It might sound easy to choose a printer, but as soon as you start finding out about the different available features, deciding on the right one can become daunting. Are you looking for a traditional basic printer? Or perhaps you need a printer with copying and scanning features as well? Do you know the difference between laser and inkjet technology? What are the differences between the EUR 500 model and the EUR 200 model?
Here is a bit of advice that might assist you in finding the correct model and category. (And if you are finding it difficult to find a model that you want in stock since the Irish tech supply chains are still struggling, refer to our Guide To Landing Tough-To-Find Tech).
How Do You Plan To Use Your Printer?
Printers widely vary according to whether you plan to use them for business or home use (or for dual-use in a home office and your home). What do you plan to print with your printer, for example, labels, photos, graphics, or text, and if you require monochrome or colour printing.
Most of the printers are typically designed according to either home or business use. In general, business printers are more geared toward graphics and text, while home models (typically inkjets) usually favour photos. Special-purpose options include near and dedicated label printers and photo printers. (Even when it comes to speciality printers, the 3D printers are special cases, and extend beyond the scope of this particular discussion). Even if you are interested in mainly printing photos, you might still want one of the printers that are capable of doing other things. For this reason, you must know exactly what you want from a printer before you decide to buy.
Common Printer Types
Most printers are made to print photos, graphics, or text. In general, the business printers use laser technology geared mainly towards text (and in some cases graphics), while the home versions (typically inkjets) favour photos. When it comes to these considerations, printer models still widely vary when it comes to output quality within these categories. Certain business printers are able to handle all the output types that these models work well for the printing of brochures (in-house) and other types of marketing materials.
The inkjet and laser are the two more common types of technology that overlap when it comes to their capabilities, yet they are still different. Most laser and LED printers ( identical to laser printers but use LEDs as a light source) print text of a higher quality when compared to most inkjets, while most inkjet printers print better-quality photos when compared to the laser models, yet both of these technologies have undergone considerable developments over the last few years. For this reason, it may come as a surprise to find out which model is best to match up to your needs. Refer to our comprehensive discussion linked to the Laser Vs Inkjet question if you need more information.
In addition to the output type and inner technology, there are many other finely-grained categories when it comes to printers.
The home printers ranging between EUR 50 to EUR 250 are usually always inkjet models designed for lower-volume printing. These printers usually have higher ink costs and are also slower. These models print photos a lot better than graphics and text. Just about all the models are multifunction (meaning all-in-one) devices that can copy, fax, scan, and print. If you are on a tight budget, this is the category to look at for inexpensive printers.
Home-office printers which usually range between EUR 100 to EUR 400 are mainly inkjets and are made for low-to-mid volume printing. These models are mainly multifunction printers and are geared towards graphics and text rather than photos. The paper capacity begins at 100 sheets, while the high-end printers can hold around 500 sheets. These printers are ideal for “micro offices” (usually not more than 5 people), and most are the perfect choice for a household, particularly for students in school that need to print multiple documents.
Home Office Printer
The home-office printer is a subset of the business printers that range in price from EUR 100 to over EUR 2,500. These models range from single-function, compact models for lower-volume use to floor-standing humongous units dedicated to anchoring an entire department. Many of the business models are lasers, even though the inkjets have also started to make inroads into this market. Most of these models are also multifunction devices. Most devices are monochrome while favouring graphics and text over photos.
For most businesses, paper capacity and speed are vital. Cost is one of the other factors and in general, the more expensive models have lower per-page printing costs. The bulk-ink printers usually have the lowest costs per page, and there are also ink-subscription programs available to subsidize the costs of the toner and ink. Many of the business printers provide security features including password-protected printing, while some even feature accessories like ID card readers or encrypted hard drives.
The near-dedicated photo printer models range from EUR 400 to EUR 2,000 and are usually designed for photo enthusiasts and professional photographers. Even though these models can print graphics and text, they are mainly for printing premium-quality photos. Certain versions include wide-format printers that come with wider frames made for large-format paper, while many other versions are able to print from a paper roll as well. When it comes to precision colour, these printers use as many as 12 ink cartridges at a time. Your per-page costs will usually be higher since these printers use a lot more ink along with high-quality paper which provides the most attractive results.
The small-format photo printer models range from EUR 80 and EUR 250 and are made to only print photos. The print sizes often range from 6 by 7 inches to wallet size. It is important to note that most models are only able to print single sizes. These printers are usually portable and come with batteries or space for a battery that you need to buy separately.
These are tabloid-size or consumer wide-format printers that range in price from EUR 150 to EUR 300. These printers are useful when legal or letter size pages are not big enough. These printers can’t be used to print the 24-by-36-inch poster-size outputs (at least not on a single sheet without tiling), yet these are wide-format machines are capable of 11-by-17-inch prints (and in certain cases, 13-by-19-inch) in smaller quantities.
