Zebra ZD Series Barcode Label Printer Review (Benefits, Features, & Cost)

Zebra ZD Series Barcode Label Printer Review (Benefits, Features, & Cost)

Label Printers | 12 May 2021

Posted by John Masica

Zebra ZD Series Barcode Label Printer Review (Benefits, Features, & Cost)

We have a team here at Computype that specializes in barcode label printers, printer processes, and printer troubleshooting. We work with a variety of makes and models from multiple manufacturers giving us a solid knowledge-base of a variety of printers and how they perform in different environments and in comparison to one another. One of the many label printer series our team has worked with is the Zebra ZD series.

As an authorized distributor and repair service provider of Zebra products, we actively promote and provide our customers with their products. We work with Zebra because after over 35 years of experience working with printers of all kinds, Zebra printers have consistently promised and delivered quality and high performance results that meet the needs of our customers.

Zebra Logo

What is the Zebra ZD Series?

The Zebra ZD series offers a broad range of capabilities for an even broader range of industries. It’s been introduced as an upgrade to the extremely popular GX and GK lines—so if you're looking to replace your Zebra desktop printer in the near future, the ZD series is worth considering.

Similar to the GX and GK series’, the only major limiting factor with this printer series is its application defining compact size. The “D” in ZD stands for desktop, meaning it’s a smaller printer intended for use on small to medium sized jobs—for larger jobs Zebra offers their tabletop ZT series.

Zebra ZD Features and Benefits

Zebra’s ZD desktop series is comprised of three subseries, the ZD200ZD400 and ZD600. All three are available in both direct thermal models and thermal transfer. Our review will focus on the thermal transfer versions of all three since it’s the preferred print technology in the industries we serve. In addition to print technology options, the three share several standard features including:

  • A compact clamshell design for space savings and easy reloading
  • Standard 203 dpi print resolution
  • A standard ½ Inch ribbon core (and an optional 1 inch ribbon core adapter on the ZD400 and ZD600 series models)
  • A floating print head design that helps the print head last longer
  • A moveable media sensor for increased media compatibility

How Much Does The Zebra ZD Series Cost?

Just as with any other printer, the ZD series printers, are available for purchase from several sources leading costs to vary. You could purchase one from an online retailer, a hardware reseller or a value partner. Where you choose to purchase your printer will play a major role in estimating your up-front costs.

Online retailers tend to offer the lowest prices and are able to do this by offering a limited warranty. They generally don’t offer any service options either.

Hardware resellers tend to offer a middle of the road option with varying warranty and service agreement options. Since there are so many options to choose from in this category it’s important to do your research to ensure you’re choosing the best package for your needs.

Your third option is to purchase from a value partner like Computype who will guarantee an extended warranty, quality validation and dedicated service. This option is higher in up front costs since your value partner will be offering services dedicated to ensuring you get the most out of your printer.

As a value partner, we ensure quality by taking every printer we sell out of the box, plugging it in and testing it out prior to fulfilling any order. We also offer extended warranties, printer maintenance and service for the extent of your service agreement to keep your printer in working order.

While paying less upfront can help you save now, a comprehensive warranty and service plan can reduce the amount you’ll spend in the future.

It’s also important to keep in mind that no matter where you choose to purchase your printer, any added features will add to the overall cost. For example the standard 203 dpi model with no add-ons will cost less than the 300 dpi model with an added cutter.

Now let’s take a look at each model in the series individually:

Basic Specs of the Zebra ZD220

ZD 220

Print method

Thermal Transfer or Direct Thermal

Print resolution

Standard: 203 dpi

Print speed

4 in/sec

Print width

4.09 in

Benefits and Features

The ZD220 is the most basic model in the ZD series. That said, the lack of bells and whistles serves as a point of differentiation that might appeal to some. This stripped down model continues to offer the same high performance quality Zebra is known for with standard 203 dpi image quality and 4 inches per second print speeds.

Minimalistic interface

Just like the GX430, this model features a simple single button interface with one LED light to indicate status. The minimalistic interface allows for simple operation and easy identification of printer status.

Compact

The 220 is a small printer, leaving plenty of room on desktops to perform other tasks. Its size also makes it easy to transport and store so you can use it on an as-needed basis.

