How do you choose the printer that best covers the needs of your home or office? We’ll help you quickly navigate the options, features and equipment so you can feel good about low running costs when you print documents frequently.
Basic questions when choosing a printer
Before you start exploring hundreds of different printers, be clear about your expectations and the realistic use of the printer’s features. But you probably already have your idea and budget. But to make sure you take everything into account, answer the following questions:
How often and how many pages will I print?
If you only need to print a few pages a week, affordable home inkjet printers are a good choice. They have reasonable print quality and speed, and you can forgive the occasional purchase of a more expensive cartridge.
Their advantages include easy installation (just connect to your computer and within a few minutes you can print the first pages) and logically designed controls that can be easily handled by children who need to print out teaching material. For frequent printing of large quantities of documents (but also scripts), we already recommend a high-quality laser printer. They work quickly, the print quality is suitable for longer archiving and the running costs are surprisingly low compared to inkjet printers.
Will I print in color or black and white?
You’ll appreciate the capabilities of a black and white printer wherever you don’t need colour charts, images, maps or colour photos – whether in the home or in a smaller office. Otherwise, consider a colour printer, which has more print use. When choosing one, look at the print resolution, colour print speed and the price of replacement colour cartridges to be prepared for how much it actually costs to run such a printer.
Do I want the printer to be able to copy and scan as well?
If so, then a multifunction printer is the obvious choice. It can print (usually in black and white and colour), scan to file and make copies for existing documents or images. While the price of a 3-in-1 device is a bit higher compared to a “traditional” printer, given the technological advances and competitiveness of brands, the prices of multifunction printers are not exorbitant. So instead of having two or three devices near your desk, you have one sleek, space-saving device that works for you the way you need it to.
Do I care about print quality and durability?
In the long term, higher quality black and white printing is attributed to laser printers. Ink-jet printers are referred to in relation to higher quality colour printing and photos. It is not only the printing technology that is decisive, but also the quality of the ink cartridges and the print resolution (density of printing dots, resulting sharpness of the image, rendering in detail). If you want to print photos on photo paper at home in the quality of a photo lab (or even higher), then don’t overlook the newcomer in the printer range – photo printers.
Do I need to print on sizes other than A4?
Business cards, photos, stickers, leaflets, printing on paper of various formats and weights. A quality printer can do all this in a short time. Just set the input parameters correctly and insert the appropriate paper into the tray. In this context, therefore, look for information on supported formats, for example, supported paper sizes A6, A5, A4 (larger printers also A3 – maximum print size 297 × 420 mm), supported photo paper sizes 10 × 15, 13 × 18, 9 × 13 cm.
Printing technologies and printer types
Among the most widespread are currently inkjet and laser printers (well rated are HP, Canon, Epson, Brother). Both technologies have their undeniable advantages, and although laser printers seemed to gain a significant edge over inkjet printers, tank ink printers have shaken their position. On what principle do inkjet and laser printing work? What are needle printers and printers with thermal sublimation technology?
Inkjet printers include ink cartridges, most commonly black or CMYK spectrum (cyan – Cyan, magenta – Magenta, yellow – Yellow, black/key – Key).
Once the information is transferred from the computer, laptop or smartphone to the printer, the digital data is visualized and the print head transfers it line by line to the paper.
Priced to be among the more affordable, they have become the best-selling printers for the home. You can buy an inexpensive branded inkjet printer for as little as $65.
With occasional and low-maintenance use, you will be happy with the cost of operation. However, if you print hundreds to thousands of pages a month, running an inkjet printer will cost you significantly more on an annual basis than buying a quality laser printer with economical operation. The versatility of inkjet printers also speaks in their favour – they are most popular in 3-in-1 (print, scan, copy), black and white and high-quality colour printing and perfect connectivity (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth).
Laser printers were a quick response to the higher consumption of printing technology. While until recently they belonged almost exclusively to the office environment, with their shrinking size and falling price they have become a welcome solution for many homes. Not to mention that laser printers are also unsurpassed in print speed.
The cheapest laser printers can be purchased from as little as $90. If print speed/sharpness, document printing, or long-term archiving without compromising print quality is important to you, a laser printer will delight you with its economical operation even under high monthly workloads.
On what principle does it work? Let’s try to explain it in layman’s terms. The printer stores the document data in memory and the printer processor defines the image (lines, margins, alignment).
The main unit of the laser printer then controls the laser beam according to the processed data and transmits the image to a conductive cylinder with a selenium layer.
The areas illuminated by the beam are then captured by toner dust particles, which are imprinted on the paper and thermally fixed. All this happens in seconds when printing a single document.
