Byte Me #5 A laser printer, bubble jet or ink jet; what’s right for your needs?

6 March, 2010

All it has to do is print so any printer will do, right?  We are probably faced with more choice when selecting a printer than if we were selecting a new car – so what are the differences?  Printing is simply applying marks or blotches of the right size/shape and in the right places to a clean piece of paper to create text and or images.  There are principally two methods of doing this.  One is to use an ink or dye which is sprayed on through ultra fine nozzles (jets) and the other is to use a powder (toner) which is baked onto the paper.

The former is most commonly known as an inkjet or bubble jet printer and the later are known as laser printers.  Both of these types of printers are then also available in colour or monochrome (black & white).  To further complicate a purchase decision, some devices can not only print but also have the ability to photocopy, scan, read memory cards and even fax – these devices are loosely grouped under the name of multifunction.

One of the major considerations at the point of purchase should be that of running costs – referred to as cost per page.  A fairly common rule of thumb with all types of printers is that the more you pay for a printer upfront the less you will then pay in running expenses – always check on the cost of the replacement cartridges/toners.  These will also have an approximate page (capacity) rating so work it back to a cost per page.  Forgetting about the cost of the paper itself the cheapest you can expect to print in monochrome is about 1.5 cents per page with a commercial type laser printer and up to 15 cents per page from a cheap inkjet photo printer.  These costs can be at least doubled or even tripled respectively for printing in colour.

It will all depend on how much printing you do on average but a budget printer may end up hurting the budget in the long term.  I have seen photo printers that can cost over a dollar per page for a full A4 page of colour.  Generally laser printers will cost more at the time of purchase but have a lower running cost & if you don’t need colour then a monochrome laser will have the cheapest cost per page.  If you do a lot of monochrome printing but need the occasional colour page and would like the photocopy/scan/fax ability then two printers – a monochrome laser and an ink based colour multifunction can be great combination.

Alternatively you can have one device to do everything in the form of a colour laser multifunction but you will need to spend around $1000 for a good one.  Some last points to consider.  Always buy some replacement cartridges/toners when you get your new printer, especially if you live out of town and keep in mind that nearly all manufacturers sell their printers with only half full cartridges/toners originally – yes scandalous but true.  If you do buy a colour printer you can also save money by setting it to automatically print in monochrome normally and only in colour when you ask for it.

If you want to print from more than one computer then a networkable printer will be best although nearly any printer can be shared if you get the right advice.  The term duplex refers to the ability to print on both sides of the paper and photo printers normally have the ability to print in higher resolution (better detail) than a standard printer.  The many photo booths that are springing up at camera centres and retail stores also do a great job and can even save you money compared to printing your own photos at home.  Also be wary of refills from the point of view of warranty, reliability and the quality of the ink.  Kerr Solutions is at 128 Musgrave Street & is contactable on 49 222 400.

2010-03-06 Byte Me Article 5 - Taking the grey out of printer purchase

  • February 17, 2014