Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Printer

Choosing the right printer for your home can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for when shopping.

Printer
A quality printer will give you a professional looking final product without breaking your budget.HP

Home printers are a necessity for most households. Unfortunately, the vast number of printers available on the market, in a very wide range of quality and usability, makes choosing one more difficult than it should be, and flipping a coin isn’t an option, because even though printers aren’t really all that expensive, they still represent a sizable investment. Ask yourself three questions when shopping for a home printer: Do you want a laser or inkjet printer, how much is too much when buying replacement ink and cartridges, and what special features would you like to meet your specific needs.

Type

Brother Monochrome Laser Printer
This laser printer will print up to 30 pages per minute and has a 250-sheet tray.Brother

For home use, the decision here is laser or inkjet printer. Laser printers use toner, are ideal for high-volume printing and, in the past, were mostly used in offices, although they are becoming more popular at home. To print, they have a drum unit that fuses (or melts) toner powder onto paper with heat. An inkjet printer uses ink, is suitable for low volume printing and is the traditional choice of home users, although not always. To print, inkjet printers spray liquid ink through microscopic nozzles onto paper. These printers once made up the bulk of the market, but laser printers are now much more available and also have very comparable prices. If you don’t do high-volume printing, an inkjet printer will serve you fine. If you don’t have a preference on type, move on to the next consideration—cost to keep your printer running.

Cost of Toner and Supplies

Canon Image CLASS LBP6230dw Wireless Laser Printer, White, Space Saving
This laser printer from Canon prints only in black and white, substantially cutting the price for toner.Canon

Knowing how many pages a printer can print with a single cartridge or ink refill is critical in order to make a smart decision. Equally important is the expense to replace toner or ink. Always watch out for really cheap printers that have very expensive ink cartridges that only print a few hundred sheets. They might seem like a good deal on the front end, but they’ll get plenty of money from you in the long run. Akin to the cost of toner and cartridges is the ease by which a printer can be put back into action when levels get low. Often when your printer stops because of low ink, you’re right in the middle of a job and don’t have time to do a lot of time-consuming maintenance. Cartridges make this simple since you just remove the old one and pop in a new one. Refilling with liquid ink is a little more complicated and takes somewhat longer, but the lower price might make it worthwhile to some users.

Additional Features

HP Color LaserJet Pro M255dw Wireless Laser Printer
An intuitive 2.7-inch touchscreen makes this printer easier to operate than many other models.HP

Aside from the type of printer and price to run it, a number of other factors are worth considering. These are features that might make a printer a little more suitable for the way you intend to use it. Printers with larger touch screen readouts are nearly always easier to operate than those with extremely small ones. Likewise, larger paper trays need filling much less often than small ones do. Many printers will also scan documents, making them a little more useful than models that don’t have that function. Print quality is also important, as is print speed for those who plan to frequently print multiple pages at a time. Lastly, compact printers take up much less space on your desk than do larger ones, leaving more room for other, more important items.