It might not seem like there would be a lot of variation between paper laminators, but there are quite a few factors to consider when shopping for one. Obviously, quality has a big impact; you don’t want a laminator that’s going to overheat or produce uneven results. But there are even differences in the kinds of technology a laminator uses, and the kind you should get will come down to what kinds of projects you plan on tackling. The most important difference to know is between a thermal (or hot) laminator and a cold one.
As the name implies, a hot laminator uses heat to seal the pages. This produces a durable, long-lasting, and water-resistant result. If you’re primarily using a laminator for a home office or to produce things that will get handled a lot, like restaurant menus, a thermal laminator is a reliable bet. Cold laminators, on the other hand, use adhesive and are often hand-operated. They suit a wider variety of projects, such as making stickers, but the laminated page isn’t as durable. Since there’s minimal heat involved, you can comfortably use a cold laminator with the kinds of ink and paper that would otherwise be damaged by heat. Hot laminators are typically more expensive, but the pouches they use are cheaper than those used by cold laminators.
If you’ve decided that a thermal laminator best suits your needs, we’ve rounded up a few reliable options. There’s even an option that can do both hot and cold laminates.
1. Blusmart Laminator Set
This laminator offers a wide range of features. It has a corner rounder attached to the unit, which is a good way to prevent nicks and scratches from often pointy laminate sheets. There’s a trimmer attached as well, and the Blusmart laminator can be used for hot or cold lamination.
Pros: Includes 20 free lamination pouches, can laminate hot or cold.
Cons: Some found the paper trimmer dull.
2. Scotch Thermal Laminator
This compact laminator works with 3 and 5 mil pouches, and it has an LED indicator so you know when it’s ready. It can be used to laminate different sheet sizes, including letters, photos, and ID cards. There’s a quick-release lever in the event of a jam.
Pros: Compact design, runs quietly, quickly laminates many pages without overheating.
Cons: Can take a while to heat up.
3. AmazonBasics Thermal Laminator Machine
This affordable option from AmazonBasics has two heat settings that are easy to switch between, and it can be used with any 3 mil or 5 mil laminating pouch. It warms up in 4 minutes, and there’s an indicator so you know when it’s ready. The unit has a compact, sleek design that won’t look obtrusive on any desk.
Pros: Minimalist and compact design, compatible with several sizes and thicknesses of documents.
Cons: Several users noted that the pages have to be inserted very straight, or the machine can mess them up, and there is no guide to ensure the pages are straight.