Optional Peeler

A peeler can be added to this model for peel and present operation to reduce effort required during labeling.

Limitations

Changing settings is difficult

Though the minimalistic interface makes identification of status and operation simple, it does make set-up and setting adjustments a bit more complicated. Employees who are involved in adjusting printer settings or resolving errors should be trained to properly do so if you purchase this printer.

In the instance tampering is an issue in your facility, the ambiguity of the interface may actually serve as an advantage by deterring employees from interfering with printer settings. In this case you can train select employees to remedy errors and make setting adjustments.

Limited media capacity

This printer is relatively small and can’t hold large rolls of media. The ZD220 can carry a maximum of 5-inch media rolls and it can print up to 4.09 inches in width.

Limited image resolution

Although 203 dpi will produce visually pleasing, readable text and barcodes under most circumstances, very small imagery will not perform well under the limited resolution.

Cost

Due to its simplicity the ZD220 is being promoted as the value model of the ZD series. With its lack of excess features this model is able to offer the same durability and basic print quality as the rest of the series, but at a lower cost.

If your facility is looking for a basic barcode printer without any unnecessary flair, the ZD220 could offer a lot of value. Zebra is known for their high quality printers and by removing any superficial features they are able to offer a lower cost desktop printer without compromising on quality.

For reference, we’ll mention that Zebra is listing the direct thermal model of the ZD220 for $550, and the thermal transfer model at $650. As mentioned previously prices can vary depending on where you purchase your printer and whether or not you add the optional peeler.

Basic Specs of the Zebra ZD420

Zebra ZD 420

Print method

Thermal transfer or Direct Thermal

Print resolution

Standard: 203 dpi

Optional: 300 dpi

Print speed

6 in/sec for 203 dpi printer

4 in/sec for 300 dpi printer

Print width

4.09 in for 203 dpi printer

4.27 in for 300 dpi printer

Benefits and Features

The ZD421 is a recent improvement upon the previous model—the ZD420. The most significant differences between the 421 and 420 are the new media guide and media handling options for improved media flexibility.

There are two versions of the ZD421, the standard ZD421 and the ZD421 HC (HC stands for healthcare). Both versions have a very similar set of features and benefits, however the ZD421 HC includes a white plastic exterior that is able to withstand harsh sanitization processes common in the healthcare field. The following features are shared between both models of the ZD421:

User friendly interface

As an upgrade to the single button and single light interface featured on the 220 model, the ZD421 has 3 buttons and 5 LED status icons. The icons light up to indicate the printer status and the buttons allow for much easier operation and setting adjustments in comparison to the 220.

Print

Another differentiating feature between the ZD421 and the 220 is the print quality and speed. Though the 421 comes standard with the same 203 dpi print quality as the 220, the option to upgrade to 300 dpi is available with the 421. The 421 also offers 6 inches per second print speeds on the 203 dpi model, and 4 inches per second speeds on the 300 dpi model.

Easy Maintenance

Both the print head and the dry roller were designed to easily pop in and out of the printer without the use of tools. The intuitive process allows for easy replacement of parts if needed.

Peeling and Cutting Options

Just like the 220, the ZD421 can be purchased with an optional peeler. In addition to the peeler option the ZD421 also features the option to add a cutter for improved application simplicity and speeds.

Limitations                                

Not suitable for small scale printing

300 dpi will work great for most applications, the only exception being very small scale printing. An example would be a half-inch 2D barcode for the bottom of a vial, something like that may require 600 dpi. If you’re in need of a printer for small scale label printing we recommend the cab MACH 4s.

The cutter isn’t very strong

Including a cutter on your printer can make your processes run much smoother, however, if you’re going with the ZD421 (or the ZD621) you will need to keep in mind whether it is suitable for your purposes.

This cutter is not heavy duty and will likely struggle to cut through labels or heavy duty-liners. We specifically don’t recommend using this cutter with poly liners. Over time, this can lead to damage which may require servicing or replacing your cutter.

If you choose to add the cutter to your ZD series printer we recommend you cut through the liner only and ensure you’re using a liner that’s compatible with the cutter. If you’re using poly liners or your liner is thicker than most it may be necessary to find an alternative cutting option or consider trying the peeler option instead.

