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Printer Buying Guide

How to Buy A Printer

Buying a printer can be a challenge, especially with so many makes, designs, and styles available. How do you begin to sort through them all and find out what you actually need? The sheer amount can be overwhelming!

Looking at what the printer will be used for and then finding one to suit is the best way to start looking for your new printer. Printers fall into a few general categories, and knowing what printer does what is a great way to get started.

Printers & Scanners Categories

Multifunction Printers

Multi-function printers are machines that do more than one job, often at the very least they will print and scan (and copy). These printers are fantastic for small spaces, with one machine taking the space of may others they are great space savers and often their cost will be greatly reduced when compared to buying separate machines.

The downside of the multifunction printer is while they do a lot, they may not do it to the same quality that seperate machines can, and often they are marketed for the home user, so may not be suitable for heavy use.

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Home & Small Office Printers

Printers that are to be used in the home or small office situations need to be more adaptable than the standard printer as they will be doing a bit of everything. And they will be handling a variety of tasks, so they need to be robust and willing to handle the load.

In selecting the printer think about where it will fit, how much paper will it take, and how long will the ink last? There is more to a printer than its functions, access ports, cables (or WiFi) and service requirements are all important to consider. If the printer is a replacement make a list of what you don’t like, or need to improve on your current model.

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Business & Corporate Printers

Moving on from the small office and into fully functional business models can have its own requirements. Now the printer will be used by many people, instead of one or two, and the printer will need to cater for various skill levels of users. Usability is now the most important function to find, can the printer be used by everyone in the office?

Getting feedback from your employees can give valuable insight to what problems or functions the printer needs to have. Another consideration is how does the printer fit with your business goals and guidelines, does it’s environmental impact (recyclable ink cartridges) align with your current identity?

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Scanners

Scanners are perfect for sending a document by email (and have almost ended the age of the FAX). Generally scanners are two types, flatbeds and automatic document feeders (ADF), flatbeds are generally cheaper, but can be labor intensive when scanning more than one page. ADF’s can also be one-sided or two-sided (simplex and duplex) for scanning both sides of a page, consider if what you scanned is printed both sides.

Other considerations include, speed (how fast it scans), maximum page width (can it handle bigger than strandar A4?), resolution (how clear the image is, especially important for images and signatures.), and network connectivity (how many computers can use it?).

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Receipt & Label Printers

Receipt printers are usually limited to one task, and often they take one size of paper. Requirements to consider include cost of paper, and mobility. Do you need to take the printer out of the office? How fast does it print? Keeping a customer waiting for a receipt what you have people waiting can see potential customers walking out the door.

Label printers are similar to receipt printers in that they usually are suited to just one job. If you are printing a variety of labels, check to see how adaptable the printer is. Will the printer support the thickness of the labels? And how fast can it complete the job? A fast printer can sometimes compromise on quality, therefore you may need to choose between speed and clarity.

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Printer Ink and Consumables

Printer ink is the largest ongoing cost of any printer, examine closely the cost per page of any printer. If you produce many colour copies, see if the printer has separate chambers or an all in one - meaning when you run out of blue you either replace the blue, or all of the colours.

The paper you feed into the printer is as important as the ink, you need quality paper to get good prints. Many manufacturers will recommend a certain type of paper to get the best results out of their printers, and if you are producing copies for others, having a perfect copy can really impress!

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Inkjet Printers Vs Laser Printers

Inkjet Printers

Inkjet multifunction printers are well suited to a variety of uses from casual at home printing and scanning, home office or small business use to high volume professional business use and photographic printing.

Traditional inkjet printers operate by spraying tiny droplets of ink directly onto paper using a small cartridge which contains liquid. These lightweight, compact printers can print on a wide variety of paper types including labels, envelopes, scrapbooking and photo paper. All inkjet multifunction printers are 3-in-1 that allow you to print, copy and scan, however there are 4-in-1 printers available which offers fax as well.  

Lightweight, compact inkjet printers spray tiny droplets of ink directly onto paper. They're great for printing on a wide range of paper types and sizes, such as scrapbooking paper, business envelopes, labels and more. All-in-one inkjet printers come in two varieties: a 3-in-1 that allows you to print, copy and scan documents, or a 4-in-1 that also lets you fax.

Inkjet Printers Cartridges

Inkjet printers are ideal for printing images and offer a variety of options from basic colour printing to photographic printing on specialised photographic paper.

For home photo printing, inkjet printers are better suited than laser as they provide higher quality resolution and depth with a greater DPI (dots per inch)

Inkjet printers are also great for normal text printing, including images, web pages, essay assignments, quotes, invoices and other documents from home/school to professional business documents.

You can purchase inkjet multifunction printers that range from inexpensive occasional printing to quality volume printing suitable for home and business.

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Laser Printers

Laser printers are ideal for those who are looking to print regularly and print in volume as they are more economic than an inkjet printer. These workhorses are available in both monochrome (black and white) and colour printing

Laser printers feature quick power on and first page print, print speeds from 20 pages per minute and will suit practically any user looking for a fast printing option.

Laser Printers Cartdridges

Toner cartridges for laser printers offer a much higher page yield than most ink cartridges, offering a larger print volume capacity and generally a lower print cost per page. Furthermore, toner cartridges have a greater lifespan than ink as they operate using powder rather than ink which will dry out overtime.  

Laser printing offers a professional print quality finish in both black and colour on plain paper that is perfect for assignments and professional reports or presentations.

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Important Printer Features

Print Speed & Quality

It is important to consider not only print speed and quality when deciding which printer to buy, but also the ongoing cartridge cost and yield (page prints per cartridge). Consider a printer that suits your needs based on functionality, features, cartridge pricing and yield.

Print speed is measured in pages per minute (ppm). Laser printers will print faster than inkjet printers and printing in black will usually be faster than printing in colour. Printing in black is more cost effective if colour is not required.

12ppm is ideal for occasional printing of small documents and assignments. 20ppm is ideal for fast printing in a small office environment where daily printing occurs. The speed of a printer does not necessarily determine the quality of a print.

Print quality is measured in dots per inch (dpi): higher dpi results in better quality, but lower can better conserve ink. Text is ideally printed at 300 - 600 dpi, while images and photos are best at 1200 dpi and above. Photos will look their best at 2400 dpi printed on specialty photographic paper.

Ink Tanks

Ink tank printers have quickly become another affordable printing option, combining low operating costs with the same multi-function printer features you expect from the average inkjet machine. Instead of relying on printer cartridges to produce a print, ink tank printers use a refillable tank system and ink bottles to handle printing duties. Like filling up your gas tank, when your printer’s ink levels are running low, you need to fill the tank with the appropriate amount of ink from the bottle.

The printer’s continuous ink system delivers the ink via an airtight tube to the printhead, so ink won’t dry out over time. Ink bottles are a far more economical printing solution than many original brand printer cartridges due to their high ink capacity, offering thousands of prints at an incredibly low cost per page.

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