Best Guide for Printer Buying



Printers are crucial peripherals, performing a critical role since they render digital information into tangible records or material output. You're not really using your computer to its fullest potential if you are unable to print reports, presentations, letters, photographs, or whatever it is you want to output. Choosing a printer can be confusing, however, in today's aggressive, ever-changing picture. This buying guide rounds out a few of the very important criteria to take into consideration before you create that all-important purchase decision.

Printing Technologies

This is the biggest decision to make before anything else. Your choice ought to be based on how you operate and the kind of output you'll be anticipating from the printer.

Decision Inkjet: Inkjet printers may provide stunning color, so this is actually the thing to do if you're mostly worried about printing photos. Inkjets may be used for printing text; however, the printing speed is too slow if the main purpose of the printer is file printing. The extra colors deliver more subtle color gradations in blue heavens and skin tones. And if you publish a lot of black-and-white photographs, think about photo printers with more than 1 variation of black ink or with grey inks. Many photo printers utilize color inks to produce a composite black, resulting in a muddy shade. Another black-ink cartridge and distinct colors of gray help keep a neutral tone, with the grey ink allowing for subtle shading and thus improving the quality of black photographs.

O Dye-sublimation: Dye-sub printers can print constant tones along with a superior assortment of colors that laser printers are unable to, making them ideal for more demanding graphic applications or colour printing. They're, however, more restricted in the scope and dimensions of printing press that can be used -- usually letter-size paper or smaller.

O Laser: Laser printers are an ideal choice if you have to print considerable amounts of text files. They print quicker than inkjets and have a lower cost of operation within the long-term -- although they may cost more to buy initially. You will find trade-offs, however. Monochrome laser printers produce crisp black-and-white text but cannot be used for color printing. Color lasers deliver excellent text and images but are much more expensive and may be expensive to maintain.

Printer Usage

Some printers are great for general printing, while others are better at specialized tasks or combine several functions into a single machine.

O Photo: Should you take a lot of pictures, think about getting a photo printer. Photo printers may be in the form of photo inkjets -- which may print both photos and text; snapshot photo printers -- such as outputting small 4x6-inch prints; or professional photo printers -- such as large, tabloid-size photos and often including network connections to allow printer sharing. Irrespective of the type or technology that is used, the most important thing to look for in a photo printer is photo realistic quality. Everything else is secondary.

O General Purpose: As the name implies, general purpose printers may be used for printing almost anything, such as photos and text. Opt for a general printer with a laser format if you print more text than photos; and choose an inkjet format should you print more photos than text.

O Multifunction: Multifunction printers (MFPs) combine in 1 apparatus several purposes such as scanning, printing, faxing, and copying. MFPs cost less than purchasing different standalone devices and decrease the hassle of establishing individual machines. If you are strapped for budget or space, consider these all round devices. Take note, however, that a malfunction with one part takes down the whole device, and individual components might not be upgradeable. MFPs are available with laser printers to highlight speedy text printing along with the occasional graphics output; or they are available with inkjet printers for photo printing that is vibrant.

Environment and Applications

When choosing a printer, think about where and how you want to use it. The home user will have different printing needs from that of the office employee, photographer, or traveller.

O General/Basic home usage: Versatile, affordable printers are the best choices here, and also inkjets usually satisfy the printing needs of all home users looking to output photographs from their digital camera or to get other mild printing needs. Ink cartridges can be expensive, so search for inkjets with separate cartridges for each colour. In this way, you don't need to throw out whole cartridges -- simply because one colour has been consumed ahead of the others -- but substitute only those that operate out.

O Home workplace: An MFP could possibly be a great device to have in your house office, especially if it includes an automatic document feeder that could process multiple documents unattended. And when scanning and photocopying are important for you, get an MFP with a higher resolution.

Decision Photography: Photo printers are the obvious choice if printing photos is your main thing. Choose either the smaller, photo photo printer that produces 4x6-inch prints; or choose larger-sized, professional photo printers that are effective at delivering tabloid-size 11x17-inch prints -- up to full-bleed 13x19-inch prints which include a border to allow space for registration marks.

O Text printing: When printing large amounts of text is exactly what you will be performing most, monochrome standard laser printers would be your very best bet -- since they could turn out page after page of text rather rapidly. These printers are ideal for printing black-and-white text and simple images, so you may need to receive a separate inkjet or photo printer so as to print colour photographs - unless you wish to invest in the more expensive color lasers that can print both black and color documents.

O Small community: A work group laser printer can be what you need if your home office or small office is constructed around a network. Work group lasers pack faster print speeds and have more memory to handle multiple print jobs. They also provide more advanced management capabilities such as larger trays, and may provide duplex (double-sided) printing, sorting, and stapling. More costly than laser printers, nearly all work group lasers are monochrome -- made for printing text and simple graphics.

, and handy power (operates on batteries or with an automobile charger). Newer versions can print wirelessly -- making it a non-issue if you forget your USB cable at home. Portable printers are more expensive and publish more slowly than standard printers, but convenience is what you are paying for.

PC-free printing

With something named Pict Bridge support, photo printers do not have to be linked to PCs to be able to publish photos. Pict Bridge is a standard adopted by makers of printers and digital cameras such as PC-free printing, enabling photos to be printed straight from the digital camera into the printer by simply connecting them via a USB cable -- as long as the printer and digital camera are harmonious. A variation to this idea is the capability for printers to read memory card straight from a digital camera or other image-storing apparatus by simply inserting the cards to designated printer slots.

