Zebra ZD220 Review

The Zebra ZD220 with a direct thermal shipping label printed

When I hear the word basic, I think `the bare minimum.’

And the bare minimum isn’t always a selling point with electronics.

But Zebra had other ideas.

Their ZD200 series (a replacement for the GK and GX series) is broadcasted as “a basic printer model.”

And I mean, basic

Zebra uses the word 6 times on the printer spec sheet page. I’m convinced it’s pictured in the dictionary next to the definition.

But for how much Zebra raves about this printer blending “quality and affordability,” there’s not much written about it. 

In the 2 years since its launch, I couldn’t find many written reviews. 

No Amazon reviews (it’s not even featured on their U.S. seller page) and hardly any 3rd party reviews are published.

Considering the recognition Zebra gets in the labeling industry, I’m very surprised no one’s talking about this printer, good or bad.

So I guess I’ll be the first to give an honest review of the Zebra ZD220. 

Let’s see if it hits on par with others of the Zebra brand quality!

Overall 1st Impressions

I think Zebra was onto something when they branded this as their ‘basic’ desktop printer.

I mean, it looks quite basic.

Here’s what my first impressions of the ZD220 are:

  1. It’s not as small as I thought it would be
  2. There’s not a lot of distinction between the ZD models
  3. It has a simple interface 

For the first printer model of the series, I thought it would be smaller. 

I figured, ‘basic model means basic everything’ but that’s not the case here. 

And when it comes to desktop printers, they’re meant to be compact. It’s how they fit easily into any work environment.

Now, granted, the ZD620 model I have is slightly bigger because it can print thermal transfer labels.

But when I sat the ZD220 model next to it, the size difference wasn’t as striking as I thought it would be.

In fact, I noticed a lot of the Zebra desktop models are roughly the same size.

Maybe this is where Zebra’s quality lies. 

For such a one trick pony when it comes to the shape and design of their printers, Zebra must be doing something right to keep producing high-quality, desktop printers.

I guess if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Lastly, I noticed the interface: 2 buttons.

Simple. Easy. Dare I say, basic.

You really can’t mess up too much with only a power button and feed button to press. It’s like building a printer with training wheels.

And as someone who tends to be technologically illiterate, I always appreciate a little simplicity.

Zebra Goes Back to Basic(s)

Zebra’s well known for making printers used in heavy-duty environments, like manufacturing, logistics, and healthcare. 

They can handle hundreds of label prints a day, in large batches, with no problem.

So why make a basic printer series then?

Zebra is mixing two key features of printer buying: high-grade quality and affordability. 

Other desktop printers I’ve reviewed are definitely cheaper than the ZD220 but for one key reason: they’re not built to last long.

The ZD220 is meant to give users the amenities of a simple desktop printer but with Zebra quality, service, and support. 

And it’s “built to last for years.”

They advertise it themselves, saying the ZD200 series boasts “dual-wall construction and all-metal printheads – components not often found in a basic printer.”

Compare that to Rollo, Munbyn, or DYMO (Ugh, don’t get me started on DYMO). 

It’s not really a fair contest on who performs the best.

Who Uses The ZD220?

As I mentioned, Zebra printers are designed for environments where they get used continuously. That’s mostly with industrial and commerce businesses.

But the benefits of a desktop model like the ZD220 is its wide range of use across many industry segments. 

These include: 

  • Manufacturing
  • Logistics/transportation
  • Retail
  • Healthcare 

Need to print a large batch of shipping labels for an e-commerce order? How about barcodes for inventory management in your warehouse? Or perhaps you need labels for patient identification in your laboratory?

This basic printer covers all of these services. 

The ZD220 also offers more customization options when it comes to personalizing fonts (height and width) and graphics (barcodes or custom logos).

Special Features

I’ll be honest, there’s really nothing special about this printer (no offense, Zebra).

But I wanted to highlight some features I believe are worth mentioning if purchasing the ZD220 is in the cards for you.

Some Sensor Alignment May Be Required

A close up look at the sensor on a Zebra ZD220 label printer

You’ll deal with this more on industrial printers, like the Zebra ZT610.

But the desktop ZD220 also has a sensor located behind the platen roller.

These sensors are used to detect different media types. 

If you’re printing with continuous labels or gap sensor labels, or loading in a different label size, you may need to make adjustments to the sensor when calibrating your printer. 

This can be a little more tedious when compared to other desktop printers.