The label printer models are designed to quickly churn our plastic or paper labels. Some models come with label-design software that connects to a computer, while most are standalone devices that allow you to print and design labels using a built-in keyboard. The manufacturers that produce standalone-label printers provide a range of label types and colours.
Brother Label Printer
Are You Looking For An All-In-One Or A Single-Function Printer?
Many of the general-purpose home printer models, and most business printer models are usually multifunction models (aka all-in-ones, or MFPs). These functions usually include combinations of faxing, copying, and scanning from your PC, scanning-to-email, and standalone faxing.
The office printers usually include an ADF (automatic document feeder) to copy, scan, or/and fax legal-size pages and multipage documents. Most ADFs handle 2-sided documents by either scanning one of the sides, turning over the page, and then scanning the opposite side, or the device employs 2 sensors that scan the page on either side using one pass.
HP Envy Printer With ADF
Some of the MFPs provide extra printing options. Inkjet photo-centric printers are designed to print on optical media and DVDs. The web-enabled printers which include both office and home models connect to the Internet directly through your Wi-Fi network allowing you to print and access selected content, doing away with having to work from a computer.
Most of the Wi-Fi devices allow you to print images and documents from your handheld device. Certain models also allow you to email a document to your printer from any location, and from here you can then print it out. Our list of the top all-in-one printers can assist you when it comes to sifting through all the available options.
How Much Are You Planning To Print?
If you are only printing a couple of pages every day, you shouldn’t be too concerned about the capacity of the printer, as defined by the suggested (not maximum) monthly duty cycles. Maximum duty cycles are the most the printer will be capable of printing every month, while the suggested duty cycles indicate how much the printer can take without unnecessary wear and tear.
If you are printing enough that the duty cycles matter, make sure you buy one of the printers that include this information in the specifications. You can work out how much you plan to print by the amount of paper that you go through every month and how often you need to buy paper. From here, choose a printer that is made to print a minimum of that amount.
Brother Expanded Printer
You also need to consider the maximum and minimum, and if you require a duplexer so that you can print on either side of a page. When it comes to input capacity, you should be looking for a capacity that you should only be adding more paper once every week. If you are printing letterheads, checks, or envelopes often, look for the models with more than one drawer so that the printing doesn’t slow down by having to unload your regular paper so that you can load speciality media.
How Quickly Do You Need To Print?
If you are only printing 1 to 2 pages at one time, you won’t be needing one of those speed demons. Many of the latest home printer models are not designed for speed. If you are outputting many longer documents, speed will become more important. If this is the case, you should probably look at the laser printers.
In most cases, the laser models are closer to their advertised speeds when it comes to text documents, meaning they don’t require a lot of processing time. The inkjets usually claim much faster speeds when compared to the expensive laser models, but in most cases fail to match these claims. The latest inkjet printer models have started to get faster, while a couple of the latest higher-end models (sometimes called “laser alternative” inkjets) are as fast when compared to the lasers that are comparably priced. (Check on how we test printers).
What Will The Running Costs Be For The Printer?
It is important to determine the entire cost involved to own a printer. Most manufacturers indicate the costs per page, and most also provide costs per photo. To work out the total costs involved, work out the costs over a year for every output type. This includes photos, colour documents, and monochrome by multiplying the costs per page for that output type by the page numbers you plan to print in a year. Add these amounts together and you will arrive at what you can expect to pay in a year. Make sure that you also include the price you paid for the printer. Compare your total cost figures between different printers to find a model that works out to be the most cost-effective over the long term.
Brother INKvestment Tank Printer
The high costs involved for ink for printers was once a frustration among business and home customers. Today, many of the main manufacturers offer ways that customers can lower their overall ink per-page costs while still preserving their revenues. HP has achieved this through the Instant Ink subscription program, which allows owners of the Tango, Envy, OfficeJet, and DeskJet to choose between 3 levels. This involves paying a fee monthly to print pages up to a specified number. The levels are either 50, 100, or 300 pages every month.
This fee is applicable for either colour or black printing. HP sends more ink automatically when you start running low. These programs are designed to help printer owners to save a significant amount, especially if you are printing mainly in colour.
Some of the other manufacturers provide models that only accept high-capacity cartridges. The Brother’s INKvestment devices come with big ink cartridges and in certain cases, multiple sets, which means you are paying more up-front for your printer, but your supply of ink will last a lot longer, while additional cartridges are usually on sale for a lower price. Brother’s INKvestment Tank printers appear to be similar, except that the high-capacity cartridges are designed to offload the ink into a reservoir inside the printer.
Epson EcoTank Ink bottle
The Epson’s SuperTank and EcoTank printers accommodate bottled ink, allowing you to pour the ink into individual internal tanks. The Canon MegaTank printers also come equipped with ink in bottles. There are also bulk-toner laser models like HP’s Neverstop line. These devices are mainly designed for offices, yet these printers are also suitable for thrifty consumers that print a lot. (Here is more information on ways to save on your printer ink).
