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The type of printer you purchase depends on the tasks you want to perform. Our guide explains the features of different types — inkjet, laser and multifunction printers with scanners — so you can buy a printer with confidence.
The speed that a printer produces a page is measured in "pages per minute" (ppm). Top-shelf inkjet printers can produce up to 20ppm in monochrome (one colour) and 12ppm in colour. If you're looking at a mid-range printer, look for 8ppm to 16ppm in mono, and 1.2ppm to 12ppm in colour.
Print quality is shown by a printer's resolution; that's the number of dots per square inch (dpi) it can produce on a sheet of paper. Don't just determine print quality by looking at specs alone; print a sample and judge for yourself.
Most inkjets and laser printers print on standard paper and envelopes, plus have input and output trays that hold at least 100 sheets. Some printers can hold more paper and can produce specialised prints like A3, B5, index cards or transparencies.
Be certain your computer meets the operating system requirements of your printer model. You'll need a CD-ROM drive or Internet access to install the printer software.
Today's printers use USB (Universal Serial Bus) cable to connect to a computer, camera or data storage device. Some offer wireless network connectivity, as well.
Auto-duplex lets you print on two sides of a single sheet of paper at the same time. This feature saves a lot of time and paper if you print lots of text.
A multifunction – or all-in-one – is a device that's a printer, photocopier and fax machine in one package; some multifunctions even have scanners.
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Printer types: Inkjet for high quality colour and low initial cost; laser for fast, sharp prints and low cost-per-page.
Print quality: Look for resolution specifications and trust your eyes.
Cartridges: Compare price and page yields of compatible cartridges before buying a printer.