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Review: ZEBRA ZD421 Direct Thermal Desktop Printer USB ZD4A042-D01M00EZ – Reliable with commendable printing speed and quality

Explore the Zebra ZD421’s features, versatility, performance, and setup guide for your printer investment decision... Read more

Review of ZEBRA ZD421 Direct Thermal Desktop Printer USB ZD4A042-D01M00EZ

Test of ZEBRA ZD421 Direct Thermal Desktop Printer USB ZD4A042-D01M00EZ

4/5 - (25 votes)

Cena: $340.00


  • Three different printer versions offered
  • Features additional cartridge thermal transfer option
  • Resilient against cleaning chemicals
  • Supports versatile media types
  • Optional Snap-on cutter and dispenser accessories
  • Competent print speed
  • Clear and user-friendly interface buttons


  • Not as fast as ZD621 printer
  • Requires considerable setup for thermal transfer version
  • 203 DPI, lacks fine detail in printing
  • Cartridges are costlier than traditional rolls
  • Add-on modules installation isn’t too simplistic

“In my unbiased opinion, the Zebra ZD421 printer strikes a very solid middle ground in terms of features and efficiency. The various versions of the printer, from direct thermal to thermal transfer options, offer a good deal of flexibility, catering to a range of needs. Moreover, its printing speed and quality are commendable, making it a suitable choice for various applications. While it may lack some advanced features, its reliability and overall performance make it a truly impressive contender in the mid-level desktop label printer market. I believe it’s a product worth considering!”

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Connectivity Technology USB
Printing Technology Thermal
Special Feature Energy Star
Model Name ZD421
Printer Output Monochrome
Operating System Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 10
Item Weight 3.6 Pounds
Product Dimensions 5.93″D x 6.98″W x 8.69″H
Print media Labels


Today, I’d like to share my experience diving into the features, performances, and overall value of Zebra’s mid-level four-inch wide desktop label printer, the ZD421. This new release from Zebra serves as the worthy successor to the popular ZD420 and GK420 lines. The ZD421 holds great promise, and given my familiarity with its predecessors, I was keen to see just how much this printer could deliver.

Unveiling the New Zebra ZD421

The main allure of the ZD421 is how it positions itself within the label-printer landscape. This isn’t just about new features or enhanced performance; it’s about how well this printer lives up to the legacy of its predecessors while pushing new boundaries. I was particularly excited to experience first-hand the improvements and potential this new player has to offer to small and medium businesses, or anyone requiring reliable and efficient label printing.

Comparing the ZD421 to its Predecessors: ZD420 & GK420

I was eager to compare the ZD421 with the ZD420 and GK420 – the printers that users of the Zebra line have grown to love and rightfully so. The big question was, does the ZD421 manage to retain the best-selling aspects of these models while bringing something fresh to the table? And if so, just how significant are these new offerings? My objective was to not only compare the physical differences and feature lists, but to evaluate the practical implications of these variations.

Note: In reviewing the Zebra ZD421, my observations are based on my personal experience with the product, independent, unbiased, and aimed at providing insights and evaluations that assist potential buyers.

Summary: ZEBRA ZD421 Direct Thermal Desktop Printer USB ZD4A042-D01M00EZ

Exploring the Printer: Zebra ZD421

  • Zebra ZD421 printer has three distinct versions.
  • Printer suits various printing needs, including robust labels.
  • ZD421 is practical, robust, and versatile.

Upon closer inspection of the Zebra ZD421, you’ll soon discover that this versatile printer comes in three distinct versions. From a direct thermal version to a thermal transfer roll version and the cartridge thermal transfer version, the ZD421 seems more than capable of meeting different printing needs.

The Printer’s Distinct Versions – Exploring the Three Options

  • Direct Thermal Option: The direct thermal version, which I had for this review, is ideal for standard paper label printing. It prints without requiring an ink, making it a cost-effective option where heavy-duty, long-lasting labels are not required.
  • Thermal Transfer Roll Version: This version utilizes traditional rolls of ribbon for printing. This means it can print on paper labels as well as on more tough materials such as poly labels, which are waterproof and fade-resistant.
  • Cartridge Thermal Transfer Version: This is the most versatile version as it employs unique snap-in cartridges. Like the roll version, it can print on both paper and poly labels, providing their benefits in a more convenient package.

Each version has its advantages, and choosing the right one truly depends on your specific use case. For businesses handling a high volume of shipping or package labeling, a direct thermal option might suffice. But for those requiring robust labels that can withstand harsh conditions, the thermal transfer versions might be more suitable.

