Printer Buying Guide: What Printer Should I Buy?

When you consider the number of printer options out in the market today, it’s no surprise that most consumers find printer shopping a pretty daunting task. As printer nerds, we’d like to offer you some advice that can help you find the right printer you need in the simplest way possible. We’ve found that asking yourself the following questions helps identify the best printer for your needs. Let’s begin!

What printer is right for you?

One way to determine the right printer for you is by understanding your printing needs. Here’s a quick rundown based on the environment you’ll be printing in. We will go deeper after this section.

Home Printing: Printers built for low volume printing and with the versatility to handle documents as well as colored images are best for home printing. Inkjet printers were traditionally the go-to choice by home users, however, the economy, durability, and improved performance of laser printers have made them a favorable home printer option as well.

Office Printing: The go-to option when shopping for a printer for the office is a laser printer. Laser printers can print large volumes of text for a long period of time, making them the workhorses of the workplace. You can choose between print-only printers and multi-function printers that also provide scanning, copying, and faxing capabilities. Colored laser printers are perfect if you occasionally need colored prints in addition to the high volume document printing needs of the office.

Students / School Printing: Low-page-yield laser printers are best for school use. They’re more affordable than inkjet printers in the long term and more affordable than office laser printers. They are also just as reliable when it comes to producing documents when you need them.

Do you just need to print or do you need a scanner, fax, and copier capabilities?

Single Function Printers: These machines are built for the sole purpose of printing. If you need a printer that prints documents and nothing more, then this is the printer for you.

All-in-One Printers: These printers come with a scanner, copier, and fax functionality. If you’re looking for a printer that you can also use to scan, copy, and/or fax documents, then a multi-function printer will get you more bang for your buck.

Will you print mostly documents or will you print photos and colored images? Will you print a lot?

Laser Printer: If you’ll be printing mostly documents, get a laser printer. Laser printers are fast and perfect for high volume printing.

Inkjet Printer: If you need a printer to occasionally print good quality colored images or photos, get an inkjet printer. (But be wary of how much replacement ink cartridges are!)

However, to say that laser printers aren’t good for colored prints would be an injustice. In addition to their ability to print documents fast and their reputation for being more cost-effective than inkjet printers; it is also worth noting that color laser printer technology now delivers competitive color image quality when compared to inkjet printers. Though color laser printers still have a long way to go in producing pristine gallery quality
prints, it is now very much an affordable option for the everyday user for day-to-day photos or color printing.

If you will be printing at high volumes then you should get a laser printer. Laser printers are built to be more durable and can print more pages over time compared to inkjet printers which are built more for occasional printing. Using an inkjet printer for high volume printing is guaranteed to be incredibly expensive due to ink replacements and it will considerably shorten the lifespan of your printer.

Quick sidenote: If you plan on printing different media, such as brochures or cards, and you need a printer that accommodates a varied range of paper types and sizes; an inkjet printer might be right for you. A printer’s manual usually indicates the types of paper it accepts.

To summarize:

If you…

  • print a lot of documents and don’t need to print high-resolution colored images, get a laser printer (or color laser printer if you need color).
  • occasionally print documents and colored images, get an inkjet printer.
  • regularly print a lot of high-resolution colored images, get a professional photo inkjet printer, and look for cheaper ink cartridge replacements!
  • need to print on other paper types (ie. different textures or sizes) beyond the typical printer paper, consider getting an inkjet printer.

Last but certainly not least, it is always good to note the true cost of your printer. Please. Don’t be fooled by cheap new printers that look pretty! Like Benjamin Franklin said, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

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