Printers are a necessity nowadays for printing documents, files, envelopes, business cards, or pictures. A good printer can do it all.
However, most people tend to settle for what works, as long as it can print, it's good enough.
They tend to overlook the various features of different printers that can help ease up your workload or provide better printing quality at the same or even lower budget.
Leading manufacturers like Brother, Epson, Canon, HP, and more offer a wide range of printers with features that can be used for home and office use.
In this guide, we help you to better understand key features and technical specifications that you should pay attention to when buying your next printer:
- Type of Printer - Inkjet vs Laser
- Ink type - Monochrome vs Color
- Printer vs All in One
- Print Speed
- Duplex Printing Support
- Automatic Document Feed
- DPI - Print Quality
- Paper Tray Capacity
- Duty Cycle
- Cartridge Capacity
- Connection Interface - USB, Bluetooth, Wifi, Cloud, NFC
- Scanner Resolution
- Copy Speed
- Printer memory / RAM
- Security and Encryption Support
1. Type of Printer
The most important feature is consider is the printing technology, that is Inkjet or Laser. There are other less popular technologies besides these, but these are the best ones.
If you are planning to buy a printer for document printing then Laser printers are the Best option. The are expensive but the printing cost is far cheaper in the long run.
An Inkjet printer is a printer that makes use of ink and sprays droplets onto the paper. It is more popular since it is usually cheaper and smaller than Laser printers, making it a suitable choice for households.
These printers can print both text and images, and can also print high-quality colored images. One of its major disadvantages though is that the ink from its cartridges can dry up if it is not used often.
Laser printers make use of toner. They melt the toner powder and print it onto the paper. The printer itself is more expensive than inkjets and the toner is more expensive than the ink cartridges as well. But it can print both monochrome and colored documents faster and more efficiently.
Laser printers can print large volumes of documents frequently without any problem, making it the go-to option for busy offices.
Laser printer toners do not dry up like inkjet cartridges giving and overall lesser printing and maintainence cost in the long run.
2. Monochrome or Color
A monochrome printer is a printer that prints using only black ink. Monochrome inkjet printers are rare and most of the common models are Laser printers. Laser Monochrome printers have better print quality and faster print speeds.
If you are planning to buy a printer for office use or document printing at home then Monochrome Laser printers are the best option. Their print quality is superior and the overall printing cost is low.
A color printer is a printer that can print more than one color. Color printers can have separate Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black cartridges or can have a single color and a single black cartridge, depending on the model.
Color printers can print not only text but can also high-quality pictures. Low-quality color printers might lower color saturation when printing while the best color printers can replicate high-quality images without sacrificing color quality.
If you absolutely need to print color images or logos for example, then color inkjet or ink tank printers are your best option. Though keep in mind that inkjet printers run the risk to inks drying up soon making it necessary to get a refill or replacement.
3. Printer Only vs All-in-one Machine
These are the most basic printers and their price varies, depending on the features. The more economical models are only printers and cannot do anything else.
However, some printer only models can be very specialized machines used in big businesses with specific features like WiFi compatibility, duplex printing, color printing, automatic document feeder, and more.
These additional features make it efficient and more productive.
All-in-one printers are printers that also have additional functions such as scanning, copying, and sometimes faxing in the same machine. Most printers nowadays are all-in-ones due to the rising need to scan and copy documents at offices and homes alike.
All-in-one printers are very useful to businesses and offices because they can do pretty much everything that you need to do with documents.
For home and office use we recommend All in one monochrome laser printers. The print, scan, copy very fast, in high quality and save printing costs.
However if you need to print colored images and photos then go for an all in one inkjet printer.
4. Print Speed
Print speed is exactly what it sounds like, how fast your printer can print. It is usually measured in pages per minute or PPM and will vary depending on the printer. This can be an important factor depending on where the printer is going to be used.