High-quality laser printers produce 20-30 black-and-white pages per minute, taking barely 6 seconds for the first printout (technology activation). The yield of a single toner, depending on the brand and product, can be up to 5,000 pages. An added bonus – the powder (unlike ink) doesn’t dry out, even if you don’t use the printer for long periods of time.
Dot matrix printer
They are being pushed out of offices by universal laser printers, and their use in the home is almost nil and, let’s be honest, even boring. They can’t cope with complicated graphics. Needle printers have been marginalised, but even so, improved models sell well. They can show their potential especially when printing accounting documents, inventory lists, various notebooks and tickets. They are therefore well suited for printing text and instant copies. The advantages include high accuracy, reliability, long service life and minimal breakdowns.
They work on a principle similar to a typewriter. The more needles a dot matrix printer has, the faster and better the print quality. If you read from the printer description that the print speed is 680 characters per second, it can print one standard A4 with 1,800 characters in less than 3 seconds! Dot matrix printers use ‘continuous paper’, which typically features separable perforations on the sides.
He may appear to be a newcomer to technology. However, thermal sublimation printing technology needed a few years to “upgrade” to show its full potential and iron out many of its shortcomings. If you too are fed up with digital photos getting lost in folders or clouds and want to hold real photos in your hands once again, you’ll be happy with a thermosublimation printer.
The printer includes a roll of thin film on which the dyes (yellow, magenta and turquoise) are applied. By the action of heat, the solid dye is released from the film, changes to a gaseous state (sublimation) and passes to the surface layer of the photo paper, where it settles and changes back to a solid state.
A miracle in practice, right? A single spot can take on up to an incredible 256 levels of colour intensity depending on the heat applied. Once all the layers have been applied (including the all-important protective layer that enhances the durability of the photograph), the resulting image is exceptionally realistic and preserves the colour and detail of a digital image.
Other useful printer features
Now that the introduction to printing technologies is over, let’s take a closer look at what features modern printers offer and choose from those that will make working with the printer more enjoyable and, in particular, easier during everyday use.
Colour/Black & White Printing:
the basic function you buy a printer for. You can’t do without cartridges/toners for black and white and colour printing, so look at the price of the printer as well as the price of replacement cartridges.
Allows you to scan physical paper documents, images and photos into digital form on your computer and save in one of the supported formats. You can buy a scanner separately or it is a handy feature of a multifunction printer.
a feature that lets you make extra copies of paper documents in a short time. The number of copies can also be set. To save time when copying large quantities of documents, choose a printer with an ADF (automatic document feeder) function.
Automatic double-sided printing:
Or Duplex means that the printer can print paper from both sides without your assistance (saving time, paper, energy). Classic duplex works by having the printer first print paper from one side and then pull it back. In internal duplexing, the paper is turned to the opposite side while still inside the printer.
Or even borderless printing. A feature you can use not only for printing photos, but also charts, tables, maps, labels and stickers.
Support for direct printing:
you don’t have to turn on your computer or laptop to print your document. You can insert a USB or memory card (removable media) directly into the printer. Functionality is on the decline with the proliferation of wireless technologies. In fact, it’s easier to send documents to print via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, without physically approaching the printer.
Can be simple, where you can see basic print information, or larger and touch-sensitive, allowing you to make advanced settings. The touch screen is secured with a PIN code.
Multiple paper trays:
Consumption: One of the disadvantages of inkjet printers is their increased consumption on maintenance cycles (20% on average). One solution to reduce frequent cleaning of printheads is to leave the printer on standby and switch from automatic cleaning to manual cleaning.
Printing costs: without lengthy calculations and comparisons – laser printers have significantly lower printing costs.
Print resolution: also referred to as dpi (dot per inch). This is the number of dots that the printer can print on a 1-inch (2.54 cm) line. The minimum print resolution is 300 × 300 dpi, with a maximum of 1200 × 6000 dpi. The higher the resolution, the more detailed the image.
Print speed black and white/colour: It is specified as the number of pages per minute in both colour modes. The average B&W print speed is considered to be approximately 15-17 ppm, while the average colour print speed is approximately half that – 8 ppm.
Supported print formats: most commonly A4, A5, A6 paper (more expensive printers also A3), photo paper with dimensions 10 × 15, 13 × 19, 9 × 13 cm.
The development of printers is constantly moving towards greater user comfort so that their operation is reasonably simple and intuitive. The basic method is to connect the printer to a LAN, via an Ethernet cable. Any device that is plugged into your local internet network can then send print commands to the printer.
However, on most printers (probably for precautionary reasons) you will also find a USB port that allows you to instantly connect your computer or laptop to the printer or insert a USB key if the model supports direct printing. It’s clear that wireless technology couldn’t bypass the printers that already form a staple among the electronics in many homes. So you can send documents and photos to print from your tablet or smartphone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth with ease.