Office Printer Buying Guide 2016
Looking for the best office printer for your small business? Your choice of printer can affect worker productivity and your running costs, so choose wisely. This office printer buying guide provides you with all you need to know about printer technologies, so that you can choose one that’s right for your SMB.
Types of Print Technologies
For the average small office and home user, the only two choices for printers are inkjet and laser. Other printer technologies such as LED and dot matrix exist, but they are typically limited to enterprise users or specific industry-related tasks. In the case of dot matrix printers, you’ll see them used for printing carbon copies or forms. Below, we focus instead on the two main types of printers used today: laser and inkjet.
Inkjet – In an inkjet printer, nozzles spray liquid ink stored in cartridges onto paper. Colors are mixed in exact amounts in order to produce a variety of colors. They are capable of producing amazingly high-quality prints at decent speeds. Inkjet printers typically have separate cartridges for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black or CMYK.
Office inkjet printers have been around for decades and represent a large portion of entry- and mid-level printer. Due to their budget-friendly prices, you can commonly find them used in homes and small offices alike. Their disadvantages include fairly high ink costs and slower print speeds compared to laser.
|· Low initial purchase cost.
· Capable of high-quality prints.
· Can print on many types of paper.
· Do not require warm-up time.
|· Inks can be expensive.
· Inkjets may need occasional cleaning and alignment.
· Slower print speeds than laser printers.
Laser – In a laser printer, a laser is fired at a drum of electrically charged ink powder, creating a statically charged surface. The ink inside the drum is then transferred onto a piece of paper and a heated roller fuses the ink permanently onto the paper.
In the recent past, you would’ve mainly seen office laser printers in medium sized and larger offices because of their high cost. Modern laser printers however, have much lower prices now. This has made it so that even home users can afford basic laser printers now.
|· Toner typically costs less than ink.
· Fast print speeds.
· Excellent for high-volume printing.
|· High initial purchase cost.
· Requires time to warm up.
· Budget models are often monochrome.
Laser and inkjet comprise the two main types of printing technologies, but you can still categorize them further. You can break them down into portable, photo, and all-in-one categories. But they aren’t strictly exclusive, as you can find portable photo printers or all-in-one photo printers.
Portable – As the name implies, portable printers can be carried around like a notebook peripheral. Lightweight and compact, they come in handy when you need to print documents outside of the office. Print quality and speed typically aren’t on par with non-portable units, but certain situations may demand them. Most portable printers use inkjet printing technology.
Photo – With photo printers, you get a printer that focuses on producing high quality images instead of plain text. Typically, these office printers suggest you use specialized paper to get the best results. Photo printers come in two flavors: inkjet and dye sublimation. The latter is a type of printing technology that offers amazing colors and decently quick print speeds. Few models utilize the dye sublimation process however.
Inkjet photo printers are much more common and offer good enough color vibrancy. Unlike standard ink printers with CMYK cartridges, some photo inkjets require a wider range of ink colors. They hold additional colors like light cyan, light magenta, light black, green, and etc.
All-in-One – If you need more than just printing capabilities, an A-I-O printer may be right up your alley. AIOs often include fax, scan, and copy functions in one unit, saving office space and making device management easier. But this also means that you are consolidating both queues into one.
Office Printer Specs and Features
Once you determine the type of printer you want to purchase, start looking at specifications and features you do and do not need.
Resolution – Just as with monitors, printer image quality is in large part determined by its resolution. A higher resolution means higher print quality. Rated in dots per inch (DPI), a higher DPI means more dots in a given area, which means clearer details.
Print Speed – Unless you want you print queues for days, you need to factor in print speed. Home users often do not have to worry about them because they rarely high volume jobs. Business users on the other hand need to share the office printer with other devices. Print speed is typically given in pages per minute (PPM) and a higher number is better for more users.
Connectivity – Most printers support USB but higher-end models often have network connectivity. This way, you don’t have to worry about connecting it to a print server and users can send print jobs directly to the office printer over the network.
Other connectivity options may include support for printing files off flash drives, memory cards, and external hard drives. Some also allow for printing off smartphones and tablets.
Duplex – This feature allows users to print on both sides of a piece of paper without the need to manually feed the paper back into the machine. Some printers come with duplex support, some require a separately sold duplex add-on, and some do not support it at all. Models that support duplex printing usually are more expensive.
Total Cost of Ownership Considerations
The initial purchase price is only part of the total cost of your printer. You need to also factor in ink and paper costs over time, which can lead to a much high total cost of ownership (TCO). That cheap inkjet printer on sale may seem like a good deal, but be sure to check how much ink cartridges for it cost. It could end up costing you more money than competing laser models over time.
After looking at the printer’s features and price, take a look at what ink or toner cartridges it uses and check their price. You can also compare the approximate page yields for different ink and toner, but those numbers may differ from your real world usage.
Highly-Rated Laser Printers
Below, we’ve highlighted several office laser printers that have received very high user ratings.
The Samsung SL-M2020W/XAA is a budget monochrome printer that supports mobile devices. It is an excellent choice for a no-frills printing experience.
|Resolution: 1200 × 1200 dpi|
|Connectivity: USB, wireless, mobile device|
|Print Speed: 21 ppm|
An even more budget option than the Samsung model above, it does not support printing from mobile devices out of the box.
|Resolution: 1200 × 1200 dpi|
|Connectivity: USB, wireless|
|Print Speed: 23 ppm|
A color model that comes packed with features such as copy, scan, and fax. The main downside is slower print speeds compared to the monochrome models above.
|Resolution: 1200 × 1200 dpi|
|Connectivity: USB, wireless, Ethernet, mobile|
|Print Speed: 14 ppm|
Highly-Rated Inkjet Printers
Below, we’ve highlighted several office inkjet printers that have received very high user ratings.
A more basic model, the Stylus CX C88 fits more in a home office than a multi-user small office.
|Resolution: 5760 × 1440 dpi|
|Print Speed: 23 ppm|
This Canon PIXMA is a photo printer so the print speed is lower than the other options, but it offers very good print quality. It is more suitable for designers and creative types than Word power users.
|Resolution: 4800 × 1200 dpi|
|Print Speed: 4.8 ppm|
A multifunction inkjet printer that includes copy and scan functions in addition to two-way paper feeding. It also sports the highest print resolution of all the printers listed above.
|Resolution: 9600 × 2400 dpi|
|Connectivity: USB, wireless, memory card slots|
|Print Speed: 9.2 ppm|
When choosing your office printer, be sure to get one that is quick enough for your print volume and has the features you need. Businesses that only need monochrome print functionality should probably stick with faster monochrome laser printers. Whatever your price range and feature set requirements, you’re sure to find the right office printer that meets your needs.