Printers today come in such varying shapes, price points and capabilities that picking the right one can be an ordeal. To help make your journey to printer ownership easier, we decided to do a bulk of the homework for you—providing you with 10 of the most important questions you should ask yourself to help find the best printer for your needs.
Here are 10 questions you absolutely need to ask yourself before buying a printer.
1. How much should I expect to spend on a new printer?
Printers can run the gamut of cost from surprisingly inexpensive to startlingly costly. You can land an all-in-one inkjet printer for around $60 or you can spring for an all-in-one laserjet printer that’ll run you more than $300. All-in-one printers incorporate numerous functionalities like printing, scanning, and faxing. Some also include built-in wireless that makes it easy to print from your tablet or smartphone. There are a number of factors to consider when estimating the cost, including everything from speed of printing to the quality of scan, to the actual technology itself (inkjet or laserjet). Inkjet printers are capable of producing higher quality color images, whereas laserjet printers are better for common, everyday use.
2. What’s the cost of the printer’s upkeep?
A lot of things come into play when considering the potential cost of owning and operating a printer. First, there are nominal costs like the price of paper. 500-page packages of standard multipurpose paper will be your most inexpensive purchase, running anywhere from $10 to $15. Depending on the type of technology you select (inkjet over laserjet, and color over black and white), you can expect to pay between $15 and $80 for a single replacement ink cartridge. You can save money when you buy them in multi-packs.
3. Do I really need a multifunction printer?
The great appeal of multifunction printers is their ability to shrink your office footprint while delivering the greatest amount of tech bang for your buck. All-in-one printers (also known as multifunction printers) combine traditional printing with scanners, photocopiers, and fax machines. The obvious question you’ll need to ask yourself is how often you expect to use any of the additional functionalities. If your answer is “next to never,” then you could stand to save money by opting for a traditional printer that doesn’t fall into the multifunction category but performs the single, straightforward task of printing documents onto paper.
4. Should I get an inkless printer?
The concept of an inkless printer may be appealing to anyone who’s ever had to shell out $35 to $70 on an ink cartridge refill, but the technology of printing to paper sans ink is not without its challenges. Inkless printers may not require the maintenance that ink-reliant printers do, but ultimately the latter wins out in the area of quality and practicality.
5. Should I go wireless?
Wireless printers boast a high level of convenience that can accommodate printing from numerous devices without the need to plug in with a physical cable. They also rank higher on the scale of cost. If you’re seeking to buy a printer that’s cost-efficient and you don’t plan on printing on a regular basis from a variety of different devices, opting for a traditional wired printer could save you a chunk of change—but there’s nothing quite like the convenience of being able to send a print job wirelessly, whether from your computer or your smartphone.
6. Is full color the only way to go?
Depending on your needs and how you intend to use your printer, you could save even more money by opting for a monochrome printer that employs only black ink to print text and images. Not only is the cost of monochrome printers less than full color printers, but the cost of replacing black ink cartridges is significantly lower than purchasing full-color cartridges. Determining what you will be using your printer for images or simple text should help you arrive at your purchasing decision.
7. Are all printers capable of photo-quality printing?
In a word, no. Inkjet printers produce far superior photo-quality reproductions than laserjet printers, but not everyone is necessarily in need of a printer capable of spitting out spot-on image reproductions. Seek out a good quality inkjet printer if you will be using it for professional purposes that rely on high-quality images. The average home user will find standard a standard laserjet printer to be adequate for their non-professional needs.
8. Are there any eco-friendly printers?
By definition, the act of printing information to papyrus is an eco-unfriendly practice, but sometimes it’s impossible to get away from the need to print physical documents. That said, there are a number of printers that are EnergyStar compliant. Additionally, ink cartridges can be returned to their manufacturer or retail outlet to be recycled. You can also buy printers that offer cartridge-free printing by way of refillable ink tanks that can lessen the load at the local landfill.
9. What other environmentally sound options are available?
Duplexing is the name given to a printer’s ability to print on both sides of a single sheet of paper, thus cutting in half the physical paper count necessary for a document. This environmentally friendly practice can also save you money on paper, but not all printers automatically feed sheets of paper in a manner compliant with duplexing. Some require you to manually feed the paper into the printer flipside, which could go a long way toward saving resources but costs heavily in inconvenience. If you want to save paper and time, make sure the printer you buy supports duplexing.
10. How many accessories will I have to buy?
In addition to ink cartridge refills and paper, purchasing a printer may require you to buy an additional Ethernet or USB cable to connect to your computer. Most printers come with all the cables necessary to connect to traditional ports, but as a best practice it’s a good idea to double-check all included accessories prior to purchase.
As a rule, resist the urge to compare printers based on cost and name brand alone. In most instances you get what you pay for, and paying less doesn’t always get you what you need. By having a clear understanding of what you need your printer to do—and by doing your due diligence in comparison-shopping—you can find the right device that will meet your needs at an acceptable price.