Printers are essential peripherals, performing a crucial role since they render digital information into real records or material output. You’re simply not using your computer to its fullest possible if you cannot print reports, presentations, letters, photographs, or whatever it is that you want to output. Choosing a printer can be confusing, however, in the present aggressive, ever-changing picture. This buying guide rounds out some of the very important criteria to consider before you create that all-important purchase choice.
Here is the biggest decision to make before anything else. Your choice ought to be determined by how you work and the kind of output you’ll be anticipating from the printer.
Decision Inkjet: Inkjet printers may provide magnificent colour, so this really is the thing to do if you are mostly concerned with printing photographs. Inkjets can be used for printing text, however, the print speed is too slow if the principal intention of the printer will be file printing. To obtain more photo-realism, choose inkjets having an expanded range of colors which includes light cyan and light magenta in addition to the standard four-color CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). The excess colours deliver more subtle colour gradations in blue skies and skin tones. And if you print a fantastic deal of black-and-white photos, think about picture printers with more than one variant of black ink or using gray inks. Many photo printers utilize color inks to produce a composite black, resulting in a muddy shade. A second black-ink cartridge and distinct colors of grey help keep a neutral tone, with the gray ink allowing for subtle shading and thus improving the standard of black-and-white photos.
O Dye-sublimation: Dye-sub printers may print constant tones along with a superior assortment of colours that laser printers are not able to, making them ideal for more demanding graphic applications or colour printing. Dye-sub prints are also less prone to fading and distortion over time than dye-based ink prints. They are, but more restricted in the range and size of printing press which can be used — usually letter-size smaller or paper.
Decision Laser: Laser printers are an ideal option if you need to print large quantities of text documents. They print quicker than inkjets and also have a lower cost of operation within the long-term — even though they may cost more to buy initially. There are trade-offs, nevertheless. Monochrome laser printers produce sharp black text but cannot be used for colour printing. Color lasers deliver excellent text and graphics but are a lot more costly and can be expensive to maintain.
Some printers are good for general printing, while others are better at specialized jobs or combine several functions into a single machine.
O Photo: Should you take a lot of pictures, think about getting a photo printer. Photo printers may be in the kind of photo inkjets — that can print both photos and text; photo photo printers — for outputting small 4×6-inch prints; or professional photo printers — for big, tabloid-size photos and often like network connections to enable printer sharing. Most professional and consumer photo printers use inkjet technology, while most snapshot photo printers which print 4×6-inch prints rely on dye-sublimation technology. No matter the type or technology that is used, the most important consideration to search for in a photo printer would be photorealistic quality.
O General Purpose: As the name suggests, general purpose printers may be used for printing virtually anything, such as text and photos. Choose a general printer with a laser arrangement should you print more text than photographs; and choose an inkjet format if you publish more photos than text.
O Multifunction: Multifunction printers (MFPs) unite in 1 apparatus several functions like scanning, printing, faxing, and copying. MFPs cost significantly less than purchasing different standalone devices and cut down on the trouble of establishing individual machines. If you’re strapped for budget or space, consider these all-in-one apparatus. Please note, however, that a malfunction with a single part takes down the entire device, and individual components might not be upgradeable. MFPs are available with either laser printers to highlight speedy text printing along with the occasional images output; or they are available with inkjet printers to get vibrant photo printing.
Environment and Applications
When deciding on a printer, consider where and how you plan to use it. The home user will have different printing requirements from that of the office employee, photographer, or traveler.
O General/Basic home use: Versatile, cheap printers are the top choices here, and inkjets generally satisfy the printing needs of all home users seeking to output photos from their digital camera or for other mild printing needs. Ink cartridges can be expensive, so search for inkjets with separate cartridges for each colour. This way, you need not throw out entire cartridges — simply because one color has been used up before the others — but substitute just those that run out.
O Home office: An MFP could possibly be a fantastic device to have in your home office, particularly if it comes with an automatic document feeder that could process multipage documents unattended. Extra onboard memory increases efficiency and allows for processing of larger images and documents without difficulty. And if scanning and photocopying are significant to youpersonally, get an MFP with a greater resolution.
