Looking to purchase a new printer but don’t know the difference between models? LD is here to help. Choosing from an ocean of printer oceans is especially daunting.
Let’s jump right into it and begin with a quick look at the various printer types, and the profile of users who stand to benefit from them the most.
This is the most common printer type. There are much more inkjet printer models than there are laser printers. Printer manufacturers like HP, Canon, and Epson — but HP mostly — are trying to make printers look more appealing to the eye, with unfortunately, not so much luck. Below is one of the more recent HP OfficeJet printer models, the HP OfficeJet 9015.
Inkjet printers come in three forms: single function, multi-function or all-in-one, and photo. 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. A photo inkjet printer comes with a more robust ink cartridge system that’s more capable of delivering high resolution images.
Single Function Inkjet Printers
For the money, print only or single function, inkjet printers are the best choice for printing text and medium quality 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.
Professional Photo Inkjet Printers
Photo printers are specialty printers that produce high-quality photos. Most photo printers use inkjet technology although portable mini photo printers — like the Canon SELPHY, Canon IVY, or Polaroid mini photo printers — run on dye-sublimation technology, whereby a waxy ink is fused to the paper from a roll of plastic film. Like most inkjet printers, these photo printer 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.
Who uses Inkjet Printers the Most?
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.
Digital photographers and photo buffs are the main demographic of photo printers, 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.
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.
Who uses Laser Printers the Most
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.
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.