Best Laminators of 2018

Rebecca Spear ·
Writer/Reviewer
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We've evaluated laminators for the past three years, researching each device's speed, size and film thickness capacity. In addition, we looked for features that make each machine easy to use, such as jam prevention technology and a cold-to-the-touch exterior. The Scotch TL1306 Thermal is our top pick because it is a decent size and is compatible with a variety of film thicknesses. It also has fast warm-up and laminating speeds. 

Best Overall

Scotch TL1306

This Scotch model is one of the fastest laminators, with its one-minute warm-up time and its ability to laminate 18 inches per minute. It is also compatible with three pouch thicknesses.
View on Amazon
Best Value

AmazonBasics Thermal

The AmazonBasics Thermal comes with a one-year warranty and works quickly to laminate documents up to 9.3 inches wide. It offers the most value considering its low cost.
View on Amazon
Best for Larger Documents

GBC Pinnacle 27 EZload Thermal Roll

This laminator can handle documents that are up to 27 inches wide. It also has jam-prevention technology.
View on GBC
Best Overall

Scotch TL1306

You can use the Scotch TL1306 Thermal with pouches that are 3 millimeters, 5 millimeters or 6 millimeters thick, which is a decent variety. It handles documents as wide as 12.3 inches, so it’s a good choice for midsize documents but not for larger ones like posters.
It has one of the fastest warm-up times of any thermal laminator we reviewed, taking only one minute to be ready for use. A light indicates when it is warmed and ready to go. The machine can laminate 18 inches per minute – the warm-up speed combined with this lamination speed makes this the fastest laminator we evaluated. To save energy, this device automatically shuts off if it sits idle for one hour. This laminator is built to prevent misfeeding, which in turn helps you avoid damaging your documents with jams. It works by using four rollers: Two heated rollers bond the film to the documents and the last two rollers press the document and film together to permanentally seal them. This laminator features easy-to-use LED touch controls. Unfortunately, the manufacturer doesn't back it with a warranty.
Pros
  • Warms up in just a minute
  • Automatically prevents jams
  • Laminates 18 inches per minute
Cons
  • It's on the pricey side
  • Doesn't come with a warranty
  • It cannot laminate larger documents like posters
$125.65Amazon
Best Value

AmazonBasics Thermal

The AmazonBasics is the least expensive laminator we evaluated, though it has helpful features and is very compatible. It is a small machine, weighing only 2.6 pounds, which makes it portable.
It takes four minutes to heat up, and the indicator light turns on when it is ready to go. The machine can only use 3-millimeter and 5-millimeter pouches, so it might not be the device for you if you want to make rigid laminations. The laminator is simple, and while it doesn't have a monitor, you can indicate if you are using 3-millimeter or 5-millimeter pouches by flipping a switch. Amazon backs this laminator with a one-year warranty. It has a jam release lever to help you remove problematic documents from the rollers. While the lever makes it easy to resolve jams, it would be better if jam prevention technology were built into the machine itself. This laminator uses an electrical cord for power, so you need to find an outlet to plug it into.
Pros
  • Has a one-year warranty
  • Comes with two 8.9 x 11.4-inch pouches
  • Has a jam release lever
Cons
  • Maximum pouch thickness it can handle is 5 millimeters
  • Must be plugged into an outlet to use
  • Doesn't have automatic jam prevention technology
$17.88Amazon
Best for Larger Documents

GBC Pinnacle 27 EZload Thermal Roll

The GBC Pinnacle 27 is one of the largest laminators we reviewed. With its maximum document width of 27 inches, it can handle large items like posters and large prints.
This device is built with EZload technology that prevents jams and ensures you load film into the machine correctly. As a backup, it also features a button to initiate a motorized reverse so you can remove jammed items. It can take anywhere from eight to ten minutes for the laminator to warm up, but once it is ready to go, it can laminate 10 inches per minute. The machine's buttons let you set the temperature of the heating element, which helps you tailor the settings to the item you're laminating and the type of film you’re using. The GBC Pinnacle 27 is compatible with film up to 3 millimeters thick. This means it doesn't produce thick laminations, so if that's what you need, this might not be the right machine for you. To help conserve electricity, this laminator automatically shuts off after several hours of inactivity. Its large size, decent laminating speed, jam prevention and simple loading feature make this an ideal device for an office or school setting.
Pros
  • Has jam-prevention technology
  • Laminates 10” per minute
  • Automatic shut-off saves electricity
Cons
  • Very expensive device
  • Maximum pouch thickness is 3 millimeters
  • Takes eight to ten minutes to warm up
$1811.00GBC

Why Trust Us

We have evaluated laminators for the past three years. While we didn't test these products ourselves, we researched user ratings to determine which devices work the best and deliver on their claims. We compared features and capabilities and researched user reviews to ferret out any known problems or additional perks that come with each product. The laminators we chose range in size and price, and they laminate in a variety of thicknesses. We highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of each machine.

How We Evaluated

To narrow our search to the top products, we found laminators that had the most positive consumer reviews. We made a list of each machine's features and capabilities sowe could compare them. Then, we whittled down that list to 10 devices.

As we compared, we considered which models are easiest to use by looking for conveniences and helpful features. For instance, some laminators included jam release buttons, or motorized reverse buttons to make it easier to resolve jamming. These devices scored high. Laminators with built-in jam prevention scored even higher.

For all laminators that use heat to seal, we looked at how long it takes for the heating element to warm up. We also checked to see which machine laminates the fastest. We combined the warm-up time and the laminating speed, and the fastest models scored the highest.

The size of the device determines which types of documents you can laminate. Machines that can laminate larger documents ranked higher. We also gave points to machines that accommodate a variety of pouch thicknesses because they are more versatile. 

Things to Consider Before Choosing a Laminator

Type
You can find both thermal and cold laminators on the market, and some devices offer both sealing methods. Thermal laminators uses heat to seal film and documents together. Cold lamination, or pressure laminating, places pressure on sticky transparent sheets to laminate papers, not unlike using clear tape. Both options work and are commonly used, but thermal laminating is more popular. Thermal machines are typically more expensive, but the film costs less. Cold laminators are less expensive, but the film costs more, so you could end up spending more over time.

The type of machine you need partially depends on the items you’re laminating. If a document is temperature-sensitive, like carbon paper, it is a good idea to use a cold laminator.

Warm-Up Time & Laminating Speed
Thermal machines need time to warm their rollers to actually do their job. Depending on the machine, this warm-up period can range from one to 20 minutes. Once the machine is ready, the actual laminating speed varies. Some can laminate as much as 18 inches per minute. If you think you'll typically need to make laminations in a hurry, consider purchasing a machine that warms up quickly and laminates at a faster speed.

Laminating Thickness
Laminators are built to be compatible with specific film and pouch thicknesses. A 10 millimeter film or pouch is the most protective and is difficult to bend. On the other hand, a 3 millimeter film gives the document a protective coating but allows it to bend easily. The thickness you need depends on the project. Most laminators are compatible with a maxiumum of three film thicknesses.

Number of Rollers

The number of rollers and their functions in the machine determine the quality of laminated documents. In the most basic machines, two rollers press your document and the film together to seal them. It is best to feed documents slowly into these machines.

In more complex machines, two rollers heat or apply pressure to the film, while an additional pair seal the film and the document together. This second pair of rollers typically remove any wrinkles and imperfections. Documents should be fed into these machines at a steady speed.

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