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What To Look For When Buying A Printer: A Complete Step-By-Step Guide

Have you wished you had a personal assistant that would offer you wise counsel when purchasing a printer?  You want the advice, but you don’t want the pushy salesman.  Let me serve as your virtual personal assistant and show you what to look for when buying a printer.

When purchasing a printer, you need to be thoroughly informed in order to make a wise decision. I am going to ask you several questions that will help you narrow down the scope of your decision so that you can determine exactly what kind of printer will best suit your needs.

Nobody wants to purchase something, only to wonder if they made the right decision, or worse yet, feel guilty for having purchased something that they didn’t know if they should get or not.  All of the questions I am about to ask you are meant to help you come to a confident decision in purchasing a new printer, whatever that decision may be.

Before Going to the Store . . .

Before purchasing a printer, there are several questions that you must address in order to choose the perfect printer for your use.

I encourage you to write the answers to these questions down on a piece of paper so that when you do go to purchase your printer, you will not be talked out of the decision that you have already concluded.  This will narrow down the scope, helping you determine exactly what you need when you make your purchase.

Salesmen at technology stores are always very eager to up-sell you on something that you may not need.  Again, you want to make sure that you know exactly what you are looking for before you walk into the store, and that is precisely why we are walking through this exercise of asking the following questions.

What Will You Use The Printer For?

The first thing that you need to determine, is what the printer will be used for.  Not answering this question is like buying a car without giving any consideration to what the car will be used for.  Why would you purchase a gas-guzzling SUV when your commute to work is an hour or more away?  You don’t want to buy more than you need, and you also want to make sure that whatever you purchase is a right fit for your needs.

Will your kids primarily be using this printer so that they can print out their homework assignments? Will you be using it for light home-office work, or is this a business printer that you will be purchasing?  Will you be printing lots of photos?  How about your kids, will they be using it?  If so, that means that you will want to get a color printer. If not, you can probably save a lot of money by purchasing a monochrome printer.

How many people will be using this printer?

The reason you want to answer this question is because you want to make sure that the printer is hefty enough to meet your needs.

For example, printers for home use will generally have a printer capacity of about 250 sheets of paper, whereas small business printers will have a much larger capacity for paper, usually from multiple feed trays.

Also, plan for growth.  In other words, if you are going to use this printer for your business, don’t plan on purchasing a printer for the staff you have now.  Purchase the printer that your staff will grow into 1 year from now.  Plan to grow into it.  Don’t just get the bare essentials.

Knowing just how many people will be using the printer will help you determine if you require a workhorse printer or not.  Do you need it to print very fast, one that can handle heavy volume, or just a simple printer that you will use once in a while?

Are you purchasing this for Home use for Business use?

You need to answer this question because if you are using the printer for home use, it just won’t get used as much as a business printer would. Even if you think that your kids will be using it for school projects, etc., a printer used for business will almost certainly get more use than one used in the home.

The goal here is to buy a printer that meets the need.

The more people that will be using the printer, the more robust of a printer you will need to purchase.  Why?  Because workhorse printers are designed to work like a horse.

You don’t want to buy more than you need, and you don’t want to by something that does not quite match up to your daily use.  In either case, you won’t be happy with your purchase.

Color or Monochrome?

Do you need a color printer or will a monochrome printer suffice?  I recently asked friend this very question and his immediate response was, “Color”.  Then I asked him, “When was the last time that you printed in color?”  He then responded, “Well, I guess I don’t need a color printer, all I ever print is receipts”.  Because I asked him that second question, he will save a lot of money.

You may need a color printer, and that’s fine.  But don’t think that just because they make it, that you need it.  You very well may not need it.  You may want a color printer and that’s fine too, I’m just trying to let you know that monochrome printers are less expensive, certainly in the long run.

What are all the possible scenarios in which you would a printer?

A color printer will allow you to print photos, and pictures within your documents.  You can print high quality reports for presentations, and your kids will be able to use color in reports for school projects.  You have to stop and think of all the possible scenarios in which you would use a printer and then ask yourself if you would print in color if given the opportunity.  If you are going to primarily print text, you may not need a color printer.  But that is completely up to you.

Do you need an InkJet or Laser Printer?

Inexpensive printers rarely print more than 6 pages per minute, and that’s just printing black text.  Printing in color on an inkjet printer might get you a up to 4 pages per minute with a few small images on the page.

