Getting ink onto paper sounds like a simple job – but it isn’t, and choosing a printer can be a difficult job.
Essentially there are 2 types of printer you can buy – inkjet and laser. Laser tend to be better quality print, longer-lasting machines and designed for higher print volumes, whilst inkjets are more compact, the cartridges are cheaper to buy (but produce fewer prints) and are pretty much throw-away items when they stop working.
TL;dr – how many pages per month are you printing? If it’s more than about 100 or you only need black-and-white then you should definitely look at a laser printer, and if it’s more than 300 you should probably look at a photocopier on a contract.
Number of pages
- If you print 1-2 pages a day on average or fewer then an inkjet will probably serve you well. The lower cost of cartridges will more likely suit your needs.
- If you print up to 10 pages a day on average then a laser printer will likely offer better value for money. Although the cartridges cost more they will last longer and the printer will likely be more sturdy too
- If you print more than 10 pages per day on average then a machine on contract will last you a lot longer – usually you lease rather than buy the machine and pay per-print but this includes all toners, all service calls and maintenance, so instead of having to replace a printer when it no longer prints correctly, the company will send an engineer to fix the problem, usually next day.
Inks vs Toner
- Ink is a liquid and tends to evaporate over time if not used. Toner is powder and is usually good for years.
- Ink cartridges typically contain a few ml of ink and are good for maybe 300 pages. Toners typically contain enough powder for 1000 or more, sometimes 10,000 pages.
- Ink cartridges typically cost £10-20 each, toners typically cost £50-150 each.
1 vs 2 vs 4+ cartridges
- Few printers now use a single-cartridge system, which means you either print black, or you print colour and black is made up of all the colours which is very wasteful and not all that pretty.
- Some inkjet printers use a 2-cartridge system; black and colour. This means if you use a lot of blue but not so much yellow, you still have to replace the ‘colour’ cartridge and possibly throw away some yellow and magenta ink.
- Better inkjet printers use a 4 system cartridge, where each of the 4 colours Black, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow are replaced individually, meaning better economy
- Some inkjets, typically photo-printers, will have additional cartridges for ‘photo black’ or other photo colours. 6-cartridge systems are not unheard of – again to improve colour reproduction when printing photos particularly.
- Lasers usually have only 1 cartridge if they are mono, or 4 cartridges if they are colour.
- Lasers sometimes have separate drums and transfer belt units from the toners, which although have longer life than a toner (maybe 100k pages) they will eventually need to be replaced too.
USB vs Network vs Wi-fi
- Basic printers will only connect by a USB cable, which is not always very convenient.
- Network printers can usually take an ethernet cable which you physically plug into your network (router) so several computers can be setup to print without changing cables around.
- Wi-Fi printers connect to the network wirelessly which can be convenient. Any device on the network – whether Wi-fi (e.g. laptop) or wired (e.g. desktop PC) can print to the printer via it’s Wi-fi connection.
- If you want to print from an Apple iOS device such as an iPhone or iPad, you should ensure your printer has Airprint capability since this is the protocol these devices use. Ethernet-connected printers can still have Airprint, the printer doesn’t need to be Wi-fi connected.
Single vs duplex
- Simpler printers only print on one side of the paper.
- Duplex printer can print on both sides, usually automatically without your intervention although some cheaper ones require you to physically turn the paper over and re-insert it.
Printer vs MFP
- Printers print.
- MFP – Multi-Functional Printers – have a scanner on top. Basic scanners are flatbed only, and will scan one page at a time. Scanners with document feeders can scan a stack of paper automatically. MFPs can also photocopy, and some have fax functionality although this is rarely used now.
- Document feed scanners almost always have a flat-bed too, so you can still scan a thick item that won’t go through the document feeder, such as a book or driving license.
- Do you only want to print on A4 paper?
- Do you want to print on Card-Stock, 6×4 photo-paper or labels?
- Do you need to print in A3?
- Do you want to print onto CDs/DVDs?
- Check the media handling capabilities of the unit meet your needs.
- Often a low-priority concern.
- Printers are rated in pages-per-minute and typically black will be faster than colour, A3 will be slower than A4.
- These figures are usually overly optimistic, based on a specific amount of text/photos on the page.
Purchase Cost, warranty etc
- Inkjets usually cost less than laser to purchase.
- Some high-end business inkjets are more costly than the low-end laser printers.
- MFPs will cost more because of the added electronics, glass etc.
- Most equipment comes with just 12 months warranty, some longer and some you can purchase an extended warranty.
- Large printers and photocopiers typically are supplied on a lease but you can sometimes buy an ex-lease unit outright for a lot less than the original new cost, and the per-copy maintenance costs still include anything that goes wrong – like buying a used car with an extended warranty and fuel included too, for a cost-per-mile. You do still need to buy your own paper though.
- Some brands have a better reputation than others in the industry, some better in inkjet and some better in laser for example.
- Some printers have software that is not as good as others, or is more complicated to setup.
- Call us for our current recommendations on which brand we’d recommend to fill your needs.