printers guides

Choosing your family printer

The need for a durable and reliable family printer has increased as more of us are working from home. But it’s not just parents who regularly need to use the printer. You could be a parent who needs to print out schoolwork for your child, or a sixth-former who needs to print out essays for continuous assessment purposes.

Not long ago, it was predicted that we would soon have a paper-free society, but that hasn’t happened. If anything, we are even more reliant on printing than ever before. Every time we buy tickets for anything, we are encouraged to print them out and take them along to the event. Documents need to be scanned and printed, instructions for products are now often emailed for you to print out at your leisure and many people print out family photos and then laminate them. There are hundreds of reasons why you might need a printer, and if you have a family, you have to consider what everyone will be using it for!

It’s not difficult to find a printer, there are hundreds of different types to choose from. And in the last few years they’ve become much more efficient and less expensive. You’ll still be choosing between a laser and an inkjet printer, a colour or mono (black and white) printer, and print-only and multifunction models. So, there are decisions to be made!

We’re going to talk you through the most important features, plus we’ll do comparisons (including inkjet versus laser, and multifunction versus single function) and give you some tips on making your final decision.

Inkjet versus laser printers

If you haven’t bought a printer lately then let’s give you a brief refresher on the differences between inkjet and laser printers.


Inkjet printers spray tiny droplets of liquid ink onto a page. Most inkjets on the market use separate ink cartridges which have a printhead and this separates the ink into microscopic beads.

The cheapest inkjet models usually have two cartridges. One contains black ink, the other contains cyan, magenta, and yellow ink. Most lower-to-medium-priced inkjet printers offer four separate cartridges – cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink. As you may be aware, even the cheapest inkjet printers can become a lot more expensive once you start buying ink cartridges on a regular basis.

Even the cheapest inkjet printers can end up running into serious money. The printer itself may not cost more than £30 or £40, but a single set of cartridges can cost nearly as much. And because most colour inkjets will not run at all if any one of the cartridges is out of ink – for example, you can’t just print in black if the cyan cartridge runs out – you’ll need to replace any spent cartridges.

There are a few inkjet printers out there known as supertank printers (also known as ecotank printers), which have refillable tanks. These offer a lower cost per page than the traditional ink cartridges. Leading brands such as Epson, Canon and Brother are just a few of the companies who manufacture them, and if you plan to do a lot of colour printing, then this option is definitely worth considering.

Laser printers

What exactly is a laser printer? Well, this type uses lasers to create static electricity on a rolling drum inside the printer. This static electricity then attracts toner (ink in the form of powder), which is melted onto the paper. If you compare the price of ink cartridges of inkjets and laser printers, toner cartridges will be more expensive. But, they last longer so the cost per page will be less. Laser printers themselves are usually more expensive than inkjet printers but will save you money over the longer-term.

As a general rule, laser printers are faster than inkjets and the quality of the text they print is superior. Saying that, modern inkjets still print out at a sufficiently good quality which is perfectly adequate for most projects. When it comes to printing in colour, inkjets are acknowledged as being better than lasers in similar priced models.

Which printer should I buy?

Like anything else, there are some factors you need to consider before taking the plunge. Firstly, what do you need it for? If you don’t really need to do much, or any colour printing, then it’s quite an easy decision. A laser printer is more cost-efficient and faster, and better if you print in decent quantities. But, if all you need it for is print out the odd piece of colour artwork for a school project or the occasional photograph, then an inkjet should fit the bill. As for pricing, inkjets are generally cheaper to buy initially, but lasers work out cheaper in the long-run.

Multifunction printers

Also known as all-in-ones (or AIO printers), multifunction printers don’t just print from your computer, you can scan, copy and save documents straight to files. And some even have a fax facility. You might think faxes are a thing of the past, but many companies throughout Europe and especially the USA use them daily.

Many people use the scanning facility on their iPhones now, and if you only need to scan a document now and again, that should be sufficient. However, the quality of a phone-scanned document isn’t the same as that of a good scanner. If your family does a lot of copying and scanning, then it would be wise to get a multifunction printer with a document feeder. This lets you feed pages through the system quickly.

Duplex printing

Duplex printing means that both sides of a single page are used. Straight away you can see how this could cut your paper costs almost in half. It’s worth noting though that many of the lower-priced printers don’t offer this feature. If you have time to spare, there’s nothing to stop you manually feeding the paper back through to achieve the same result – just more slowly! Will teenagers be able to cope with that system? Perhaps we all know the answer to that one!

What is the price per page?

As most of you will already be aware, the biggest expense for a printer is the ink – and there’s a cool way to work out how much it will cost you in the long-term. It’s this: Calculate the cost per page by dividing the price of an ink cartridge by the cartridge’s page yield, or the number of pages you’re expected to get out of each cartridge. Where do you find this information? Well, you can usually find the page yield in the stats published by the printer’s manufacturer.

However, sometimes in lower-cost printers – produced by some major manufacturers – they don’t publish the page yield. Some manufacturers can also provide figures which are on the optimistic side. So bear that in mind when you’re trying to work out the costs per page. At least the figures provided will help to give you a rough idea of what you’re looking at.

This is how to work out the cost per page of your printer: For this example, we’re taking it that you have a black ink cartridge and three coloured ink cartridges. First, determine the cost per page by dividing the cartridge price by the page yield. Next, determine the colour printing cost per page by dividing the cost of the colour cartridge price by its page yield. Now, take this number and multiply by three, as you have three colour cartridges in your printer. It’s pretty easy to work out.

Let’s go wireless. Let’s be compatible

If you’re looking for a printer that all the family will be using, we suggest you go for one which is capable of wireless connectivity via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It also has to be compatible with whichever computer or mobile device you plan to use it with. If you’ve got an Apple Mac computer, an iPad, and/or an iPhone, make sure your printer is compatible with Apple AirPrint.

If you have a Chromebook, make sure your printer is Chrome OS-compatible by checking the manufacturer’s website (for example, Epson has a page that lists all its Chrome OS-compatible printers.). Don’t buy it without finding out this info, or you might make the wrong decision and then have the inconvenience of swapping it.

Touch and non-touch LCDs

Most printers today, even the most basic, come with LCDs (liquid crystal displays) which allow you to connect to your wireless network and tweak the printer settings – for example, if you want to always print double-sided.

If you have the budget, then you should consider a printer which has a touch screen feature. This saves you having to hit a combination of buttons to navigate to the feature you want, then selecting the feature, going to the setting, and then selecting what you want before returning to the main menu. Touchscreen makes this so much easier.

Photo printers

Unless you’re planning on printing off hundreds of photos and have a family full of David Baileys (oh, Google him!), then you probably don’t need a photo printer. There are some photo printers which have the ability to remove ‘red-eye’ in your pictures, but these days there are plenty of free apps on your iPhone that can do that for you without any hassle. And a whole lot more, too.

Of course, there are small, compact photo printers such as the Canon SELPHY QX10 photo printer that let you print small (2.7 x 2.7-inch) pictures really easily. These are fun for family gatherings and parties – a bit like the old polaroid cameras, which are making a comeback.  One thing to consider if buying a compact photo printer is that you have to buy special photo paper and ink, which can be pretty expensive.

There you have it!

Hopefully you’ve found enough advice to help you make the right decision when buying a printer that will be used by your whole family.

Ebuyer has a huge range of printers, take a look at them here.

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