Exciting Features of the ZD421– Let’s Take a Closer Look

Now let’s take an up-close look at the ZD421, starting with its sleek and compact design. The printer opens up clamshell-style, giving you easy access to the media compartment. This design is complemented by the printer’s media-handling capabilities, which are undeniably versatile. The printer can handle labels from as small as 0.58 inches to as wide as 4.25 inches. This flexibility makes it ideal for a wide range of label-printing tasks.

Inside the printer, I found a simple yet efficient arrangement. Though I explored the direct thermal model, other versions might look slightly different, especially in how they handle media loading.

The ZD421 also has health care versions available that boast of resistance to cleaning chemicals. This variation might be highly valuable in a healthcare setting.

While exploring, I found the printer to be solidly built with a premium feel to it. This is expected as Zebra is known for producing industrial-grade printers.

In a nutshell, the Zebra ZD421 appears to be a practical, robust, and versatile printer that could be a great choice for various printing needs.

Rundown: ZEBRA ZD421 Direct Thermal Desktop Printer USB ZD4A042-D01M00EZ

Setting Up the Printer – Unveiling the Beast

  • Setting up Zebra ZD421 requires time and patience
  • Direct Thermal option is straightforward, Thermal Transfer more complicated
  • Cartridges are easier but costlier than traditional rolls

When it comes to setting up the Zebra ZD421, let’s just say, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The printer emerges from its packaging completely ready to impress, but getting it to its operational state, requires some time and patience.

Setting up the Direct Thermal Option

The process for the Direct Thermal option is relatively straightforward. It has a simple design to navigate, which allows for the smooth loading and unloading of the paper labels. Specifically, the presence of less moving parts reduces the potential of making errors.

Learning about Thermal Transfer Version – The Ribbon and Cartridge Options

However, when it comes to the Thermal Transfer versions, the journey becomes a bit more complicated. The Ribbon version needs carefully installed rolls of ribbon, a process that can be a tad bit challenging, especially for the uninitiated.

You’re then introduced to the cartridge option which utilizes proprietary snap-in cartridges. At first glance, it’s easier to handle due to fewer moving parts. But it’s also worth noting that cartridges are costlier than the traditional rolls, which may increase your total cost of ownership.

Setting Up: Critique and Reflection

  • With both setup processes, it became clear that the manufacturer prioritized the printer’s robustness over ease-of-use. The direct thermal version is relatively painless to configure, but the thermal transfer version can be slightly challenging for those not so tech-savvy.
  • The cartridges are easier to manage, but they do come with higher costs. If you’re an organization looking for efficiency over initial cost, it could prove to be an advantage.
  • Ultimately, the setup process is indicative of the printer’s caliber. The Zebra ZD421 is not an entry-level printer, it’s a sophisticated piece of hardware designed for heavy-duty use. Its setup process reflects that aspect.

Lookover of ZEBRA ZD421 Direct Thermal Desktop Printer USB ZD4A042-D01M00EZ

A Detailed Tour of the Printer – From Top to Bottom

  • ZD421 printer offers simple interface and user-friendly layout
  • Provides acceptable quality for standard printing applications
  • Multiple connectivity features with optional add-ons

Now, let’s get further into the details. Time to open up the hood of this machine and examine its core components. This is going to be a critical examination, examining both the strong points and points of noticeable imperfection.

Understanding The Printer’s Interface

I was instantly won over by the printer’s simplistic layout. With just four buttons and five status icons, the printer’s interface intimates a rather compact yet robust package. It seems like everything one would require to configure this printer or troubleshoot most common issues sits right at your fingertips. I found the ZD421 very user-friendly. Though, it’s worth noting that if you’re seeking something more visually intuitive, Zebra offers an upgraded model, the ZD621, with a full-color LCD touch screen, which might be more to your preference.

Comparing ZD421 with ZD621

While exploring the ZD621’s LCD touch-screen, I’ll admit I was left impressed. For those who prioritize ease of navigation and a more user-friendly experience, it could be a fair upgrade. True, it does come with a steeper price tag, but it could be a worthy consideration, particularly if you’re in a high-volume printing environment where time economy matters. However, adopting the higher model for the touch screen alone might not be the absolute necessity for every user. The basic interface of the ZD421, though less sophisticated, is quite functional and does not present a steep learning curve.

Testing the Real Printing Performance

Having inspected the printer to this point, it’s time for the ultimate test; the printing performance. In all honesty, the ZD421 truly does meet printing expectations. Standard code 39 barcodes rendered quite well on the printer, even though it’s just a 203 DPI printer. I wouldn’t recommend pushing for ultra-fine details, but for an array of standard applications, it’s more than sufficient. In terms of output quality, it aligns quite well with the ZD621 and the ZD420.

