You don’t have to look any further than the $725 price to know that the Epson LabelWorks LW-Z5010PX, the company’s flagship industrial label maker, is more capable than most businesses need. It’s aimed primarily at laboratories, data centers, or electrical and similar applications. It’s also well-suited to printing barcodes for enterprise asset management. Anyone who needs to print wide labels or prints enough for the lower running cost of bulk rolls to save money should find it appealing. And Epson’s lifetime warranty means you won’t need to buy a replacement if it breaks.
What’s in the Kit? You Decide
The LW-Z5010PX is one of two models with nearly identical print capabilities. The difference between it and the LW-Z5000PX is that only the LW-Z5010PX adds a keyboard and screen for standalone printing. If you don’t need to print on the go, or are just as happy to print from a phone or tablet when away from a computer, the less-expensive LW-Z5000PX will give you the same features. Epson says the two match point-for-point otherwise, so aside from pricing, size, and weight (plus the standalone-printing aspect), all the comments here should hold true for both.
Epson sells the LW-Z5010PX in a choice of kits. The $725 standard kit includes the printer, its AC adapter, one 22.9-foot tape cartridge, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, a USB cable, and an external mount for bulk tapes, which are 147.6 feet long for most continuous tapes. Other kits, ranging from $845 to $999, add accessories you can buy separately as well, including some combination of an extra battery, a bulk roll, a bulk rewinder, and, in one case, a whole other printer—the LW-PX700—complete with a case. And that’s not just any printer. The LW-PX700 is our top-pick industrial label printer for moderate to heavy-duty use.
With its top cover closed, the 6.0-by-7.6-by-7.8 inch (HWD) LW-Z5010PX does a good imitation of a gray lunchbox without a handle, except for the vertical output slot in front and a slot in back, where bulk labels feed in. An indentation on the top near the back can serve as a handle, but at 7.1 pounds, it’s not comfortable to carry that way. If you want to take it outside the building, a better choice would be to find an appropriate case to carry it in.
Opening the top cover transforms the printer from looking like a lunchbox to looking like a shrunken computer terminal, complete with a QWERTY keyboard and screen plus assorted function keys. Standalone printing options, from changing font size to adding a barcode or serial number to storing or retrieving labels (you can store up to 100), are handled through a combination of the function keys and touch-screen commands.
The keyboard measures about 5.5 inches across the QWERTY layout, not including the Enter key, which makes it a lot easier than a cell phone for big fingers to type on. The touch-screen control panel, which also shows the label you’re creating or about to print, is huge for a label printer, at 4.25 inches diagonally.
Bulk Rolls or Tape Cartridges? Take Your Pick
Setting up the printer when using a tape cartridge is simple. Insert the cartridge, install the battery, and plug in the AC adapter as appropriate. The adapter both charges the battery and boosts speed, so you’ll want to use it when you can. Epson says that battery life varies with tape width, but when fully charged, it will last through 6.5 cartridges of 30-foot long, 1.42-inch-wide tape. You can also buy spare batteries for $79 each.
Setup with a bulk roll takes a little more work. The roll kits consist of both the roll itself, which sits outside the printer, and a separate piece that goes inside, exactly the way a cartridge would. The tape comes already connected between the two. The external mounting stand for the roll is basically a flat piece of plastic that goes behind the printer, and has a mount for the roll itself.
One choice for a bulk roll is to take both parts out of the box, insert the piece that goes inside, and mount the outside piece on the stand, being careful to drop the tape into the printer’s rear feed slot. If you’ll be changing back and forth between different tapes, however, you might prefer to keep the roll itself in the box, especially since the stand is designed to hold it. The box has precut pop-outs for the spots where the roll will fit on the mount and where the tape can thread though that side of the box. To set it up, you take both parts out of the box, pop out the precut pieces, position the box on the stand, then mount the roll and insert the other piece in the printer, like so…
Be Kind, Please Rewind
Another step you might or might not need is adding the automatic rewinder, which is helpful if you often print enough labels at once that it becomes a chore to rewind the printed tape manually after printing. To attach the auto rewinder, you remove a small cover on the bottom front of the printer to reveal gears that mesh with the rewinder, which fits into place easily with a snap. When you start a print job, the printer will print enough labels to give you a lead you can insert into the rewinder’s core, then pause. When you’re done inserting the lead, you tap a continue button on the touch screen, and let the winding begin. In my tests, the feature worked as promised. It unquestionably saves time compared with rewinding a long strip of labels by hand.
