Printers Buying Guide

Printers Buying Guide
Features to consider

The following product buying guide was developed to assist you in selecting the best product for your needs. Discover the latest in technology and learn about the key features to consider when purchasing a printer.

For printing/faxing/scanning/copying

A great solution for home or small offices, multifunction devices combine useful machines like copiers, printers, scanners and fax machines in one. The cost of a multifunction device (MFD) is cheaper than purchasing each machine separately. HP PSC 1210 Multifunction Printer

Resolution The resolution directly affects the quality of the final print output. A rule of thumb when choosing a MFD based on resolution is the higher the number, the better the print quality. Some contemporary standards for resolution are as follows: 600x600dpi, 1200x600dpi, 2400x600dpi. HP PSC 2410 Photosmart Multifunction

Ink Cartridges Most models of multifunction devices use combined color cartridges with a separate black and white cartridge. One interesting thing about the new generation of MFDs is that some models are released with individual color cartridges. Separating out cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges cuts down on waste and ultimately cuts down on cost. HP Inkjet Cartridges

PPM (Pages Per Minute) PPM is the rate at which the device can output complete prints. There are a number of ways manufacturers gauge this output rate. The first rate comparison to look out for is between Black & White and Color. Color prints will take longer than B&W prints as they are using all the print heads to create their output. The second comparison to look for is the print rate based on quality. When sending a file to the printer for processing you have options for the quality level of the output. These qualities are generally listed as Draft, Normal, and Best.

Paper Capacity The Paper Capacity of a printer is the number of blank sheets of paper the MFD can hold for a single run in its paper tray. It is common for a MFD to hold 250, 500, 1000, or even more depending on the model type. There are two ways that paper capacity can be gauged, on input and on output. Input capacity is the number of blank sheets the printer can hold in its input tray without causing errors. Output capacity is the number of printed sheets the printer can hold in its output tray after pages are printed.

Control Panel The control panel is an important factor when selecting a multifunction device. A well-designed and user-friendly layout will help avoid frustration when using the machine.

Memory Memory or RAM is a way of storing data from the prints that are sent into the printers queue. The more memory you have, the more prints you can send to the printer at once without it causing errors on the printer side. Common memory sizes are as follows 32MB, 64MB, and 128MB. Some printers also have the capability to be upgraded to greater levels of memory.

Interface/Connectivity Interface refers to what type of cable and connector is used to connect the printer to the computer itself. The two standard types of interfaces are parallel (printer port) and Hi-Speed USB 2.0 connections.

For color printing

Look for printers with PhotoREt III or PhotoREt IV quality output. This will give your materials near photo quality output, provided you are using photo quality paper.

Cost per page considerations to determine when you can save money by printing in-house (vs. using an outsourced printing service).

Consider the paper you're using. If you use heavy media such as brochure paper or postcards, make sure you choose a printer that can handle heavier media.

Consider printers with embedded memory card readers, (i.e. Secure Digital, Compact Flash, Smart Media or Sony Memory Stick) for ease of use with digital cameras.

Printing on the right type of paper will make a difference on how professional your printed materials look. Know your paper options.
  • Photo paper - for photo quality output. Picture Paper
  • Brochure paper - for marketing literature, collateral, brochures
  • Tough paper - for applications where paper may get wet, or is subject to harsh environmental conditions.
  • Iron-on transfer paper - for creating "photo" t-shirts, etc.