With so many features and factors to consider, buying a great printer can seem complicated. Here’s how to pick the perfect printer, whether you’re buying one for a large or small business or your home office.
Although we live in a digital world of smartphones and Wi-Fi, plenty of people and businesses still use ink and paper each day. And no matter what you plan to print, buying the right printer can be crucial. Whether you’re interested in an HP printer, Canon printer, Epson printer, or Brother printer, the right machine can make a world of difference, saving you a lot of time and money in the long run. On the other hand, the wrong choice could bring you lots of frustration, so it’s important to pick a model that meets your specific needs when shopping for printers.
Here’s the challenge: It can be difficult to know where to start your search because today’s printer technology is advanced and varied. Even the terminology can be intimidating at first. Between inkjets, lasers, supertanks, and toners, sizing up your options isn’t always straightforward.
Good news, printer shopper: This guide is here to help.
We’ll walk you through key factors to consider, starting with how you plan to use your printer.
We’ll then introduce you to the major printer types available, describing their potential pros and cons for different kinds of consumers.
As we cover these categories, we’ll offer you the chance to shop for each kind of printer on the site, so you can buy a great machine at an excellent price.
How Do You Plan to Use Your Printer?
Home Office Printing
If you’re buying a printer for your home office, consider the functions you’ll use most often. Many professionals need simple yet effective machines for basic tasks, such as printing out paperwork. Others want their machines to serve multiple purposes, like a copier or scanner. Similarly, students should consider their class requirements before buying a printer. Will your studies need a color printer, or will black and white suffice?
Generally, multifunction printers suited for use at home are relatively affordable. But spending slightly more on a reliable, high-quality machine can be an excellent investment. After all, if you run into problems with an important print job at home, you probably can’t call the IT department to bail you out. To avoid potential headaches later, stick with a highly rated model from a reputable brand.
As far as cost and capabilities, home printers vary considerably. Before pulling the trigger on an appealing deal, consider what you’ll really need from your machine.
Some printers intended for use at home print more quickly; others hold a lot of paper. These advantages may seem small, but they could make a difference in your daily experience. Pick a printer that reflects your preferences. If you know waiting for things to print will drive you crazy, for example, buy one with quick print speeds.
Whether you’re an experienced photographer or passionate amateur, you know how important printing can be. For your photos to translate to print, you’ll need a device that delivers in terms of resolution and accuracy. Thankfully, there are plenty of printers capable of producing gorgeous photos — without a painful price tag. Budget-minded shoppers can find powerful photo printers, including some with plenty of other bells and whistles (such as copying and scanning).
Choose a photo printer flexible enough to handle many types and sizes of photo paper, especially the kinds you plan to use often. From wallet photos to full posters, which kinds of printing will your machine make possible?
Check the maximum resolution each printer offers. You may not need top-of-the-line specs, but choose one capable of making crisp prints at your preferred size.
Consider printing efficiency, especially ink cost and consumption.How often will you need new ink cartridges, and how much will they cost? You should be able to find this info fairly easily.
When buying a printer for your business, efficiency and expense are key concerns. You want a machine capable of swiftly producing a high volume, meeting the needs of an active office. Print speed isn’t the only relevant factor: Can the printer save you time through automated functions, such as collating or stapling pages?
Additionally, you’ll need to take a long view of printing expenses, looking beyond just a printer’s purchase price. If you’re constantly replacing pricey toner cartridges, you may significantly increase your organization’s operating costs. You’ll also want to read reviews to gauge each device’s durability: If a printer has a habit of breaking down, your office mates probably won’t be happy.
Look at the manufacturer’s recommended monthly page volume. If your business is likely to exceed the upper limit, it’s probably best to choose another option.
Study the price of toner replacements and how often they’ll be necessary. You can use this info to calculate estimated annual print costs, comparing various models.
Match the print speeds of the options you’re considering up against each other. Small differences in efficiency can have big productivity implications for your office.
Seek out printers that come with great warranties and support. If you encounter technical issues, you don’t want to deal with them alone.
Which Type of Printer Should You Buy?
How They Work:
Inkjet printers spray a series of small ink dots on paper, creating the text and graphics that appear on a page. Because these ink dots are so minuscule, different colors can be placed near each other, creating a rich array of hues.