A noteworthy point is that this model may not satisfy everyone’s requirements. It’s not designed for high-detail output, but it does a remarkable job within its range. If you require higher resolution prints with fine granularity, considering other models within the product line may be a better idea.

Interface Ports & Add-On Features

Upon examining the rear of the printer, I found several connectivity options. It comes standard with a USB port, and Zebra offers models equipped with Ethernet, Bluetooth, RS-232 DB9 serials, and WiFi options. The inclusion of such diverse interfaces is a significant plus in the ZD421’s favor. Even better, Zebra has designed the printer to support add-on modules that enable additional connectivity options.

While these add-ons are not complex to install, they might not fall into the super-duper easy category. However, it’s worth mentioning that assistance is available for those who might struggle with it.

In conclusion, the ZD421 impresses with its combination of simplicity, functionality, and flexibility. It might not have all the fancy bells and whistles, but it certainly does deliver where it counts.

Rundown: ZEBRA ZD421 Direct Thermal Desktop Printer USB ZD4A042-D01M00EZ

The Printing Experience

  • Zebra ZD421 printer has fast, quiet printing capacity
  • Delivers crisp, clear text and barcodes
  • Consider ZD421 for everyday label printing needs

It’s time we dived into the actual usage of the model. We’ve seen the Zebra ZD421 printer from all angles, discussed the various versions, and had a glimpse of its interface. Now, let’s put it to the test and print!

Testing the Print Speed and Quality of ZD421

First step – Turning the model on and getting it loaded with some label rolls. With two and a quarter by one and a quarter inch direct thermal labels in place, I started the process.

The printer certainly lives up to its specifications, offering a printing speed of up to six inches per second (at 203 DPI) and four inches per second (at 300 DPI). The speed was noticeably faster than the GK420 model, and definitely on par with the ZD420. The model was also fairly quiet when operating, which is a plus in work environments where noise is a concern.

Evaluating the Print Output – A Closer Inspection

Upon printing, I was pleasantly surprised. Even though the printer operates at a 203 DPI resolution, not the 300 DPI, the barcode came out absolutely crisp, and the text was clear and sharp. It’s the kind of quality you’d expect from Zebra’s flagship printers.

One needs to take into account that this is not meant for high-definition artwork printing, it is made for standard applications, most likely barcodes and labels – and in this field, it excels.

  • Quality : The text and barcodes were clear, with the printer providing consistent quality throughout. Definitely a thumbs up here.
  • Speed : The printer speed was as advertised, again a solid point in its favor.

In summary, based on the speed and quality of printing, transitioning your everyday label printing needs to the ZD421 is something definitely worth considering. While it’s not necessarily a game-changer, this printer certainly feels like a step up from the older generation models.

Next, we will explore the connectivity options and additional features that the printer brings to the table.

Dissection of ZEBRA ZD421 Direct Thermal Desktop Printer USB ZD4A042-D01M00EZ

Connectivity Options & Add-On Features

  • ZD421 offers varied connectivity including USB, Ethernet, Bluetooth
  • Additional modules allow capabilities expansion
  • Contains optional portable battery pack

We’re now moving on to one of my favourite parts – exploring the connectivity options as well as the add-on features that this printer has to offer. Things are about to get a tad more interesting!

Unveiling the Printer’s Interface Ports

As we flip this printer around to the back, you can see that there are a varied number of relevant ports. The ZD421 model that I am reviewing today offers USBB as its primary interface. Nevertheless, Zebra has catered for plenty of us with varying needs, offering models with ethernet, Bluetooth, rs-232 DB9 serials, and Wi-Fi. The flexibility to choose from different versions of this printer makes it a great potential option for a wide range of users.

Expandability of the Printer – The Flexibility with Add-On Modules

But wait, there’s more! Zebra has ensured that the ZD421 won’t become outdated quickly. They’ve done a great job at this by offering add-on modules. Although not super straightforward to install, they’re manageable with adequate guidance. You get the flexibility to expand your printer’s capabilities whenever you need to change how you use the printer. And that, in my opinion, is incredibly forward-thinking.

Finally, let’s talk about the power supply here. Of course, you plug it into the wall, standard procedure, right? Well, Zebra has a little trick up its sleeve: a battery pack. This cool little gadget plugs right into the power supply and gives you the option of portability. Imagine the possibilities!

