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A brief guide to printers

The printers used in the workplace and at home today are unrecognisable compared to those of just a few years ago.

Technology has advanced so much that high-quality printers, previously only used by businesses, are now available and affordable to anyone.

Whether you need a printer for work, for home or for study, and pretty much regardless of your budget, you now have a huge selection of devices to choose from.

print button on keyboard

The massive number of printers available, different types and all with varying specifications, can make finding the ideal device a little difficult.  You can have too much of a good thing sometimes…..

To help you find the best printer for you, and to make sense of the different choices you have, we’ve put together this brief guide.  Hopefully, it will make the whole process a little clearer.

What is a printer used for?

Printing obviously.  But, there is no doubt that we are using printers more and more.  Not just at work, but at home too.  We use it to print-off boarding passes and concert tickets, e-coupons, bills, and online bank statements.

If we, or a family member, is studying, the printer will be used for course materials, work, and research.

In the workplace, whether it is an office or vehicle repair shop, a printer is an essential item of equipment used for invoicing, marketing materials, reports, and a 1001 other things.

What all this goes to show is that choosing the right printer is essential.  It is going to get plenty of work, so it needs to be reliable and print to the standard you need.

Home or business?

Although even budget priced printers can provide outstanding performance, the best devices for home and business will differ greatly.  The main differentials being volume and speed.

ready to print

A business will print much more material, more regularly, and delivery of the printed pages needs to be faster to maximise production.

Home printers are more likely to be used for small or one-off print runs or photos.  Whereas a laser printer is probably essential for a business, an inkjet may be fine for the home.  However, as we shall see, that is very much a generalisation.

Mono or colour printer?

There are a few things to weigh up here.  The first is cost.

However, the purchase price of the printer isn’t necessarily the issue, it is the running costs which should be a major consideration.

Printing in colour is, unsurprisingly, much more expensive than in mono.  So, do factor the cost of replacement cartridges into your buying decisions.

Check the printer’s specifications to ensure cartridges can be changed individually rather than every colour at once and, most importantly, what the cost of the replacement cartridges are.

mono or colour printing

If you are a small business only using the printer for internal use, it may make economic sense to use a mono printer.

Conversely, home owners, with smaller print runs will find a colour inkjet printer more appealing, especially for photos, despite the cost per printed page being higher than mono.

Another factor to consider, and a difference between colour and mono printing, is speed.

Printing in black and white is much faster than colour printing, an important factor for businesses to consider though the more expensive printers can turn out colour pages equally fast.  But, to maximise production a mono printer is usually the way to go.

What size printer?

Different printers print on different sized paper.  The most common of course is A4 which can be found in most homes and offices.  However, here at Ebuyer we sell printers up to A0 though the next most popular size is A3.

Safe to say, for most homes and businesses an A4 printer is sufficient though designers and professionals such as architects will need a large format printer.

What is wireless printing?

Wireless printing has been a massive step forward, especially in the workplace.  Connecting the printer to a network means multiple employees can access it, no matter where their workstation is.

This of course is also true for home users.  The printer can be sited anywhere in the house and used by all members of the family no matter which room they are in and with any device.

wireless printing

Wireless printing is convenient, there are no messy wire snaking all over the place, and they are very easy to set up.   Even more good news is that a wireless printer for the home user is very affordable and there are some great bargains to be had.

Type of printer

There are many different types of printer, all of which can be found on Ebuyer.com:

Laser

If speed is important to you than a laser printer is the machine you need.  Essential for business, but also very useful for home users, lasers print quickly and can handle long print runs.

They are also great value for money.  The cost of a laser printer has tumbled in recent years and a basic mono model can now be purchased for around £50.  Toner cartridges too are good value for money.

A great advantage laser printers enjoy over inkjet is the cost per printed page is often significantly less.  For users with a heavy print schedule a laser printer is the economic solution.

Available in both mono and colour versions, laser printers produce a high standard of finish and most will happily churn out pages all day long.

Inkjet

Ideal for most home users an inkjet printer is an affordable and versatile solution for printing documents, study materials, and low-volume everyday printing.  With printers starting at less than £30 an inkjet printer can be within everyone’s budget.

When choosing an inkjet you can decide between a standalone printer or a multifunctional machine which prints, scans, and copies.  This type of printer is ideal for the small office as well as the home and provides great value for money.

