With so many features and factors to consider, buying a great printer can seem pretty complicated. Here’s how to pick the perfect printer, whether you’re buying one for your large or small business or your home office.
Though we live in a digital world of smartphones and Wi-Fi, plenty of people and businesses still use ink and paper each day. And no matter what you plan to print, buying the right printer can be a crucial decision. The right machine can make a world of difference, saving you lots of time and money in the long run. On the other hand, the wrong choice could bring you lots of frustration, so it’s important to pick a model that meets your specific needs.
Here’s the challenge: Because today’s printer technology is so advanced and varied, it can be difficult to know where to start your search. Even the terminology can be intimidating at first. Between inkjets, lasers, supertanks, and toners, sizing up your options isn’t always straightforward.
Good news, printer shopper: This guide is here to help.
We’ll walk you through key factors to consider, starting with how you plan to use your printer.
We’ll then introduce you to the major printer types available, describing their potential pros and cons for different kinds of consumers.
As we cover these categories, we’ll offer you the chance to shop for each kind of printer on our site, so you can buy a great machine at an excellent price.
How Do You Plan to Use Your Printer?
Home Office Printing
If you’re buying a printer for your home office, begin by considering the functions you’ll utilize most often. Many professionals need simple yet effective machines for basic tasks, such as printing out paperwork. Others want their machines to serve multiple purposes, like a copier or scanner. Similarly, students should consider their class requirements before buying a printer. Will your studies need a color printer or will black and white suffice?
Generally, multi-function printers suited for use at home are relatively affordable. But spending slightly more on a reliable, high-quality machine can be an excellent investment. After all, if you run into problems with an important print job at home, you probably can’t call the IT department to bail you out. To avoid potential headaches later, stick with a highly rated model from a reputable brand.
Priorities for Your Home Office Printer:
As far as cost and capabilities, home printers vary considerably. Before you pull the trigger on an appealing deal, consider what you’ll really need from your machine.
Some printers intended for use at home print more quickly; others hold lots of paper. These advantages may seem small, but they could make a world of difference in your daily experience. Pick a printer that reflects your preferences: If you know waiting for things to print will drive you crazy, for example, buy one with quick print speeds.
Whether you’re an experienced photographer or passionate amateur, you know just how important printing can be. In order for your photos to translate to print, you’ll need a device that delivers in terms of resolution and accuracy. Thankfully, there are plenty of printers capable of producing gorgeous photos – without a painful price tag. Budget-minded shoppers can find powerful photo printers including some with plenty of other bells and whistles (such as copying and scanning).
Priorities for Your Photo Printer:
Choose a printer flexible enough to handle many types and sizes of photo paper, especially the kinds you plan to use often. From wallet photos to full posters, which kinds of printing will your machine make possible?
Check the maximum resolution each printer offers. You may not need top-of-the-line specs, but choose one capable of making crisp prints at the size you prefer.
Consider printing efficiency, especially when it comes to ink cost and consumption. How often will you need new ink cartridges, and how much will they cost? You should be able to find this info fairly easily.
When buying a printer for your business, efficiency and expense are key concerns. You want a machine capable of swiftly producing a high volume, meeting the needs of an active office. Print speed isn’t the only relevant factor: Can the printer save you time via automated functions, such as collating or stapling pages?
Additionally, you’ll need to take a long view of printing expenses, looking beyond just a printer’s purchase price. If you’re constantly replacing pricy toner cartridges, you’ll be significantly increasing your organization’s operating costs. You’ll also want to read reviews to gauge each device’s durability: If a printer has a habit of breaking down, your office mates probably won’t be happy.
Priorities for Your Professional Printer:
Look at the manufacturer’s recommended monthly page volume. If your business is likely to exceed the upper limit, it’s probably best to go with another option.
Study the price of toner replacements and how often they’ll be necessary. Use this info to calculate estimated annual print costs, comparing various models on this basis.
Match the print speeds of the options you’re considering up against each other. Small differences in efficiency can have big productivity implications for your office.
Seek out printers that come with great warranties and support. If you encounter technical issues, you don’t want to deal with them alone.
Inkjet printers spray a series of small ink dots on paper, creating the text and graphics that appear on a page. Because these ink dots are so minuscule, different colors can be placed in close proximity to each other, creating a rich array of hues.
Who They’re Best For:
Because inkjet printers are typically less expensive than laser printers, they’re a go-to option for shoppers on a tight budget.
Color inkjet printers are great for jobs involving a wide range of colors or complex graphics. If you’re planning to print photos or charts, inkjets offer high quality.
