A printer is an essential item for any modern home or office. If you don't currently have a printer or if you're looking for a new one, the vast selection of printers available today can be overwhelming.
Selecting the best type of printer for your needs
There are three main types of printers:
- Inkjet printers - Inkjet printers have one or more replaceable ink cartridges that store the color and/or black ink. The ink is actually sprayed onto the paper by a tiny nozzle.
These printers produce high quality documents, including text, graphics, and even photographs in color or black and white.
Inkjets are currently the most popular printers for home use, primarily because of their relatively low cost. Many offices use inkjet printers as well for the same reason. If initial cost is your primary concern, you can pick up a decent inkjet printer for around $50.
- Laser printers - Laser printers are used primarily in office and corporate settings. They use a toner cartridge and drum (similar to a copier) to place the content on the paper. These "consumables" are rather expensive, but they last longer than an ink cartridge.
Large offices often use a high speed network laser printer that is shared by everyone. Of course when there is an issue with the printer, everyone is affected.
The initial cost of a quality laser printer can be considerably higher than the other types of printers.
- Dot matrix printers - Dot matrix printers use old-fashioned ribbons and printheads to place the content on the paper. Once common in homes as well as offices, these printers are now used almost exclusively in offices where printing on continuous forms is necessary.
The initial cost of dot matrix printers is typically somewhere between the other two printer types, but the ribbons are fairly inexpensive and they tend to last a long time.
Choosing an inkjet printer
If you decide that an inkjet printer would be best for your needs and budget, here are a few tips for choosing one:
- Cost of the printer- Unless you have a need for super fast printing, the most inexpensive printers available today will do a good job for you.
- Cost of the ink cartridges - Cartridge prices vary a great deal from one printer model to another. One printer might require a $30 cartridge while the printer next to it uses a $17 one.
- Printer speed - For home use, even the slowest inkjet printers will probably be acceptable, but if you prefer a faster printer, be prepared to pay more.
Choosing a laser printer
If you need a laser printer, the factors to consider are:
- Cost of the printer - Since these printers are used primarily in an office setting, they usually get a lot of use. This goes double for a networked printer. You'll probably want to consider reliability over price when comparing laser printers.
- Cost of consumables - Toner cartridges and drums vary widely in price. A less expensive printer may well end up costing more over the course of a year if you purchase a model that uses more expensive consumables.
Choosing a dot matrix printer
The same basic factors apply for a dot matrix printer as for a laser printer. Consider the relative quality and reliability of the printers over price and compare the costs of the ribbons among printer models.
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