Printers A Practical Buyers Guide

Printers A Practical Buyers Guide



Printers - a​ Practical Buyers Guide
Buying a​ printer can be a​ complicated business, there are more shapes, sizes and types of​ printers available to​ the home and small business user than ever before .​
Printers have also become specialised for their intended purpose.
It is​ no longer a​ case of​ a​ printer is​ a​ printer .​
Printers are now designed to​ be good in​ a​ particular area rather than a​ Jack-of-all trades, which will do everything.
An often overlooked issue, is​ the very serious consideration of​ cost of​ ownership, which is​ all about of​ how much it​ will cost to​ keep your printer running (see below) .​
So making that decision on which printer to​ go for can be a​ seriously arduous task, especially if​ you are keen to​ buy a​ printer that is​ not only affordable to​ buy but also cheap to​ run.
So here is​ the information that you need to​ know and consider, but no one tells you! We have not expanded on which printer is​ the best at​ any given time because models constantly change and you can find that information in​ any current glossy PC magazine off the shelf .​
Instead, here you will find the good, bad and ugly bits from the different types of​ printers available so you can make an​ informed decision yourself.
Inkjet Technology
Inkjet printers form images by spraying tiny droplets of​ liquid ink onto paper .​
The size and precision of​ the dots of​ ink and the type and quality of​ the ink itself govern how good the print quality is .​
a​ quality inkjet printer can produce very near photo-quality images using specialist photo coated paper .​
In general there are two types of​ inkjet printers, those with the printhead built into the printer like Epson, Brother etc and those where the printhead is​ actually on the ink cartridge like HP and Lexmark .​
There are many arguments for and against both technologies, but in​ our experience we have found both to​ be very good, the major difference seems to​ be that the cost of​ running a​ printer using the printhead type ink cartridge is​ usually higher.
Inkjet ink is​ specially formulated for specific printer models and their purpose, much technology is​ involved in​ the development of​ these inks to​ improve print quality, longevity, drying speeds and printing speeds etc .​
Most inkjet ink is​ produced using dye based ink which can flow easily through the tiny nozzles of​ the printhead, this type of​ ink is​ good for photos and colour shades but not so good for longevity or​ solid vibrant colour, think of​ it​ like a​ water colour painting .​
In recent years pigment ink technology has advanced considerably to​ enable use in​ inkjet printing .​
Previously ink pigments were too large and would block up the nozzles .​
This type of​ ink is​ good for solid colours and longevity, think of​ it​ like an​ oil painting.
Manufacturers like Epson, HP and Jet Tec are now increasingly using a​ fusion of​ dye based and pigmented inks to​ create superb quality photo printing with vibrant colours and longevity too .​
Inkjet printers use anything between two and eight ink cartridges to​ do their job .​
Generally speaking the entry-level machines use two cartridges, good all round machines use four and specialist photo printers use six or​ more .​
The two cartridge system works fine though can be a​ bit wasteful on the colour ink, so go for a​ four-cartridge system where possible especially if​ you do colour printing .​
The six or​ more cartridge systems produce outstanding photos, but can be costly and a​ pain to​ keep changing cartridges (printer does not work if​ any one cartridge is​ empty) .​
Inkjet printers are the best solution for most people and are usually the most cost effective way to​ print - unless you are printing large volumes.
Portable Inkjet Printers
These printers are small, lightweight and ideal for people on the move .​
Although the printing of​ high quality photographs is​ usually beyond this type of​ printer, basic colour printing is​ of​ good quality and the quality of​ text print is​ mostly outstanding considering the size of​ these tiny portable A4 printers .​
These printers are not suitable for high volume printing.
Inkjet Printers
The Inkjet Printer is​ the most commonly used type of​ printer among home and small business users .​
With excellent all round printing capabilities, from black & white text print and good colour prints through to​ very hi-resolution, high quality photographs using Inkjet Photo Printers .​
Inkjet printers are available from cheap entry level to​ high-end business use machines and can print from photo size prints to​ massive A2 and bigger sizes, there are models for occasional use and others for high volume print jobs too .​
One of​ the many great things about Inkjet printers is​ that you can use a​ wide variety of​ media to​ print on, including standard paper, photo paper, card, t-shirt transfers, canvas, projector film etc, achieving different looks and textures for your prints and print for different purposes .​
Most Inkjet printers are USB connections and not suitable for networks, although models are also available for networks and with parallel connections.
Multi-Function Inkjet Printers
Multi-Function Inkjet Printers have been built to​ meet the needs of​ home offices and small businesses .​
These excellent value machines provide multiple solutions in​ one compact and easy to​ use machine i.e .​
printing, scanning, copying and some also have built in​ fax machines too .​
Not only are these machines great for saving space on your desk, but they are also very good for printing too using the same technology as​ standard inkjet printers .​
The only thing you should be aware of​ is​ that you can only use one function at​ a​ time and if​ anything goes wrong with an​ All-in-one machine, you may lose the all the functions at​ once!
Laser Printers
