment while not draining the battery so quickly.
It has an auto-off function which is set to 10 minutes by default but can be adjusted to just 1 minute or to never switch off automatically. To power cycle it you hold the power button until the screen goes blank for off or lights up for on. After switching it on it takes only 30 seconds to get to the last screen you were on which is quite fast considering it appears to have an actual OS to boot. Pressing the power button quickly will sleep/wake the printer. Tapping the screen or any other button will wake the printer from sleep.
When you press the print button there’s a delay before it actually starts printing but once it starts it’s nice and fast. The gears on the cutter sound a little unhealthy from other printers I’ve used but it does a nice crisp straight line. Unfortunately it doesn’t do a part cut for if you’re printing a long string of labels. But on the upside it does use all the label and doesn’t waste 20mm at the start of each one like its competitors. It lacks a label grabber so your labels are going to fall to the ground unless you’re going to catch them or hold the printer at an angle.
Polyester, vinyl, die cut, continuous, heat shrink, colour printed templates, self laminating wire wraps. I think that’s enough said. If there’s something you want that isn’t in the list then you’re looking at the wrong printer. One thing that is odd though is that the die cut labels still have the waste material left over. That is to say that around each label is the leftover material that should have been removed after cutting. I can only guess it’s to prolong the life of the cutter, print head or roller but personally I would have thought the opposite.
Fortunately the cutter is replaceable should it ever get blunt. I have no idea of the price of availability but I can tell you it’s really easy to swap over. Just don’t touch the blades as they are very sharp. Maybe the ones you’re removing won’t be sharp but new ones are razor sharp.
Back to the tapes. The cartridges themselves are very unique. Unlike other DYMO tapes, Brother TZe and MK, Casio and Brady, the XTL cartridges are double sided. That is to say they are completely symmetrical. Instead of designing the printer around the tapes, they’ve designed the tapes around the printers. The XTL 500 takes the tapes one way around and the XTL 300 takes them the other way (flipped over). The casual observer wouldn’t have spotted this and it makes no difference either way to the general user but I spotted it straight away.
Now to the on screen stuff. It’s clean and clear. Everything has a nice layout. When scrolling it can be a little stuttery but I can forgive that. On some menus they’ve added a fade effect to the top and bottom which can overlap menu items at the top and bottom of the list; this might make it a little tricky to read.
The consistency is a miss though as some dialog boxes with have a “Done” button at the top and others will have the button at the bottom. Creating a barcode left me looking around for a little while on how to save my settings until I spotted it where I expected an “X” to be to close it.
Absolutely fantastic printer. Nice to have a massive selection of consumables without being overwhelmed. A touch screen really helps with production and design of labels when you don’t have a mouse. We’re starting to see more and more printers come out with a QWERTY keyboard which is great that they’re going to the effort of making regional printers instead of an ABC keyboard for the majority of the world. The automatic cutter is a really nice addition and it doesn’t really matter that it doesn’t do part cut, it wastes far less material per tape than some of the competitive models. Seems to have a great battery life. The keyboard feel could have been better and on-screen UI needs polishing so I’m deducting points for that. This is my favourite printer for 2015 and other than maybe the price I don’t see why these aren’t flying off the shelves. I give the Dymo XTL 500 a very high 8 out of 10.