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Brother VC-500W colour label printer review

How good is this all-purpose label maker for craft or home business projects?

Last updated: 17 July 2019

CHOICE verdict

The Brother VC-500W colour label printer is versatile and compact. It uses no ink – the colour is already in the special glossy, sticky-backed thermal tape for single-pass, edge-to-edge full-colour images on 5-metre long tapes of 9, 12, 19, 25 and 50mm width. Aside from some connectivity issues (see below), it’s an easy-to-use label maker that gives good results for a wide variety of craft label types. 

Price: $329

Say goodbye to printer ink. Special crystals in Brother's Zero Ink label paper release different colours based on how they're heated. Tapes come in five widths: 9mm ($25), 12mm ($30), 19mm ($37), 25mm ($40) and 50mm ($50) from Officeworks.

We tried our creative hand at label-making courtesy of a loan unit from Brother and some 25mm and 50mm tapes. 

180392 Brother printer

The Brother inkless label printer is compact and fun to use

How easy is it to use?

You can create and print from smartphone app or PC/Mac software, but we found the mobile app (both iOS and Android) much better. You can also print pictures and even PDFs (sized appropriately) directly using AirPrint. 

Mobile app

The phone and tablet app is similar on iOS and Android and has easy-to-use label customisations such as illustrations, typefaces and borders. You can also add photos from your gallery or third-party app, either as part of a custom label or the full image.

The app is best used on a tablet, due to its larger size, as the layout on a phone screen can sometimes be a little cramped to get pixel-perfect adjustments. But  it's still manageable with a little fiddling, particularly on larger smartphones.

Desktop software

The Windows PC software looks a bit dated and limited by comparison (the macOS version was much better). The included old-style clipart is reminiscent of late 90s imaging programs. One useful feature it has over the mobile app is screen capture, which can be useful for quickly grabbing images from the internet. 

Connectivity issues

We printed quite a few labels of various sizes, but experienced several connectivity issues, which required a printer Wi-Fi reset or two to fix. The printer creates its own Wi-Fi network, so you can print to it directly, or you can set it up with a passthrough mode that lets you connect to your main Wi-Fi network at the same time.

180392 Brother printer-3

How's the image quality?

Fitting different sized label cassettes is a snap, but we noted some light ghosting on the first few labels of full picture images after switching from a smaller size tape cartridge to a larger one.

You can actually print photos on your labels, which is great for such things as photo ID tags and hobby labels. Results are good, though not quite inkjet glossy photo quality. We found it sometimes left thin horizontal lines of mismatching tones, struggled a bit with bright colours, and produced some patches of slight discolouration. But more often the images were problem-free (aside from making the image a bit darker), especially with brightly-lit, vibrant photos.

Though photo quality is not quite up to inkjet photo standard, for the types of fun craft projects at which this label printer excels, that's not likely to be a big problem. 

For a wide variety of labels and various custom-made stickers, the finished products looked great. If you're even a little bit crafty you'll probably love to add this to your creative kit.

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.