Decision Photography: Photo printers would be the obvious choice if printing photographs is your primary thing. Choose either the smaller, snapshot photo printer that produces 4×6-inch prints; or select larger-sized, professional photo printers which are capable of delivering tabloid-size 11×17-inch prints — even as much as full-bleed 13×19-inch prints that include a border to allow room for registration marks.
O Text printing: If printing considerable quantities of text is exactly what you will be doing most, monochrome standard laser printers would be your best bet — as they could turn out page after page of crisp text fairly rapidly. These printers are best for printing black-and-white text and simple graphics, so you might want to get another inkjet or photo printer in order to print color photos – unless you want to purchase the more expensive color lasers that could print both black-and-white and colour files.
Workgroup lasers pack faster print speeds and have more memory to manage multiple printing tasks.
O Traveler: To the businessperson on the go and looking to print, portable printers offer the solution with their compact size (small enough to fit into a briefcase), light weight (less than 5 lbs.) , and convenient power (operates on batteries or using a car charger). Newer versions can print wirelessly — making it a non-issue if you don’t remember that your USB cable at home. Some portables offer you great extras such as a sheet feeder for automatic page feeding, can manage transparencies and envelopes, and even support an optional scanner cartridge that replaces the ink cartridge and turns the printer into a scanner. Portable printers are more expensive and print more slowly than standard printers, but convenience is what you are paying for.
With something named PictBridge support, photo printers don’t have to be connected to PCs to have the ability to print photos. PictBridge is a standard adopted by makers of printers and digital cameras such as PC-free printing, enabling photographs to be printed right from the digital camera into the printer simply by linking them through a USB cable — as long as the printer and digital camera are all harmonious. A variation to this notion is the ability for printers to read memory cards straight from a digital camera or other image-storing device simply by inserting the cards to designated printer slots.
Once the camera is attached to or the card is put into the printer, photos can be reviewed in a number of ways, based upon the printer model. Some may incorporate a built-in LCD screen that allows shots to be assessed, edits to be created, and those to be printed chosen directly from the monitor. Other models may allow you to produce an index sheet — like a contact sheet in film printing — which means you may mark the ones you pick for printing and rescan the sheet. Other printer models allow you to decide which shots you would like to print straight from the digital camera. Various types of memory cards are available in the marketplace today, so make sure the printer takes the kind used by your camera that you enjoy card-direct printing of photos.
Paper is obviously a significant issue in printing. Here are some important tips on paper handling for printers:
O When purchasing a printer, make sure that it’s equipped to accommodate all the paper sizes and types that you’re going to be using. Should you have to print on heavy stock, for example, be certain that the printer can handle the heaviest paper you use. For this function, a printer’s paper path can give an indication of how it handles paper: Inkjets generally utilize straight-through paper avenues, while lasers use S-shaped or U-shaped paths. Generally speaking, the straighter the path, the thicker the media that may be utilized. On the other hand, the curved paths standard of laser printers also makes it possible to get more flexible configurations for input and output trays.
O working with the right sort of paper may also make a difference to your own printing. Inkjets can print on a variety of glossy or matte photo paper, but make sure you choose the right kind of paper to your printer to acquire optimum print results. By way of instance, matte papers are suitable for both the pigment and dye-based inks, while luster finishes are generally more appropriate for dye-based inks.
O concerning dimensions, many inkjets and lasers can manage printing of letter and legal dimensions. If you have to print larger prints, however, consider a printer that could handle sizes like 11 by 17 inches. You can also consider obtaining a printer with multiple paper drawers in the event that you’ll be switching between different paper sizes on a regular basis.
O If you plan on using third-party paper, make sure it works nicely with your own printer. Before you buy a large quantity of third party newspaper, try several samples by printing the very same photos on both the printer manufacturer’s paper and also the third-party paper, and then compare the outcomes.