One thing to consider regarding inkjet printers, is that they do require more maintenance, and not by just a little, but by a lot due to the maintenance involved.  You don’t want the ink cartridges to get clogged, and if you don’t use it regularly, they will.  You will find that the printer will require you to clean the printer jets, which means that you have to let the printer print a colored page out, (in effect wasting ink), just to ensure that the printer nozzles stay unclogged.

Inkjet printers take a lot longer to print, even the fast ones.

Laser printers print much faster, especially when printing in black and white without using any color.  If you only printed 5% of the page with black ink, (5 percent page coverage), the typical home laser printer will print anywhere between 21 and 42 pages per minute.  Obviously, the more pages it will print per minute, the more expensive the printer will be.

When it comes to printing photos in color for photos or presentations, you may want to consider purchasing an inkjet printer.  With an inkjet printer, you can use a wide variety of different types of printer paper, and the colors are more saturated, and some (depending on the brand), do a really good job at reproducing the image.

Color laser printers, though very fast, tend to have more of a “glossy” look to them.  Using the right paper on a color laser printer, however, will make all the difference in the finished product.

Small businesses will find that laser printers are generally a better option due to the high printing volume and printing page speed.  Laser printers are designed to handle a lot of documents at once, and because they print faster, they seem ideal for business use.

Do you Need or Do you Want?

Earlier, I asked if you needed a color printer or if a black and white printer would suffice (a monochrome printer).  I also asked if you needed an inkjet printer or a color printer?  Notice that I asked, “Do you need“.  Needing is different that wanting.  Only you can determine the answer to this question, but it’s important to make an honest assessment before you make your way to the store and get talked into purchasing something that isn’t going to be the best solution for you.

What is right for you, may not be right for another.

Understand that there are some people that do need an inkjet printer.  There are some uses that only require black ink.  There are other uses that require color.  Again, there are those who may need a laser printer, and of those, some will only require monochrome printing, whereas others will require color for their printing needs.  Here’s the point.  You have to assess your needs, and perhaps some of your wants, and make your decision.

My intent here is not to tell you what you need, but to help you determine what you need.  It’s also not just about needs. You may want an inkjet, or a laser printer . . . or one of each!  Again, my purpose here is to ask questions that will help you come to a very confident decision.

The Cost Difference Between Inkjet and Laser Printers

What is the Annual Cost of the Printer?

You need to consider the annual cost of the printer, not just the initial cost.  In fact, the cost of an inkjet printer usually represents about 5% of the total lifetime cost of the printer.  That means that if you were to buy an inkjet printer for $50. On average, you will spend about $1,000 to maintain that printer for the life of that printer.  That figure comes from the cost of ink, paper, electricity used, divided by the number of pages printed.  Sounds ridiculous, right?  Statistically, those numbers are accurate.

People argue that inkjet printers are less expensive than laser printers, and I would agree that they do cost less  . . . . initially.  In the long run, however, even if for only for a year, the laser printer will prove to be far more cost effective than an inkjet printer.  Granted, the initial cost may be more, but in the long run, your will spend significantly less on a laser printer when you  add it all up.

Laser Printers are so much more cost effective.

To show you just how much more cost effective a laser printer is over an inkjet printer, take one page printed on an inkjet printer and compare that same printed page on a laser printer, and you will find that the inkjet page will cost about 7-10 times more on an inkjet printer than it would if you had printed it using a laser printer.  7-10 times more!  Now granted, Laser printers do cost more, but you will save so much money by purchasing a laser printer!

Does it Matter What Brand of Printer You Buy?

There is a rule of thumb when it comes to technology.  If you you can’t pronounce it, you should probably stay away from it.  This has nothing to do with foreign printers, in fact, some of the best printers in the world are made overseas.  It does, however, have everything to do with familiarity.  In other words, if you can pronounce it, chances are that you have heard of it before on TV or by word of mouth.

I would recommend that you choose a brand name printer, like Epson, Brother, Canon, HP, or Samsung.  These companies have a reputation to protect.  Remember, in order for a printer manufacture to become a household name, they must be doing something right, otherwise, their customers would speak out and their reputation would suffer.  In fact, these companies are doing a lot of things right and offer the best printers available on the market today.