Laser printers use static electricity to apply a fine powder – called toner – to the page. Because this process occurs rapidly, laser printers typically print far more quickly than inkjet devices do. Available in either color or monochrome laser printers, either allow you to swiftly print a wide range of documents.
Who They’re Best For:
Laser printers’ speed makes them perfect for small businesses printing in high volumes. If your organization is constantly generating documents, laser printing will help enable your team to be far more productive in the long run.
As their name indicates, all-in-one printers integrate several functions into a single machine. Though their feature sets differ to some extent, most offer scanning and copying capabilities. Some also provide fax functionality, which could come in handy for old-school communications. Some all-in-one printers utilize laser printing, whereas others are inkjet models.
Who They’re Best For:
If you plan to scan documents or make copies occasionally, these devices are for you. You’ll save desk space (and some cash) by buying just one machine for all your document-related needs.
Photo printers also utilize inkjet technology, but often offer more precision and clarity than printers intended primarily for documents. Photo printers can achieve incredible degrees of image resolution, measured in DPI (dots per inch), as well as impressively nuanced color palettes. Many models also make it easy to print in various sizes, such as postcards.
Who They’re Best For:
Whether your photography efforts are personal or professional, a photo printer can elevate your pictures to an entirely new level. If you care about producing polished images, a photo printer can be a worthy (and surprisingly affordable) investment.
How They Work No one likes running out of ink or swapping out used cartridges. Supertank printers come fitted with high-capacity tanks, allowing you to print thousands of pages before you have to think about replenishing your ink. When the time for replacement does roll around, you simply refill the tanks with ink bottles or bags, often at a lower overall cost than standard ink cartridges.
Who They’re Best For:
If you plan to do plenty of printing but dread the effort of constantly ordering and replacing ink cartridges, supertank printers are the perfect solution. Many models also provide a great value compared to standard inkjet printer options, so long as you don’t mind slightly higher costs upfront.
In an increasingly wireless world, virtually all new printers now offer Wi-Fi functionality. So long as your computer is connected to the same network as the printer, you’ll be able to print with no wires required. Additionally, many wireless printers can receive jobs from cell phones and tablets via Wi-Fi, a valuable advantage in the era of smart homes. Before buying any printer, therefore, it’s wise to evaluate all of the device’s wireless printing capabilities, and whether they’re relatively easy to set up and use.
Card Reader and Media Slots
Some printers permit you to plug-in memory cards or flash drives directly, eliminating the intermediate step of connecting these devices to a computer. Photographers, for example, might appreciate the ability to print directly from the memory card they use in their cameras. In fact, some printers even allow basic image editing, further reducing your reliance on a computer.
Paper Capacity and Duplex Printing
Though replacing ink can be a major expense and inconvenience, printer paper also figures prominently in the efficiency and cost of your printing. In order to save paper, invest in a machine capable of duplexing, or printing on both sides of a page. And if you hate having your print jobs interrupted by demands for more paper, buy a printer with a large paper tray.
Which Printer Parts and Accessories Do You Need?
You’ll Need It If:You have an inkjet or supertank printer.
Inkjet cartridges.In the case of standard inkjet machines, you’ll need to buy cartridges that are specifically compatible with your printer.
Ink tanks. Replacement ink for supertank printers is typically sold in larger quantities and packaged in bags or bottles. You can buy ink in four varieties: black, cyan, magenta, and yellow.
You’ll Need It If:
You have a color laser printer.
Toner cartridges. Though toner is applied to the page as a powder, it’s sold and packaged in solid sticks. Toner is available in the same color varieties as ink.
How Can You Get the Best Price on a Printer?
In this guide, we’ve presented information you need to help you choose the perfect printer. But even once you’ve selected a specific model, your search still requires a final step: Finding the best deal on the printer you’ve picked.
In several instances above, we’ve encouraged you to think of printer costs in terms of long-term investment. Though a low price may seem appealing, it pays to consider the costs of upkeep and maintenance over the life of your machine. Similarly, you want to choose a printer that will endure frequent use, performing well for years to come. A trusted brand like Brother, Canon, Epson, HP or Lexmark may be more likely to stand the test of time.
From choosing the right model to ordering the supplies you need to keep it going strong, Office Depot can help you choose with confidence. With our industry-best prices, you can rest assured that you’re making a great decision and getting a great deal. And if you ever run into trouble with the printer you choose, our tech support plans offer peace of mind and swift solutions.
Carly Johnson pairs SEO expertise with a knack for narrative and specializes in crafting copy for content marketing projects.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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