Laser printers work in​ a​ similar way to​ photocopiers, except they use a​ laser instead of​ a​ bright light to​ scan with .​
They work by creating an​ electrostatic image of​ the page onto a​ charged photoreceptor, which in​ turn attracts toner in​ the shape of​ an​ electrostatic charge .​
Toner is​ the material used to​ make the image (as ink is​ in​ an​ inkjet printer) and is​ a​ very fine powder, so laser printers use toner cartridges instead of​ ink cartridges.
Laser Printers have traditionally been the best printing solution for heavy office users as​ they produce a​ very high quality black text finish and offer relatively low running costs .​
However, laser printers have advanced a​ great deal recently and their prices have steadily dropped, as​ a​ result there are now compact laser printers, multi-function and colour laser printers all at​ very affordable prices .​
Laser printers make sense if​ you need to​ do a​ lot of​ high quality black or​ colour prints, not photos .​
The great thing about a​ colour laser printer is​ that they can print a​ very good quality colour image on standard copier paper, so you do not need to​ use expensive photo paper for large jobs .​
Do check the prices of​ the consumables before you buy the printer as​ these can be very expensive for colour laser printers.
Laser printers are the best solution for people who are printing in​ large volumes, that is, in​ 100's of​ pages at​ a​ time or​ 1000's of​ pages per month .​
Colour lasers also take quite a​ while to​ warm up, so are not ideal for printing single pages.
Solid Ink Printers
Solid ink printers use solid wax ink sticks in​ a​ phase-change process, they work by liquefying wax ink sticks into reservoirs and then squirting the ink onto a​ transfer drum from where it​ is​ cold-fused onto the paper in​ a​ single pass .​
Solid ink printers are marketed almost exclusively by Tektronix / Xerox and are aimed at​ larger businesses and high volume colour printing.
Solid ink printers used to​ be cheaper to​ purchase than similarly specified colour lasers and fairly economical to​ run owing to​ a​ low component usage, today it​ is​ not necessarily any cheaper than a​ colour laser printer .​
Output quality is​ good but generally not as​ good as​ the best colour lasers for text and graphics or​ the best inkjets for photographs .​
Print speeds are not as​ fast as​ most colour lasers.
Dye-Sublimation Printers
Dye-Sublimation printers use heat and solid colour dyes to​ produce lab-quality photographic images .​
Dye-Sub printers contain a​ roll of​ transparent film made up of​ page-sized panels of​ colour, with cyan, magenta, yellow, and black dye embedded in​ the film .​
Print head heating elements vaporize the inks, which adhere to​ a​ specially coated paper, as​ the ink cools it​ re-solidifies on the paper .​
Colour intensity is​ controlled by precise variations in​ temperature.
Dye-sublimation printers lay down color in​ continuous tones one color at​ a​ time instead of​ dots of​ ink like an​ inkjet, because the colour is​ absorbed into the paper rather than sitting on the surface, the output is​ more photo-realistic, more durable and less vulnerable to​ fading than other ink technologies.
The downside of​ Dye-Sub printers is​ that they are generally more expensive to​ buy and run, usually limited to​ photo sized prints only and can only print onto one type of​ specialised paper as​ well as​ being quite slow to​ print.
Dye-Sublimation printers are best for those who want to​ link up their digital camera to​ a​ purpose built printer and print out the finest quality photos at​ home without fuss.
Dot Matrix Printers
Dot matrix printers are relatively old fashioned technology today with poor quality print, slow and very noisy output .​
This type of​ printer is​ no longer used unless you wish to​ create invoices using the continuous paper with holes on both sides .​
The good thing is​ that they are very cheap to​ run!
Cost of​ Ownership
Many printers today are very cheap to​ buy, but people are sometimes shocked to​ discover the cost of​ replacing the consumables (ink or​ laser cartridges, imaging drums, fuser, oils, specialist papers etc) .​
The cost of​ replacing the ink can sometimes cost more than the printer itself! This is​ one of​ the most commonly overlooked factors when printers are reviewed and yet one of​ the most important things to​ consider before handing over your hard earned cash .​
Tests run in​ 2018 by Which? magazine famously compared the cost of​ HP's ink with vintage 1985 Dom Perignon.
A Sheffield City Council report aimed at​ helping schools decide on the best-value printers to​ buy, calculated total cost of​ ownership over the lifetime of​ a​ printer (not sure how long that is!) .​
Adding up all the running costs, ink or​ toner, paper, maintenance and even electricity, SCC worked out that a​ colour inkjet costs approx 38p per page to​ run compared to​ a​ colour laser which costs approx 7p per page .​
Sheffield City Council advised its schools that if​ they printed more than three colour pages a​ day (assuming a​ 40-week academic year) they should buy a​ laser.
These figures cannot be taken hard and fast due to​ the many variables involved, but it​ is​ generally accepted that the cost per print of​ a​ laser printer is​ cheaper than that of​ an​ inkjet, which is​ in​ turn cheaper than that of​ a​ sub-dye printer .​
However, you would have to​ do a​ fair amount of​ colour printing to​ take advantage of​ the economy offered by a​ laser printer.
Summary
When buying a​ printer, firstly carefully consider its use, is​ it​ mostly general printing or​ for photographs, is​ it​ for occasional use or​ high volumes, will it​ be a​ stand alone device or​ connected to​ a​ network? Then using the guideline information above you will be able to​ decide on which type of​ printer is​ most suitable for you at​ the time.




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