It isn’t often we come across something that falls into the bottom of our ratings. Mostly because we typically avoid talking about these products. We clearly want to share the most interesting news with you, highlighting the exciting products in tech. Therefore not everything that makes it to our hands continues on to be published. However, sometimes we come across something that requires a stern cautioning. Sometimes, we come across something like DYMO’s LabelManager PnP Label Maker. A complete mistake of a product.
This is a USB-fed label maker that has been in the market for just over 10 years now, launched in November 2010. A compact label maker with a lot of promise, it took what every one of DYMO’s handheld label makers could do and turned it into a solution that can be designed through software and sent to like a printer using DYMO’s proprietary software. Software that drives all of the company’s USB label makers/printers.
Great when you are banging out a number of labels quickly and don’t want to play with the manual button-fed handhelds with tiny LCD screens. Great when you want to save designs to re-use later and have fun with a number of other unique features that you either can’t accomplish or is too annoying to accomplish on the manual handhelds. All of this great, when they actually work.
This is where things become a problem. The software itself is bad enough. Riddled with back code that results in various “out of memory” popups that can sometimes continue to pop up one after another indefinitely until you are able to find a way to end-task the program via Windows’ task manager. Which gets a bit tricky as you sometimes have to hold down “ESC” long enough for these windows to all be closed and then quickly try to end task the program before the next window pops up.
Keep in mind, nothing is out of memory. The systems they have been connected to are the same systems that run CAD and massive video editing projects all the time. Yet, they run into this issue running a simple print management software (usually happening when clicking around your saved templates).
Of course, the software can be fixed easily over time (not that they spend a lot of time doing so). Hardware, on the other hand, is a completely different story. Usually, when a product makes it into the market that comes back as a complete failure, the company will recall it or rework future batches with a revised design. Sadly, this never happened. Instead, the development process is more like how Ford handles mistakes in its model–They don’t.
Our experience with this product includes around 5 years and 5 models that made it to the trash. The last one just recently, finally finishing the reign these models have had here at the offices. It began with three models, with two of them being replaced. The first we thought was simply a random occurrence. The second one made us weary.
After the third one failed, they started going straight into the trash. Looking back at consumer reviews via retailers like Amazon, we realize that none of this was random. It was failed product that should have been pulled or re-worked long ago. In fact, product reviews were so bad, the product was combined on the page with other DYMO models so that the reviews would be averaged out to a higher score. However, clicking to view all reviews and then filtering them to just that product sheds all of the light back onto it.
Issue One – Crashed Prints (error): The label maker loves to randomly stop printing halfway through a print resulting in a print error in Windows. You typically cannot get the label maker to respond until you cycle the USB connection to the computer (unplug, wait a few seconds, plug it back in).
Issue Two – Incomplete Prints: Some units will only suffer this on the first print if you haven’t used the label maker within the last min or so (or hour, or day). Some units suffer this issue 80% of the time you print something. In this situation, it is as if the heating element that causes the thermal print to occur becomes variable as the label is moving through the label maker. This can be seen in the main header image above (the label that reads “USB 3.0 and USB-C PCIe Card”).
Issue Three – Blackout Prints: Sometimes you will run into an issue where everything you print ends up as a solid black bar running across the printable section of the label. This can also be seen in the above header image and doesn’t take anything to point out which one it is. When this occurs, you have to cycle the USB connection to the computer in order to get it to stop (hopefully it works on the first try).
Issue Four – (the doozy) Complete Label Maker Death: Even if you find yourself lucky enough to own a unit that only has frequent occurrences of Issue #1, and brief experiences with Issue #2 (this would be your best-case scenario when buying this product), nothing is going to save you from Issue #4. With that, the product was designed to fail around 1-3 years from purchase.
There is an internal rechargeable battery that is installed for when you plug the label maker into an older USB port that isn’t powerful enough to drive the label maker (ie, USB 1.0). It takes charge (or is supposed to) when you plug it into a USB port that can provide power and the ability to charge (ie, USB 2.0+). In our case, ours have always been connected to USB 3.0+ ports.
This battery will simply die over time and DYMO designed the label maker to fail when this happens, by not allowing it to function without the battery properly being able to take a charge. Even though you aren’t even using the battery and your USB port is more than capable of powering the unit.
You cannot remove this battery and operate without it. DYMO has not provided any kind of adapter work-around solution. DYMO has not issued any kind of recall. DYMO has also not attempted to redesign the product through all these years to fix this flaw. Instead, DYMO’s solution was to put on sale “replacement” batteries, which cost about half the price of the label maker or more.
So when the battery does randomly fail on you 1-3 years after you brought the label maker, you are faced with either buying an over-priced battery to fix it, completely buy a new label maker, or simply throw it away. No matter what, your options are expensive.
There are third-party (off-brand) options out there that have creeps up to take advantage of this. However, even those are around $20-$30.
In the end, this label maker turned out to be a complete failure of a product. Again, not something we normally like to publish about. However, through our own experiences with the product, a warning had to be shared. In fact, it took until the last unit failed before I was able to get the idea of this story approved.
Of course, DYMO isn’t inherently a bad company. They have many models that are absolutely fantastic. Take the LabelWriter 450 Turbo (available via retailers like Amazon, or Office Depot) for example. This is an amazing label maker that we have a few of kicking around the offices here. It’s just the LabelManager PnP USB Label Maker that completely flopped that the company decided to do nothing about (yet continued to sell all these years).
They do have a new Bluetooth model that has reared its head into the world that is similar and also works with USB. It seems to have a power cable and per other consumers, no longer features this fatal flaw. We haven’t tested it ourselves since we can’t get the approval to order any more DYMO makers thanks to the experiences caused by the model we have discussed today. So hopefully, DYMO was a lot more cautious with the design this time.
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
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