Printer Buyer’s Factsheet
A printer is a must-have peripheral for your computer or notebook, and with prices now dropping to all-time lows, there’s never been a better time to buy. However, you stilt need to do your homework. The most important thing is knowing what you need it to do. if you need to scan documents as well as print, an all-in-one (sometimes called a ‘multifunction device’ or ‘multifunction centre’) is what you need. Another thing to bear in mind is not to just consider the upfront purchase price – those cheap models may bite back In terms of their high-cost inks.
Individual ink tanks are the ideal way to go. A good-quality printer needs to have at least four colours: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Printers with extra colours sound great, but the results are hard to see, even when you print on high-quality paper. In terms of print quality, the best models will give you laser-like text and photo quality on good paper. Take a look at some sample printouts first before you buy. When it comes to paper, most printers and all-in-ones do a reasonable job on plain paper, but give best quality on glossy photo paper. You don’t have to stick to the printer brand when buying paper, but it’ll likely help you achieve the best results.
If you plan to print photos, check that the printer supports flash memory cards such as SecureDigital and CompactRash. A PictBridge port will enable you to print directly from your PictBridge-ready printer without a computer. If you’re using an older computer, make sure you have a spare US8 port available, as none of the printers we tested, offer the old parallel printer port connection. There are plenty of extras such as CD/DVD printing, automatic duplexers (double-sided printer) and document feeders, but the most important thing to look for is a unit that offers high-quality printing and scanning. Other features are just eye candy by comparison.
Most expensive liquid known to man?
Most of the printer manufacturers have been busy suing third-party ink tank vendors in recent times, so we didn’t look at third-party inks this year. Inkjet printer ink is still one of the most expensive liquids known to man (upwards of $5,000 per litre), and although you could be forgiven for thinking that it’d be cheaper to just buy a new printer than replace the tanks in some models, most cheapies use ‘starter’ tanks. These are tanks that hold less ink and give you just enough to print a few pages. When these run out, they hit you up for the full-capacity tanks
All-in-one. A device that can scan, print and copy (and sometimes fax) in one unit.
Auto-duplexer. Enables printing on both sides of a page (without you flipping it over).
Automatic document feeder. Automatically feeds pages into the scanning unit.
Dots per inch (dpi). The measurement for how much detail a printer can print or scanner can scan, measured in horizontal by vertical resolution.
Ethernet. Enables the printer to work on a wired network with other computers.
Ink tanks. These provide the ink to your printer. Individual ink tanks have one colour per tank and are the most efficient. Tri-colour cartridges have three colours in the one tank, so when one colour runs out, you have to replace the cartridge.
Pages per minute (ppm). The measure of speed for printers. However, most ppm figures are based on super-fast yet super-low-quality draft printing.
Print head. This is the device that puts the ink on the page. Some print heads are built into the replaceable ink tanks; others are built permanently into the printer.
Print head alignment. The process of making sure the print head is correctly positioned, so it doesn’t produce line streaks on a page.
Wireless networking. A connection system that uses radio waves instead of cables to connect computers to the printer.