These days, many documents and photos live on laptop drives or on cloud services. But you still need a great printer to make your vacation snaps or quarterly reports into physical realities you can hang on a wall or hand out at a meeting. Choosing the right printer can be a daunting task. There are several types of printing technologies to choose from, each suited for different needs. Printers come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny travel companions to work group workhorses; some are geared toward photographers, others are for multitaskers. Use this guideline to help you explore different types of printers and their features.
Factors to consider before making a purchase
There are two international standards organization (ISO) tests for printer speed. Pages per Minute (PPM) and the newer Images per Minute (IPM). Both measure the numbers of A4 pages printed in one minute. The difference is that IPM uses a defined print resolution and calculates on an average of 4 printed word, excel and pdf documents whereas with PPM print resolutions can vary and only one dedicated ISO test page will be printed for the whole calculation (the lower the resolution used the faster the print).
If your office/home needs to print off large plans or spreadsheets then you'll want a printer that can print A3 & A4 pages.
All printers feature USB ports which will allow you to connect your computer to your laptop by cables. This is essential if you don't have a wireless connection where you'll be printing from. If you intend to connect your laptop or computer to your printer make sure you have the right cable. Workgroup printers also support printing over a network using a standard Ethernet cable with an RJ-45 connector. As alternatives for Wi-Fi wirelessly printing some models will print using infrared or Bluetooth. A memory card slot will allow you to print your photos or documents directly by simply plugging in your card. Wi-Fi printing is a handy feature if you want to share your printer between multiple computers. In some ways, it's similar to wired USB printing as it requires you to install appropriate printer drivers on your computer before you can print to it. By connecting over a wireless network, your printer is available to other computers and devices with the appropriate driver. This type of connection is great for a home with more than one computer or a small business.
Many printers include dedicated feed trays for printing on specialty papers with unusual sizes or different weights, which can make them easier to deal with them. Also consider the size of the input paper tray: Smaller trays will require you to add paper all the time, while a nice 250-page hopper or even dual trays can make it a once-a-month affair. Many all-in-one devices with an automatic document feeder (ADF) for the scanner also have duplexing, scanning both sides of the page as the document feeds through the ADF. An all-in-one without an automatic document feeder can’t duplex scan with you turning the page over on the scan glass. Duplex scanning is a major convenience if you frequently scan two-sided pages.
This refers to the maximum number of dots per inch (dpi) that can be printed, measured both horizontally and vertically. For example, a 300x300dpi laser printer lays down a one-inch square composed of 300 dots across by 300 dots down. Typically, a printer with a higher resolution produces more-detailed print results.
These printers will allow you to scan documents or pictures directly to email or into a handy PDF file.
This allows you to print photos directly from your digital camera by plugging the camera into the printer. This will save you time and is particularly useful for those that don't like using computers!
Modern printers will have an LCD display and will allow you to select settings, applications, monitor ink levels and check the progress of your printing jobs.
Types of Printers
These printers release thousands of tiny ink dots onto the page and tend to be a popular choice for the home PC users. These printers are affordable and efficient. Inkjet printers can offer high quality printing. You will need to check for the number of dots per inch (dpi) that will indicate the ability for printing good images and documents.
This printer works using static electricity, which attracts and holds toner to the page. While they are more expensive to purchase than inkjet printers in the first instance, laser printers offer faster, smudge-free printing of a very high quality, especially when printing text. This type of printer is ideal for high-volume printing in offices where there's a lot of paper work.
The All-in-one printers are a combination of an inkjet printer, a scanner and a photocopier - some incorporate fax functionality as well. They are typically more expensive to buy as they incorporate a number of functions.