To sum it all up, the ZD421 serves up various connectivity options, allowing it to be a versatile tool for different workplace settings. Coupled with its upgradeable nature thanks to the add-on modules and the possibility of portability, this printer has a lot more than meets the eye. I should, however, point out that installing the add-on modules might not be super easy, but given the potential benefits, I believe it’s an investment worth considering.

Wrapping Up

As we draw this review to a close, let’s take a moment to reflect on the key points about the Zebra ZD421 printer.

Assessing the Efficiency and Performance of ZD421

Digging into the printer’s capabilities, the Zebra ZD421 really stands up to the plate when it comes to efficiency and performance. Regardless of the task, it seems to perform consistently. In my experience, the printing speed and quality were impressive, as was the printer’s diversity with three different printing options.

The Zebra ZD421 is also able to accommodate a wide variety of label sizes, making it suitable for a range of applications.

Why Consider ZD421? – My Final Verdict.

So, is the Zebra ZD421 worth considering?

In my view, the Zebra ZD421’s robustness and versatility make it an attractive option for any business that wants to streamline their labeling operations. The little extra costs for its cartridge version or its lcd screen counterpart can prove to be timesaving and useful in reducing workplace confusion.

The additional features, like the cutter and peeler attachments, illustrate the printer’s versatility and customization options. With the added convenience of the different interfacing options and the potential to augment the printer with add-on modules, scalability seems to be a strong point for the ZD421.

I must acknowledge that the ZD421 has room for improvement. The 203 DPI resolution, though adequate for most tasks, could be improved for better quality prints. Also, although the user interface is relatively straightforward, a touch screen can enhance user-friendliness, as seen in the ZD621.

Overall, the Zebra ZD421 offers a solid, industry standard performance. While it may not be the most cutting-edge model on the market, its reliability, versatility, and efficiency make it a good choice for businesses big or small.

When looking for a label printer that can meet diverse needs, the Zebra ZD421 is definitely worth considering.

Should you buy the ZEBRA ZD421 Direct Thermal Desktop Printer USB ZD4A042-D01M00EZ?

Buy it if…

You’re Looking for Versatility

The Zebra ZD421 has three different versions to match your specific printing needs. Whether you need a direct thermal option or a thermal transfer roll or ribbon version, this printer has you covered.

You Want Excellent Print Speed

The ZD421 can print up to six inches per second when printing at 203 DPI or four inches per second at 300 DPI. It offers quick print speeds for increased efficiency.

You Need a Wide Range of Connectivity Options

The ZD421 has various interface options including USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet. This makes the printer compatible with a variety of devices and systems.

Don’t buy it if…

You’re Not Tech Savvy

While the ZD421 is feature-rich, setting up certain versions of the printer – such as the thermal transfer model – can be a bit complex, particularly for individuals who are not technologically inclined.

You’re on a Budget

The ZD421 is a mid-level printer and may come at a higher price point than other basic models on the market. The cartridge versions, in particular, may have a higher total cost of ownership due to the cartridges being more expensive than traditional rolls.

You Prefer a More User-Friendly Interface

The ZD421 comes with a standard interface with buttons and status icons. If you’re looking for a more intuitive, graphically inclined interface, this may not be the best fit for you.


What are the three different versions of the Zebra ZD421 printer?
The ZD421 has a direct thermal option, a thermal transfer roll or ribbon version, and a cartridge thermal transfer version.
What is the main difference between the ZD421 and its predecessors?
The ZD421 printer includes additional features not found in its predecessors, such as the cartridge option for thermal transfer printing and an improved printing speed.
Can the Zebra ZD421 handle different paper sizes?
Yes, the ZD421 can accommodate labels ranging from 0.58 inches to 4.65 inches wide, depending on the model. It can also accept labels up to five inches in diameter.
What are some of the interface and connectivity options for the ZD421?
The ZD421 offers a multitude of connectivity options such as USB, Ethernet, Bluetooth, RS-232 DB9 serials, and Wi-Fi.
How can I enhance the functionality of the ZD421?
There are add-on modules and accessories like cutter attachment, peelered option, and a battery pack that can be purchased separately to extend its capabilities.
What is the print speed of the ZD421?
The ZD421 can print up to six inches per second when printing at 203 DPI or four inches per second when printing at 300 DPI.
How does the ZD621 compare with the ZD421?
The ZD621 model, an upgrade from the ZD421, can feature a touch LCD screen for an easier, more user-friendly experience.

About Isaac Ford

Isaac FordIsaac's multidimensional background, spanning science to storytelling, helps him craft reviews that are both factual and engaging, catering to experts and novices alike.

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