Printers are essential peripherals, performing a critical role as they render electronic information into tangible records or material output. You’re simply not using your computer to its fullest potential if you are unable to print reports, presentations, letters, photos, or whatever it is you need to output. Choosing a printer can be confusing, however, in today’s competitive, ever-changing landscape. This buying guide rounds out some of the more important criteria to consider before you make that all-important purchase decision.
This is the biggest decision to make before anything else. Your choice should be based on how you work and the kind of output you will be expecting from the printer.
Inkjet: Inkjet printers can deliver stunning color, so this is the way to go if you are mostly concerned with printing photos. Inkjets can be used for printing text, but the print speed is too slow if the primary purpose of the printer is document printing. To obtain more photo-realism, choose inkjets with an expanded range of colors that includes light cyan and light magenta in addition to the standard four-color CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). The extra colors deliver more subtle color gradations in blue skies and skin tones. And if you print a great deal of black-and-white photos, consider photo printers with more than one variation of black ink or with gray inks. Many photo printers use color inks to produce a composite black, resulting in a muddy tint. A second black-ink cartridge and different shades of gray help maintain a neutral tone, with the gray ink allowing for subtle shading and thus improving the quality of black-and-white photos.
Dye-sublimation: Dye-sub printers can print continuous tones and a superior range of colors that laser printers are unable to, making them ideal for more demanding graphic applications or color printing. Dye-sub prints are also less prone to fading and distortion over time than dye-based ink prints. In addition, many consumer-based dye-sublimation Kansas City printers can print directly from digital cameras and also accept memory cards. They are, however, more limited in the range and size of printing media that can be used — usually letter-size paper or smaller.
Laser: Laser printers are the perfect choice if you need to print large amounts of text documents. They print faster than inkjets and have a lower cost of operation over the long-term — even though they may cost more to buy initially. There are trade-offs, however. Monochrome laser printers produce crisp black-and-white text but cannot be used for color printing. Color lasers deliver excellent text and graphics but are much more expensive and can be costly to maintain.
Some printers are good for general printing, while others are better at specialized tasks or combine several functions into one machine.