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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Afinia Label L301 Color Label Printer Review

When first setting up a small-medium sized office environment, everyone makes sure they have a printer, color printer even sometimes. What isn’t typically thought of immediately is the need for a label printer. If you happened to think of a label printer, it is typically just for printing shipping and postage labels. Nowadays, color label printers have become an affordable alternative to outsourcing custom colored print jobs.
Afinia Label L301 Color Label Printer Review

I recently had the chance to try out the Afinia Label L301 Color Label Printer for just such a purpose. The printer sells for just shy of $1,600. It comes with color and black printer cartridges. You will, however, have to order separately a roll of printer labels (unless you buy the printer from Durafast Label Company, then will get $100 in free labels also). Not even a small sample roll is included. A label unwinder is included, though, and this literally gets screwed into the back of the printer, but more on setup shortly. Along with the printer, ink cartridges, roll holder, and power cable, come a four-page setup guide, Windows installation disc, and a USB 1.x Type B connection cable. Given that this printer model is relatively new, I was surprised to see the connection cable standard was from the late 1990s. I didn’t try to clock the throughput myself, but USB 1.x is rated at 12 Mbit/s while 2.x is at least 20 times faster, while the newer 3.x version runs over a Gbit/s. For large print jobs, you might notice a bit of a difference if the labels to print are heavy on the graphics. The online specs for the Afinia L301 color label printer say USB 2.0 connection, but the cable is clearly the larger, bulkier Type B variety.

(Please note that this is an entry level desktop color label printer and is designed for high resolution/quality. However, speed is slow – for higher speed, there is the Afinia L801, which can print both high resolution and high speed at 60 feet per minute.)

Setup of the printer was a breeze. So much so, I had to do it twice, to no fault of the printer. My laptop died in the middle so I had to reconfigure my new laptop to use the printer, too. One minor issue I ran across was the new laptop didn’t come with a CD/DVD drive. Thankfully, the installer was easy to find online, though a URL in the documentation (http://afinialabel.com/support/software-drivers/) would have made things even easier.

Before running the installer, be sure to remove all the tape on the printer that holds the different pieces together for shipping. For the most part, you shouldn’t need the installation guide, though the diagrams do prove helpful when it is time to install the label unwinder. The Control Panel LEDs table is also helpful if you’re curious why the red and/or green light is flashing or steady. Typically this happens when you’ve forgotten to slide the built-in cutter back after cutting off the last print job.


When I ran the installer, my anti-virus software complained about not recognizing the program and required me to trust the file before it would execute. This only happened during the second machine setup, not the first. Once you’ve gotten through the InstallShield wizard, you can connect the USB cable to your print server machine, and off you go.

Note: There is what looks like a wireless image on the touchscreen Setup panel for the printer. However, there doesn’t appear to be a way for the printer to communicate wirelessly.


Once you’ve installed the driver software, the printer is ready to go. The hardest part of the installation is learning where to slide the blank label stock into the printer. See the last diagram on the third page of the installation guide if you’re not sure where the input slot is located. If you’ve found the right place, the auto-feeder will kick in and automatically slide the stock in further. Be sure to adjust the paper guide after the feeder stops. Make sure the label stock rolls over not under to ensure printing on the proper side of the label roll.


Once you’ve setup the printer, that’s when the fun starts. The nice thing about having your own in-house label printer is you can print all of your jobs in-house without having to outsource anything. That is also why many people don’t consider getting one. If you want to use the label printer to print your own marketing labels, you must be able to do a good enough job to not embarrass your company by doing it yourself. If you don’t have somebody on staff for this, or can’t do the job yourself, you either have to hire someone or outsource the design part of the process. Even if you think you have a good eye for design, be sure to have a second party verify material before doing a larger scale print job. It is a waste of ink and labels if you discover after the fact that something doesn’t fit or just doesn’t look good when you see the material finally printed.
At this point, all that is left is to design and print something. To skip the design process, I grabbed a public domain image to print from a site like PublicDomainPictures.net. The labels I was printing the picture on were 6”x4”. You then use the standard print dialog to print onto the labels in the L301, being sure to select the right paper size and printer. You might want to adjust the margins, too. Make sure you pick the right paper size before print, width goes first when selecting size. And once you have a good set of settings, write them down to be sure to do the same when the next person goes to print labels. The label printed from the Life Brand Bartlett Pears image above comes out reasonably well, a little darker than I was expecting but adjusting colors brightness is easy to do in your typical graphic design / photo editing tool. Timing-wise, it took just under a minute to print the first full-sized label. Printing multiples of the same label had a lower per label time, but not by much. However, that “not much” adds up as your print job turns into the hundreds or thousands.

Overall, I like the flexibility that having your own in-house label production offers. Your marketing team might get a little carried away with the ability to do jobs quickly and easily. Do keep in mind the cost of the ink and label stock when comparing to outsourcing. It will typically be cheaper to do in-house from a pure cost per label perspective for smaller print jobs. However, you do need to include the cost of labor and more importantly time when comparing. If you like the sound of having your own L301, hop on over to DuraFast Label Company to get one. Afinia doesn’t sell directly themselves.




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2 comments:

  1. Sounds like a nifty little label printer. I'd like one just to label food gifts (mini banana loaves, cookies, etc.) and shipping labels. You're right though about watching the ink and card stock, it can get a bit pricey. Great review!

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  2. This does do nice quality. I don't have any printer right now. I used to have access to a good color printer, they started putting extreme limits if and how much you could use it, b/c of the cost of the ink, etc. You are so good at figuring these things out, I'd have been in tears at every hurdle.

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