Brother QL-720NW review

The Brother QL-720NW label printer offers fast printing along with the ability to share it on a network.
Photo of Brother QL-720NW

A close cousin to the Editors’ Choice Brother QL-700 that I recently reviewed, the Brother QL-720NW ($169.99 direct ) is basically the same label printer with Ethernet and Wi-Fi added, so you can share it on a network. That means it starts with essentially the same capabilities, although it also turns out to be a little faster on our tests. Unfortunately, one key feature—namely, printing stamps—doesn’t work over a network. The result is an attractive printer overall, but it falls short of being an Editors’ Choice.

The QL-720NW is a touch larger than the Brother QL-700 because of an added 0.5-inch high base, and it’s all black rather than black and white. However, it looks much like the QL-700 otherwise, and takes up about the same amount of desk space, with a 5.0 by 9.3 inch footprint (WD). Like the Brother QL-700, it includes an automatic cutter. It also comes with the same set of software, and it prints on the same labels. Most important, it offers the same quick and easy approach to switching label rolls.

As I pointed out in my review of the Brother QL-700, changing rolls with most label printers is just hard enough to discourage switching back and forth between different types of labels. In fact, it’s enough of an issue to make the DYMO LabelWriter 450 Twin Turbo an Editors’ Choice in large part because it can hold two rolls at once and print on either.

The QL-720NW doesn’t make switching between label types as easy as telling it to print on one roll or the other, but it makes swapping rolls easy. I timed the entire process at less than 20 seconds, making it quick enough to be a non-issue unless you need switch back and forth several times a day.

Lots of Labels
As you might expect, the QL-720NW can use all the same label rolls that work in the Brother QL-700, with about 20 choices available. The most popular formats according to Brother are address labels (at both 1.1 by 3.5 inches and 1.1 by 2.4 inches), file-folder labels (0.66 by 3.4 inches), shipping labels (2.4- by 3.9-inches), and a 2.4-inch wide, white paper continuous roll.

The labels come in a variety of widths (from 0.66 to 2.4 inches); materials (paper or film); colors (white, clear, and yellow); and shapes (with round labels for optical discs, for example). Some are also removable, meaning that the adhesive is designed so you can pull the label off easily without doing damage. In my tests, the removable labels lifted off a sheet of paper without tearing the paper or leaving any marks.

Street prices for the labels range from $13.49 for file folder labels to $99.99 for the wide, clear film continuous roll. For the standard address labels (1.1 by 3.5 inches), the cost works out to 3.9 cents per label.

Print Your Own Stamps
One of the more important features Brother has recently added to its printers is the ability to print stamps using the Pitney Bowes pbSmartPostage Web site. Log on to www.pb.com/brother, and you can register for the service with no monthly fee. Simply open an account and you can print stamps as needed, as long as you pay for postage and buy stamp rolls, at $17.99 for 1 roll of 200 stamp labels or $15.29 each for 3 or more rolls.

The software is completely cloud-based, which means that it runs in a browser window without you having to download any software. Printing stamps is a touch more cumbersome than with the equivalent choice for the LabelWriter 450 Twin Turbo and other DYMO printers, but it works well enough.

The one shortcoming that you might not expect for this feature is that it won’t work if you’re printing to the QL-720NW over a network. When I tried, I got a message from the site that it couldn’t find a printer. Fortunately, you can connect the printer by USB cable at the same time it’s on a network and use it both ways. For my tests, I used the printer’s Ethernet port for the network connection. According to Brother, it will also work with a USB and Wi-Fi connection at the same time.

Keep in mind, however, that although using both USB and network connections will let you share the printer and print stamps, you’ll only be able to print stamps from the one computer that’s directly connected to the printer by USB cable.

Setup, Software, and Speed

Setup for the QL-720NW is absolutely standard. The software, P-touch Editor 5 and P-touch AddressBook 1, lets you do just about anything you’d want to with labels, including bar codes and mail-merging address labels. In fact the programs offer so many choices that less sophisticated users might feel overwhelmed.

The trick for more casual users is to ignore most of the features and concentrate on the ones they actually need. For example, if you have Microsoft Word on your system, the installation program will install a new command on the toolbar or Ribbon (depending on the version of Word), which will let you pick text in the document to print on a label. Simply highlight the text, and pick the toolbar or Ribbon command to open P-touch Editor with the text inserted in a label and ready to print. The software also installs a similar command in Excel.

Another choice is to ignore the Brother software entirely, and take advantage of its printer driver to print from any program you like. I printed a label from Word for example, by defining the page size to match the label, entering some text, and printing.

Somewhat surprisingly, the QL-720NW was a little faster printing over a network than the Brother QL-700 was over a USB connection. Brother rates it at the same 93 label per minute (lpm) speed for standard address labels. However, for my tests, using a three-line address plus a Postnet barcode and printing on paper labels, I timed it at 88.2 lpm without cutting after each label, and at 30.3 lpm with cutting. That makes it a bit faster than the QL-700, at 83.3 and 28.3 lpm, and significantly faster than the DYMO LabelWriter 450 Twin Turbo, at 60 lpm for printing without cutting.

The Brother QL-720NW certainly offers a lot to like, with all the same features that make the Brother QL-700 an Editors’ Choice, plus network support for sharing the printer, and even a slightly faster speed over a network. Taking a little of the shine off is that needing a USB connection to print stamps is an inelegant workaround for a network printer. Even so, if you need a label printer to share on a network, the Brother QL-720NW qualifies as a more than attractive choice.

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Specifications
Printer Category Thermal Dye
Direct Printing from Cameras No
Maximum Standard Paper Size 2.4" inch tape
Type Printer Only
Color or Monochrome Monochrome
Connection Type USB, Ethernet, Wireless

Verdict
The Brother QL-720NW label printer can connect to a network to let the entire office print labels, but it can print stamps only over a USB connection.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc