Printer Buying Guide

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Whether it’s for school or work, printing at home is more convenient than visiting a printing center/supply store. Unfortunately, the large number of choices can make printer buying difficult. 

Besides all of the different brands, printers come with an array of different features, so you need to shop carefully to find a machine that matches all of your printing needs.

In this printer buying guide we’ll explore types of printers available, what features you may want to look for, and the models you may want to select.

Types of Printers Available

The most common types of printers are: 

  • Inkjet 
  • Laser
  • All-in-one

How Inkjet Printers Work

An inkjet printer sends tiny streams or jets of ink onto paper with a device called a print head. As the paper goes through the printer, the print head moves back and forth across the page.

Some inkjet printers heat the ink before sending it to the paper, and others apply force or an electrical charge to the ink. Inkjet printers usually have replaceable ink cartridges and plastic containers filled with ink. However, the cartridges can dry out or become clogged if you don’t use them regularly. 

These printers are often very affordable, but replacing the cartridges can become expensive for people who print a large volume of material.

Some inkjet printers can also print photos, which requires photo paper.

How Laser Printers Work

A laser printer is usually more expensive than an inkjet printer. However, it can cost less in the long run if you’re printing a lot because it doesn’t require ink. Due to this reason, laser printers are popular choices for offices as well as homes.

The laser in a laser printer transfers an electrical charge to a device called a drum. Then, the drum rolls through a material called toner. The electrical charge attracts the toner to the drum and helps transfer it to the paper. A heating device called a fuser keeps the toner on the paper. 

The first laser printers only printed in black and white, but color devices are now becoming more common. You’ll need to replace toner cartridges occasionally, but they’re not as costly as ink cartridges. 

How All-in-One Printers Work

All-in-one or multifunction printers are usually inkjet, but laser devices are also available as the technology has become more affordable. Along with printing, all-in-one printers can make copies, scan documents, and send and receive faxes. 

Many of these printers can also connect with your computer and other devices wirelessly. So, an all-in-one printer with this capability is ideal for a smart home.

What to Look for When Buying a Printer

The Number of Pages per Minute You Can Print

Devices capable of high-volume printing have a high print speed. This means they can produce more pages per minute (PPM) to help save time when you’re working from your home office

Many machines with a high PPM are laser printers. And while there’s no minimum PPM that people should look for, if you only print a few pages per week you don’t need a high PPM.

How Long Your Printer Will Last

If you do a lot of printing, it’s also a good idea to consider the duty cycle, which is the number of pages per month you can usually expect a printer to create. A higher number means the printer is more durable and it can last longer. When you buy a printer, it should list the duty cycle.

Like PPM, there’s no minimum duty cycle that you should look for. The highest duty cycles are for industrial printers, and they’re usually around 300,000 pages per month.

Printer Resolution or Dots per Inch 

If you want to print photos or high-resolution images, consider the dots per inch (DPI), the number of dots of ink or toner per inch that a printer can apply. Printers with a higher DPI, like 4,800 x 2,400, can create better-quality images. 

Other Printer Buying Considerations 

Here are some other features you may want to look for during your printer-buying adventures:

  • An Ethernet port for a wired internet connection
  • A USB port
  • Wi-Fi
  • An SD card slot

3 Printer Buying Suggestions 

Here are three popular printer models you may want to consider when buying a printer:

  1. The Canon Pixma TR4720 is a multifunction printer with wireless capabilities and automatic two-sided printing. It’s available in black or white to match your décor, and it has a compact, sleek design. It’s compatible with many Canon apps, and the ink cartridges are easy to replace.
  2. The Brother HL-L2350DW is a very affordable monochrome laser printer. It has wireless capabilities and automatic two-sided printing. It can print 32 PPM.
  3. The HP OfficeJet Pro 9015e is an all-in-one inkjet printer with a 250-sheet paper tray capable of printing up to 22 PPM. It also has convenient features like automatic two-sided printing and Wi-Fi. But it does only work with ink cartridges that have new or used HP circuitry, and this could get expensive. Fortunately, HP takes care of some of this cost for you. When you sign up for monthly ink delivery, you’ll get six months for free and 50% off future purchases.

Printer Buying Guide: The Bottom Line

Choosing a printer can be tough, especially with all the options out there. Hopefully this printer buying guide can help you decide the features you want when you choose your next printer.