Criteria you should take into account
There is no such thing as a “best printer” to use with Proxyclick. The reason is that there are multiple criteria to assess printers, and printers score differently on these criteria. So the best printer for you will depend on the weight you give to the different criteria.
Those criteria are:
- Ease of setup and maintenance
- Badges supported
- Print quality
Cost is a combination of the printer itself and consumables (badge rolls + ink where relevant). Some would argue that the maintenance cost should also be included in the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). We capture this in the next criteria: ease of setup and maintenance (if it is low, you can expect more time spent by your IT installing and maintaining the printer connection).
Ease of setup and maintenance
Badges are primarily printed when visitors check in on the iPad (a small portion of our users also print from the Dashboard). Therefore, making the iPad communicate easily with the printer is key. In our experience, the easiest way to have the iPad communicate with the printer is to use Apple’s AirPrint® technology. AirPrint printers communicate directly with the iPad while non-AirPrint printers need to communicate with the iPad via an intermediary proxy (more complex network settings to install and maintain).
As you can expect, AirPrint-enabled printers will score higher on this dimension.
Type of badges supported
There are two main types of badges: paper and plastic. Paper badges can be adhesive, non-adhesive and of different sizes. Plastic badges are always the same type (credit card format, or CR80).
We chose to break down print quality in two: quality of text (all printers score at least OK on this) and quality of images (stronger differences appear on this dimension).
Some printers only print in black and white, making it impossible to print variable items in color. (You can still have fixed items like logo in color by printing in black and white on a pre-printed badge that contains your logo in color).
You’ll find many pictures of printed badges at the end of this article to help you assess their relative quality.
Speed can be important in busy receptions (or with impatient visitors …). We also looked at that dimension.
We reviewed 4 popular visitor badge printers that score quite differently on the different criteria and should cover most scenarios:
- Brother QL 820
- Zink (Sold as Zink hAppy in the US and as Brother VC-500W in Europe)
- Primera 500LX
- Evolis Primacy
Below table gives a summary of the review:
|Brother QL 820||Zink||Primera 500LX||Evolis|
|170 $||150 $||1,500 $||1,200 $|
|Cost 100 badges
|10 $||40 $||10 $||10 $|
|Cost 100 badges (ink)||–
(can be much lower if only logo in color)
|Full cost 3 years (based on 200 visitors per month)||900 $||3000 $||3000 $||3700 $|
|Proxyclick plan||Medium +||Medium +||Large +||Large +|
|Type badge||Paper (many options)||Paper (1 option)||Paper (many options)||Plastic|
|Quality image||Average (poor with pictures)||Good||Good||Good|
|Color printing||Only red (average quality; black and white badges offer better contrast)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Speed||5-10 s||30 s||10 s||15 s|
|Strong points||Affordable, reliable, relatively easy to set up and maintain
No ink cost (thermal printing)
Standard black and white badges offer good contrast for text
|Only printer that combines AirPrint and variable color printing
High quality of pictures
|High quality color badges||High quality color badges|
|Potential weaknesses||Quality of picture too low for some companies
Red and black badges have average color contrast
|Only 1 badge type
|Can require higher technical maintenance (due to network configuration)||Can require higher technical maintenance (due to network configuration)|
|Summary||The most widely used printer. Ideal if you do not need picture or variable color printing||A good choice if you need to print quality paper badges, especially at low volumes||A good choice if you need to print quality paper badges at high volume||A good choice if you need to print plastic badges|
As print quality is a subjective appreciation, you’ll find below some pictures so you can make up your own opinion.
Quality of black and white badges printed from the Brother QL 820 are of good quality as long as the design does not include pictures. As you can see below, text or even QR codes print well with this printer.
However, if you add the picture of the visitor, strong differences appear. As you can see below, pictures printed from the Brother QL 820 are of lower quality (especially when printed over AirPrint).
Below picture shows color badges printed from the Zink, Primera, and Evolis printers.
The Brother QL820 NW remains the most widely used printer in our client base. If you need a robust, affordable and easy-to-use printer for black and white badges that do not require a face picture, this printer is the obvious pick (whatever your volume).
If you need to print high quality pictures on the badge, you’ll need to opt for a color printer. The Zink printer is then a good choice as it is relatively easy to set up (thanks to AirPrint) and represents a small upfront cost.
If you need to manage high volumes of visitors (500 or more per iPad per month), the Zink may become too slow and too expensive (high variable cost). The Primera and Evolis printers are then good options.
We hope this review helps. Please get in touch in case you have any questions or if you want to share any feedback about the badge you are using. Thank you!