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Friday, November 30, 2012

What You Need to Know Before Buying a New Desktop Printer

As technology continually changes and improves, chances are that the desktop printer you bought a few years ago is now outdated. There are several factors, other than price, to consider before purchasing a new desktop printer. One of the most important factors, which most people don’t think about, is what the true cost of ownership will be. A low budget printer doesn't mean little to no maintenance is required during its useful life. If a particular make and model necessitates frequent maintenance, it might not be worth the appealing price tag. Be sure to research the price of toner or ink before you buy and if refurbished toner is readily available. Also consider the print quality and print speed. Do you need color or will black and white copies be sufficient? You will also want to consider how many people will be using the desktop printer. Should the printer be multi-functional and include the ability to photocopy or scan images? Lastly, if space is an issue, the size of the printer will be a factor too. You may want to consider purchasing a wireless printer, which may further limit your choices.

The two most common desktop printers are inkjet and laser. A brief description of both types has been provided for comparison.

Inkjet Printers
An inkjet printer propels droplets of ink or toner of varying size onto paper. The ink is ejected through either a fixed or disposable head as the paper passes by the head using a roller to move the paper along the contact point. The majority of maintenance on inkjet printers revolves around the ink and the probability of the ink drying up. Toners for color inkjet printers hold less ink, therefore toner cartridges need to be replaced often. Inkjet printers are great for printing color documents and photos, but if you are looking for speed; they are a little slow. The prices on inkjet printers vary, but generally range from $70-$500 depending on functionality.

Laser Printers
A laser printer rapidly produces high quality text and graphics on plain paper. The image is produced by the direct scanning of a laser beam across the printer's photoreceptor (an electronically charged rotating drum coated with selenium). Ink or toner is electrostatically picked up by the drum's charge. The drum then prints the image onto paper by direct contact and heat, which fuses the ink to the paper. Most laser printers use a toner cartridge that combines the photoreceptor or drum, the toner supply bin, the waste toner hopper, and various wiper blades. When the toner is empty, the replacement toner cartridge will automatically replace the other necessary elements. Laser printers are unbeatable in speed and quality when printing small black and white fonts. The prices on laser printers vary, but you can spend anywhere from $80 to $500, depending on what functions you desire.

The most well-known desktop printer manufacturers are Brother, HP, Epson, Canon, Lexmark, and Dell. To do your own comparison between different makes and models, use websites like Nextag or Consumer Reports to help make your purchasing decision a little easier. I would suggest making a list of must-haves first, wants second, and functions you didn’t like on previous printers third, then start comparison shopping from there.

Do you have a favorite comparison shopping site you’d like to give a shout out to? Share the information with us and let us know what you liked best about using that particular site. Feel free to add any additional buying tips as well.