How to Choose The Right Printer for Your Needs
With the amazing advances in printing technology over the last couple of years, you’re probably thinking of finally buying a printer or replacing your outdated one.
With the competition between a lot of reliable brands such as HP, Canon, and Epson, the prices have fallen down and the quality has gone up.
But with the options on the market, how do you know exactly which one is the right printer for you?
To help you reach the answer to this question, we’ve made this guide for selecting a printer based on the most common features.
What’s the type of printer that would suit your needs?
There are a number of types but the most prominent are inkjet printers, laser printers, supertank printers, photo printers and instant photo printers, and the high-tech 3D printers.
They are generally lightweight and have a compact design.
They operate by spraying small droplets of ink directly onto the paper.
They’re suitable for printing a wide variety of paper types and sizes including scrapbooking paper, business envelopes, labels, and more.
Read more: The Best Small Business Printers Guide.
All-in-one inkjet printers have 2 types: a 3-in-1 kind which allows you to print, scan and copy documents or a 4-in-1 kind that enables you to do the aforementioned things as well as faxing.
They’re hardworking machines that are able to print large volumes in a short time and at a low cost per page.
Similar to copy machines, laser printers use static electricity and toner (powder) instead of ink to print text and images onto paper.
If you know you’re not going to print anything but text documents, you can choose a laser printer that prints in black only to save up some money.
They're a modified version of the inkjet ones where they save time by using high-capacity cartridges so you can make fewer cartridge changes with large-volume work.
Some options use refillable bottles to reduce the cost, while some can go on for 2 years without needing more ink.
Photo printers and instant photo printers:
They’re designed to print high-quality photos similar in quality to those of professional printing services but at a lower or comparable cost and an immediate print.
They can print photos up to 4 x 6 inches in size, or wide format models designed to print media up to 24-inches wide. Some can print at 8.5 x 11 inches in size.
They’re printers that use materials such as plastic, power, or resin to bring 3D models designed on CAD (Computer-aided design) programs to life.
Of course, if you're a homeowner or work in an office, you're probably going to be using an inkjet or a laser printer. So let's dive more into the details of each.
The most popular option on the market is color inkjet printers because of their capability print just about anything. Pie charts, glossy photos, essays, coupons, whatever it is.
Moreover, modern inkjet printers and all-in-ones are quite fast –with speeds that are way superior to their laser rivals.
Laser printers are a good option for office use where most of the printing is probably monochrome.
The vast majority of monochrome laser printers are available for quite affordable prices, have a satisfactory print speed, and provide a lower cost per page than a color inkjet printer.
A color laser printer can be a good option if you want to print in multiple colors, but their cost per page can significantly exceed that of a color inkjet's.
How much are you willing to spend on supplies?
Don’t be so fast to think that you’re a thrifty shopper for buying your printer on a sale or at a bargain price. Why? Because there’s the repetitive cost of having to pay for ink cartridge replacements.
Before you buy a printer, make sure you’ve done your homework when it comes to the cost of replacement supplies. This includes knowing how long it would take before your initial cartridges run dry, how much you can print with a cartridge, and how much the cartridge replacement would cost.
Sometimes, buying an expensive printer for the cheaper line of cartridges is the more economical and budget-friendly choice.
You can also research the possibility of refilling your cartridges to cut down on the expenses. This is not always an easy job, however, because of the tiny chips added by manufacturers.
Finally, research new models and ink plans. HP offers an Instant Ink program that sends you cartridges automatically once your ink runs low. It also offers you a fixed number of pages for a fixed monthly fee.
On the other hand, Canon and Epson have n “Ink tank” model that you can fill from small bottles of ink. This makes the cost per page quite economical.
Some of Brother's printers come with multiple cartridges in the box so you wouldn't have to turn to buy refills for a considerable amount of time.
Duplexing (Two-sided printing or scanning)
This feature is becoming increasingly popular and it's a pretty big plus.
Duplexing means printing or scanning both sides of the page with no need to flip the page over.
What happens is the printer prints the first side of the page, pulls the page back, flips it over, and prints the other side.
A lot of all-in-one devices that are equipped with an automatic document feeder (ADF) for the scanner also have duplexing. This allows you to scan both sides of the page as the document is put in through the ADF.
Whereas the all-in-one devices that don’t have an automatic document feeder are incapable of duplex scanning without manually turning the page over on the scan glass.
Duplex scanning and printing are very handy when it comes to saving paper and general user convenience. You should make sure the printer you buy comes with this feature.
No fully-featured printer, especially AIOs, doesn’t come with networking capabilities.
These days, internet-based features are very common and allow you to access photos stored on sites such as Flickr, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Facebook.
You can also have remote printing and access to crafts and arts.
This, however, requires an active internet connection on both your printer and your portable devices such as a tablet or a smartphone.
Your typical printer will feed on a stack of 8.5 x 11 paper, but will it handle index cards, glossy stock, and legal envelopes?
Currently, a lot of printers include feed trays that are dedicated for printing on specialty papers with uncommon sizes or various weights. This makes them a lot easier to deal with.
You should also consider the size of the input tray. The smaller the tray is, the more frequent you will be required to add paper. So you should opt for a 250-page hopper that cuts it down to a once-per-month refill.
Some home office-targeted models are equipped with an optional second tray that allows you to use different paper stock, check the stock, or double the paper capacity so that you don’t have to refill the tray with paper as frequently.
The International Standards Organization has made a set of tests that are developed and licensed to vendors. These ISO test protocols provide the user with more confidence when it comes to their printer choice.
That’s why you should pay attention to the IPM (Impressions per Minute) of a printer and compare them to pick the one with that is the most time-efficient.
A printer’s resolution is measured in DPI (Dots per Inch). DPI measures the number of dots of ink the printer can print over an inch.
The larger the number of dots, the higher the quality of the print. So if you’re going to be printing images, you should be inclined to getting a printer with a high DPI.