How to choose the best printer

choose the best printer

Even though many home-computer setups include printers, some users find that these freebies don’t meet their needs. With all the options out there as well as the many, many uses for the printers on the market it’s no wonder that so many buyers are shopping separately for their equipment.

Before you make the purchase, though, you need to know the basic differences between certain types of printers. You also need to know what you intend to do with your new printer, so that you find a model and type that fits all your needs (and, hopefully, some of your wants as well).

These are the most popular types of printers:

DOT MATRIX: these printers are often used for receipt-printing and can be found in many businesses (auto parts stores, rent-to-own companies, et cetera). They use sprocket paper (one long, perforated sheet with holes on both sides), and ribbons to produce the text.

These printers are fairly inexpensive but don’t do graphics. They use black ink, so don’t expect full-color printouts, either.

They’re ideal for receipts, first drafts of writing, and other, non-graphical work. They’re also fairly large, so finding space in your home office might present a small challenge.

INKJET: printers that are designed for occasional home printing, but not high-volume jobs that medium-sized businesses perform on a regular basis. These can cost as little as thirty dollars and can print color graphics as well as plain text. The higher-end models also feature photo-quality printing, which is a must for many digital-camera owners.

Because they can be fairly small, finding space for them isn’t a big deal for most users.

The expense, however, comes in the ink. Buying refurbished cartridges can save money, but sometimes users end up paying thirty or more dollars every time the black ink runs low.

This works well for people who print occasionally, and for those who can refill their ink cartridges or buy refurbished.

ALL-IN-ONE: sometimes putting all the office equipment into one piece of machinery can be an advantage. All-in-ones can include printers (usually inkjet), scanners, fax machines, and copiers, among other things. They often cost a couple of hundred dollars or more but are cheaper and less space-wasting than buying each piece of equipment separately.

And, because most models use the exact same paper for all the functions, some users end up saving money on that end of the deal as well.

The drawback to this is that, if certain parts break, the entire unit is useless. If, for example, the digital display dies, you can’t really do any job with that piece of equipment and your office is essentially shut down.

Overall, however, small businesses would do well to consider an all-in-one, especially if those companies are still in the growing stages.

LASER: these are ideal for higher-volume jobs as well as for people who aren’t overly patient. Many monochrome laser printers churn out 15 pages per minute or more, and produce first-rate text printouts. They also handle graphics fairly well.

Also: most models have quite a bit of memory (we’re talking megabytes here), so large print jobs like full novels or your company’s last three fiscal years’ worth of financial statements aren’t going to overload the system or the printer.

Color laser printers have the same advantages plus the ability to print pretty good graphics, though this cost quite a bit more than just about any other printers out there. If you have the need and money to make the investment, it’s worth consideration.

Unfortunately, laser printers are expensive initially and throughout their lifetimes. While some monochrome models can be had for three hundred dollars, others still cost quite a bit more than that.

There’s also the toner and toner drum problem. If both of these run out and/or die at the same time, expect to pay upwards of one hundred fifty dollars to get things going again.

However, users don’t have to replace toner cartridges or drums nearly as often as they would replace inkjet cartridges. Drum units on some models are designed for up to 20,000 pages; high-yield toner cartridges can print out 6,000 pages or more before they need to be replaced.

What type of printer you buy will be affected by your needs. For example:

-If you want to print high-quality digital photos, you aren’t going to have much luck with a dot matrix printer, and

-If you frequently print lots of text, you may find yourself saving money and time with a laser printer.

When you narrow it down to one or two types of ideal printers, you can comparison shop before you buy. This ensures that you will get the best printer in your price range and that you won’t be surprised by maintenance costs.

-Use the Internet to find user opinions about the printers on your list. This may take a little time, and you’re almost guaranteed to find conflicting opinions, but it’s worth it. If several people have the same complaint about a particular model, you can trust that this printer may need to be crossed off your list. In some cases, you can leave messages for opinion writers to request further information.

-Go to your local office-supply store and test the models on your list. Even if you aren’t planning to buy the printer there (sometimes you can order cheaper online), you can still ask questions and print test pages.

And, because you’re actually standing there looking at the printer, you can better visualize how much space it will take up in your home or office.

-Price replacement parts, including ink, toner, drum units, and paper. If you have a rough idea of how much you’re going to do with your new printer, you can estimate operating costs for the day, week, or month. This will help eliminate the obvious bum deals and give you a good idea of what to expect once you take the printer home and set it up.

Whatever the case, make sure that your printer comes with a warranty or guarantee, that the store’s return policy is adequate to your needs, and that any ink, paper, etc. you may need are easily found in your area.

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