Offices that require a high amount of documents and files printed daily may benefit from high ppm printers. For home printers where waiting is not much of an issue, printers that offer around 10 – 20 pages per minute will be more than enough, whereas, for offices and businesses, printers with speeds around 20 – 40 ppm are recommended.
Laser printers usually are faster than inkjet printers with PPMs around 25-32. They are an excellent choice for printing large volume of pages in bulk.
Inkjet printers on the other hand have 10-15 PPM for black and 7-10 ppm for color printouts. Note the color printout is slightly slower than black due to the use of 3 different inks.
5. Duplex Printing
Duplex printing is a feature that is not necessary but does provide for a better and faster printing experience. Duplex printing is available on printers that allow for printing on both sides of the paper automatically without needing to turn the paper over or print both sides separately.
Single-engine Duplex (SED)
A single-engine duplex printer is a printer that prints on one side first and then flips it over to print on the other side.
Double-engine Duplex (DED)
A double-engine duplex printer prints on both sides of the paper simultaneously. Double-engine duplex printers are usually used in businesses that require the printing of hundreds of documents every day.
Duplex printing can save a lot of time and effort because it does not require you to flip the paper and restart the printing process all over again. Make sure to be on the lookout for printers with this feature if your printing requirements are higher.
6. Auto Document Feeder (ADF)
Auto Document Feeder allows to put multiple papers at once and the printer will scan or copy the pages one at a time in order, making it possible to scan, copy, or print documents with multiple papers without having to change each page after every print or scan.
ADFs are rated in images per minute (IPM), which is the number of sides they can scan in a minute. ADF machines will usually be capable of scanning 10 pages up to 50 for common printers but it can also support up to 100-200 sheets for the higher-end models.
Reversing Automatic Document Feeder (RADF)
RADF is a form of document feeder that first scans one side of the document before flipping the document to scan the other side. This is similar to the single-engine duplex for printing documents.
Duplexing Automatic Document Feeder (DADF)
DADF, on the other hand, is capable of scanning both sides of the document at once, making it the faster of the two feeders. Usually, DADF machines are compatible with thicker paper while RADF machines might have trouble flipping thicker paper.
7. Printer Quality
The printer quality is arguably the most important feature that you should look out for in a printer. It determines how good and how clear the print is when it is transferred onto the paper.
The main factor that determines the printer's quality is its resolution which can also be measured in Dots Per Inch or DPI.
The minimum for black and white prints should be around 600 x 600 DPI while for colored prints 1200 x 1440 DPI is a good place to start.
If you need higher quality prints, 2400 x 1200 for black and white, and 4800 x 2400 for colored should be more than enough for most high-quality printing needs.
8. Paper Tray Capacity
Simply put, the paper tray capacity is the number of sheets that you can load into the printer. This is important for busy businesses that don’t have the time to be constantly feeding the printer with paper as they print their much-needed documents.
Most standard printer trays will support around 250-550 sheets of Letter, A4, or Legal size paper though there are large capacity printer trays that can support up to 3500 sheets.
For home use a tray size of 100-200 sheets should suffice and for office use you would need something higher depending on the volume and frequency of the print outs.
9. Duty Cycles
The duty cycle of a printer is simply the number of pages that it can print within a given period before they run into some problem. Some printers offer daily duty cycles while most offer monthly duty cycles.
It is important to find a printer with a duty cycle that is enough for your needs. Most printers are rated at a duty cycle which is usually much higher than what consumers would actually ever need.
Most households would only require around a 5000 monthly duty cycle while offices and businesses would likely require upwards of a monthly duty cycle of 20,000.
As long as the printer is within its duty cycle, it should easily be able to print without any problems and will help with its longevity.
10. Cartridge Capacity
Every printer makes use of some sort of ink cartridge to print beautiful images. In most printers, a specific type of cartridge is only compatible.
The proper cartridges must be used for printers to prevent contamination or even possibly damaging the printer itself. Some cartridges can be refilled, which can be done to save some cash. However, it is best to always use new ones since these cartridges can get clogged up over time.
