8 Things to Consider When Buying a Printer – Inkjet vs Laser, Refill Cost, Multifunction etc

By | May 26, 2021

Whatever your printing needs, there’s a printer that can do it..and even more!

Now a days there are too many printers available in the market having numerous features and different price tags.

I have personally purchased many printers over the past decade and I know how confusing it can be when it comes to selecting the right kind of printers for your needs.

You might now know this, but majority of the consumers actually buy the wrong kind of printer that makes them waste a lot of their hard earned money in the long run.

This is exactly what we shall be discussing in this article. The key things you need to consider when buying a printer to make sure you get the perfect one that is going to give you cheap prints for years to come.

We have already covered the printer specifications in details in another article here: 15 Important Features of Printers Explained - Technical Specs Guide

1. Printing Technology - Laser vs Inkjet

1.1 Inkjet

Inkjet printers use cartridges of ink that are applied wet to the paper and quickly dry.

Inkjet printers are cheaper and have a much low upfront setup cost. However the liquid ink in the inkjet cartridge starts drying up if left un-used even for a few weeks.

In many home use cases, it is seen that the user takes a few prints and then does not use the printer for about a month, and after that the cartridge is found un-usable and needs replacement or refill.

Inkjet Technology

Inkjet Technology

We recommend against inkjet printers for home and office use under all circumstances. You should always get a monochrome laser printer.

Inkjet printers should be used only if you need to print color documents in large volumes on a regular basis without the printer ever going idle even for a few days.

Laser

Laser printers use toner: a kind of ink dust that bonds to the paper for quick results and efficient use.

Laser printers are a good pick when a large portion of the printing that you have to do is in monochrome. They are more cost-efficient since they can be bought at a reasonable price, offer high print speed, and usually print at a lower cost per page than a color inkjet.

Laser Toner Cartridge

Laser Toner Cartridge

Most consumers don't realise the fact that laser printers are actually cheaper in the long run. The laser toner does not dry up like inkjet cartridge and will work fine even if left unused for many years. As a result you get the maximum number of prints for even a cheap laser toner. A laser toner can printer anywhere between 1000-5000 pages.

And replacing a toner is cheap as well. It costs around $15.

I personally use the HP LaserJet M1136 MFP and I print less than 100 pages every month.

I had to replace the toner after about 4 years of usage. All along the time of usage, the printer worked perfectly well all the time and the printouts are very consistent everytime.

Such is the power of a laser printer. We recommend laser printer for all kinds of home and office use if printing documents is all you need and you want your printing costs to be minimum.

2. Color or Monochrome

As the name suggests, color printers can print color along with black and white, whereas a monochrome printer can print only black and its shades.

A monochrome printer is usually cheaper than a color printer, how the cost also depends on the printer type.

With laser printers, color laser printers are significantly more expensive than monochrome laser printers. A monochrome laser printer can be cheaper than $150 whereas a color laser printer will cost upwards of $250.

On the other hand, inkjet printers are usually available only in color option, since they are cheap anyways.

Color Vs Monochrome Printer

Color Vs Monochrome Printer

If you are going for a inkjet printer then go for color printer as it has all the features without any extra cost.

And if you are getting a laser printer, decide if you actually need to take color prints. For regular document printing a monochrome printer will suffice.

Also keep in mind that color printers have an extra color cartridge or extra 3 color cartridges (magenta, cyan, yellow) that you would need to replace or refill whenever they run empty.

With a monochrome printer there is only 1 cartridge or toner that you need to manage. Its cheaper anyways.

3. Single function vs Multifunction

A multifunction or all-in-one printer is a machine that can copy, scan, fax as well as print. Both inkjet and laser printers are available in multifunction variants.

For general home and office use, you might find a multifunction unit very handy, not only because it’s cheaper than buying a printer and a scanner separately, but also save desk space.

A multifunction printer also works as quick and handy copier or xerox machine when you quickly need to photocopy some document. I personally photocopy at home a lot when doing official work.