Cost

The ZD421 is the middle of the road option in the ZD printer series. The main thing that sets this one apart from the 220 is the many opportunities for upgrades. A number of features can be added to increase ease of use, print quality, and it’s compatibility with healthcare environments. The variety of optional features and accessories creates a wide range in pricing.

To get an idea of how much the ZD421 costs and how add-ons affect that price, Zebra is listing the standard model at $695, and $740 with the added peeler. Keep in mind these are only list prices. Added warranties, service contracts, features or discounts will all impact the pricing depending on how you want your model to function and where you purchase it.

Basic Specs of the Zebra ZD620

Zebra ZD 620

Print method

Thermal transfer or Direct Thermal

Print resolution

Standard: 203 dpi

Optional: 300 dpi

Print speed

8 in/sec for 203 dpi printer

6 in/sec for 300 dpi printer

Print width

4.09 in for 203 dpi printer

4.27 in for 300 dpi printer

Benefits and Features

Just like the ZD421, the ZD621 is an upgrade to a previous ZD series model—the ZD620. It, like the 421 is also available in both the standard model and a healthcare model (ZD621 HC) that can withstand common medical sanitization processes.

Additionally, the ZD621 offers a number of added features, more than any other model in the ZD series, which is why Zebra is calling it their “performance” model.

High speed printing

With print speeds of up to 8 inches per second on the standard model (6 inches per second on the 300 dpi model) the ZD621 can increase efficiency in a variety of applications. Whether you’re labeling tubes, boxes or books, you won’t be waiting for your printer to catch up while you work.

Easy transition

The ZD621 is backwards compatible with almost any desktop printer. Zebra’s Print DNA Tool Suite is able to support languages that are normally associated with other, non-Zebra, printers simplifying your transition no matter your existing print strategy.

Makes it easy to go green 

If your facility is looking for a greener print solution the ZD621 may serve as a good choice. Optional configurations allow the 621 to accommodate liner-less media so you can print more labels per roll while reducing waste. It should be kept in mind that if you do decide to use liner-less media in your ZD621, it must be properly matched to the platen in order to avoid damage. Zebra offers a variety of liner-less media that are supported by the ZD621.

Additionally, the ZD621 can be set up to include Bluetooth low energy mode if one of your facilities green goals is to be more energy efficient.

Optional 10 button LCD interface

Although it comes standard with the same 3 button/5 LED icon interface as the 421, the ZD621 features the option to upgrade the interface to include 10 buttons and a small LCD screen. The screen can clearly display the printer status where it can be seen from a distance. Plus, in combination with the buttons, the screen allows for easy interaction, simplifying set-up and adjustments for operators of any knowledge level.

Capable of incorporating RFID

Another optional feature is the ability to incorporate encoding. RFID enhanced barcode labels can allow for increased process compatibility, efficiency and security making them an excellent option for high value samples.

Limitations

Still no 600 DPI option

Just like the other two printers in this series, the ZD621 does not offer 600 dpi print resolution. In lieu of increased print quality the ZD621 offers increased print speeds, while offering the same print quality options as the ZD421. Though 300 dpi is an adequate image resolution in most applications, it isn’t suited for small scale printing.

Too many buttons can be confusing… or put control in the wrong hands

While the optional interface may make certain processes easier, it may overcomplicate others or allow too much freedom to alter settings that are best kept consistent.

It’s still a low volume printer

Despite the fast print speeds, the ZD621 remains a low volume printer. Though low volume printers are ideal in low volume print situations, they aren’t necessarily for everyone. The mechanics of the printer were not designed to run 24/7 and the media capacity won’t allow it without frequent media replacements. The media chamber on the ZD621 can only contain rolls up to 5 inches, meaning higher volume applications will require frequent reloading.

Cost

Due to the variety of high tech, efficiency boosting and green options available with this model, Zebra is calling the ZD621 the performance model of the series, bringing it up to the highest price tier of the series. Just like the ZD220 and 421, the range of optional features and supplier sources has a great effect on the pricing so you’ll want to research before buying to ensure you choose the package that offers your facility the most value.