Who They’re Best For:
Because inkjet printers are typically less expensive than laser printers, they’re a go-to option for shoppers on a tight budget.
Color inkjet printers are great for jobs involving a wide range of colors or complex graphics. If you plan to print photos or charts, inkjets offer high quality.
Laser printers use static electricity to apply a fine powder — called toner — to the page. Because this process occurs rapidly, laser printers typically print far more quickly than inkjet devices. Available in monochrome or color laser printers, either allow you to swiftly print a wide range of documents.
Who They’re Best For:
Laser printers’ speed makes them perfect for small businesses printing in high volumes. If your organization is constantly generating documents, laser printing may help your team be more productive in the long run.
As their name indicates, all-in-one printers integrate several functions into a single machine. Although their feature sets differ to some extent, most offer scanning and copying capabilities. Some also provide fax functionality, which could come in handy for old-school communications. Some all-in-one printers use laser printing, whereas others are inkjet models.
Who They’re Best For:
If you plan to scan documents or make copies occasionally, these devices are for you. You’ll save desk space (and some cash) by buying just one machine for all your document-related needs.
Photo printers also use inkjet technology but often offer more precision and clarity than printers intended primarily for documents. Photo printers can achieve incredible degrees of image resolution, measured in dots per inch (DPI), and impressively nuanced color palettes. Many models also make it easy to print in various sizes, such as postcards.
Who They’re Best For:
Whether your photography efforts are personal or professional, printers for photos can elevate your pictures to a new level. If you care about producing polished images, a photo printer can be a worthy (and surprisingly affordable) investment.
How They Work No one likes running out of ink or swapping out used cartridges. Supertank printers come fitted with high-capacity tanks, allowing you to print thousands of pages before you have to think about replenishing your ink. When the time for replacement does roll around, you simply refill the tanks with ink bottles or bags, often at a lower overall cost than standard ink cartridges.
In an increasingly wireless world, virtually all new printers now offer Wi-Fi functionality. So long as your computer is connected to the same network as the printer, you’ll be able to print with no wires required. Additionally, many wireless printers can receive jobs from cellphones and tablets via Wi-Fi, a valuable advantage in the era of smart homes. So, before buying a printer, evaluate all of the device’s wireless printing capabilities and whether they’re relatively easy to set up and use.
Some printers allow you to plug-in memory cards or USB flash drives directly, eliminating the intermediate step of connecting these devices to a computer. Photographers, for example, might appreciate the ability to print directly from the memory card they use in their cameras. In fact, some printers even allow basic image editing, further reducing your reliance on a computer.
Although replacing ink can be a major expense and inconvenience, printer paper also figures prominently in the efficiency and cost of your printing. To save paper, invest in a machine capable of duplexing or printing on both sides of a page. And if you hate having your print jobs interrupted by demands for more paper, consider buying a printer with a large paper tray.
Inkjet cartridges: In the case of standard inkjet machines, you’ll need to buy cartridges that are compatible with your printer.
Ink tanks: Replacement ink for supertank printers is typically sold in larger quantities and packaged in bags or bottles. You can buy ink in four varieties: black, cyan, magenta, and yellow.
You’ll Need It If:
You have a color laser printer.
Toner cartridges: Although toner is applied to the page as a powder, it’s sold and packaged in solid sticks. Toner is available in the same color varieties as ink.
How Can You Get the Best Price on a Printer?
In this guide, we’ve presented information to help you choose the right printer. But even once you’ve selected a specific model, your search still requires a final step: Finding the best deal on the printer you’ve picked.
In several instances above, we’ve encouraged you to think of printer costs in terms of long-term investment. Although a low price may seem appealing, it pays to consider the costs of upkeep and maintenance over the life of your machine. Similarly, you want to choose a printer that will endure frequent use, performing well for years to come. A trusted brand like Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, or Lexmark may be more likely to stand the test of time.
From choosing the right model to ordering the supplies you need to keep it going strong, Office Depot can help you choose with confidence. And if you ever run into trouble with the printer you choose, our tech support plans offer peace of mind and swift solutions.
Carly Johnson pairs SEO expertise with a knack for narrative and specializes in crafting copy for content marketing projects.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is,” and neither the author nor Office Depot warrants the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions, or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.