Printers come in all shapes, sizes, and types to suit different needs—from the student to the small business owner, office, photographer, and family.
Choosing the right printer
Which printer is right for you will depend on what you plan to do with it, where it will be used, and who will be using it. Small business or home office users might want the ability to make scans and copies. Home users might also appreciate being able to scan old photos, or household invoices and such as well.
For the home, you’ll definitely want a printer that can be used for basic document printing, like a child’s homework. But you might also want to be able to print photos, make event invitations, and create large posters, spreadsheets, or graphs and charts. Photographers, naturally, will want to be able to print photos with accurate colour reproduction, and may even want wide-format options to make large prints that are suitable for framing. Students will need a printer that can print quickly, has long-lasting ink capabilities, and offers mobile printing for sending documents to print remotely.
Different types of printers
There are many different types of printers, but here’s a breakdown of four key kinds.
Inkjet printers work by spraying tiny droplets of ink directly onto the paper. With full-colour inkjets, coloured dots of up to eight different coloured inks are layered in patterns, or directly on top of one another. They output rich, detailed graphics and crisp text for document printing, and can print on a wide range of paper types and sizes, including standard paper, as well as scrapbook papers, business envelopes, labels, and more. The advantage is crisp, detailed text and images. But they can have varying print speeds, which makes them more ideally suited to light printing needs. If you’re planning to constantly make hundreds of prints quickly for meetings or events, you might want to consider a different type of printer.
Who are inkjet printers best suited for?
Inkjets are great for use at home, by students, or small business or home-based business users who only want to print a selection of documents, like reports or invoices, and occasional graphics. Business users will probably want to opt for an all-in-one version thatadds scanning, copying, and/or faxing capabilities as well to meet their more advanced needs.
Laser printers use static electricity and toner, which comes in the form of powder instead of ink, to transfer images and text to paper. They are designed for those who need to print large volumes of prints quickly, and at a low cost. The advantage is that you don’t have to wait for ink to dry, and don’t need to worry about ink smudging when printing large documents on a number of pages at once. They are fast, efficient, and versatile.
Who are laser printers best suited for?
Laser printers are ideal to use in an office with multiple workers who are printing lots of documents and/or lengthy, multi-page documents. But they can be a good option at home as well, if you print large numbers of documents, whether they be recipes for your ownpersonal catalogue, book reports from multiple students, hand-outs for gatherings, and more.
Super Tank printers
Super Tank printers, available from companies like Epson and Canon, use ink reservoirs instead of cartridges that don’t need to be replaced as often. Epson EcoTank printers, for example, come with a two-year supply of ink. They typically come at a higher upfront cost than other printers, but you can save in the long run on both time and money by not having to replace cartridges so often.
Who are Super Tank printers best suited for?
SuperTank printers are ideal for power users, whether that’s a business, home-based business owner, or family with various printing needs. Students might also appreciate not running out of ink just before a big report is due, and parents can confidently send theirkids off to college or university with one, and not worry about the child having to incur additional costs for ink.
Instant Photo Printers
Available from brands like Polaroid, Fujifilm, and HP, instant photo printers are typically small, handheld devices that you can use for printing photos on-the-go, directly from mobile devices, like a smartphone or tablet. They work with apps, and special paper that comes with ink already inside that almost magically comes to the surface when you insert a sheet and print an image. You can usually add fun filters and effects, and some work with paper with adhesive backs so you can stick a print to a surface of your choice.
Who are instant photo printers best suited for?
They are great for young users looking for a fun, instant photo option. The stick-able photos can be used to decorate a backpack, notebook, or locker. They can also come in handy at parties or work functions, allowing guests to have fun snapping their own photos and instantly getting copies to take home.
Other types of printers
Photo printers are designed to reproduce high-quality photos at home, directly from a camera, phone, or file on the computer through a wired or wireless connection, or even from an inserted device, like a memory card or memory stick. Some even allow you to edit the photos, like removing red-eye or cropping, directly from a touch or button panel, without the need for a computer. They can print on photo paper, cards, or even be used to make CD/DVD labels. They’re ideal for photographers, or families or individuals who want to experiment and get creative, and avoid having to wait to get prints at the store, or via an online order.
3D printers, meanwhile, melt material like plastic, resin, or powder, and release it into thin layers that stack on top of each other to build a 3D printout of an item. They are used frequently in businesses to build tools or even product prototypes. But they are alsobecoming more popular for home use, to make everything from kitchen gadgets to toys.