Final Considerations

You may have already made your decision on what type of printer to get, however, there are several things that you should consider before coming to your final conclusion.  If you do buy a laser printer, you want to consider the following:

Functionality.
If you choose to purchase a laser printer, does it need to send faxes, make copies, scan documents and print from a USB memory stick?  If so, you are going to need a multifunction laser printer.  Multifunction inkjet printers allow for the scanning of documents and making copies.

Cost of Toner / Ink
If you opt for a laser printer, you want to look for a laser printer that can use super-high yield cartridges.  These cartridges will give you a better overall cost per print meaning that you won’t have to buy a new toner cartridge as often as you would otherwise.  A great example of a printer that offers super-high yield cartridges is the Brother MFC-L9550CDW.  This laser printer prints monochrome pages at 3.2 cents per, and 12.7 cents per page if printed in color.  This printer also sell on Amazon for about $250.

Epson sells an excellent line of inkjet printers known as Ecotank Supertank Printers.  According to Epson, these printers offer “Revolutionary Cartridge‑Free Printing”, and include “up to 2 Years of Ink in the Box”.  That’s impressive.  There are other printer vendors that offer great inkjet solutions, but finding out what each offers is beyond the scope of this article.

Ease of Use
Today, everybody has a touch-screen cell phone.  Because people are already familiar with touch-screens, would a touch screen menu be easier for those using the printer?  Probably.  Printer manufacturers have learned a lot over the years.  I would venture a guess that the two biggest complaints they hear from their customers are that the ink / toner costs too much, and that the printer itself is hard to navigate.

Paper Handling
Today’s printers should easily be able to handle printing envelopes and 3×5 cards, (flash cards), all the way up to pages that are 11×17.  Nobody wants to be the guy who has to fill the printer with paper.  Some printers will have multiple printing trays that can automatically be utilized so that this is less of a problem, or at least they have to be filled less frequently.

Connectivity
Again, this is almost standard these days, but you want to ensure that your laser printer can connect to your network via an Ethernet cable.  Once the printer is connected to the router, everyone that is connected to the network can then use this printer to print, (even those using iPads and cell phones).  This applies to both inkjet printers and laser printers alike.

Are cloud services important to you?  If they are not important to you, they are almost certainly important to your colleagues and family members.  I encourage you to be sure to check to see if the printer you are interested in supports cloud services.

Printing from cloud services such as Google Docs, Dropbox, OneDrive, and other online services is really nice.  In other words, if you are logged into one of these cloud services, you can simply print from that cloud service instead of first having to download the file in question and then print from your computer or device.  I’m honestly not trying to promote the Brother printer line, but they include these types of services on all of their color laser printers.

Memory
Last but not least, if you are using a laser printer for a business where you print high-end graphics or AutoCAD charts, for example, you will want ensue that your printer allows for the ability to upgrade its memory.  Much like adding more RAM (memory), to a computer, the more RAM that a printer has, the more print jobs it can handle, without the printer “freezing” or “locking up”.

Conclusion
I have endeavored to prepare you to purchase your next printer by asking you several questions in the hope that in answering them, you will come to a confident decision in purchasing a new printer, whatever that decision may be.  I encourage you to ask questions, lots of questions, and when you have come to a conclusion as to the printer that you want to get, check out the reviews on Amazon to see what experience others have had on the printer that you want to purchase.

 


Related Questions

Where Can I Get A Great Price When Buying A Printer?
BestBuy (bestbuy.com) or Micro Center (microcenter.com), is a great place to purchase a printer.  You also may want to check Amazon.com, (and the reviews of those who have purchased the printer you want to get.  NewEgg.com is also a great place to purchase a new printer.

What Printers Are Mac Friendly?
The following printers are excellent printers fo the Mac.

  • Canon Pixma Pro-100S
  • Epson EcoTank ET-4550
  • HP Envy 5540 All-in-One printer
  • Epson SureColor SC-P800
  • Samsung Xpress M2070W
  • Canon PIXMA TS9150
  • HP T6B82A Color LaserJet Pro
  • HP Deskjet 3630 Wireless printer

What Printers Work Best With The Linux Operating System?
HP has the largest selection of Linux out-of-the-box compatible printers.

  • HP OfficeJet 3830 All-in-One Wireless Printer
  • HP Envy 4500 Wireless Color Photo Printer
  • HP Envy Photo 6255 All in One Photo Printer
  • HP Laserjet Pro M281fdw color laser printer
  • HP Laserjet Pro 200 color laser printer

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for over 29 years, and loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. To learn more about Tim, click here.

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