Definitive Guide to Printers (Make the Right Pick)

You walk into the office supplies store, and before you know it, your nightmare begins. All you want is a printer, but there are so many options that you do not know what to pick. There are too many options, in fact. As you walk from aisle to aisle, you realize that you do not know what you want. The jargon the store uses on each printer is very confusing, and the sales representative keeps taking you to the high-end printer section without telling you anything helpful. In the end, you leave the store, as confused as you were before, with a printer that probably will not serve your purpose.

Many people experience this type problem when looking for a printer. Picking a printer is a daunting task, especially if it is your first time owning one. There are different types of printer technologies. Printers also come in different shapes sizes. If you want a printer, you can travel around with quickly, or if you wish to have a behemoth that can handle hefty printing activity, this guide will help you pick the best option for all your needs.

Printer Type

Many people usually start with an idea of the type of printer they want. However, different printers have different printing technologies. It is vital for anyone who wants to buy a printer to know and understand these technologies before making a decision. These differences also account for how much they cost to use, maintain, and use. Let us look at some of the different types of printers you will commonly encounter.

Laser Printers

Laser printing technology has been around for decades, and first went into use in 1984. The most significant advantage of laser printers is their ability to print fast and give sharp outputs at very marginal costs per page. They print much like copiers, with a photographic drum that attracts toner and transfers it onto printing paper. A heat sealer fuses the image onto the paper, creating the print.

Up until recently, you could not find a decent color laser printer at any pocket-friendly price. Many of these printers targeted high-end users and corporate organizations. However, now, besides monochrome laser printers, you can get color laser printers at less than $250. The exciting thing about them is they perform just about as well as color inkjets in many instances.


You have probably heard about inkjets, or at least read that label on a printer somewhere. Inkjets are competent printers, producing bright text prints and impressively vibrant photo prints. Many manufacturers produce inkjets for general printing uses, and as photo inkjets. While a photo inkjet will print digital photos out clearly, you should not confuse it with snapshot or photo printers.

So how do inkjets work? They apply a well-controlled stream of small ink droplets from the ink cartridges onto the paper. Each manufacturer has a unique mechanism. Many inkjets have varying
droplet sizes and different color-mixing algorithms.

Compared to laser printers, inkjets are slower, but as technology advances, the differences have become quite marginal. Unfortunately, ink cartridges and special printing paper for these inkjet printers can be quite costly. This makes them ideal for small businesses and private owners who do not have to print their documents fast or often. They are also great for photo enthusiasts and producing high-quality photographs.

You will find inkjets at prices ranging from $90 to $850, but features such as high print quality usually increase the price.

Multifunctional or All-in-one Printers

If you are looking for a printer that also copies, scans, prints, and faxes, then a multifunctional printer will be ideal for your needs. For this reason, all-in-one printers tend to be very popular among home users and small businesses.

Multifunctional printers usually come either as laser or inkjet printers. Laser printers give you speedy printing abilities, while inkjets print vibrant photos. With these printers, you can directly print from a media source such as a memory card or USB drive. You can also get an auto-duplexer that prints text on both sides of the paper.

These printers cost about $100 and up, but again, the feature set you prefer will largely determine the price you pay.

Snapshot or Photo Printers

If you love printing your pictures directly from your camera, you may want to acquire a photo printer. This is also true if you want a printer that uses more than the four basic inks that come with many standard inkjets.

Photo printers mostly use dye sublimation technology, transferring dye from a ribbon onto the paper with several passes, then adds a protective clear coat. This type of printing usually produces the same quality of photos as traditional photo printing.

We also have snapshot printers that only print photos in 4×6 size or smaller. They cannot print on standard A4 size paper. These are usually best as secondary printers, and you can find them for about $100 and up.

Portable Printers

The thing with portable printers is that they are light, weighing about two to five pounds. They are also usually just about large enough to fit standard A4 paper. Many portable printers use inkjet technology but are hardly ever top-notch. While you will pay a pretty penny for these printers, they will typically do the job if you need to print while on the road.

3D Printers

3D printers are an emerging technology but are consistently becoming necessary in many industries. You can use them to create models and prototypes of inventions and other items.

Simply put, 3D printers print items in 3D. They ordinarily use resin, powder, or plastic. The printer melts these materials down and streams them into thin layers that stack on top of each other to produce the item required.

While initially left to big innovative companies, 3D printers are finding new forms, uses, and sizes. Home users and small businesses can now afford scaled-down models that address their printing needs.

User Profile

The second thing you need to ask yourself is, for what type user are you? Different users usually have different needs, and these needs are the key to determine the type of printer for you.

So, which user profile best suits you?

The Student

As a student, you understand that you will need to print your assignments, projects, and theses often. Other times you will have to produce copies of research documents and additional relevant information to help you in your studies. This means that you look for a printer that can crank out page after page without the slightest fault or error. You want a reliable printer that can produce thousands of pages before finally running out of ink. So what do you get?

While you can get a personal laser printer for about $100, you generally want a printer that uses toner. The advantage of a toner printer is that it produces more pages per refill than an inkjet, effectively reducing the cost of buying ink.

Alternatively, picking a multifunctional inkjet printer would be useful, as well. Not only will you
enjoy extra copy, fax, and scan options, you will also get to print in color where needed. You can squeeze a few photographs and postcard prints, but it will cost you slightly more. However, the extra money will surely be worth it because many multifunctional inkjet printers will be a bit faster, with a low paper and ink usage.

The Home User

So what about the home user? Ordinarily, if you want a printer in your home, you want one that works like a Swiss knife. This printer should be able to print a multipage report on a whim, but also produce colorful prints of digital photographs without breaking your budget.

