If you’re on the lookout for a new printer, here are our top tips for finding the one that’s right for you. Printers offer all sorts of extra features, most of which you don’t really need and won’t ever use. Here’s what you need to consider.
1. How much will you need to use it?
If you’re only going to use it occasionally, then you don’t need to worry too much. Some letters, occasional invoices, kids’ homework, a few photos, maybe some maps or recipes – all this won’t strain the average printer. However, if you’re printing out a lot of paperwork, then a cheap printer is likely to have some issues – and if your printer is necessary for your daily business, that could be a major problem. If you’re planning on printing more than about 50-100 sheets a day, then look for something with a bit more durability.
2. Figure out the running costs
The cost of a printer isn’t just the cost of the initial purchase. Where you’re really going to pay is for the ink. You can easily find yourself buying a cheap printer and then paying out a lot of money every time it needs a refill, because the only compatible cartridges are ridiculously expensive. Cost out the ink as well, and then figure out what makes sense. As above, if you’re not using it often, this may not be a big deal, but if you’re doing a lot of printing and replacing cartridges every few days, that can add up to a lot of unnecessary expenditure very fast.
3. What do you plan to print on it?
It’s always tempting to go for the best possible printer if you can afford it, or the cheapest if you can’t. That’s not always the best option. If you’re just printing letters and black and white documents, high print quality may not be necessary, and a budget black and white laser printer may suffice. On the other hand, if you’re expecting to print out photos or artwork, then you’ll regret it if you get a low end printer. Be realistic about your needs.
4. Will it just be a printer?
Printers these days are often multi-function devices that can also do scanning and copying. If those are something you think you may need to do, then it’s well worth considering whether to get an all-in-one device. However, something to watch out for is that in a medium size office, this can result in too much competition for a single device – sending the intern to copy a load of documents could block the printer for everyone else for the rest of the day. In that case, maybe separate devices would be better. For home use, though, multi-function printer/scanner/copier devices are perfect.
5. How much does print speed matter?
If you get frustrated waiting for your printouts, then invest in a device that offers fast printing. This is especially important if you’re printing out a lot of material or long documents. A 50-page manual can take a long, long time on a slow printer. On the other hand, if you’re only printing out single-page letters every day or two, then don’t worry about it.
6. Do you need a sheet feeder?
If you’re planning on copying or scanning a lot of things, then a sheet feeder makes life a lot easier. You don’t have to hand load each document, you can just set it going and walk away. Again, that’s another huge time-saver.
7. What about wireless?
If your printer is going to live in one place, attached to one computer, then wireless isn’t necessary. However, for a shared printer, especially at home, it really does make life easier.
8. USB or other inputs
Not everything you might want to print will necessarily come off your computer. If your printer has the right inputs, you can print directly from your camera, your phone, or other USB device. Or guests can use the printer to print things off their portable memory sticks without using your computer. It’s a handy little feature if you think you’re going to use it.
9. Don’t forget your office supply print shop!
For things you only need to do occasionally, it can often work out cheaper to pay your local office supply shop for that one job. If you’re printing out big posters or brochures frequently, then it may be worth investing in a printer that will do it. But if it’s a rare occurrence, then you may find that a cheaper printer will be perfectly good enough for most of your needs, and Office Depot can do the rest.