Finding the right printer for you: Inkjets

by Reads (12,416)

Need help deciding on what type of printer fits your needs?  PrinterComparison.com has a new series, “Finding the right printer for you.”  Building on our handy guide of the same title, PrinterComparison.com will feature inkjet printers in this article.

All about Inkjet Printers

All inkjet printers focus on creating prints the same way; by spraying various sized liquid ink droplets through print head nozzles onto the print medium. 

What can be confusing is the method used to produce the ink droplets. There are three sub-styles of inkjets out on the market these days: thermal, piezoelectric and continuous.

The thermal inkjet is commonly referred to as a bubble jet, a name made famous by Canon.  The basic idea is the printer heats the ink almost to the point of vaporization creating a “bubble” of ink.  As the bubble expands – and subsequently pops – the ink is pushed into the printhead and onto the print medium. 

The piezoelectric inkjet uses piezo crystals/piezoelectric material to force the ink into the printhead.  While similar to a thermal inkjet, the crystals/material gives the ink a surge of electricity to move it into the printhead.

The third, more industrial inkjet printer is the continuous inkjet which is often used in large machines for printing packaging.  The simple explanation here is a high pressure pump pushing the ink into what essentially is the printhead continuously.

The two more common inkjet printers – thermal and piezoelectric – have their advantages and disadvantages.  Thermal printers need to stick to certain kind of water-based inks to help in the vaporization and creation of the bubble of ink.  But thermal printers often have cheaper, disposable printheads, bringing down the initial cost of the printer and perhaps extending the life of the printer but at some long run cost to the consumer.

Piezoelectric printers can be used with a larger variety of inks but the printheads are more expensive to manufacture and often can’t be replaced without replacing the entire printer.  On the plus side, you won’t have to pay for replacing the printhead every other time you pay for new ink cartridges.  Manufacturers seem to be trending towards this style of printer.

No matter which inkjet printer you choose, these machines have a relatively low initial cost depending on the features you want/need in a printer.  Where the manufacturers make their money is on the ink.  Ink cartridges are expensive to replace and on older or cheaper models they will need to be replaced more often because of dual ink cartridges and wasteful technology.  Dual cartridges consist of a black cartridge and one multi-color cartridge that usually need to be replaced within a short time span of each other if you want the printer to keep operating correctly. 

On newer or more expensive inkjets, manufacturers have separated all the ink cartridges so you can have up to five or six different colors (including black) on mainstream models although most models consist of CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black).  On higher end graphic arts models, there can be anywhere from seven to 10 individual ink cartridges.  The machines are smarter too; most are outfitted with optical sensors telling the printer exactly which ink needs to be changed and how many pages/prints the user has until the change needs to be made. 

To save money on ink, users often try refilling the ink cartridges instead of replacing them with brand new cartridges.  I would suggest always taking your ink cartridges into a store that offers a refill program for your specific brand of printer.  Otherwise, you can damage the printer and/or printhead. 

There is also the option of buying generic cartridges if offered for your model.  Often, it can be difficult to find generic cartridges for newer models.

Finally, consumers can gravitate towards print manufacturers that sell models with “low cost ink”.  Both Kodak and Lexmark have all-in-one printers on the market that use cheap ink cartridges. 

Major Brands

Several major manufacturers sell inkjet printers on their websites and through authorized retailers and vendors.   Prices vary on specs and brands.

Brother – may be more known for its laser line of printers but have a strong line of SMB and home office geared all-in-one inkjets
Canon – is a leading manufacturer in inkjets although other brands are starting to come on strong; their consumer inkjet line starts at $49.99
Dell – has several inkjet options in their “Home” section starting at $69 as well as a recent partnership with Kodak on their new inkjet photo printer
Epson – another major manufacturer in inkjets; their line starts at $69.99.
HP – features single function deskjet printers for as low as $39.99 as well as several other popular inkjet lines
Kodak – a photo printer manufacturer that focuses on inkjets; their line starts at $99.99
Lexmark – a sort of do-it-all manufacturer starts their inkjet line at $29.99
Ricoh – specializes in laser printers but has a new inkjet/laser combo called the GelSprinter 

Reviews

We are constantly receiving new review units so keep checking back.

Inkjet printers produce vivid colors and can be purchased for a low initial cost.  These machines are usually space savers; perfect for personal use and home offices. 

While they can be great for office environments where users need to print professional color prints, the high cost for ink and special paper can be a burden for high traffic office environments.

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