Choose the Right Printer for the Job
With so many similar-looking models out there, the printer aisle can be a daunting place – and it doesn’t help that many printers seem to offer virtually identical features at wildly varying prices. Before losing yourself in printer spec sheets, ask yourself what types of media you expect to be printing the most and let that guide your decision.
If you plan to print color photos or paper crafts…choose an inkjet printer. You’ll be able to work with a wider variety of paper types than you would in a laser printer, and if you’re on a budget, you’ll get the best variety of features for your money – from textile printing to the ability to print directly from your smartphone or digital camera.
If you need to print a lot of documents…choose a laser printer. Laser printers generally start up faster, print more rapidly and deliver more pages at a lower per-sheet price than inkjet printers do – as long as you only need to print on paper. If you need to produce sharp black-and-white text, a laser printer’s toner cartridge will also deliver a bigger bang for your buck than an inkjet cartridge, which has to work harder to deliver similar results.
If you need to multitask but don’t want to pay extra…choose an all-in-one (or multifunction) printer. Not having to clutter your living space with separate gadgets like a scanner or copier is a bonus, too. An all-in-one inkjet will cost significantly less than an all-in-one laser – and, really, unless you’re running a small business, it will be more than enough to do the job.
If you need to do one task extremely well…choose a single-function printer. If you print lots of 4×6 photos or belong to a photography club or scrapbooking group, consider a specialty photo printer – many of these are even small enough to fit inside of a backpack. If you’re printing a manuscript or producing high volumes of office documents, consider a single-function black-and-white laser printer.
Finally, consider how you plan to connect the printer to your computer or home office. All of the above printer types offer a USB port for easy PC-to-printer connection – even if some printer manufactures make you spend extra for a USB cable.
If you plan to share your printer with others in the house, consider a networked printer. Wired networking allows you to plug directly into the printer, but wireless networking – which usually requires you to set up the connection yourself (easily done with most modern printers’ built-in software) – frees you to print securely from anywhere on your wireless network.