Thermal Printer print resolution 200 vs 300 vs 600 DPI

Compare 200 vs 300 vs 600 dpi print tests

What does Printer DPI mean?

Used interchangeably with pixels-per-inch or ppi as fondly referred, since they both define the resolution and overall quality of an image, dpi or dots-per-inch is one concept that is more accurately used in the print industry, against ppi which is specific to digital images.

With the dot-sized heated elements of a thermal printer arranged in rows, the more dots per inch (or dpi) the sharper the image quality, hence, the higher the printer dpi.

Through this printing technique, thermal printers with a higher printer dpi can generate higher resolution print quality and performance than other on-demand printing technologies.

And the best part is, these prints are created in milliseconds (up to 300 mm/second) – hence, highly recommended for large scale and industrial use.

What DPI Thermal Printer do I need?

Ever wonder why specific print qualities are more sophisticated than others, with high clarity, increased contrast and proven technology? Yet, generated at a considerably shorter time?

Have you ever thought about why certain print resolutions are more readable even with smaller fonts and symbols just as seen on electronic product labels?

Well, these are some of the benefits of using a thermal printer against a laser printer or an inkjet printer.

Suppose you have come across any of those, you might have noticed that unlike printouts done with a laser or an LED printer; which entails a laser or light emitting diode to create images on the print drum; a thermal printer utilizes tiny heating elements to activate or transfer pigments to the print belt.

Where the printheads are designed using a metric that is measured in dots-per-millimetre (dots/mm), or dots-per-inch (DPI).

But before we get into the nitty gritty details to determine what DPI thermal printer you will need, depending on your usage and application, let’s take a quick dive into what the concept of DPI entails.

203 DPI vs 300 DPI vs 600 DPI Thermal Printing?

Now that we have got the hang of what a dpi thermal printer is, and the benefits of using one in terms of resolution and print quality, the big question is; what dpi thermal printer do I need?

A 203 dpi, a 300 dpi or a 600 dpi thermal printer?

Well, the answer to that question largely depends on the usage and application, which we can carve up into three interrelated factors:

  1. The expected print quality or readability.
  2. The print speed.
  3. The label format.

A 203 DPI Print (Also referred to as 200 DPI)

While most thermal label printers on sale today feature the 203 dots-per-inch (dpi) print resolution, and as the standard for shipping labels, larger barcodes and most text fonts, this thermal printer resolution is best suited for most applications such as:

  • Shipping and logistics labels with large text and barcodes.
  • Direct thermal & thermal transfer labels.
  • All standard paper; including varying labelling situations in retail marking.

However, smaller fonts such as a 5pt or a 6pt text are not recommended for printing using this model, since small labels may not print scannable barcodes – which is where a higher resolution thermal print dpi like the 300 dpi comes in handy.

Photo of a 200 dpi printer sample label
Printed sample using a 203 dpi thermal transfer printer

Note 200dpi printed sample: Larger barcode is needed to be scannable. Small font point 6 is not legible. Some lines particularly thin lines are patchy. 

A 300 DPI Print

Given the 203 thermal printer dpi resolution may not be well-suited for printing scannable barcodes and smaller font texts (depending on what is printed and the nature of the material in use); the 300 dpi thermal printer is designed to address that issue.

Even though the 203 printer dpi represents the industry standard, as it will print faster and provides an acceptable image for most applications, the 300 printer dpi is the most popular printhead for the majority of smaller label sizes.

The 300 printer dpi resolution is recommended when your application demands an enhanced print quality such as smaller fonts, intricate barcodes, graphics and logos.

Using the 300 dpi resolution, smaller sized texts like 7pt and 6pt, smaller labels and scannable codes will print well.

Keep in mind that text printed in reverse using serif typefaces will appear sharp; while, thin strokes will fill in.

To get the best quality out of the 300 dpi printer resolution, be sure to clean your print head regularly. These printers can be used for:

  • Shipping, asset and product labels.
  • Direct thermal & thermal transfer labels.
  • All standard paper and synthetic stocks.
Photo of a sample 300 dpi print test
Printed sample using a 300 dpi thermal transfer printer

Note 300dpi printed sample: A slightly smaller barcode can be used. Smaller font sizes like point 6 can be printed but a bold setting is needed. Some detailed lines  within the image are not as clear as the 600 dpi print. 

A 600 DPI Print

Even better than the 300 dpi print resolution is that of the 600 thermal printer dpi – as there are certain industries and applications where the 300 printer dpi just won’t cut it; such as serial numbers on an electronic ID labels, fine jewellery, and product labelling.

In addition to being required to produce readable texts and barcodes, the 600 printer dpi resolution is best suited for instances with much smaller fonts and symbols. the 600 thermal printer dpi resolution is especially created to offer high quality print resolution to satisfy the needs of specific applications where lower resolution printers can’t comply with barcode label standards.

Think of a situation where a higher resolution might be required to print detailed text & logos that need to be crisp, then the 600 printer dpi resolution if the best bet.

The 600 printer dpi resolution is best for cases like:

  • Small asset labels.
  • Nutritional Information Panels (NIP).
  • Electronic and jewellery and labels.
  • Printing font sizes of 6pt and under.
  • Synthetic stocks with resin ribbons.
600 dpi thermal transfer printer sample print
Printed sample using a 600 dpi thermal transfer printer

Note 600dpi printed sample: A much smaller barcode can be used. Smaller font sizes like point 6 are easily legible. Detailed lines within the image are clear and precise when compared with the 200 dpi and 300 dpi prints. 

Printer DPI in summary

In more simple terms, the smaller the text and images, the higher the dpi require to produce a readable and scannable print label.

Also, important to note is the concept that the speed of producing these prints across the different types of thermal printers is inversely proportional to the dpi. In other words, as the dpi increases, the maximum print speed of a thermal printer decreases.

For instance, while a 203 thermal printer dpi can print up to 14 inches per second (IPS), a 300 dpi thermal printer can go as far as 12 IPS, and a 600 dpi resolution can print up to 6 IPS. This does however very much depend on the printer brand (manufacturer) and model, as these vary widely.

So, when next you are on the lookout for the ideal printer dpi for your print label; whether its a 203 dpi or a 300 dpi or a 600 thermal printer dpi; keep in mind the size of the label and text, type of text and detail to be printed, the print quality, and print speed required for your application.

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