A Buyer’s Guide to Printers

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What You Need to Know

  1. Inkjet and laser printers are the two most common kinds.
  2. Inkjets are the most popular choice as they tend to cope better with a wider range of tasks and are cheaper to buy.
  3. In addition, inkjet printers are less bulky and their ink cartridges are cheaper to replace.
  4. Laser printers are better suited to printing in large volume. They can print more pages per minute and, though laser toner is more expensive than printer ink, the higher page yield means, if you’re printing a lot, your cost per a page will be lower.
  5. Laser printers also produce sharper looking text (though they handle images less well.)
  6. All-in-one printers are a good investment if you’ll also need a scanner, copier or fax machine.
  7. If you have a wifi network and your printer will have to service multiple devices, a wireless printer can be very handy.
  8. Getting a printer with third party cartridge compatibility will mean you’re not tied down to just one brand of ink cartridge. Being able to shop around could help you save in the long run.

If you’re buying a printer for home use there’s a surprising amount to think about. In this guide we’ll run you through the factors that should feature in your decision making process.

Inkjet or Laser?

There are two main kinds of printer; inkjet and laser. The former is the most popular and is something of an all rounder. As well as being able to handle a range of tasks, from producing colour prints of photos (inkjets tend to be superior to laser printers in this respect) inkjet printers are also generally far less cumbersome, taking up less space on your desktop.

Another key benefit of going with an inkjet printer is that replacement ink cartridges are easier on the wallet than laser toner. The printers themselves are also cheaper to purchase, with single function models (those that just print, and forego additional functions such as scanning and photocopying) costing as little £25, and top of the range machines coming in at around £200. Cartridges can cost between £20-£40.

Given that they take up more space and are more expensive, why might you consider going for a laser printer? Though not great for images, when it comes to text documents laser printers will give you sharper print outs. On top of this, they handle bulk printing much better. If you are going to be printing in high volumes, not only will a laser printer give you sharper looking text, it’ll be a lot quicker too. Laser printers will print black and white pages at a rate of about 10 pages per minute, whereas an inkjet will do closer to six a minute. Laser printers are also about three times quicker when producing colour pages.

If you have an office set up in the home or if you’re looking for a printer for business use, a laser printer may well be the best option. Laser printers start at about £60 for the absolute cheapest models, going up to £250. Toner can cost about £40 a time. Whilst this is more than you’d pay for an ink cartridge, it does go further. Indeed, if you’re going to be printing a lot, your per a page printing costs are actually likely to be lower than with an inkjet - another advantage for those expecting to be printing in bulk.

All-In-One Printers

These days it’s actually fairly rare to find a printer that prints and nothing more. Whether inkjet or laser, it’s more popular to see all-in-one printers that also photocopy, scan or even fax. If you’re going to be needing these features then an all-in-one printer will make good financial sense (you can still get an all-in-one inkjet for under £40.) You will probably have to accept some compromise in quality for at least one of these functions, but if you only have rare occasion to scan or copy, as most of us do, you won’t really need a top of the line of scanner or photocopier anyway.

Unless you’re completely sure you won’t use the extra features and would rather make a bit of a saving, or you’d rather have a separate copier or scanner, all-in-one printers are a worthwhile investment, especially or a small home office environment.

Should You Go Wireless?

Whilst you’ll probably do the majority of your printing from your PC, laptop or Mac, if you and your family are big users of gadgets such as smarthphones and tablets you may find it handy to go for a wireless model that can connect to a range of such devices. This will allow everyone to make use of the printer, whilst allowing everyone to work in their own space.

Some wireless printers can be controlled remotely via email, meaning if you’re finishing up in the office but have a report to read through when you get home, you can send a command to the printer and have a copy of the document waiting for you when you get in.

Connecting your printer to a wifi network isn’t difficult. Many will connect with the touch of a button whereas others will simply require your network key (which you’ll find on the back of your router or by following these steps if you're using Windows.) You can get both inkjet, laser and all-in-one wireless printers.

Other Features

Modern printers can come with a range of other features, many of which are surprisingly useful. Here are some that you may want to add to your wish list when comparing models.

Auto-Duplexing: This doesn’t add much to the cost of a printer and allows you to use both sides of the paper, which can help improve economy.

Third Party Ink Cartridge Compatibility: Printer manufacturers make more from ink and toner than they do from the actual machines, so many produce machines that will only work with cartridges from the same brand, thus assuring future profits. Some machines will accept a variety of different cartridges, allowing you to shop around and save some cash.

Multiple Paper Trays: If you use different kinds of paper for printing (photo paper and plain A4 for example) having multiple trays will save a lot of hassle.

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