But in all, it’s a small disruption in an otherwise simple design.

Optional Peeler Attachment

Like other Zebra printers, the ZD220 has the ability to modify how it prints labels.

So if you’re looking for labels to print without having to peel them off the liner, this feature comes in handy.

However, the attachment must be bought separately. 

Best used for hand-applied applications, the peeler attachment allows the release liner to be fed under the printer body. 

Thus when a label prints, it’s presented already peeled and ready to be applied.

This is known as ‘peel and present mode.’

The downside? You can only print one label at a time.

Print DNA

This isn’t exclusive to just the ZD220, but I think it’s worth mentioning.

This is one area where Zebra has the advantage over other brands. They provide software exclusive to their printers.

Specifically, the Print DNA, which comes already installed. 

Zebra’s Print DNA feature takes everything the company has learned from thousands of use cases so printers work at optimized performance.

The software integrates with other existing print systems, offers higher system security, allows for easier IT management, and more.

Included in the Print DNA is ZebraDesigner. 

This suite makes designing and editing labels easier, and is especially useful for industry-standard and complaint labels, tags, and receipts.

Customization prints range from basic text to more detailed components, like RFID, fixed or variable data.

Zebra’s ZD220 vs ZD620

The Zebra ZD220 and Zebra ZD620 pictured side by side to show the comparison between the two desktop thermal label printers

I know people who purchased Zebra GK or GX series printers that used them until they stopped working. 

Now they’re reluctant to let go and buy a new printer because those models are now obsolete. 

(If you’re one of those people, there’s no shame here – this section is especially for you)

When I’m looking to buy a new desktop label printer, I want to know I’m getting the best deal for my needs. 

And I’m not about to spend more money on unnecessary features. 

Zebra printers (desktop or other) are not cheap. The quality they provide comes with a hefty price tag for a reason.

So if the ZD series has piqued your interest, you’ll want to know if the ZD220 is enough or if the ‘top of the line’ ZD620 is what you (and your wallet) require.

Here’s a side by side comparison:

Zebra ZD220
  • Direct thermal & thermal transfer technology
  • 203 dpi
  • 4” per second
  • 5” max OD capacity
  • 1” core or fanfold
  • USB connectivity
  • Windows driver
  • Price range: $300-$400
Zebra ZD620
  • Direct thermal & thermal transfer technology
  • 300 dpi
  • 8” per second
  • 5” max OD capacity
  • 1” core or fanfold
  • USB, Ethernet, Wireless connectivity
  • Windows driver
  • Price range: $600

Like the ZD620, the Zebra ZD220 can print direct thermal and thermal transfer labels. 

However, you will need to buy the correct printer type for this feature. Especially because it will need extra room to hold the thermal ribbon needed to print

All in all, the ZD620 packs a little more punch than the ZD220 in terms of resolution, speed, and interface options.

But that doesn’t mean the ZD220 is lackluster when it comes to printing.

Need large batches of labels printed? Perfect, either of these models can accommodate the job. 

But if a slightly slower speed and resolution work when it comes to printing your labels, save $300 and go with the ZD220.

The Verdict

Zebra was right, the ZD220 is a basic printer.

There’s really not much else to say. No bells and whistles needed, no flashy lights, no nothing. 

And that’s not a bad thing.

Most users I know want something quick to print, easy to use, and of decent quality. 

If you run an Etsy or Poshmark store and are looking to print custom design labels, the ZD220 might not be the best choice.

But if your business is booming and you’re looking to print a growing number of shipping labels, it’s not a bad investment.

Out of all of the desktop printers I’ve reviewed up until this point (and there’ve been quite a few) the ZD220 is probably the one I’d recommend to both new and existing label print users.

It’s got it all: good print quality, efficiency, and affordability. That’s like hitting the label printer trifecta.

Yes, it’s a bit pricier but you’ll have a working desktop printer for a long time. 

Sounds like a good deal to me!

Looking for Alternative Label Printers?

So the Zebra’s too far out of your price range? Or maybe you’re looking for something even more…basic?

If the ZD220 isn’t cutting it, here’s an option I can recommend that are easier on your wallet. 

  1. Bixolon SLP-DX420 – If the ZD220 is basic, Bixolon is the great value brand. Bixolon promotes itself as being Zebra-equivalent in quality but at a more affordable price. So if the ZD220 was a little too expensive for you, the SLP-DX420 should work just as well.