Of course, the key issue for any label printer is whether it can print the kind of labels you need. Odds are pretty good that the LW-Z5010PX can, thanks to having roughly 150 cartridges and 35 bulk rolls to choose from. Label widths range from 0.16 inch to 1.97 inches. Types include standard plastic (polyester), vinyl, fluorescent, reflective, strong adhesive, and magnetic. Heat-shrink tube and self-laminating overwrap tapes for cables also work. Most tapes are continuous, so you can print as long or short a label as needed. However, some bulk tapes offer pre-cut sizes of the shrink tube and self-laminating options.
For each category of tape, the length, pricing, and number of choices varies. For the continuous rolls, the price per label will depend on the label size. However, Epson says that using bulk rolls will save about 30% in running costs compared with cartridges, which are the only choice with Epson’s less-expensive models and with most competition.
Beyond Standalone: Print From Your PC, Phone, or Tablet
In addition to standalone printing, you can print labels with the LW-Z5010PX using Epson’s Label Editor for Windows, or Label Editor Mobile for iOS and Android. I did the majority of my tests using both standalone printing and the Windows program, which I found easier to use than the mobile apps. The program also adds some important extra features, from the ability to print using any Windows font to the ability to print a set of labels with variable data stored in a spreadsheet. In addition, the program installs with a standard Windows driver, which lets you print labels from virtually any Windows program.
Epson rates the LW-Z5010PX at 1.97 inches per second (ips) with AC power. In our tests, however, the LW-Z5010PX didn’t come as close to its print-speed rating as many other industrial label printers did. For each test, it was faster than the 1.18ips-rated LW-PX700, but slower than the 1.38ips-rated Epson LW-PX900, our top pick for heavy-duty handheld label makers.
In my tests using AC power and standalone printing, the LW-Z5010PX printed four copies of a 3.7-inch label with the text “PCMag Label Printer Test” at a measured 1.01ips. That was with automatic cutting turned off; the printer managed 0.8ips when set to cut after each label. It managed 0.77ips when set to half-cuts, which leaves the labels on a continuous strip of backing material, so you can remove them one at a time later when applying them. Speeds were the same whether using cartridges or bulk rolls, but printing from a computer over either a network or USB connection was only about 90% to 95% as fast as standalone printing, depending on the test. The speed also dropped to about two-thirds as fast when using battery power, and can vary depending on the type of tape.
Even at its slowest, however, the speed is fast enough for most purposes. And half-cutting, which not all printers offer, saves a lot of time when you’re applying the labels, making it easier to peel the labels off the backing. Note, as well, that the 300dpi resolution is higher than what many label printers offer, and it delivered all the quality you need for labeling.
Verdict: It Comes Down to the Tape Width
There are two primary reasons to consider the LW-Z5010PX: You need to print wide labels, or you print enough that you can save money or time by taking advantage of the bulk rolls. If you don’t need to print anything wider than 1.42 inches, the LW-PX900, our recommended handheld label printer for heavy-duty use, could do the job for less initial cost. If you don’t need anything wider than 0.94 inch, our pick for moderate to heavy-duty use, the Epson LabelWorks LW-PX400, will save you even more.
If you need to print 2-inch-wide labels, you’ll also want to take a look at the BradyPrinter M611, which can similarly work as either a standalone printer or let you print from your PC or mobile device. However, you’ll need to compare the list of available label types to see which printer matches your needs. Between them, the LW-Z5010PX is the only one that offers printing on bulk rolls. And whatever width you need, if you print enough labels, the savings on running costs with bulk rolls could pay for the higher price of the LW-Z5010PX compared with any of these other printers.
Keep in mind, also, that if you don’t need the standalone, key-it-in-on-QWERTY printing, the LW-Z5000PX could work, as it otherwise offers all the same features as the LW-Z5010PX. If you want the benefit of bulk rolls, either one could be the right printer. But if having standalone printing is non-negotiable, the LW-Z5010PX is the obvious choice.
Epson LabelWorks LW-Z5010PX
The Bottom Line
The Epson LabelWorks LW-Z5010PX boasts all the capabilities most companies need for printing industrial labels, making it a top-flight heavy-duty label maker.
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