The Arkscan 2054A-LAN Thermal Shipping Label Printer ($259) is a professional-grade machine with much in common with the Zebra GC420d Direct Thermal Printer reviewed here in early 2018, and a direct competitor to the Editors’ Choice Brother QL-820NWB and QL-1110NWB. (Both of those are comparably featured and priced networkable label printers.) All four of these machines, in addition to Brother’s other QL-series models, make terrific shipping-label printers. They also support several other label types, from simple file-folder tabs to small signs and container content tags. The Arkscan handles a wide range of labeling tasks, and it supports label rolls and die-cut fanfold stacks from third-party vendors, which helps reduce running costs. Overall, it’s a versatile labeler at a respectable price, and a host of connectivity options make it available to everybody in your office. It earns an Editors’ Choice as our latest favorite midrange professional label printer.
The 2054A comes in two flavors: the 2054A-USB and the 2054A-LAN. Yes, as you might guess, those last three letters designate the models’ connectivity.
The 2054A-USB connects to a laptop or desktop solely over USB. The 2054A-LAN supports not only USB but also Ethernet and Wi-Fi, which not only makes it networkable but also lets you print from your smartphone or tablet.
QL-1110NWB, except that the Brother models also support the peer-to-peer network protocols Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct. Zebra charges an extra $149 for Ethernet on its model, and it doesn’t support Wi-Fi, which precludes you from using most mobile devices. Note that the QL-820NWB offers an add-on battery that allows you to use the printer sans cabling, but the other machines listed so far do not.
The Arkscan 2054A-LAN measures 6.5 by 8.3 by 9.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.8 pounds. That’s a hair larger and heavier than the Zebra GC420d and considerably heftier than the Brother QL-820NWB, but much closer in size to the QL-1110NWB.
Like most of today’s dedicated label printers that are operated primarily from computing devices (PCs, smartphones, tablets, and so on), the 2054A-LAN has no control panel to speak of. The only controls are a power button, and a release button on the side to open the hatch that covers the rolls of label media.
Compatibility and Functionality
In many ways, the Arkscan 2054A-LAN emulates a few Zebra models, to the extent that, as you can see in the image below, it even looks like a Zebra machine.
Testing the 2054A-LAN: Five Inches per Second
Depending on the label printer itself and the type of label being printed, the methods used for assessing printing speeds vary. Arkscan rates the 2054A-LAN at 5 inches per second (ips), the same speed as Zebra’s GC420d. I ran my speed tests over Ethernet from our standard Intel Core i5 testbed running Windows 10 Pro. (See how we test printers.)
For my tests, I printed an assortment of label types and sizes, from small file-folder tabs to large 4-by-6-inch shipping labels, and for the most part, the Arkscan and the Zebra models both lived up to their 5ips rating. The two Brother label printers came in slightly slower, at around 4.4ips, but still fast enough for most applications.
How do the labels look? Just fine. Like its Zebra competitor, the Arkscan prints at 203 dots per inch (dpi). The two Brother QL series machines mentioned here allow you to select among six print resolutions, ranging from 100dpi to 600dpi. For the most part, most of the labels you’ll print won’t benefit significantly from being printed at a higher resolution, though some with embedded graphics and grayscale objects certainly will. That said, given its likely typical application (shipping labels, and text labels for drawers and files), I saw nothing to complain about with the 2054A-LAN’s output.
The Arkscan supports a wide range of labels. In width, they can vary from a minimum of 0.75 inch to a maximum of 4.25 inches. Length runs from a minimum of 0.4 inch to a maximum of 90 inches. More costly plastic and vinyl labels are available. Pricing varies widely with size and media type.
Depending on several factors, including how many you buy and where you buy them, 4-by-6-inch rolls, for example, sell for about 4 cents per label, while smaller 2.25-by-1.25-inch labels can sell for as little as half a cent each. Similar (but proprietary) labels from Brother, Dymo, and Leitz can cost several times that much.
As I noted about the Zebra GC420d when I reviewed it, it supports the same kinds of third-party media. It’s these vast discounts on label costs with non-proprietary media that make Arkscan’s enterprise-grade labeler a smart choice for high-volume labeling environments. Plus, it lists for a few hundred dollars less than its most direct Zebra competitors.
Nothing is particularly fancy about the Arkscan 2054A-LAN, but it offers most everything you’d get from the Zebra GC420d at a much lower price: diverse connectivity (including support for mobile devices), fast print speeds, and low running costs. While it does not support Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct (Brother’s QL-820NWB does), it prints on a wider range of label sizes (up to 4.25 inches wide, versus 2.4 inches), and many of its media rolls cost less on a per-label basis.
These are just some of the reasons we elevate the Arkscan 2054A-LAN to our current top choice for a midrange professional-grade label printer. If you churn lots of labels day in and day out, the savings from being able to get varied rolls of sticky stock from more sources than just the manufacturer is a huge win.
|Color or Monochrome||Monochrome|
|Connection Type||Ethernet, USB, Wireless|
|Maximum Standard Paper Size||4.25 by 90 inches|
|Number of Ink Colors||1|
|Number of Ink Cartridges/Tanks||1|
|Direct Printing From Media Cards||Yes|
|Direct Printing From USB Thumb Drives||No|
|Rated Speed at Default Settings (Mono)||6 inches per second|
|LCD Preview Screen||No|
|Cost Per Page (Monochrome)||3.2 cents|
|Automatic Document Feeder||No|