Just to get an idea, Zebra is listing the standard ZD621 model at around $895 and $940 with an added peeler. When considering purchasing any printer, this model especially, it’s important to consider which features will offer the most value to you. Extraneous features that don’t offer value may lead to unnecessary up-front costs, and missing out on the right warranty or service contract might lead to avoidable future costs.

Zebra’s Recommendations to GX430, ZD420 and ZD620 Owners

GX430 Owners:

One of Zebra’s top selling printers that many of our own customers use is the GX430. Zebra initially designed the ZD620, and later the ZD621, with GX430 owners in mind and added a series of upgraded features they feel would benefit the average GX430 owner. For this reason, they recommend the ZD621 as the direct replacement to the GX430.

As a Zebra partner, we support this opinion. Many of our customers currently utilizing the GX430 would benefit greatly from upgrading to a ZD621, however we also recommend taking a hard look at your processes with your printer supplier to see if the upgraded features of the ZD 621 will offer value to your facility. After taking an in depth look at your needs you may find that the ZD421, or even a ZD220 will serve as a satisfactory replacement.

Keep in mind, that there is no rush to replace your GX series printer. As long as your service contract or warranty is still in action you will have access to repairs on your GX or GK printers. Also keep in mind that Zebra printers are known for their durability—they are truly built to last—so your GX or GK series printer may still have a lot of life left after your contracts expire.

ZD420 and ZD620 Owners:

Considering how recently the ZD series was released, you certainly have a lot of life left in your ZD420 or 620 printer. Parts will still be available and you most likely have plenty of time left on any extended warranties. There is no need to feel any rush to replace your printer.

However, if you’re looking for a secondary printer to run alongside your 420 or 620, or are already considering an upgrade the ZD421 is comparable to the ZD420 and the ZD621 to the ZD620.

ZD Series Applications

Just like the GX and GK series, the ZD series was built to run in a diverse array of environments. From healthcare laboratories and industrial warehouses to library counters and retail check-outs—the ZD series is capable of running just about any batch-printing job. Here are a few examples of applications we’ve seen:

Our Final Verdict on the Zebra ZD Series

Feature

Zebra
GX430t

Zebra
ZD220

Zebra
ZD421

Zebra
421HC

Zebra
ZD620

Zebra
ZD620HC

Print
Resolution

300 dpi 203 dpi

203 dpi or 300dpi

203 dpi or 300 dpi

203 dpi or 300 dpi

203 dpi or 300 dpi

Print Speed 4 in/sec 4 in/sec

4 in/sec or
6 in/sec

4 in/sec or
6 in/sec

4 in/sec or
8 in/sec

4 in/sec or
8 in/sec

Interface

Minimalistic but slightly complicated

Minimalistic but slightly complicated

Minimalistic and user friendly

Minimalistic and user friendly

User friendly and clear

User friendly and clear

Media Sensor Optional

Standard Feature

Standard Feature

Standard Feature

Standard Feature

Standard Feature

Withstands Sanitization

Yes, with damage over time

Yes, with damage over time

Yes, with damage over time

Yes

Yes, with damage over time

Yes

RFID

No

No

No

No

Optional

Optional

 

Despite the series’ great reputation, Zebra plans to discontinue the GX and GK printers in the next year to accommodate changing technology. The ZD series is considered to be a direct replacement to the GX and GK series, and with similar functions and features we believe it definitely fulfills that role.

Our team of printer experts wholly support both the GX and ZD series with the same enthusiasm. The ZD series are small but versatile printers that can accommodate labeling needs in a broad range of industries and we recommend them to anyone currently using a GX series (or other small desktop printer) looking for a replacement or an upgrade.

As a value partner offering print solutions from a variety of manufacturers to customers from a range of industries around the globe, we feel our goal is to help match your needs with the right printer. We hope this review helped you to narrow down your printer options so you can find the best match for your facility.

To learn more about Computype’s versatile labeling options, arrange a call back from one of our printer experts

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John Masica

Based in St. Paul, MN, USA, John Masica is Computype’s Technical Support Specialist. Specializing in label printer maintenance and engineering, John is the go-to person for all things label printing. Through his 24 years here at Computype, he has learned many tips and tricks to make your label printing easier and more efficient.