Printer Specs and Key Features
Printers include various specifications, therefore navigating the spec sheet intelligently requires familiarity with exactly what each specification entails according to the printing technologies involved or for the sort of use planned for the printer.
O Resolution: For laser printers, 300 dpi is adequate if all you need is to print black-and-white text, but choose at least 1200 dpi for photorealistic grayscale or colour printing. With photo printers, resolution varies according to technology: Output at 300 dpi by picture printers employing dye-sublimation technologies is similar to picture printers using inkjet technologies outputting at 1200 dpi or greater.
O Rate: Speed ratings fluctuate greatly, and the printing rates cited by manufacturers usually refer to printing in draft mode or at the bottom resolution. For laser printers, a more accurate way of measuring actual printing rate is to time just how long it takes from the minute you hit “Print” — into the time that it takes the printer to warm up, spool the job into the printing queue, also for the printed output to eventually come out. For inkjets, print speed isn’t one of its stronger suits; so don’t be too concerned with this spec.
O Memory: Extra memory will be convenient for laser printers to allow them to handle large images and documents more easily. Examine the utmost upgradeable memory allowed for your printer, even if it features a hard drive with likewise upgradeable memory, and whether the printer can utilize generic memory or desires the manufacturer’s brand. In the case of inkjets, memory is built and not upgradeable, however this isn’t an issue inasmuch as processing happens on the face of the computer — so there’s no demand for large amounts of installed RAM to start using on inkjets.
O Connectivity: Most printers today no longer support the older parallel connection but feature instead USB 1.1 or Hi-Speed USB (USB 2.0) — both of which should work fine with USB computers. For printers to be used on a system, it will have to have an Ethernet jack to allow printer sharing. For more flexible printing options, you might choose to look for printers using infrared input/output ports that enable wireless printing from laptops or other devices with infrared interfaces. And when high-speed or long distance printing is exactly what you require, consider printers using a FireWire port.
Consumables and price per page
The cost price of the printer is simply the beginning of its overall cost because over time, the hidden cost of ink or toner, paper, and parts will add up. All these “hidden costs” would be the consumables; dividing the entire price of consumables from the amount of pages that can be produced from the consumables gives you the cost per page. On the flip side, cost per page for inkjets may be four or five times as much, based on how much ink you use and also the price of the newspaper — typically more costly, coated, glossy paper for higher-quality color output. The tank setup for inkjets should likewise be taken under account. Inkjets using a single cartridge to the colored inks will incur increased replacement costs because the cartridge has to be replaced as soon as one colour runs out — even if the cartridge still includes a lot of ink for the other colours. To save expenses, get an inkjet with separate cartridges for black and every individual colour.
All the specs and elaborate features on your printer will not mean a thing if you don’t have good, solid print quality — if of photos or text — to back it up.
O Text: Text should be smooth and crisp. Medium-size fonts should have no fuzzy borders, along with the largest fonts — especially bold ones — must be filled with solid black, not a muddy brown or bluish tone. You should also be able to see well-formed and well rounded counters (the openings) from letterforms; if you don’t, it is typically a sign of the printer laying down too much ink. (Recall, however, that inkjet printers will display some wicking on plain, 20-lb. Paper, as the ink bleeds across the paper fibers.)
O Pictures: For color printing, start looking for gradients — or areas where a shade goes from dark to light. Color should transition smoothly, and you should not see any colour banding, where different bands progress from dark to light. On a test page, you will likely observe a gradient bar that goes from black to white through a series of progressively darker grey colors; the transition from shade to shade ought to be smooth with no noticeable line. Additionally, start looking for a great balance of colors in color-graphic printing — something that’s not overly saturated nor flat and washed out.
O Photo: A fantastic photo print should like the first photo. Great detail should be present in all regions, with no jagged pixels or lines or any other visual artifacts. Good contrast should exist between shadow and highlight regions — maybe not flat or muddy and without colour. You may not always be able to discern the difference from one great print to another, but almost everybody can recognize a bad print whenever they see one. Trust what you see.