How to Choose a Printer?
By Dr. Michael
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Home vs. Office. For home users who print documents occasionally and for various purposes such as school projects, a color ink printer would be sufficient. The entire family will enjoy the color output. For office users who print daily, the speed and reliability of a laser printer will be appreciated. For a well-budgeted office, it's recommended to have both types of printers to meet the requirements of different purposes.
Black-White vs. Color. To most people laser-printing means black and white and ink printing means color. Color printing has come a long way. The result could be amazing. It's great for banners, brochures, newsletters, report covers, art design, marketing materials, greeting cards, and other fun projects. However, ink printers are often slower, costs more per page, requires more frequent change of ink cartridge, and is more prone to reliability issues.
Laser printing is much more mature now. It's fast, reliable, and inexpensive. It's great for documents, simple graphics, and faxes. However, it's mostly only black and white.
USB vs. Parallel. A USB printer allows you to connect it to a computer without powering down the computer first. Coupled with plug and play technology, a USB printer is very easy to set up and share bring computers. In comparison, a parallel printer requires restarting a computer after connection and disconnection.
Color Laser. If you plan to print color documents often and have enough money for the initial capital investment, a color laser printer is recommended. The initial cost is obviously higher than a black/white printer and a color inkjet printer combined. However, the actual printing cost per page is lower than if you have the color page copied by a commercial copier. The printing is much faster and more reliable than an ink printer. The result is often astonishing!
Multifunctional. A multifunctional printer/fax/copier makes sense for saving space and money. It's often less expensive than buying a separate printer, fax machine and copier. This should however be intended for light usage of each and all functions. For instance, if you expect to receive many faxes every day, it's better to have a stand-alone fax machine; otherwise the faxing function would interfere with the printing and copying functions. A separate fax machine often has special functions that allow you to manage the faxes better. (We recommend a software fax program in a PC to receive and print incoming faxes and a stand-alone fax machine to send faxes). Another drawback of the multifunctional is the reliability. The more functions one machine has the more chances for breaking down. If any of the functions is broken and you send the machine for repair, the other functions are affected as well.
Wireless vs. Network. If you plan to share a printer across different rooms that are not networked, this is a good idea. You can put your computer in one room and the printer in another. This is especially useful for laptop and other mobile devices that a hardware connection is often undesirable by definition. However, with the increasing popularity of Ethernet networks at office and home, the need to have a wireless printer is diminishing.
Connecting a printer to a network through the parallel port of a computer is simple and inexpensive for a small network. However, this connection is often troublesome for an administrator since the on time of the printer depends on the on time and reliability of the computer it is connected to. If the computer's identification is changed, the administrator has to change the port settings on all the other computers that use that printer. An easier way to connect a printer to a network is through a jet direct card or adapter so that the printer has its own identity and is connected directly to the network.
Dot Matrix. With the ever-falling price of color ink printers, black-and-white dot-matrix printers are virtually dinosaurs for home usage. It's only used now in offices to print invoices and receipts that require duplicate copies. One thing that ink or laser cannot replace dot matrix is the impact printing that can result in duplicate copies in one run.
Brands. Printer is one computer product that we recommend choosing by the brands. All printers have moving parts, which could cause reliability problems down on the road. Name brands with relatively long history of printing technology are of the choice if the prices and specs are similar.
Price. This is somewhat contradictory to the brand choices. Printer technologies are for the most part mutual now, resulting in severe competition and a buyer's market. Giving the same specs, it's OK to choose a printer by the price, especially for budget-conscious users.
We found that manufacturer-refurbished printers with the same manufacturer warranty as new are good choices. These printers are often returned items to the manufacturer for various reasons and the manufacturer has checked them out to make sure everything working before placing them back into the market as refurbished. Their prices are often 20-50% lower than new ones.
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