Buying a printer can be like taking a stab in the dark if you don’t know what differentiates one from another. The most common types of printers are laser and inkjet, both of which come with their own unique pros and cons. There are also inkless printers. To add to your possible confusion, you’ve got your pick of standalone versus multifunction printers – and brand names like HP, Canon, Panasonic, Xerox, and Kyocera all competing for your business. To help you determine what will work best for you, here’s a quick rundown on the common printer types available.
Among the most commonly used printer types in the consumer market, inkjet printers have a reputation for producing superior quality color images and graphics. They can also be significantly cheaper when compared to other printer types. The versatility of the ink medium is conducive to printing to a variety of paper types, including glossy photo-quality paper and more ornate, textured stationary – but inkjets are not as good at producing crisp black-and-white text, and their output is known to be slightly slower than others.
The optimal choice in the small business or enterprise environment, laser printers use a powdery toner to print words and graphics onto paper. They’re also significantly faster than inkjet printers and produce much sharper results when printing text. However there are limitations with respect to the kind of paper that you can use. Because the nature of the toner printing method, laser printers require heat-sensitive paper. They’re capable of producing color images and graphics, but the quality of these is inferior to inkjets.
Not as commonly used as inkjet and laser printers but still widely available, inkless printers tend to be more lightweight and compact in design. One of the benefits of an inkless printer is that there’s no need to buy ink cartridges. The printing method is performed by combining a special kind of toner powder with static electricity to literally burn images onto a sheet of paper. The money you save on never having to buy another ink cartridge is offset by the cost of the required paper, which is a type capable of withstanding the heat generated in the printing process.
Standalone vs. Multifunction
Traditional standalone printers perform a single task, but these days multifunction printers combine a number of duties into a single device with a significantly smaller physical footprint in the office environment. Multifunction printers, also known as all-in-one printers, can come bundled with any number of functionalities. Some combine printing with scanning, or copying, or all three. There are also multifunction printers that have built-in fax machines. One thing to note is that not all multifunction printers come with everything included, and that you can save money by purchasing a printer/scanner combo if you don’t have a need for a copier or fax machine.
Brand Name or No?
Although there’s nothing that says you can’t achieve high performance with a printer that lacks a recognizable name like HP or Canon, you may want to consider sticking with a known brand. If for no other reason, doing so ensures easy availability of replacement parts and accessories. Warranties are also a lot simpler to exercise if the company you’ve purchased your printer from is still in business – and being able to drive across town to get to an authorized service provider is far more convenient than packaging your printer and sending it overseas if it needs warranty work.
As printers continue to evolve and their wireless capabilities leave them vulnerable to hacking, security features are also a major concern. Name brands are better at consistently delivering software updates, and some companies like HP have made it a chief priority.