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Printer Buying Guide

Types of Printers
Printer Features
Inkjet Printer Features
Laser Features

Monochrome or Color If color is not relevant to your needs, a monochrome laser printer may be a good choice. Laser printers remain the fastest, most efficient way to reproduce text and images, offering high resolution with quick print speeds at a relatively low cost. Color printers allow you to produce color documents from any computer. Most can do an pretty good job of highlighting ordinary text, but high-end models can produce amazing charts, graphs, photo-like pictures on paper, transparencies, etc.

Output It is important to base your printer choice on the kind of output that you plan to print on a regular basis. Whether it is text, graphics, or photos, each job puts different demands on a printer. Generally laser printers offer the best text, and inkjet printers offer the best photos and graphics.

Resolution This is the number of ink dots per inch (dpi) on the printed page. Resolution determines the quality of your prints, although many printers have built-in software that further enhances print quality. Most printers produce a minimum 300 x 600 or 600 x 600 dpi resolution which is good enough for most print jobs. Deluxe models offer higher resolutions for professional image quality reproduction.

Ink or Toner Cartridges The type of printer you get (laser or inkjet) will determine the basic type of cartridges. Although color inkjets offer a variety of setups some have separate wells for color and black, some have 4 or 6 separate cartridges, and some combine them all. Keep in mind that a separate black cartridge saves the color ink for color jobs, and therefore saves you money. Pay attention to the type of cartridge the printer uses, and how much they cost to replace. This will affect your total cost of ownership.

Consumables Undoubtedly, the less often you have to add or change consumables, the better. Choose a printer that can hold enough paper and enough ink or toner to meet your daily needs.

Paper Handling If the number of pages you print is large enough to be a concern, pick a printer with a monthly duty cycle that's about four times the number of pages you expect to print each month. It is essential that the printer you select can accommodate all of the paper sizes and types you'll be using. If you need to print on heavy papers, make sure the printer is designed to handle the heaviest paper you use. Determine whether you will need duplexing capabilities. You might consider getting a printer that has multiple paper drawers if you'll be switching between different kinds of paper on a regular basis. Multiple output trays, collators, and automatic staplers can also be a good investment for an office environment.

Speed vs. Quality Make sure to evaluate a printer by the speed necessary for the quality level you want to use. Inkjet speed claims usually refer to the printer's fastest mode rather than the higher-quality modes you're more likely to use. Printers can slow down significantly in their higher-quality modes.

Connectivity Be sure that you have the proper cable to connect your printer. There are various forms of connectivity - USB, parallel, serial or via a network connection. If you plan to share the printer you will need to connect it directly to the network. For this, you will need to make sure the printer you select offers the proper network connection that you'll need.
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