Brother Monochrome Multifunction Laser Printer, MFC-L5900DW

Brother Monochrome Multifunction Laser Printer, MFC-L5900DW

Scanning is particularly useful as part of your printer since it makes it easy to scan documents directly to your computer. The copy function is also very handy since it prints the digital image onto one or more blank sheets of paper.

Faxing features, however, are more likely to be used in the office.

4. Duplexing Technology

One feature that’s becoming very common, and makes everyone’s lives easier, is automatic duplexing. Duplexing allows printing or scanning both sides of the page without requiring that you manually flip the page over.

On a printer, automatic duplexing is accomplished by printing the first side of the page, pulling the page back through the printer, flipping it over, and printing the other side.

Duplex Printing Technology

Duplex Printing Technology

Duplex printing is very useful in office usage, where you need print on both sides of a paper. This is done so that fewer papers are used when printing a large document.

Printing only on single side uses more papers, which leads to wastage often times, and also makes the document bundle heavier and thicker to store and carry.

So it is environment friendly as well to utilise both sides of a paper and minimise wastage.

5. Cartridge refill and replacement cost

This is perhaps the most important consideration when buying a new printer. Often times the cost of cartridges and supplies can exceed the cost of the printer itself.

A printer might look cheap during purchase, but the cartridge replacement cycle might be so expensive that you would regret later on.

In general inkjet printers are very cheap during the initial purchase. However the cartridges don't last long and you have to get them refilled or replacement frequently which causes the overall printing cost to shoot sky high.

I have personally experienced this over the past 10 years, during which I have purchased over 10 printers, all of which where HP inkjets. I somehow liked the brand without realising that how much it is bullying my wallet.

The inkjet printers look all new and super cheap when you buy them from a shop, but the cartridge ink dries up within weeks of remaining idle and then you have to get them refilled. Unfortunately, the same cycle repeats and the cartridge is not usable after a few re-fills and then you have to purchase new cartridges. This cycle repeats and in some time the printer itself goes bad, because it was made with very light and thin plastic that won't last long.

And finally you buy a new inkjet printer yet again. Call me dumb, but yes, it took me 10 years to realise this.

Finally I purchased a laser printer yet from HP and this time it was a smart purchase. The original toner that came with the printer lasted 4 years and printed awesome quality all along the time.

After that I simply purchased an after market cheap toner for $10 from amazon to replace it and the printing journey continues hassle free.

Now yes a laser printer costs atleast 3x more than an inkjet printer but the overall printing cost in the long run is many orders of magnitude lower than an inkjet printer. And also it saves a ton of time, since you don't need to manage the printer all the time.

6. Network Connectivity

Nowadays, nearly every printing device offers multiple connectivity options. These include the standard USB connection to a pc or laptop and other options like ethernet, wifi and nfc.

The network connection option allows multiple systems to print to the printer easily.

USB

USB has been the standard interface for years, and every computer has several USB ports. However with the usb port only 1 pc or laptop can connect to the printer and control it.

USB connection port

USB connection port

This is not very convenient if you have multiple machines that need to print from the same printer.

Ethernet and Wifi and Bluetooth

Most modern printers can now be shared by multiple devices via a local area network. That could be via ethernet (rj45 cable), which enables a faster connection, where you connect a cable to the router or switch in your network.

Wireless Printing

Wireless Printing

More common is Wi-Fi, which has become the most popular method of home networking, and just about every new printer sold for the home or small business has Wi-Fi capabilities.

The most important advantage with wifi is that you can print from your mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and ipads very easily. This is very convenient if there are lots of people printing all the time from the printer.

Near-Field-Communication (NFC)

NFC is also available on some models, which lets you connect your printer to a smartphone or tablet by simply touching the device to a specified area on your printer.

Near Field Communication

Near Field Communication

If you have wifi connectivity option then you probably won't need NFC that much. Though nfc is also becoming a standard slowly.

