Buying Guide: Printers
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.
What Are The Types Of Printers?
- Inkjet: These are versatile and suit users with light printing needs, or anyone who wants to print high quality graphics and photos. An inkjet printer works by spraying ink onto paper via a series of nozzles.
- Laser: A good choice for printing large amounts of documents quickly and reliably. A laser printer uses a laser light to write images on a rotating drum, which rolls through a layer of toner before touching the paper.
How Fast Is It?
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.
Check Out The Print Quality
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.
Consider The Ink Cartridges
- Value: If you're considering a particular printer, check the price and expected number of printed pages (that is, how often you'll need to replace them) for the ink or toner cartridge. Ink and toner cartridges that print lots of pages will save you money by keeping down the cost of each page.
- Colours: Inkjets combine four ink colours to print an image: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Get an inkjet printer with separate tanks for each colour — instead of a combined "colour" cartridge — so you only have to replace the empty ones.
How Much Paper Can It Handle?
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.
The Operating System
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.
Make Sure you Stay Connected
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.
What Is An Auto-Duplexer?
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.
What Is A Multifunction Printer?
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.
Match Your Lifestyle
- Use: Printing reports, newsletters and the occasional photo for personal use.
- Type: A versatile, affordable colour inkjet printer.
Students and Home Office
- Use: Running a small business from home, school or university assignments.
- Type: A personal laser printer for crisp text, or a multifunction printer which has copier, scanner and fax capabilities.
- Use: Printing colour photos.
- Type: A mid-range colour inkjet, which can also handle routine printing tasks.
Simple Printer Choices
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.