Printer Basics

There are so many printers available to use with your home or office computer that it can be hard to know where to start looking. Below are some general guidelines about what to look for in a printer. Or you can follow the links to find out more about different printer types. Keep in mind that convergence in the market is resulting in a delineation between these different types.

Printer Types


Technical Specs To Look For

* '''Resolution'''- The number of dots per square inch (DPI) that are printed. ** While it does have some say in how sharp an image is, it is not the only factor to take into account because sharpness will vary depending on the image size as well as shape and placement. ** 600 x 600 is great for everyday text. ** 1200 x 1200 is very sharp for text. ** 4800 x 1200 will get you incredibly sharp photos. * '''Pages Per Minute (PPM)''' - Will tell you how quickly everything will get printed. ** An inkjet printer may do 5 pages per minute whereas you may get 25 ppm out of a laser printer. ** Manufacturers often inflate these numbers with simple test tasks. Divide the stated ppm by two. ** How quickly do you need your products finished? * '''Connectivity'''- Most printers can hook up to computers via a USB 2.0 port. ** Parallel ports (the trapezoid with all the prongs) are only necessary if you have an old computer. ** Many computers can plug in with an ethernet cable. ** Lots also have wireless and bluetooth techonology. Now your printer hub can receive signals from a whole array of people in your office without tripping over any wires. ** Many companies don't include a cable with the printer. Check the specifications and get what you need. * '''Memory''' - Most printers will be fine lining up your jobs on their own. If you're getting a printer to share with a group, though, go for something closer to a 16 MB memory. * '''Cost and Consumables'''- The initial purchase price of a printer does not always give the best representation of how much a printer will really cost you. Always check how much ink cartridges will cost you as well as paper. ** CNET has a good chart on the cost of different printers's consumables (halfway down the page). ** Better paper leads to better printouts. Learn all about paper in our paper primer. * '''Monthly Duty Cycle Capability''' - The number of pages per month you can expect your printer to put out without problem. Make sure this number is higher than your expected output. * '''Duplexing Capability''' - Allows your printer to print on both sides of the page. * '''Paper Capacity''' - Will it hold hundreds of sheets or will you have to reload it ever ten pages? ** Do you need something that prints in many different sizes besides Legal and Letter? ** Do you want auto document feed to grab your whole set of papers and copy or fax them at once? Lots of higher end printers can do just that. * '''Weight'''- Your printer could be a 2 lb travel buddy or a hulking monster on wheels. Make sure you have the size, space, and strength to keep it where it needs to be. * '''Photo Printing Without a Computer'''- If this is a main priority, look for models that have LCD screens, memory card, slots, as well as PictBridge technology. Also consider models that feature borderless printing.

Other Printer Features

* '''Copying''' * '''Collating''' * '''Paper Size Variations''' * '''Fax''' * '''Stapler''' It's sometimes nice to have these options available too. It depends how big the shop you're running is.

Color vs. Monochrome

* If you only use your printer for text documents, you only need a monochrome (black ink only) printer. * For everyday color use, an inkjet with just two cartridges (color and black) may be all you need. * If you plan on printing a lot of photos, especially at larger sizes and higher resolutions, consider investing in a multi-cartridge printer.

Demo Searches

Here are some demo searches to help you get started. If these aren't what you're looking for, just type what you want in the search engine above! Color inkjet printer under 00 !Home multifunction printer under $500 laserjet !Office duplex laserjet 12 ppm !Photo printer 11x17 capacity

Related Guides