With such needs, a home user needs a single-function inkjet printer. Generally, a small office color inkjet will do the trick. Such a printer might cost you $40, but if you are willing to go for one with more functions such as web connectivity, cloud printing, and an interactive touchpad, you can get one that costs more.

The Digital Photographer

As a photographer looking for a printer, you have a lot more to look at than, say, a student or home user. You want a printer that has a clean and precise finish, one that can reproduce color in the dynamic range of a traditional photo. You will look at the gamut and properties of the ink set. You will also look at the type of paper the printer supports, the color management tools it has, and path options for feeding paper into the printer.

With that in mind, what do you get? The best option would be to pick a letter-size inkjet that can handle other standard printing works. You can also get a printer that is compatible with digital cameras, but this can be quite pricy.

You may also use a multifunctional printer. This is because many manufacturers are improving the quality of photo output. Some printers already come with multiple ink cartridges that you can replace as soon as they run out, rather than having to go out and buy more. You can also perform some light editing and touches on the photo on the LCD screens of these printers.

Small Businesses

If you are a small business owner, an all-in-one or multifunctional printer would be ideal for your needs. Many such printers are both laser and inkjet and occupy small spaces. They also double up as fax machines, scanners, and copiers. This is vital, especially if you need to perform any of these tasks quickly.

Many models designed for small businesses are quite affordable, with many starting at about $99. In addition, if you have a standalone scanner or fax machine, you can acquire a personal laser printer, and it will serve the bulk of functions left.

Corporate Users

If you run a small company, you need a printer that can serve a huge number of people all at once. It should be able to perform efficiently, especially when under heavy use. Many corporate printers can produce 40 pages per minute; have faster processors, larger memories, and better print engines.

With such printers, you have access to group features such as network printing, higher ink or toner cartridge capacity, and larger paper trays.

Features to Consider

There are many must-have features on modern printers. These features will count for more, especially if you frequently print because they generally make a mundane task quicker to finish. Let us look at them

Networking Capabilities

Nothing is as important as being able to connect your printer to a network. Many manufacturers already understand this. Nowadays, almost all printers come with many different connectivity abilities. Many printers have several ports that can connect your devices, starting with the standard USB connectivity ports. Unfortunately, connecting to a printer using a USB cable means that you cannot locate it too far away from your computer.

One solution is to connect the printer to a wireless router so that other people on the network can have access to it. Another option is to connect an Ethernet cable to it. Ethernet connections are quite common in offices, although as a home user, you can use one Another solution is to buy a Wi-Fi –Ready printer. Many modern printers come equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities, making them ideal for home and office use. These printers are easier to use and even have one-touch setup buttons. Many printers also come with Wi-Fi Direct so that you can connect directly to your laptop or computer without necessarily connecting to a Wi-Fi network first. Another advantage is that you can print documents directly from any other device using Wi-Fi, including your iPhone using Apple’s AirPrint Protocol. Some printers have Near-Field Communication (NFC). Using this connectivity option, you can connect your phone or tablet by pressing the NFC button on your printer.

Paper Handling

Everybody is at least familiar with
printers that can handle 8.5 × 11 paper. So what about other paper sizes and
formats? Will it print on legal envelopes or custom paper sizes? Many manufacturers
have made dedicated trays for such exceptional cases. If you use custom paper,
even if it weighs slightly less or more than standard paper, many printers will
work well with it.

Many high capacity printers have larger
trays to accommodate more paper. This is quite useful in offices, where
refilling a printer with paper would waste time. For small businesses and
homeowners, a small tray is not quite an issue. If, however, you need to print
more, many printers come with optional second trays. These trays can take
different paper types or double the capacity of your current tray.

Printer Resolution

This is an essential element to look at
when choosing a printer. The industry measures printer resolution using dots
per inch (dpi). Therefore, when a printer says it has 600 × 600 dpi, that means
that each square inch it prints down on paper has 600 dots vertically and

While many manufacturers market more
dpi as better, a standard printer with 600 dpi, perform a majority of your
printing work quite efficiently. However, 600 dpi is the lowest resolution you
will find available in the market. Many printers have about 1200 dpi, which is
useful, especially if you want to print fine text or graphics with fine
details. Even for photos, 600 dpi is sufficient.

While printer resolution is vital, the
quality of the paper is also useful. Better paper quality paper will always
yield better results with higher resolution. Any standard paper type will bleed
ink, which in turn makes higher resolution worthless.

Memory Card Slot, USB, and the Cloud

If you print photos bright, consider a
printer that has a memory card or USB slot, and cloud capabilities. This is
quite useful if you want to print directly from the device without using a
computer first. Many manufacturers offer a multi-format card reader, while some
only support SD cards. Many printers already print directly from USB drives,
and this feature comes as a market standard.

Cloud-based technology is quite neat,
especially when you need to send pictures or documents directly to cloud
storage services. Many printers now come with technology that lets you access photographs
and documents on popular cloud storage websites, including Dropbox and Google

Most printers will let you keep a
backup of a picture or document on the cloud even as you make a copy. This way,
you never lose any documents that you consider as crucial to your business or
everyday life.

Wrapping up

­­­When looking for a printer, it is vital to understand who you are, what you need it for, and the best technology you can get. You get a choice between inkjets and laserjets. While both printers
may serve your immediate needs, toner and ink are the fundamental costs. The frequency of use should help you determine whether you will buy a sizable multipurpose printer or a photo printer. Extra features such as Wi-Fi connectivity, Direct Wi-Fi and NFC are good options where many people have
access to the printer. This way, everyone can use the printer at their convenience, using their immediate device.

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