How do you know which printer is best for your needs?

As more of us work or study from home, the demand for a home/office printer has grown. Printing out workbooks for your child may be a necessity if you’re a parent. When writing a business report, you may find it easier to make notes with a pen or pencil rather than a computer keyboard. It’s possible that a government agency has suddenly demanded that a form be sent to them via snail mail. Or perhaps you’ve grown tired of making the trip to your local office supply store to print out a few forms every few months.

Whatever the case may be, getting a printer isn’t hard to do these days. As printers have become more efficient and less expensive, they haven’t changed much in recent years. There will still be laser and inkjet printers, color and monochrome printers, print-only and multifunction printers, and printers that only use ink. You should know what you want before you click “buy” on your favorite shopping site because of all the choices you have to make.

I won’t be recommending a specific printer to you in this article. Nevertheless, I’ll walk you through some of the options and features you’ll want to check out, like inkjet versus laser and multifunction versus single-function printers, as well as how to decide what to buy and where you should buy it.


A refresher course on the differences between inkjet and laser printers might be helpful if you haven’t recently purchased a printer or haven’t had a need for one until now. The explanation that follows is greatly simplified, but it should provide you with a general understanding of how they operate.


Inkjet printers use a fine mist to dispense a fine mist of liquid ink onto a piece of paper for printing. One of the most common delivery systems for inkjet printing is a separate cartridge for each color and a printhead to break the ink down into tiny droplets. There are usually separate print heads that can be replaced on their own in professional-level inkjets. Inks of different hues are mixed together to create new hues.

Color inkjet printers use a variety of ink cartridges. The most basic printers typically use only two ink cartridges: one for black ink and one for cyan, magenta, and yellow ink. Cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink cartridges are typically found in lower- to medium-cost inkjet printers. Printers used by photographers or businesses will have a wider variety of colored ink cartridges than printers used for personal use.

However, even the cheapest inkjet printers can end up costing a lot of money. A single set of printer cartridges can cost as much as the printer itself. As a result, you’ll need to buy new ink cartridges for your color inkjet printers if any of the cartridges run out (for example, you can’t print in black if the cyan cartridge runs out). We’ll talk about ink costs in more detail later.)

Supertank printers, which use refillable tanks instead of traditional ink cartridges, are a type of inkjet printer that offers lower cost per page than the competition. Several manufacturers, including Brother, Canon, and Epson, sell these printers, so if you’re going to be doing a lot of color printing, you might want to look into them.

How do you know which printer is best for your needs?


Inside the printer, these devices use lasers to produce static electricity on a moving drum. As the toner (ink in powder form) is drawn to the static electricity, it is melted onto the paper.

It is true that toner cartridges are more expensive than ink cartridges at the outset, but they also last much longer, which means that your cost per page is lower. Although laser printers initially cost more, they can save money in the long run compared to inkjet printers.

Unless you require color printing, there are several advantages to using a laser printer over an inkjet printer. Their text printing quality is superior to that of inkjets (especially low-end inkjet printers, which can be very slow) (although current inkjets are certainly precise enough to suit most documents).

The availability of color laser printers has also increased. However, they are more expensive, and the quality of the color will be inferior to that of an equivalently priced color inkjet unless it is a professional printer.


Consider your intended use when deciding between a laser and inkjet printer purchase. It’s a no-brainer if you don’t care about color. Using a laser printer will save you money and time. As for printing out your children’s computer artwork in color, you’ll likely need an inkjet printer to do so.


Consider a multifunction (also known as an all-in-one or AIO) printer if working from home is something you plan to do for the foreseeable future — or even if you don’t! In addition to printing directly from your computer, these peripherals let you scan and copy existing documents. Faxing is becoming increasingly obsolete, so this feature is quickly disappearing from many scanners.) Because they allow you to save PDFs of a lot of documents (especially those that have been sitting around for a long time) and then dispose of the actual hard copies, they are a great way to reduce the amount of paperwork in your home.

