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Some products never make it into the magazine’s review well because they don’t quite fit our editorial focus. Brother’s P-Touch QL-550 kick-ass label printer is one. I use this little printer nearly every day. I used its cheaper stable mate—the P-Touch QL-500—for several years until it finally broke after falling off my desk for the umpteenth time (I was constantly getting my foot tangled around its USB cable. Needless to say, I put the new printer in a different location.)
The two printers are nearly identical; in fact, the only difference is that the QL-550 has an electric cutter; you pull a lever on the cheaper model. Two things make these printers so cool: They come with terrific software for creating custom labels, and Brother sells a huge variety of label stock. Drop a roll of labels into the printer, the device automatically detects the label’s dimensions and type (die cut, continuous, etc.) and sends this information to the software.
When you launch the P-touch Editor software, you can either create a custom label or use one of the two-dozen pre-made layouts (Brother seems to have thought of every possibility, ranging from simple mailing labels to labels for magneto-optical media). You can type your information directly in there, add clip art or create your own, or even capture any image on your screen, scale it, and paste it in. I used this capture-and-paste feature to create a shipping label complete with the Maximum PC logo.
Both printers use a thermal print mechanism, so the adhesive-backed labels are the only consumables you need to buy. A 300-label roll of the 62x100mm labels I use sells for $15. The label cutter on the QL-550 is handy, but unless you’re printing hundreds of labels at a time, it’s really not worth the $70 price premium over the QL-500.