Cloud Printing

Yet another connectivity option is cloud printing, which enables a printer to connect to cloud printing services like Google Cloud Print and then take print commands from over the cloud or internet.

So with cloud printing you can send print commands over the internet even if your pc or laptop is not a part of LAN where the printer is. Moreover this technology is actually portable and does not require setting up any drivers on the computer.

This means you can print from any computer, smartphone or tablet without having to install printer specific drivers. This makes is very convenient to handle the printer.

7. Other Technical Specifications

Besides the above mentioned technical points, there are even more specifications about a printer that you might want to pay attention to. However these specs have become standard across most popular brands and often times they can be just ignored.

Speed : This is measured in pages per minute (or PPM) and is a pointer to how fast a printer can print pages. The average black-and-white ppm is around 15-20 pages. Color printers tend to be slower, at around 10-15 pages per minute. If print speed really matters in your use case then you might want to go for a high speed printer.

Resolution: This is measured in dots per inch (or DPI) which is how many dots of ink the printer can apply to a square inch of paper. Pay attention to this specification if you’re especially interested in high-resolution, high-detail images. Most inkjet and laser printers now a days have a minimum of 1200x1200 dpi which is sufficient for most home and office use cases. For specific use cases you may have to look for printers with higher dpi

Duty Cycle: This number indicates how many pages per month a printer can be expected to print without suffering wear and tear. The average home printer offers 5,000-8,000 pages per month, and you may not even need that volume of printing.

Paper handling: Every printer will feed on a fat stack of 8.5 x 11 paper, but you should consider the size of the input tray. Smaller trays, for instance, will require you to add paper all the time, while a 250-page hopper can make it a once-a-month affair.

What about legal envelopes, index cards, and glossy stock? Many printers now include dedicated feed trays for printing on special papers with unusual sizes or different weights, making it easier to deal with them.

Top Brands

Now that we have discussed about various features of a printer that you need to check when buying a new one, lets take a look at some of the top brands that manufacture printers.

We have done a dedicated article on printer brands and series here: Top 4 Printer Brands and Series - Canon / Brother / HP / Epson.

  • HP
  • Canon
  • Epson
  • Brother
  • PANTUM
  • Lexmark
  • Xerox

1. HP

HP (Hewlett Packard) is perhaps the most popular brand in the printer industry and they have the widest range of products for all kind of users include home and business. They are an American multinational brand.

They make all kinds of printers including inkjet and laser that are branded as OfficeJet, DeskJet, LaserJet etc.

2. Canon

Canon is also one of the oldest companies working in the field of printing technologies. They are a Japanese brand.

Their product range is not as extensive as HP but has numerous models of inkjet and laser type with all kinds of features including multifunction, color printing etc.

Popular series are PIXMA and imageClass.

3. Epson

Seiko Epson Corporation is yet another Japanese company that make high quality printers for general consumers.

The product range includes popular series like EcoTank, WorkForce, Epson mostly makes inkjet printers and does not have a lot of laser printers in their product line.

You can check out their entire range of printers on their official website here: https://epson.com/

4. Brother

Brother is also a Japanese brand making various kind of inkjet, laser and label printers and fax machines.

They have a wide range of inkjet and laser printers and some of the popular models include HL-L2300D Monochrome Laser Printer and MFC-J491DW Wireless All-in-One Inkjet Printer.

Laser printers are the most popular product line of Brother followed by inkjet printer. Their range of products can be viewed on their official website here: https://www.brother-usa.com/home/printers-fax

Conclusion

Intense competition between the leading brands such as Canon, HP, and Epson has forced prices to such absurd lows that you can now walk into a store and walk out with a new printer for $80 or less. Still, now that you’ve taken your time to go through this list, you’ll certainly be able to pick the printer that will best suit your needs!

Links and Resources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inkjet_printing
About Silver Moon

A Tech Enthusiast, Blogger, Linux Fan and a Software Developer. Writes about Computer hardware, Linux and Open Source software and coding in Python, Php and Javascript. He can be reached at [email protected].

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