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Printer Buying Guide: Which Type of Printer is Right for You?

Printer Buying Guide: Which Type of Printer is Right for You?

Looking to purchase a new printer? LD is here to help. Buying a printer that can accommodate your personal printing practices while offering a running cost that fits within your budget is essential to getting your money’s worth.

Let’s begin with a quick look at the various printer types, and the profile of users who stand to benefit from them the most.

Inkjet Printers:

Inkjet Printer

Inkjet printers come in two forms: single function and all-in-one. Besides printing, all-in-one printers can copy, scan, and sometimes fax. A space-saving design allows the user to benefit from the convenience and cost-saving aspect of having all of their needed office tools in one device.

Single Function Inkjet Printers

For the money, print only, or single function, inkjet printers are the best choice for printing text and color photos. These printers can print almost anything, including photos up to 8×10 inches or larger, text, and graphical items such as greeting cards. You can also use various paper types and sizes.

All-in-One Inkjet Printers

All-in-one printers, also referred to as multifunction printers, are considered the Swiss Army Knives of printers. They combine indispensable office tools such as copy, scan and fax in one compact device. Some are replete with convenient and time-saving features such as wireless printing, automatic duplexing (the automatically printing on both sides of the page), PictBridge-compatible USB ports for printing directly from your camera and an automatic document feeder for hands-free scanning, faxing and copying of multiple pages.

Inkjet Printer User Profile

Home users stand to benefit the most from inkjet printers. Home users can be individuals, families or students. These users rely on their printer for a variety of purposes, which can include anything from a book report to photos to an art project. An inkjet can do this in spades, providing reasonably sharp text, and a vibrancy of color that’s lacking in color laser printers. Inkjet printers typically cost less than laser printers, and the infrequent rate at which home users print make the cost of consumables (consumables that are typically more expensive for inkjet printers than laser printers) a non-issue.

Laser Printers:

Laser Printer

Laser printer technology isn’t new (the first laser printer was introduced by HP in 1984), but their strong points continue to make them relevant, especially in environments where high volume printing is a must. Combining fast print speed with sharp output and a low cost per page, laser printers are a common fixture in large offices everywhere. Some laser printers are monochrome, meaning they only print black text. Like inkjet printers, laser printers fall under two categories: print only and all-in-one.

Single Function Laser Printers

Print only laser printers may print in black only (monochrome) or in color. The cost of these printers are considerably less than their all-in-one counterparts. If you have a need for a printer that produces high quality, crisp text at fast speed, a laser printer is exactly what you’re looking for. You may notice the cost to be more than that of a an inkjet printer, but your total cost of ownership will be less as toner cartridges offer a much higher page yield than ink cartridges, giving your print outs a lower cost per page.

All-in-One Laser Printers

Like inkjet printers, spending more will net you multiple functions like a copy machine, scanner, and built in fax. Most brands offer networking—either wired Ethernet or wireless—making them a good fit for a home or office with multiple PCs.

Laser Printer User Profile

Laser printers are the obvious choice for a small business or team within a large organization. Capable of juggling multiple print jobs, laser printers have faster processors, more memory and print engines which, on some models, can churn out more than 35 pages per minute. Laser printers boast a higher duty cycle (the approximate number of prints your machine can handle over the course of a month) and usually outlive inkjet printers.  However, although laser technology works well with text, these printers fall short when it comes to producing high quality photos. With that said, many color laser printers can print graphics at a high enough quality to print out your own advertising handouts and trifold brochures, which can save you money compared to printing small quantities at your local print shop.

Photo / Snapshot Printers:

Photo Printer

Photo printers are specialty printers that produce high-quality photos. Most photo printers use either inkjet or dye-sublimation technology, whereby a waxy ink is fused to the paper from a roll of plastic film. Like most inkjet printers, these models allow you to hook up directly from your camera via PictBridge connection, or you can print from your camera’s media card.

Snapshot printers, a subclass of photo printers, are limited to 4X6-inch snapshots, but a few models can print on 5×7 paper. Snapshot printers have handles and run on batteries, making it convenient to take with you when traveling.

Photo / Snapshot User Profile

Digital photographers and photo buffs are the main demographic of photo printer users, but anyone looking to have their own personal photo lab can benefit from the convenience and high-resolution results a photo printer provides. Those who constantly travel may want to consider purchasing a snapshot printer, for ease of transport and the ability to run off of batteries. It’s important to note, however, that most photo printers and all snapshot printers can only print photos. For this reason, they are generally used as a second printer.

Determining the printer type and features that will fulfill your print needs is the first step in choosing a printer. Now, it’s time to dive into pricing. Stay tuned for the second addition of our printer buying guide series, where we’ll look at the common price range of printers, starting from a single-function inkjet printers all the way up to an all-in-one business laser printer.

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