How Do You Plan To Connect To Your Printer?
The USB ports are still universal when it comes to printers. Many of the office printers, along with more and more of the home printers, now include Wi-Fi and/or Ethernet ports allowing for a way to share your computer with the home network. (If you are struggling with this particular feature on your printer, here is the information that you need on how to troubleshoot the Wi-Fi connection on your printer). The printers supporting Wi-Fi Direct (or equivalent peer-to-peer protocols) can directly connect to just about any Wi-Fi-enabled device.
Some printer models can print from and connect to mobile devices through NFC, which stands for near-field communication, by tapping the tablet or phone to a specific spot on your printer. However, the NFC trend appears to be declining. Today many of the main printer companies offer mobile apps allowing you to take photos using your phone and then print them out directly. This does away with having to transfer photos from your computer first. The small-format photo model printers usually support Bluetooth that allows you to connect to a mobile device and more.
Do You Require Printer Security Features?
Printer security is one of the overlooked features, but it could be perilous for your business. Hackers could access your network directly from your printer, while any sensitive paperwork in the paper trays could be viewed by the wrong employees.
Most of the improved business-centric models include password protection. This means that when users launch print jobs, they are required to enter a PIN, to activate the printer or release the paper. This makes sure that confidential paperwork won’t be seen by the wrong people.
When it comes to business printers, the firmware must be updated regularly, as this will often repair vulnerabilities, and the hard drives in the printer should also be encrypted. Most manufacturers provide administrative tools that assist IT departments to guarantee printer security.
How To Gauge Weight And Size?
The weight and size of a printer depend on how you plan to use it, yet there are still considerable variations. You need to ensure that your printer will fit in an allocated space (this includes 3 dimensions, including the output trays that might extend and the paper in the feeders), and it should not be too heavy or bulky to move should you decide to move or renovate. There are highly compact printers on the market dedicated to individuals living in tight spaces or dorm rooms.
In general, as the printer models get larger the more accessories or features are added on. This often includes high-capacity ink tanks, automatic-document feeders, extra paper trays, and more. If you are concerned about space, make sure you choose selectively when considering these add-ons.
Is it wise to buy refill or third-party ink kits?
The third-party inks usually cost a lot less when compared to name-brand products. But you should know that it could come with a tank filled with issues. To begin with, there is no guarantee that you will receive the same ink quality from third parties when compared to purchasing name-brand products.
At the same time, if you use ink that is not manufacturer-approved, it could violate the warranty. And forget about thinking you can secretly use renegade ink, especially if the printer connects to the internet since it could report the violation to your manufacturer. In some cases, when it comes to firmware updates, we have noticed that using third-party ink can “deauthorize” using an aftermarket cartridge.
Today most of the print manufacturers provide ink subscriptions, meaning new ink is delivered to your home or office as soon as you start running low. If this option is available with the model you have chosen, this is the ideal choice.
Can I use cheap or recycled paper?
20-pound store-brand weight paper is ideal for everyday printing. However, for better results, we suggest investing in high-quality paper. For inkjet graphic and text printing, along with lasers, this means heavier-weight paper and maybe even brighter white levels. For inkjets to print photos, this will mean investing in the right photo paper. Using a photo paper brand that matches the brand of the printer is usually the best option.
Recycled paper has improved over the years in regards to quality, and it is now possible to find 100% recycled post-consumer-content paper for multiple uses, including bright white and cover stock paper ideal for business purposes. There are also other types of “eco-friendly” paper including photo-paper made out of cotton and all-purpose paper made out of sugar cane. You can contribute to saving trees by finding out about different eco-friendly options. Most modern printers can handle this type of media well.
What Is The Top Printer For Home Use?
The type of printer for home use will depend on how you plan to use the printer. In general, if you are churning out many text-based pages, laser printers are a better choice. If photos or colour documents are more your thing, rather think about one of the inkjet models. If you plan to copy and scan, look for multifunction or all-in-one printers. The decent AIOs do not cost a lot more than the printer-only versions, and they come with many other additional features.
Should I Buy A Refurbished Printer?
Technology on printing does not update very often, so purchasing an older printer (a few years) won’t mean that you are sacrificing on groundbreaking technology. If you decide to purchase a used or refurbished printer, make sure you buy from reliable sources, and try to ensure it has a reasonable return period or warranty. Here is what you should know before you buy refurbished electronics.
Which Printer Should I Buy?
According to our top picks and the advice mentioned above, you should have the information that you need to buy the right printer. First, decide what you plan to print, the number of pages you plan to print in a month, and your budget. If you replace your old printer, donate it or recycle it so it becomes a refurbished bargain for someone else.