When you are making the decision to buy a printer you have to consider so many factors. Most important is what you will use the printer for? Home or business, mobile or static, professional or draft, or a bit of all six! Then it’s a matter of deciding on type of use – heavy duty or sporadic, speed, cost, logistics, connectivity… and so forth. With such a diverse set of requirements printer manufacturers are launching new printers every couple of months. This makes the purchase of a printer even more confusing. In a sense, it is problematic because manufacturers are forever trying to keep up with modern technologies and user requirements, aiming to out-do one another on speed, price, cost of consumables, reliability and size. As such the printer is arguably the most difficult piece of hardware to buy, such is its constant evolution.
Never fear, here at Bright Hub we will keep you up-to-date with all the printer architectures, reviewing new print technologies as they enter the market (and add to your confusion!). So lets begin by taking a look at the specific types of user who require a printer. What follows should help you decide which category of printer you want, before we review the best printers for your needs.
The Budget and Student User
- A mix of basic printing requirements, for documents, snapshot images, web pages.
- Produce resolute draft quality and adequate copy of all final prints.
- Be reliable, affordable and cheap to run with long life consumables.
- Price range between $50 – $150 offering decent quality at an affordable price.
What to look for – Budget LaserJet’s and Inkjet’s, but be careful of consumable costs. The cheaper the initial cost of a printer, the more it is likely to cost you in consumables (running costs).
The Home and Family User
- Multiple printing demands for a wide range of output, i.e. documents, photos, web pages.
- Produce a range of quality, from basic draft to medium quality (adequate) fine print.
- Be affordable and reliable to both purchase and run (affordable consumables).
- Price range between $150 – $250 offering good but not sparkling print quality.
What to look for – Personal LaserJet’s for extensive text based prints, Color Inkjets for quality photo and image based printing. Again, be careful of consumable costs with budget Inkjets.
The Small Business (Home Office) User
- Reasonably heavy duty text based printing with the occasional need for quality image output
- Requirement for alternative uses of the printer, i.e. scanning, faxing, document feeder.
- Relatively affordable but not scrimping on quality of output, speed or reliability.
- Price range between $250 – $500 offering high quality text output and decent image printing.
What to look for – Mid range Laserjets which offer reliability and speed but no lack of quality document printing. Alternatively multi-function printers (all-in-ones) offer similar print quality, with excellent built in scanning, fax machine and document feeder capabilities.
The Large Workgroup User Environment
- Heavy duty ‘workhorse’ printer with the ability to perform various tasks and juggle print jobs.
- Demanding on resources, requiring fast processing and extensive memory to schedule jobs.
- Must be network connected for multiple user printing and run a top quality print engine.
- Capability to print out quickly and reliably with the option of additional input / output trays.
- Price range above $500, offering high quality prints of all types of output.
What to look for – Mid to top of the range Laserjets for professional, highly responsive and clear print quality. Arguably better served paying a little more and purchasing a quality multi-function printer (an all-in-one) with a quality scanner, fax machine, document feeder, stapler and multi-tray capabilities built in.
The Photography Enthusiast
- Solid and functional with a high specification for image processing.
- Enhanced feature set, extensive paper size and color options for multiple prints.
- Outstanding print quality, in color and b/w and offering matt and glossy image output.
- Print quality is the key, everything else – speed and cost may have to be compromised.
- Price range anything upwards from $250, offering professional color printing of all output.
What to look for – Color InkJet printers with outstanding image output, professional and immaculate in feel, image projection, contrast, tone and color vibrancy. You will have to sacrifice some speed for such a printer, and the cost of consumables will be greater such is the heavy burden of print jobs on ink, etc.
The Mobile User
- Compact, lightweight printer which is easy to transport and setup for use in multiple settings.
- Must be reliable and portable with reasonable speed and print quality.
- Potential to connect to a network either wired or wireless and configure in seconds.
- Have extended battery life for use away from a mains power supply.
- Price range anything upwards from $250, offering decent print quality in a compact solution.
What to look for – Portable printers with USB connectivity and a robust design. You lose quality and speed with lightweight / mobile printers but they can be very good travel mates and offer surprisingly good output. [See image 5]