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About Printers

What you need to know about printers before you buy...

You might want to answer these questions to help you decide what you need in a printer:
  1. How important is quality to you? Will you need an above average quality? 1200dpi is good for everyday printing even desktop publishing. This is the standard resolution for most laser printers.
  2. Will you print only in black and white or will you need color also?
  3. How much printing will you be doing? Is it important that the printer is fast?
  4. Will you be printing continuously? Or, will there be time between jobs so that your printer has to "warm up" many times during the day?
  5. Will you be printing from a single computer or from a network of computers?
  6. What size paper will you be using? Do you need to be able to print multiple sizes? What about printing labels?
  7. Will you be working with drawing packages or desktop publishing that requires "postscript"?

Here we will look at the two most popular and common categories of printers: laser printers and inkjet printers. Once you familiarize yourself with these two types it will be easy for you to decide which will work best for you.

Laser Printers

Laser printers are the workhorses of the printing world. They're known for producing the highest quality text and images in both black and white as well as color. These printers are designed to crank out high volumes of pages quickly. Some models will print black and white as fast as 50 pages per minute. You'll get great performance over the long haul, too.

Laser printers have come a long way in color printing. In the past, you had to turn to inkjet printers if you wanted high quality color prints, but not any longer. Many of the higher-end laser printers can't be beat when it comes to color output. Plus, some are able to turn out up to 17 pages per minute! Of course, there is a catch... isn't there always. With the high-end color laser printer it is price. Yes, you can get great color, crispness and speed but it comes with a high price tag, over $3000. But don't get discouraged, there are many good color laser printers for under $1,000 and even some under $500.

But wait...Are you are in the market for a long-lasting, economical to operate printer that will produce quality black and white 'til the cows come home? Then a laser printer may be what you want. Laser printers are much cheaper to operate than inkjet printers. Be sure you factor in how much printing supplies cost on each printer you consider. It may be better to invest a few more dollars up front in the printer if it will save you on supplies. Look at how many pages you can print with each laser toner or inkjet cartridge and estimate how many you will use in a month.

There are a wide variety of laser printers available. From low-cost models affordable even for personal use to network-ready printers capable of printing up to 150,000 pages a month. You can even buy these printers in a multi-function machine which offers a laser printer, scanner, copier and fax all-in-one.

Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers are the most affordable printers on the market, especially if you need to print in color. Many even deliver photo-like quality. Maintenance is simple too, with inkjet cartridges that are easy to install. You only need to replace the cartridge that is empty whether it is black or color. There is no warm-up time with inkjet printers either!

You can find an inkjet printer for almost any requirement. From wide-format for CAD documents to printers that will print directly from your digital camera's memory card.

Now, you can find inkjet printers with speeds over 30 pages per minute (ppm) in black and white and over 20ppm in color. Heavy duty inkjet printers will also crank out up to 5,000 pages per month.

It will take a little time to figure this out but it will be worth it later on...try to determine how much printing and what kind you will be doing on a daily and monthly basis. The reason this is important is because print speeds vary greatly. Printer speed depends on what is being printed, text and/or graphics, black only or color. Needless to say, you don't want to find out that you are waiting endlessly for printing because you didn't consider all the factors.

Most inkjet printers are compatible with PCs and Macs. But be safe and verify that the inkjet printer you are considering is compatible with your system or systems. Printer cables are sold separately from the printers so you'll want to make sure that you purchase a compatible cable.

Inkjet printers are so popular because they are affordable and produce such great color. Each model of printer has its own specialty: text, graphics or photographs. Know what you will be printing and what is most important to you before you begin looking at the various brands and models. Look at a sample of the output for the kind of printing you will be doing. You can often request samples to be sent to you. Compare them to each other. You may find that just because one printer has a higher resolution or dpi it will not necessarily produce a higher quality output.

If you are concerned about costs then look beyond the initial purchase price of the printer and consider the cost of supplies. Most inkjet printers require a black cartridge and then one cartridge for color. The other three colors are in one color cartridge. You will seldom find that all three colors run out at the same time so there will be waste. Some inkjet printers have separate color cartridges, one for yellow, one for magenta and one for cyan. This can help reduce waste and cost for ink. Figure out how much it will cost you to operate on a monthly basis to determine which printer will be the best buy for you.

Here are some generalities:

  • Inkjet printers offer the highest quality in graphics and photographs and laser printers offer the highest quality text output.
  • The higher the resolution (dpi: dots per inch) the higher the image quality. Edge enhancement can smooth the ragged edges of lines, solid areas and text. It has no effect on photo or graphic quality.
  • Monochrome printers will give you better speed and quality than comparably priced color printers at any price.
  • If the printer you are buying requires memory make sure it has enough to store a full page at the resolution you will be using. Some printers rely on the computer for all processing and do not need memory.
  • Make sure you have the proper cable to connect your printer to your computer. Most of the time cables are not included with your printer. Make note of the type of connection that is required.
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