Some may feature a built-in LCD screen that allows pictures to be reviewed, edits to be made, and the ones to be printed chosen directly from the screen. Other models may allow you to create an index sheet -- like a contact sheet in film printing -- which means you can mark the ones you pick for printing and re scan the sheet. Other printer models let you decide which shots you want to print straight from the camera. Many types of memory cards are available on the market nowadays, so be certain that the printer takes the kind employed by your camera that you appreciate card-direct printing of photos.

Paper Handling

Paper is obviously an important problem in printing. Here are some important hints on paper managing for printers:

O When purchasing a printer, be certain it's outfitted to accommodate all the paper sizes and forms that you'll use. Should you need to print on heavy stock, for instance, make sure the printer will handle the heaviest paper you use. For this function, a printer's paper path can give an indication of the way that it manages paper: Inkjets generally utilize straight-through paper avenues, while lasers use S-shaped or directional avenues. Broadly , the straighter the route, the thicker the media which may be used. However, the curved paths typical of laser printers also make it feasible to get more flexible configurations for output and input trays.

O Using the right kind of paper will also make a difference to your printing. Inkjets can print on a variety of matte or glossy photo paper, but make sure that you opt for the best kind of paper to your printer to obtain optimum print results. For example, matte papers are acceptable for both pigment and dye-based inks, whilst luster finishes are generally more suitable for dye-based inks.

O concerning dimensions, most inkjets and lasers can manage printing of letter and legal dimensions. If you have to print larger prints, however, think about a printer that can handle sizes like 11 by 17 inches.

O If you plan to use third-party paper, make sure it works nicely with your printer. Before you buy a large quantity of third-party paper, try out several samples by printing the same photos on either the printer manufacturer's paper along with also the third-party paper, and then compare the results.

Printer Specs and Key Features

Printers feature various specifications, so navigating the spec sheet intelligently requires familiarity with exactly what each specification entails according to the printing technology involved or to the type of usage intended for the printer.

With photo printers, resolution changes based on technology: Output at 300 dpi by picture printers employing dye-sublimation technology is similar to picture printers using inkjet technologies outputting in 1200 dpi or higher.

O Rate: Speed ratings vary considerably, and the printing rates cited by manufacturers typically refer to printing in draft mode or at the bottom resolution. For inkjets, print speed is not one of its more powerful suits; so do not be too worried about this spec.

O Performance: Extra memory will come in handy for laser printers to allow them to manage large graphics and documents more easily. Check the utmost upgrade able memory enabled for your printer, if it features a hard disk with likewise upgrade able memory, and if the printer can utilize generic memory or needs the producer's brand. In the instance of inkjets, memory is built and not upgrade able, but this isn't a problem inasmuch as processing occurs on the face of the computer -- so there is no demand for large amounts of installed RAM to begin with on inkjets.

O Connectivity: Most printers today no longer support the older parallel link but feature instead USB 1.1 or Hi-Speed USB (USB 2.0) -- either of which ought to work fine with USB computers. For printers to be used on a network, it is going to have to have an Ethernet port to enable printer sharing. For more flexible printing options, you might choose to look for printers with infrared input/output vents that allow wireless printing from notebooks or other devices with infrared interfaces. And when high-speed or long distance printing is exactly what you require, consider printers using a Fire Wire port.

Consumables and price per page

The purchase price of this printer is simply the beginning of its overall cost because over time, the hidden cost of toner or ink, paper, and parts will accumulate. All these “hidden costs" would be the consumables; dividing the whole cost of consumables from the amount of pages which may be made from the consumables gives you the cost per page. Laser printers offer the lowest price per page, using relatively inexpensive toner and normal-weight, and unloaded paper. The tank setup for inkjets should also be taken into account. Inkjets using a single cartridge for the colored inks will incur higher replacement costs because the cartridge must be replaced as soon as one color runs out -- even if the cartridge still includes lots of ink for the other colors. To save costs, get an inkjet with separate cartridges for black and each individual color.

Print Quality

All of the specs and elaborate features in your printer will not meaning a thing if you don't possess good strong print quality -- whether of photos or text -- to back it up.

O Text: Text ought to be smooth and crisp. Medium-size fonts should have no fuzzy borders, along with the largest fonts -- especially bold ones -- should be full of solid black, not a muddy brown or bluish tone. You should also be able to see well-formed and well-rounded counters (the openings) in letter forms; if you do not, it's typically a sign of the printer putting down too much ink. Paper, as the ink bleeds across the paper fibers.)

O Pictures: For color printing, search for gradients -- or areas in which a shade goes from dark to light. Color should transition smoothly, and you shouldn't see any color banding, where distinct bands improvement from dark to light.

O Photo: A good photo print should like the first photograph. Colors should be balanced and accurate, vivid but not over saturated. Good detail should be present in all regions, with no jagged lines or pixels or some other visual artifacts. Good contrast should exist between shadow and highlight regions -- maybe not muddy or flat and without color. You might not always be able to discern the difference from one great print to a different, but nearly everybody is able to recognize a lousy print when they see one. Trust what you find.

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