Each cartridge is rated for a specific number of printed pages before it needs to be replaced. High-capacity printers can usually print around 1000 pages before needing an ink replacement. Make sure to take into consideration the rated pages for ink cartridges.
Standard USB Cable
Most printers can be connected to your PC through the use of a USB cable that enables your PC to send information to the printer. This is the most common way of connecting your printer to your PC and requires your PC to only have an available USB port and a few printer drivers.
Besides USB there are several other ways to connect to a printer and run print commands depending on whether your printer supports it.
Some printers also come with Bluetooth connectivity which can be used to print using devices with Bluetooth capability. This allows a direct wireless printing that you can use on your phone and tablet, without having to setup a local area network or wifi.
Finally, printers can also have Wi-Fi connectivity which requires that your device and the printer are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. This allows multiple users to use the printer even if they are far away from each other, as long as they are using the same Wi-Fi network.
Cloud Printing Capability
Nowadays, almost everyone uses the cloud as a means to store various files and photos. Printers have started to incorporate cloud printing as part of their features through various software.
Cloud printing support comes with software such as AirPrint and Google Cloud Print, among many others. This makes it easier to access files and print them directly from the cloud storage service.
NFC (Near Field Communication) Printing
NFC is a wireless connection standard that allows devices to transmit data by touching them together or by holding them very close to each other. NFC-enabled printers can print documents from mobile phones with NFC. Simply select the file you want to print holding the mobile phone close to your printer and press print.
NFC Printing is a quick and easy way to print documents on the fly. However, some printers might require some additional software to be installed on your phone for NFC to function correctly.
12. Scanner Resolution
Gone are the days where a separate printer and scanner are needed. Now, the printer is also the scanner. It is important to check what the resolution of the scanner is since having a low-quality scanner is useless.
The scanner resolution is usually measured in DPI and, as a general rule of thumb, the higher the DPI the better the resolution, the better the quality.
In most cases, around 600 DPI should be more than enough to provide good enough quality that is readable and clear. However, 1200 DPI or in some cases more will provide a better-quality scan that might be necessary for resizing and printing at larger sizes.
13. Copy Speed
It can be very annoying to wait for a slow printer to finish printing, and the same can be said when copying. The copy speed of the printer can save you time when copying and printing multiple copies of the same file.
Copy speed is usually measured in pages per minute or PPM. Most homeowners would be good with a printer that has around 20-25 ppm while offices might require a lot more, depending on the workload.
The copy speed usually matters only when the copy feature is being used in high volume. For occassional copy tasks the speed may not be that important.
14. RAM/Printer Memory
Most new printers have a fairly small Random Access Memory or RAM that they use to store data. The RAM helps the printer respond quicker, prevent errors, and data loss. The memory is also used to prevent delays and help in storing the data as it prints.
Having a high amount of memory will help in busy environments where a ton of users are connected to the same printer and are printing at the same time. As long as the printer has enough RAM, it will provide a lag-free experience and all the documents will get printed in time.
15. Security and Encryption
The security and encryption features of a printer are very important, especially for printers that are connected to the internet. It can serve as an easy way to hack and access your network if the printer is not properly secured.
The printer is usually the first thing that a hacker tries to get into because it is vulnerable to attack if there are no proper safety and security steps taken.
User Authentication Features
Some printers allow users to customize and hand-pick all the users that are allowed to access the printer and the network. This is one of the best ways to prevent unwanted people from your network.
Data encryption is essential for secured and secret documents. The printer encrypts your data so that only the sending PC and the printer can read it. This is usually done through software that came with the printer.
That was a brief explanation of the various technical features associated with computer printers. If you are planning to buy a computer print for home or office or business place then take note of these specifications and select the one with the optimum features.
For most home and office users monochrome laser printers are the best option. For graphics and photography professionals inkjet and inktank printers may be more suitable with colour print options.