What type of printer do I need based on how I'll be using it?
offer the widest range of features and prices. Although individual models are tailored to specific uses, in general you can expect versatility in paper choices; clean, legible black text; and clearly defined color graphics.
can vary tremendously in cost, but many units offer an excellent price-per-page comparison with other printing styles. Many inkjets are designed to be used at home or in home offices, combining a decent print speed, ease of use, and printing resolution with an affordable price tag. If you primarily expect to print a mix of school reports, letters, photos, and professional documents, a
will more than meet your needs.
are known for supplying absolute printing precision at high speeds and in high volumes, making them a natural choice for offices and schools. The range of paper types frequently includes envelopes and labels, and
color print options in some models
make laser printers nearly as versatile as inkjets. Typically available features--generally at an extra cost from the base models--include additional paper trays, automatic two-sided printing, and network capabilities that allow several workstations to share the same printer. Although the cost of toner cartridges and drum units can be high, they can last for thousands of pages, making the actual cost-per-page quite reasonable.
excel at producing photos that are most comparable to professionally produced prints. Many versions are highly portable, operating on battery packs and connecting to cameras, camera phones, and laptops via Bluetooth wireless technology.
size can be limited--some versions support only two sizes of prints--but the heavy laminated paper makes up in quality what it lacks in flexibility. High speeds allow you to hand out photos while the party's still happening, and the durable results will last in your album for years to come.
Want more information on photo printers? See our Help Guide on the topic.What is the difference between inkjet and laser printers?
are most commonly used at home or in small businesses. Most frequently seen is thermal inkjet technology, which uses water-soluble inks that are heated and forced through tiny nozzles, creating microscopic droplets of color to form letters and images. Inks are available with both
for use on a variety of paper types.
are known for being office workhorses, churning out thousands of inexpensive pages at minimal page costs, but with a sizable price tag compared to inkjets. Plastic toner droplets are fused to individual sheets of paper with hot rollers; in the printing process, a small amount of toner waste is created with each page, which is typically stored in a separate section of the same toner cartridge.
create deep, rich tones on regular paper; however, many models aren't designed to use special photo papers and, thus, aren't ideal for use in many homes.
The primary day-to-day differences for users of the printers are speed, volume, noise, and cost of replacement ink or toner. Laser printers are generally (not always) quieter and have paper trays that can accommodate a full ream of paper, compared to the more typical 150-300 sheets of an inkjet model. Speeds of inkjet models have caught up, but laser printers typically still have an edge. The cost of a new
laser toner cartridge
can run you hundreds of dollars;
supply substantially fewer pages than toner cartridges, but also cost substantially less.What are the network connectivity considerations?
Printers designed for workgroups often include imbedded print servers, allowing a number of users to share the device. The maximum number of users that each printer can accommodate varies tremendously depending on the model--it can be as few as three and as many several dozen. In many cases, each user's station can be password protected for improved security.
(802.3) is a flexible networking style that works well for any number of stations and operating systems. Setup for a home Ethernet network is generally as simple as acquiring the correct cables; the larger the office network, the more likely it is that a network specialist will be helpful. Depending on the printer's manufacturer, the interface can be either Web- or operating-system based; slightly more interfaces work only with Microsoft Windows, but it's not at all difficult to find Macintosh-compatible tools.
(802.11b/g) uses the 2.4 GHz frequency range. Although this means that the networks can run into interference issues from cordless phones or Bluetooth devices, in most cases it's an excellent choice for home-based networks, allowing a laptop in the bedroom to easily send documents to a printer in the basement. You can expect the workable distance between devices to be a little over 100 feet.
Learn more about wireless printing.