If you create only the occasional label for files or objects, you can probably get by with one of the many sub-$100 label printers on the market. But if your business-labeling needs are more complex--for instance, you require support for bar codes or for multiple users who use different types of labels--the Dymo LabelManager 500TS could justify its admittedly high price ($200 on Dymo's site as of July 19, 2012, though you can find it for significantly less at some online retailers).
The new high-end entry in Dymo's line of electronic label printers, the LabelManager 500TS is roughly the size of a standard desktop office phone and functions capably either on its own or as a computer printer. The unit connects to a PC or Mac via its included USB cable, and it uses Dymo D1 tape cassettes (clear plastic and paper) in widths ranging from 0.25 inch to 1 inch. The labeling tape costs roughly $20 for a 23-foot roll (or less, if purchased in quantity).
Dymo's website provides free labeling software that includes the drivers required for computer use. In my tests, installation of the software on a Windows 7 laptop went smoothly and took only a few minutes. After that, I found creating and printing labels to be a breeze, whether I worked within the Dymo application or used third-party software such as Microsoft Office applications. During installation, the software lets you opt to set up QuickBooks integration, a useful feature if you're planning to label products that you sell.
Of course, you can buy a PC label printer for a lot less than $200. But the LabelManager 500TS's principal selling point is its bright 2-by-4-inch color touchscreen, which makes the unit easier to use as a stand-alone tool for label creation and management.
The LabelManager 500TS runs on a lithium polymer battery pack. When you power on the unit for the first time, pop-up windows ask you to specify your language and to verify the width of your labels; after that, the home screen displays an image of the most recently used label with six large icons underneath. From left to right, these icons allow you to begin a new label; edit the current label; open a previously created label; view labels or clip art that you downloaded from your computer when the device was connected via USB; adjust settings for language, fonts, label size, and the like; and manage user accounts.
The Dymo LabelManager 500TS's label-creation tools are impressive. In addition to making text labels that you type on the unit's hardware QWERTY keyboard and customize with a dozen or so fonts, borders, and graphic elements, the LabelManager 500TS can create bar codes to several standards, as well as automatically generate numbers, dates, and other such items. The display shows an accurate preview of your creation, and the 300-dots-per-inch printouts look exceptionally sharp. Once you press the print button, the unit takes only a few seconds to produce the labels.
You'll find a character map for adding symbols as well as letters with diacritical marks and foreign alphabets. You can save several dozen labels for repeated use, and even create different folders to save them in. You can register half a dozen or so user accounts, and save labels and label-format preferences to each account. I was surprised, however, at the lack of support for account password protection or any other settings.
You can set the LabelManager 500TS to snip completed labels automatically as you print them; otherwise, you can cut them manually simply by pushing the scissors button to the left of the display. When the unit is connected to a computer, you can set up an account for printing postage.
The LabelManager 500TS has a hardware navigation keypad underneath the display; sitting in between are buttons for powering on the device, bringing up the home screen, zooming in on labels, and initiating printouts. Note, though, that the hardware navigation buttons don't work with menus; rather, they primarily control cursor movement in label text.
I have a few minor quibbles. First, while the touchscreen navigation works very well for selection by tapping, I found it less easy to use for scrolling through menus. Scrolling smoothly and stopping on a specific selection was difficult. Fortunately, I encountered only one or two scrollbars in my tests.
Also, at a bit over 2 pounds, the device is a tad heavy for carrying around all day; I recommend going with a smaller handheld unit if you work on your feet. But the LabelManager 500TS does have a handle that you could use for hanging it on a wall hook. Finally, to save power, the LabelManager 500TS goes into standby mode after only a couple of minutes of inactivity, and I frequently had to restart it as a result.
Regardless, for serious business-label creation, the Dymo LabelManager 500TS's impressive features, speed, and general ease of use make it well worth considering. Yes, it's pricey, but if you use the 500TS frequently, the extra cost could prove to be a good investment over the life of the product.