The camera on your phone is capable of scanning and uploading documents, and if you only need to scan a document from time to time, that may be sufficient. Although the quality of a phone-scanned document isn’t as good as that of a high-quality scanner,

Consumer-level multifunctions typically allow you to copy up to 8.5 x 11-inch (commonly referred to as letter-sized) paper, but printers that can print up to 8.5 x 14-inch (legal-sized) paper are available as well. Look for a multifunction printer with an automatic document feeder (ADF) that allows you to quickly move a large number of pages through the system.


Printers of the modern era typically take paper from the front, run it around the drum or roller, and then release it into the output tray. It’s best to avoid bending paper when printing on thicker stock, so look for a printer with an input tray that extends from the back of the printer to ensure that paper is fed through in one smooth motion.

To accommodate different paper sizes and colors (for example, letter-sized paper and legal-sized), some printers offer the option of multiple paper trays in front of the machine.

Additionally, you’ll want to know how many sheets of paper your input and output trays can hold. With an output tray that can only handle 50 pages, you could end up with 150 pages strewn all over your floor if you plan to print a 200-page manuscript.


Ink is by far the most expensive component of a printer, not the printer itself or even the paper. Over time, it’s possible to figure out how much a printer is going to cost you by calculating the cost per page, which is how much an ink cartridge costs divided by how many pages you’re expected to get out of each cartridge.

The printer’s page yield is usually listed in the stats provided by the manufacturer. A color inkjet printer and a black-only laser printer from the same manufacturer, for example.

Of course, there are numerous “ifs” in this scenario. Some major printer manufacturers, for example, do not publish the page yield for lower-cost printers. It’s important to keep in mind that even if the page yield is available, you must keep in mind that it is being offered by the manufacturer—so the number of pages you get per cartridge is usually optimistic. Even so, this can give you a good idea of the challenges you’ll be up against.


It’s important to look for a printer that’s compatible with the computer or mobile device you intend to use with it when you’re shopping for one, and that means Bluetooth, NFC, and/or Wi-Fi connectivity.

Make sure your printer is compatible with Apple AirPrint if you have a Mac, an iPad, and/or an iPhone.

When using a Chromebook, check the manufacturer’s website to see if your printer is compatible with Chrome OS. You can find a list of compatible printers on the Epson page for Chrome OS printers.

When Google’s Cloud Print service first launched, it was possible to print from computers and Android devices using this service. Google’s Cloud Print service will be discontinued on December 31st, 2020, due to the company’s usual disregard for popular features. If you have an older printer that relied on Cloud Print, the company’s advice (“we recommend the respective platform’s native-printing infrastructure or working with a printing partner”) isn’t much help. Instead of using Cloud Print, see if your printer’s manufacturer offers a mobile app that enables wireless printing from mobile devices.

In addition, some printers are equipped with NFC capabilities. You can simply touch your phone to the printer’s NFC label to connect it to your phone.


A photo printer isn’t necessary unless you plan to print enough photos to fill several albums. The ability to remove red-eye from photos of people is available on some photo printers, but it is also available in a variety of photo apps (and is probably easier to deal with in software).

However, there are always exceptions to the rule. If you’re looking for a small, portable printer like the Canon SELPHY QX10 photo printer, you can do so right away. These are great for get-togethers with the family or friends. Even if you’ll need to buy special photo paper and ink for this one, it’s worth the effort. Additionally, a high-quality photo printer may be necessary for professional photographers or those who want to become professional photographers. Most mid-level color printers, however, if you use high-quality photo paper, will do a fine job. If you plan to print a lot of photos, a photo printing service like Shutterfly will save you money and give you better results.


Printers can be purchased from a wide range of online and brick-and-mortar retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H. In most cases, you can also buy a printer directly from the company that makes it, such as HP, Canon, or Epson.

A good rule of thumb for any tech product is that you should always try it before you buy it. For example, you might find that the cheap printer you saw online doesn’t feel quite right when you hold it in your hands. However, ordering a printer online is generally safe if you’ve checked all the specifications and read a few reviews first.

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