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Printer Buying Guide

Types of Printers
Printer Features
Inkjet Printer Features
Laser Features
Glossary


Monochrome This is the most popular category of printer for people who don't absolutely need color. Monochrome laser printers offer a level of crisp edges for text (and lines) that inkjet printers can't match without slowing down.

Color Color printers are for people who want the speed and text quality of a monochrome laser, as well as color. But very few color lasers produce the high-quality photographs that you can get from an inkjet printer. A color laser printer usually takes four times as long to print in color as in black-and-white, because it has to use a single internal laser to print a separate image for each of the four ink colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). For each printed page it requires four separate passes, unless you have a single-pass color laser printer. These printers have four separate internal lasers which allows the printer to print four colors on a page all at once. Single-pass lasers print in color at almost the same speed as in monochrome.

Color (LED) These printers are similar to color laser printers with one exception - they do not use lasers at all. They use an array of LED's to expose the drum, and once the drum is charged, it operates like a real laser printer. LED printers lay down all four colors in one pass just like single-pass color laser printers. The problem that is found with LED printers, is that there is more tendancy for misregistration - the print elements don't line up properly. This results in visible gaps between sections making the photo blurry.

Solid-ink These printers use a block or ink (wax or resin) and spray directly either onto a page or onto the drum of the printer that rolls against the piece of paper. Using the drum approach is more successful because the speed and output quality are similar to color laser printers. Solid-ink printers produce more consistent color making this the advantage that they have over laser and LED printers. Unfortunately, the ink from this type of printer does not slide well over glass and may cause paper jams in copiers.
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