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The Printware Guide to Buying a Laser Printer

From the Printware Blog on Monday 1st July 2013 in Consumer Advice

Buying a new laser printer can be confusing, even bewildering at times and, with ever-changing technology and seemingly endless options, where do you start? Fortunately, we’ve put together a handy little guide to help you and give you an idea of what to look out for.

 

Colour or Mono

There’s no doubt that documents printed in colour have more impact than those printed in mono. Colour documents are 80% more likely to be read than those printed in black and white. If you’re producing material to show to customers or to present to the board of directors, it needs to be in colour.

However, mono is perfectly acceptable for low priority internal documents. Mono printers are cheaper to buy and run than colour printers, so offer a cost-effective alternative where colour is not needed. They’re also smaller and lighter, which makes a difference in offices where space is limited.

For a more detailed look at the benefits of colour vs mono printing, check out our article, Printware Buying Guide – Colour or Mono.

 

Single- or Multi-function

A straightforward choice, you’d think – after all, you either need a copier and fax or you don’t, right? That may be true but you may be overlooking some less obvious yet more potent benefits to owning a multifunction device.

A multifunction printer enables you to streamline your processes and work more efficiently by allowing you to share and store documents digitally. Archiving electronic documents rather than paper ones saves space and is more secure, while a built-in fax can save you paper and reduce spam.

The main benefit of a single function printer is cost – a single function device is cheaper to buy than the equivalent MFP, but with the same running costs. For more information about single- and multi-function printers, take a look at our article, Printware Buying Guide – Single or Multifunction.

 

Print speed

It might seem like a great idea to splash out a bit more on a faster printer but most users won’t even notice a difference. This is because print speeds are calculated for large print runs and don’t take account of warm-up and processing time. It’s a bit like timing a racing car going round a track but only starting the timer once it’s left the pits and is up to speed.

Since the typical print job is just four pages and is sent to the printer while it’s in sleep mode, most users don’t benefit from the printer’s top speed.

This means that you’re better off looking at warm up time and first page out time, rather than print speed, unless you frequently print large multi-page documents.

 

Running costs

Nowadays, you can buy any number of colour laser printers for under £100 but should you? Yes, but only if you’re printing very low volumes.

Generally speaking, the more expensive a printer is to buy, the cheaper it is to run. Therefore, the more you print, the more you should be looking to spend on a printer.

For example, the Samsung CLP-415N costs £400 less than the CLP-775ND but, if you print 2,000 pages per month at 20% coverage for 3 years, it will cost you nearly £2000 more to run.

Printware publishes costs per page for all the laser printers on its website and these are a great way to work out which printer is best for you, based on how much you’re printing.

 

Resolution

Print resolution is given in dots per inch; the higher, the dpi, the better the print quality. Most laser printers will print at 600 or 1200dpi but 300dpi is perfectly acceptable for most applications. Only professional photographers or graphic designers would need a resolution much higher than 1200dpi.

Many printer specs quote an “enhanced” or “optimised” resolution of up to 9600dpi. This is achieved by making several passes over the page and layering the dots of toner so that several dots of one colour are deposited in the same place. The technique creates high quality images but is slow and uses a great deal of toner.

If you need high quality photos or graphics, look for a printer that can print at high resolution. However, for most printing applications, you won’t need this level of quality and 600dpi will be good enough.

 

Duplex

An automatic duplexer will print on both sides of the paper and actually turns the paper over inside the machine. Duplex printers are more expensive but will save paper so are more economical and eco-friendly.

Go for a duplex printer if you need to print double-sided documents, if you want to reduce your paper usage and if you’re concerned about your environmental impact.

 

Memory

An internal memory allows a printer to process files more quickly. Each page is held in the printer’s memory and once printed, it is cleared to make way for the next page. The larger the memory, the larger the file size it can hold.

This is particularly useful for printing large, high-resolution images and, although it doesn’t increase the printer’s speed, it does increase the speed at which it processes complex jobs.

 

PostScript 3

Adobe PostScript 3 is a printer language, used to describe the layout of images and text in a printed document. It is the industry standard for desktop publishing and PostScript printers are able to produce a multitude of fonts.

Because of the way that PostScript describes the objects on a page, it is able to take advantage of the capabilities of high-resolution devices where other printer languages cannot. In other words, if you print something at 600dpi, it will look better than at 300dpi & this is not the case with all printer languages.

If quality and consistency are important, then look for PostScript 3 or PostScript 3 emulation, particularly if you need to produce professional-standard documents or images.

 

Trays

Adding trays increases paper capacity but, just as importantly, it gives you more flexibility. If you regularly use different types of media, you can easily switch between them without having to change the paper in the trays.

A multi-purpose tray allows you to print thicker or differently size media, including custom sizes, envelopes, labels and so on.

Consider going for a printer with two or more trays if you need to print on more than one type of media, or you frequently print large jobs.

 

Connectivity

The connection method you use will depend on how you want to use your printer and what devices you want to print from.

USB – a USB connection is ideal for when you just need to connect your printer to a single PC. If the printer also has a front USB port it means that you can print directly from a flash drive, without the need for a PC.

Networked – if you want to share a printer between multiple users, you need one that is network ready. The printer connects to a local computer network via a router and anyone connected to the network will be able to access printer. Gigabit networking gives much faster data transmission over a network, which is important where large amounts of information is being sent.

WiFi – a WiFi enabled printer will allow you to print files directly from a mobile device,  provided that it’s connected to the same wireless network as the printer. Some printers support WiFi Direct, which means that the printer communicates directly with the mobile device, without the need for a router.

 

Environmental

If social and environmental responsibility is important to you, there are a few things you’ll need to consider when choosing a printer.

Keep an eye out for the Energy Star logo, which indicates that a printer uses less power and therefore has lower carbon emissions than comparable devices.

The Blue Angel certification goes even further and denotes that a product is eco-friendly throughout its life cycle. This means that the manufacturing process meets environmental standards and that the printer is made from recyclable materials.

Both Xerox solid ink and Kyocera ECOSYS printers create considerably less waste than conventional laser printers and are well worth considering.

Check out our article Choosing an Eco Friendly Printer for a more detailed look at finding a green printer.

 

Display

A large screen makes it easier to preview documents and a touch screen makes it easier to navigate menus, access applications and manage device functions.

A display screen is particularly important if you regularly need to manage print jobs and settings from the device rather than through the printer driver on your PC. This is most useful if you do a lot of direct printing, for example, from a USB stick.

 

by Anthony Morgan

Posted in Consumer Advice

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