A downside of printing with inkjets is the cost per page.  It can be expensive which is why they shouldn’t be used for high-volume print runs.  Especially when printing in colour.

As a caveat, we should point out that high-end commercial inkjet machines perform to a whole other level.  However, as they retail at over £1000 and are designed for use in enterprise operations, it is unlikely a home user will be looking them.

But, if you are interested in top of the range inkjet printers, you can see them here.

Photo printers

Though most of us use our inkjet when we want to print out photos, there are specialist printers available.  These devices are designed to be the best solution for printing digital photos.

photo printer

Choose between compact portable printers which only print photos, usually 6”x4”, and deliver outstanding prints, or large format inkjet printers.  Photo printers can print up to A2 pages and are usually found in design houses and businesses.

Mobile printers

As the name suggests these handy devices can be taken anywhere and used to print documents and photos no matter where you are.  Compact and portable, they are light enough to take with you when travelling or attending meetings.

They can be found in both wired and wireless versions and can be used to print out reports when you’re having a morning coffee or invoices and estimates whilst at a meeting.

Dot Matrix

Still going strong, dot matrix printers are used by many businesses.  You may see one in your local garage, retailers, and some offices.

The heavy impact of the printer’s needle on its ribbon means they are mainly used for multipart forms or with Point of Sale systems.

These printers are very reliable and are ideal for high-volume print runs.  As they are designed for businesses, dot matrix printers are priced much higher than comparable inkjet or laser printers.

Large format printers

Specialist machines used by professional designers, engineers, and draughtsmen large format printers can also be used to print marketing materials including banners and posters.

Able to accommodate up to A0 but usually with media trays for smaller sizes, large format printers are ideal for printing complex plans and CAD drawings.

3D printers

A gimmick or serious business tool?  Despite the obvious fun angle these machines do have some serious uses.

3D printer

Designers and developers use 3D printing to produce samples, small businesses can build parts cheaply and quickly, and major corporations, including Boeing and Ford, are now printing components.  Nike have even used it to print ‘studs’ for athletes footwear.

Home users will also enjoy finding out all the different things they can do with one of these printers.  And, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to have a go?

With 3D printers at Ebuyer starting at under £300 everyone can have one of these machines if they wish.

Ink & toner

Whichever printer you choose you will need ink or toner.  Inkjet printers, unsurprisingly, use ink whilst lasers use toner.

Ink

It is important to factor in the cost of ink when choosing your printer.  The printer which looks such a bargain may not actually be so if the cost of replacement ink is high.

Remember ink doesn’t print anywhere near as many copies as toner, so do check not only the price of the cartridges, but the page yield too.

You may find it more economical to more pay more initially for a printer which uses less expensive and higher yield ink.

Toner

Toner cartridges are more expensive than their ink counterparts but the flip side is they have a much higher page yield.  Again, the advice is to check the cost of replacement cartridges before you buy your printer to ensure the cost of keeping it supplied with toner is not too prohibitive.

changing colour cartridge in printer

Compatible v official ink and toner

Because the cost of replacement cartridges can sometimes be high, users will often look for a cheaper compatible or cloned cartridge for their printer.

However, this can be a false economy.  Unofficial ink and toner is invariably lower quality than the official product and will produce poorer quality pages.  It may also damage the print heads of your machine and may even invalidate your warranty.

Here at Ebuyer, we only sell official ink and toner and always recommend you use the manufacturer’s product in your printer.

If you are looking for a new printer check out the full range of nearly 700 printers available at great prices from Ebuyer.com

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Craig Ellyard

Token old guy in the office and lifelong Hull City fan with all the psychological issues that brings. To relax I enjoy walking my two Labradors, as well as running and cycling.

2 comments

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  1. Pyghtler 28 July, 2017 at 10:43

    In the comparison between ‘Laser’ and ‘Inkjet’ printers, it is worth pointing out that the universally quoted comment that Laser Printers are faster than Inkjets ONLY applies on a print run where there are quite a few copies required. For a single print or very few copies it is actually slower on many Laser Printers due to longer warm-up time, especially at the cheaper end of the market.

  2. Jon Berry 28 July, 2017 at 14:35

    My experience when buying a new inkjet printer recently was that you will need to spend around £100 to find a multifunction machine with more affordable and high yield cartridges.

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