Printers can be grouped in a variety of ways, typically by their technologies, functions, or prices. A simpler way is to categorize them according to where they are being used.
In either case, here are the answers to some key questions that you may have.
Inkjet printers can be had at very low prices, and the majority of them can print in color, as well as black-and-white. For photo printing using specialty media, the results can be very good. However, they’re also very slow — usually less than 10 pages per minute (ppm) for black text.
Comparatively, laser and LED printers print very fast, especially for B&W text; even entry-level monochrome laser or LED printers are able to attain a speed of 20ppm.
The main difference between the two lies in how an image is formed. A laser printer uses an optical scanning system, so a laser scans from one end of a line to the other. An LED printer uses a print head that’s made up of an array of light emitting diodes. These LEDs flash to create the image.
The above being said, both use the same underlying print technology, which is using static electricity to apply toner to paper. So, if you’re looking for a printer that gives ‘laser’ quality output (such as sharp text with very clean edges), there’s no reason not to consider an LED printer.
The biggest benefit of a multifunction printer (MFP) is that when it’s not printing, it can still serve as a standalone copier, scanner, or fax machine. The latter is important especially for an office MFP. Not to mention an integrated device takes up less space than multiple devices. So, unless you’ve a need for a specialized standalone printer (such as a high-end photo printer to do exhibition-quality prints), an MFP makes sense from a cost point of view.
If you only print B&W documents, there’s probably no reason to buy a color printer. Instead, use the money to get a faster monochrome printer. If you do print in color, but only occasionally (for example, five times a year, and 200 pages each time), consider how much that would cost if you were to engage a print shop. Would you’ve saved more if you’ve bought a color printer and print them yourself?
The answer to this depends on what you print, and how frequently you print. If you typically print 1-page or 2-page documents, and don’t need to pick them up fast, you can afford to get a slower printer. However, if your job requires you to print frequently, quickly, and the documents have many pages; or the printer is shared with other people who also print a lot of long documents, then, it’d be wise to get a fast printer.
And here’s another tip: Never compare the claimed print speeds of an inkjet printer with those of a laser or an LED printer. The brochure of an inkjet printer may list a very high PPM spec because it’s based on a lower-quality draft mode. Look for speeds based on the ISO/IEC standard instead.
In our experience, laser or LED printers usually do print at a rate close to their claimed speeds. Also, for color laser and LED printers, single-pass is better than multi-pass with regard to print speed.
For a personal printer that sits on your desk beside your computer, a USB connection is all you need. Most business-oriented printers will also accept an Ethernet connection so that the printer can be shared over the network. A wireless printer offers the greatest placement flexibility, as it doesn’t need to be hooked up to the router or access point via an Ethernet cable.
Automatic Document Feeder
If you’re getting an MFP, get one that has an automatic document feeder (ADF). This allows for quick and easy automatic scanning, copying or faxing of double-sided documents.
Media capacity and flexibility
For an office with heavy-duty printing needs, it’d be nice if the printer provides the option to add a second or even a third paper tray. Also, if you print on media other than plain paper (such as CD labels, business card media, heavy weight media), make sure the printer supports them.
Management and control
Is it important for you to manage and control the printer? If so, ensure that the software tools are available. Are they free, or do you need to pay for them? If your business depends a lot on third party services (such as cloud printing services), be sure to check for compatibility.
It’s important to consider the prices and yields of consumables in addition to the initial printer buying cost, so that you’ve an idea of the running cost involved. And here’s another laser/LED printer buying tip: Separate toner cartridges and imaging drums are better than a combined toner and drum assembly — the former lets you continue to use the imaging drum to the end of its life if you’re only replacing the toner cartridge.