How to choose a printer?


There was a time when we used to fill up sheets and sheets of paper with handwritten notes. Whether it was school, home or dad’s office. The stacks of sheets continue to being used, but handwritten notes are passè. All we need now is printouts, printouts and printouts. Homework, officework, applications and even letters, we just can’t live without printers today.

Now, the most important question is that have you already picked your printer or are you planning to buy one. And if you are, are you sure about the kind you wish to buy? Let’s quickly go through some very basic points to help in answering the question, ‘How to choose a printer?’

Step no. 1.

Identification of your needs. I spoke to a dozen people and was actually surprised to note that most of them never did that. They did not identify their needs or wants from their printer and just went ahead and bought one with a few suggestions from the seller. Actually, that is what prompted me to write this post. The basic questions that you need to ask yourself should be such; How many prints would you take a month (approximately)? How many would be in color? Are you okay with getting color printouts and photocopies from a shop if they are not needed much? Do you have multiple PCs at home / office? Do you want to use a single printer with all your PC’s? Would you like to send an email directly to your printer, without using your PC? Would you be printing your digital photographs or needing high resolution printouts?

Only once you have the answer to these questions, you should proceed to identify the correct printer for yourself and proceed to Step no. 2 for the identification of your printer.

Step no. 2.

Get to know your printer. Once you have established the need, you need to know your options. Which printer would be most cost effective for you. There are certain points in consideration and are tackled below:

Inkjet printers v/s Laser printers

Inkjet printers. These are the most common printers available. Though it is difficult to compare various inkjet models but the moment you start looking at a scenario where over 200 pages need to be printed in a month, specifications of the printer, such as print speed and size of the paper tray become important.

Most inkjet printers are color capable. But the thing that matters is how much will it cost to print a color page. For some basic inkjet printers, the cartridge cost exceeds the printer cost. That is why it is important to work it out before hand. Work out the cost per page, by dividing the cost of the cartridge with the number of pages one cartridge can handle — about which the vendor would give you an idea (it would also be mentioned in the printer’s manual). If the cartridge costs  1,500/- and it can print about 500 pages, the cost per page is  3/-. It is a advisable to double that as an estimate if the printer is not used everyday, because if a printer is not used for some time, the cartridge may dry up and need to be replaced sooner.

Another thing that people miss while calculating the cost per page is the coverage. Note that the printer companies specify the number of pages (per cartridge) with an assumption of 5% ink coverage per page. Some printouts may be graphic-heavy, consuming up a lot of the ink, thereby considerably reducing the number of printouts per cartridge.

Also check if it will print with black cartridge if the colour cartridge runs out. Some printers do, but some may not work in even in black mode if the color cartridge is dry. In some printers the color part is also subdivided, so they take four cartridges — black, cyan, magenta and yellow. This may appear an expensive alternative, but you get the benefit of needing to change only the particular color that has run out. Though the option of refilling an ink cartridge is always there, don’t let it be a deciding criterion. That option will be there for all printers, so just leave it. For a lower number of printouts per month but regular printing work, inkjet printers are your best bet.

Laser printers. These kinds of printers are the best if high volumes of printouts are required. A Toner (printing) cartridges cost  2,000/- to 3,000/-, depending on the model — and usually are in the four-colour format. There was a time, when laser printers used to be very costly and out of reach of most people, but now an entry-level laser printer costs about  6,000/- and have started gaining popularity. If your printing assignments are going to be high in volume, then a laser is the best option for you. With these printers, there is an additional advantage that the cartridge doesn’t dry up as it is in powder form. But, be a little careful in the rainy season as the cartridge may catch moisture. If that happens and your printouts are not that crisp (even if the cartridge is new), just take out the toner cartridge, shake it and put it under mild heat (NOT direct heat). A hair dryer would work just fine, just use the dryer’s air flow over the cartridge for a couple of minutes and regain the crispness in your prints as the moisture form the toner dries up. Though Laser printers consume more power than inkjets, it should not be a matter of consideration, as printers are normally used for a small period of time.

Connectivity – USB, Ethernet or Wi-Fi?

If you plan to connect only one PC to the printer, a printer that connects using a USB cable is the best option. If you want to use multiple computers on one printer, a networked printer is a better. Networked printers are normally slightly more expensive than others. If you don’t wish to use multiple USB cable to all PC’s, then  Wi-Fi is the way to go and also more future friendly.

To e-print, or not to e-print

If you have to do a lot of remote printing work, go for a printer that can directly receive print commands without the need for a PC. For this you need a networked printer connected to broadband and both things should be powered on. Just ask anyone to send a mail to your printer, and find your printout waiting for you when you reach. Sometimes, you may get experience a paper jam, no printout or several sets of printouts, but his can happen while the printer is in your sight as well. Don’t bother much for exceptional circumstance, especially if you have a good power back up working.

All-in-one printer – yes or no?

Printer, copier, scanner, fax. Why have seperate machines for each function when both inkjet and laser variants offer all functionalities? Even if you already have a scanner, it doesn’t hurt to have a backup device, if the price difference is not much. Consider this option if you have an office-like need to communicate frequently in many forms.

Camera supporting printers

If you are a photography freak and like to keep a record of your work, then go in for a camera friendly printer. You can connect your camera directly to the printer via USB and print an image from the camera directly. Some printers also support memory cards, where in you insert your camera’s card in the printer’s card slot for accessing your images.

Bhanu Pratap
Bhanu Pratap
Right from childhood have been a technology buff. As a child used to take a screw driver and open all of my toys just to see what ticks inside them. My parents once got me a wooden rocking horse with just four wheels and nothing else to open, thinking that they would finally get some rest. Next day the wheels were being removed to check the shaft principle used in the making. This craziness just stuck with me as I grew up and got interested in all the latest technological marvels that just keep springing up everyday. Used to blow all of pocket money just to keep myself updated with the latest walkman, which was one of the most interesting inventions paving the way for modern mp3 players and other portable music devices which are much more than just music devices now. This site is just a step to ease that geek in me. To share and let you share the latest gadgets, news and anything related to technology. Lets enjoy this feeling together.

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