Choosing the right printer for your organization can be a daunting task. There are literally hundreds of printers and dozens of manufacturers. So how do you choose the right printer? Here is a run down of five important aspects to consider.
Consumer printers have made incredible strides over the last 5 to 10 years. So much so that any new printer you buy will almost without exception be able to print photo quality pictures(if its color) and perfect clear text. Print quality is measured in Dots Per Inch (DPI). A pretty standard minimum for printers is 600dpi. You would be hard pressed to find anything new that doesn’t print with at least that good of quality. While print quality is probably pretty high on most peoples lists and you should keep it in mind, it’s actually not really something you have to put much consideration into.
Obviously, price will play a big part in your decision. Printers range in pricing from practically free to thousands of dollars for heavy duty office machines. Sticker price, how much you pay up front, is the easiest way of valuing a printer, but don’t be fooled. Printer manufacturers make most of their money selling ink and toner and not the printer itself. So be sure you look at all the costs involved. Whenever I’m doing research for a new printer I always look at the cost per page, or how much it costs to print one page. Oddly, this amount has little to do with the actual printer and more to do with the cost and longevity of the toner or ink cartridge. Rarely will this amount be listed on the box or website so you will have to do a little digging or visit a site like printer cost per page.
First find out which toner cartridge the printer uses. Then lookup how many prints that cartridge is estimated to print. Now lookup how much that toner cartridge costs to purchase. Then do some quick math, divide the price by the number of prints and that will give you the cost to print one page. For example if my toner cartridge could print 7,000 pages and costs $120 then my cost per page is $.017 or almost two cents per page. If you do this calculation on a few printers you will quickly find that those with a really low sticker price will usually cost around $.10 per page while the higher quality, and thus more expensive, brands will get you down to as low as one or two cents per page. If you want to run this calculation for color, then multiply your cost per page by the number of cartridges the printer uses. Some printers, especially inkjet printers, have just one black cartridge and one color cartridge, while other printers, especially laser printers, have one black and three separate color cartridges.
Of course neither the sticker price or cost per page alone gives you the real cost of the printer you have to take both amounts into account. You may be able to buy a $30 printer that prints at $.05 per page or a $300 printer that prints at $.02 per page. If you only plan on printing a few hundred pages, then you are probably better off buying the $30 printer. However if you plan on printing thousands of pages a month then your best bet would be to make a more significant initial investment and pay less over the long run.
The speed of a printer is measured in pages per minute and ranges anywhere from 10 pages to 100 pages. Although most average around 20 to 30 pages per minute. This is a pretty straightforward specification, but I think it’s a good place to also talk about paper trays. All printers have at least two paper trays, the input tray and the output tray. The input tray is where you place your blank paper, base models can hold anywhere from 50 to 250 pages and more expensive models can hold thousands. I’m including this in the speed section because it really makes a big difference in how long a print job takes. For instance if you are printing a thousand pages, and your input tray can only hold 100 pages, you are going to have to reload your tray 10 times! So keep any eye out if you plan on doing larger print jobs.
There are three connection methods for printers – USB, Network/Ethernet, and Wireless. Most printers have either USB or Network and high end models are adding wireless.
USB is most common for home or small businesses. This is usually a desktop printer and must be plugged directly into your computer. Although it is possible to share the printer with other people on your network it is generally just used for one person.
Network/Ethernet is the standard for shared printers in an office environment. It plugs straight into your network via an ethernet cable and is accessible to anyone on the network. If you have a network set up and are planning on having multiple people use the printer you must get a networkable printer.
Wireless printers are relatively new and usually the most pricey. They are great if you have a mobile workforce or just don’t have cables running between all your offices. With a wireless printer anyone who has a wireless device on their computer, most laptops have wireless capabilities built in, can print directly to the printer.
Duplexing is the ability for the printer to automatically print on both sides a page. Not all models can perform this function because they need a special part called a duplexer. If you need this feature make sure the printer states that is has duplexing or double sided printing – make sure it doesn’t say manual duplexing as this just means it will print on one side of the page then you have to manually take it out flip it over and put back in the input tray.
Multi-Function machines or all-in-ones are a great asset for small organizations. If you need a fax machine copier and printer you should seriously consider getting a multi-function machine. It will save space and usually in the long run money. Small multi-function machines can be found very in-expensively.
These are what I consider the five most important things when purchasing a printer. There are many many more issues that I haven’t covered here. What’s most important to you? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo Credit Bionicteaching
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