Comparing printers: which one’s for you?
If you’re looking for a great printer to use for many different purposes at home, look for an inkjet, Super Tank, or even a dedicated photo printer. Small or home-based business users will also appreciate an inkjet or Super Tank. But if you print a high volume of pages, it might be worth considering a laser instead.
For students, a Super Tank printer will have you less anxious about how much ink they’re wasting on fun activities, rough drafts of school reports, or printed photos. And an instant photo printer is the perfect option for teens/tweens, or families who entertain a lot. They’re also great for social companies that hold a lot of events and want a fun way to capture memories.
What features to look for in a printer
Once you’ve decided on the type of printer that best suits your needs, there are some other features that are important to consider.
Check out the rated printer speed, listed as PPM (pages-per-minute), CPM (copies-per-minute), or, with photo printers, images-per-minute, or IPM. This will give you an idea of how quickly the printer outputs sheets. A glaring discrepancy between one model over another can influence your decision, especially if you’re getting a printer for multiple users, or plan to print documents that include hundreds of pages at a time.
Can the printer handle different types of paper? Inkjet and laser printers, for example, can usually accommodate both letter and legal-sized paper. Trays can usually hold about 100 pages, but some have multiple trays that can hold more so you don’t have to refill the paper tray as often. Some printers also offer double-sided, or duplex printing, which can save both time and paper. They use a reversing automatic document feeder that allows for printing on both sides of a single sheet without you having to manually turn it over and feed it back in. For budget-conscious users or those printing double-sided documents, it’s a useful option to have.
Memory card readers
Some printers have a slot for inserting a memory card, including Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard, or Memory Stick Duo, to print documents or, most often, photos, directly from the media. This is great if you want to print things quickly and easily, and avoid having to use a computer. It’s particularly ideal for a household where the printer might be in one room with the main computer that’s often being used, while your laptop might be in another.
Many of the latest printers of all kinds include Wi-Fi capability, allowing you to print without even being in the room. It requires a bit of set-up, including the installation of drivers and connecting the printer to your home or office Wi-Fi network. But it can be great for sending print jobs from wherever you are, without needing to plug in via USB. Alternatively, PictBridge technology, found in many cameras, is a simple connection for printing photos directly from a digital camera by plugging the camera directly into the printer via USBversus having to upload the image to your computer first. AirPrint is a method of wirelessly sending prints to AirPrint-compatible printers from an Apple device, like a MacBook or iPhone.
Small and home office users, in particular, will appreciate all-in-one printers that also have a flatbed for scanning, or that can make copies. Faxing capability might also be necessary if you deal with clients who still accept faxes.
Arguably one of the most important factors when choosing a printer is how efficient it is with ink, and how expensive replacement cartridges are. Don’t get fooled into buying a printer simply because it’s super-cheap. Take a look at the cost of replacement cartridges, and the estimated number of pages you’ll get per cartridge, before making a rash decision.
Many printers use three ink colours (cyan, magenta, and yellow) in order to make colour prints. Some use tri-colour ink cartridges, along with a separate one for black ink; and others use four-colour CMYK for creating high-contrast images. Look at whether you can replace each colour individually, or have to replace an entire cartridge whenever one colour runs out. If you’re mainly making black text-based prints, this might not be an issue. Even if another colour runs out, you can continue to use the cartridge. But if you plan to print things in colour often, you’ll want to look for a printer that uses individual cartridges, affordable ink, and can output a high print volume per cartridge. SuperTank photos arguably provide the most bang for your buck in this respect.
It might not be a deal-breaker, but a convenient touch display can make it simple to navigate menus and set your preferred printing options, including paper size, how many copies you want to be printed, and even to what e-mail you want a copy of the document automatically sent if this feature is included.
Being able to use an app and print directly to a printer from wherever you are can be a very convenient feature for on-the-go business users, students, and busy families. Several such apps are available and work with various compatible printers, including, as mentioned, AirPrint, as well as Google CloudPrint, and specific printer apps. Some apps will even alert you when the printer ink is running low so you can proactively get refills.
Installing a Printer
Many printers are fairly simple to set up: just plug in and download the required software and/or drivers. Geek Squad Home Membership can help if you aren’t sure about how to set up a printer, especially if there are multiple users and computers that need to be connected.
Take the next step
Whatever your needs, there’s a printer that can meet them. Going through each of the options when deciding on the features that are most important to you will help you narrow down the search.