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Home > Printers > How To Select a Printer

How To Select a Printer

Now that you've decided you need a printer, what do you look for? There are many options ranging from economical to powerful and networked solutions. It's important to know what you're looking for. In many cases, you don't need to overpay for a powerful printer, but at the same time it's important you don't underpay and risk not having features and expansion options you may need.

Ready to decide what printer is right for you? Let's review some of the more popular options.

Color Laser Printers
While the initial investment is higher than an inkjet printer, color lasers are often much more economical in the long run. If you print in any any significant volume (as low as 100 pages a month) you should consider a color laser printer. A typical color laser, based on five percent coverage per color, yields a cost of eight to ten cents per page. You can expect to pay twice or three times that much for inkjet copies. This is usually because manufacturers sell you an inkjet printer at loss, but more than make up for it with the expensive ink cartridges you will need to print your work. It doesn't take long for those ink costs to add up, even for for a home office or small business. Even with a midline printer, at 1000 pages a month you can expect to see a return on your investment in as little as three to six months.

Laser Printers
Do you print in only black and white? Then a laser printer is what you need. Generally known for their speed and detail, laser printers offer high-quality printing technology that yields professional results. It used to be that inkjet printers were best for photo and image printing and laser printers for text and documents. While laser printers today still provide sharp, crisp print quality, they can also produce excellent image quality. For any office with a heavy print workload, laser printers are more cost effective overall.

Inkjet Printers
Inkjet printers, having come a long way since their humble beginnings, can rival some laser printers in sharpness and precision. They are great for printing documents, spreadsheets, and graphs, but also offer features to aid in printing images, like enhanced color processing, editing functions, color and border effects, memory card slots, and connectivity options to print directly from a digital camera or other media device. To get the best prints for digital images, many people prefer inkjet and photo printers for their ability to recreate vivid colors and detail, and maintain the richness of the originals.

Multifunction Printers
Multifunction printers (MFPs for short) are the Swiss army knives of the office world. They give you the ability to get more done at one station in less time, making you more productive and efficient. Small businesses, large corporations, and a variety of enterprises can make use of these versatile tools to organize their offices and expand their business. But like a Swiss army knife, a multi-function printer may contain a bunch of features you don't want and have no idea what to do with, but lack the features you really need. Most multi-function printer models provide printing, scanning, and copying capabilities, but before purchasing just any MFP, you should make sure that you're getting exactly what you want.

Dot Matrix Printers
A dot matrix printer is a type of printer with a print head that runs back and forth, or in an up and down motion, on the page and prints by impact, striking an ink-soaked cloth ribbon against the paper, much like the print mechanism on a typewriter. Unlike a typewriter, letters are drawn out of a dot matrix, and different fonts and graphics can be produced. Because the printing involves mechanical pressure, dot matrix printers can create carbon copies and carbonless copies. Dot matrix printers have one of the lowest printing costs per page. Dot matrix remains in use in devices such as cash registers, ATM, and many other point-of-sales terminals.

Plotters
A plotter can be a useful device for companies that require large prints on a regular basis. Most plotters use inkjet technology to produce large, crisp prints. For a considerably larger investment, there are a variety of Piezo and LED printing technologies available. While inkjet technology is more cost effective, Piezo and LED printers can offer greater print quality and higher resolution. In addition to the variety of multifunction and ink options available in the plotter market, you should also consider the applications that your plotter will be used for. For example, if you are opening a poster business and need to produce identical prints, you will want to make sure you invest in a unit that will produce identical colors each time you print.

Label Printers
Label printers have a wide variety of applications including supply chain management, retail price marking, packaging labels, blood and laboratory specimen marking, and fixed assets management. Label printers are different from ordinary printers because they need to have special feed mechanisms to handle rolled stock, or tear sheet stock. Label printers use a wide range of label materials, including paper and synthetic polymer ("plastic") materials. Several types of print mechanisms are also used, including laser and impact, but thermal printer mechanisms are the most common.

Line Printers
A line printer is a form of high speed impact printer in which one line of type is printed at a time. Line printers continue to be used for printing box labels, medium volume accounting and other large business applications. Multi-part paper forms (carbon copies or carbonless copy paper) printed in one operation are sometimes useful. The limited character set, fixed character spacing, and relatively poor print quality make impact line printers unsuitable for correspondence, books, and other applications requiring high print quality.

Mac Printers
Have a Mac instead of a PC? Then you will need to get a Mac compatible printer. When shopping for a Mac compatible printer, it is important to make sure the printer you are looking at is compatible with your Mac operating system. Mac compatible printers are available from virtually all manufacturers and encompass all of the latest printing technologies.
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