How-To Geek

The How-To Geek Guide to Buying the Right Printer


Even though computer printers are relatively ubiquitous, you can’t just go pull one off the shelf and be guaranteed a good fit for your needs. Read on as we detail the ins and outs of buying a home printer.

Know Your Printing Needs

There are printers for every need under the sun but rare is the printer that can fulfill many needs well. The challenge consumers face when shopping for a home printer is finding a printer that meets most of their needs and does so economically.

The first step in printer-shopping nirvana is to start your search with a very clear picture of what your printing needs are. Think back over what you’ve printed lately and what you plan to print in the future. Do you print mostly black and white text copies? Color photos? Color proposal drafts for your home business? What kind of printing you do is the biggest factor in what kind of printer you should shop for. The key is to buy a printer for the work you’re doing, not the work you think you might be doing in the future (in other words: buy the printer for the business reports you print now, not the colorful scrap book pages you wish you had time to work on).

Understanding Printer Technology


The core of any printer is the technology driving the actual print process. The mechanics of printing can involve blasts of ink, powder toner, electrostatic charges, or any other number of combinations to produce an image. We’re going to detail the major technologies on the market with their benefits and short comings.

Ink Jet: Ink jet printers are everywhere. Consumers frequently get them free with desktop computer packages, you’ll find basic models all over big box computer and office stores at dirt cheap prices, and they’ve enjoyed a fairly strong home-user market saturation.

At its most basic, ink jet printer technology is based on tiny little nozzles squirting a fine mist of ink onto paper. There are microchips in the print cartridges and an elaborate electro-mechanical framework supporting that process, mind you, but it’s still akin to tiny little cans of spray paint working down the page.

The popularity of ink jet printers can be largely attributed to their versatility. Although low-end ink jet printers aren’t the best at any specific type of printing they are great at doing a good-enough job for many types of printing (currently high-end ink jets and desktop photo printers based on ink jet technology dominate the consumer photo market).

They can print plain black and white documents, color photos, and print on a variety of media that other printers simply can’t match. Since the ink is sprayed down on the surface, isn’t heated, and (using the pass-through tray) it isn’t bent or rolled, it’s possible to use all sorts of media in most ink jet printers ranging from photo paper to specialty stocks like canvas and T-shirt transfers. If you’re interested in using an ink jet printer for photos, we’d suggest checking out our guide to photo paper and ink quality here.

On the downside: ink jet printers are notoriously slow and the quality varies wildly. If you routinely print off multi-page reports and you want them hot off the press, you’ll be waiting awhile as your ink jet printer labors through them. The quality of the print is also dependent on what kind of ink and paper you’re using. Business-oriented ink jet printers tend to use pigment-based inks which are superior for crisp lines and graphics (like the fonts and company logos you find in most business printing). Ink jets that advertise superior photo printing usually use dye-based ink that blends much smoother—thus your photos look more realistic with better colors. With many brands it is possible to buy ink cartridges for both purposes but it’s less than ideal to swap out cartridges for different printing tasks.

The biggest downside of inkjet printing, by far, is the cost. You can easily pick up an inkjet printer for under $100 but consider that a company-subsidized bargain. They know you’ll be back for expensive cartridge-after-cartridge. Yes you can buy third-party cartridges and yes you can buy home-refill kits. A casual search online will show there are many people happy with such options—unfortunately it voids your warranty and refilling old cartridges is a hassle.

The Final Verdict for Ink Jet Printers: If you need to print on a wide variety of materials (labels, transfer paper, glossy paper, regular printer paper, etc.) and you’re not afraid of the higher supply cost incurred by frequently replacing ink cartridges, ink jet printers are a versatile addition to a home office.


Laser/LED: Laser printers, unlike ink jet printers, do not rely on a supply of ink and a small spray nozzle to deposit it onto the page. Lasers printers function much more closely to photo copiers than they do to ink jet printers. An electrostatic charge is applied to the paper which is then passed over a toner drum (toner is an ultra-fine powdered carbon and polymer blend) which is then fused onto the paper with heat. This is why a drop of water doesn’t ruin a laser printer printout the way it does a page from an inkjet printer—the toner is fused right onto the paper.

Speed and economical operation are the strongest selling points for laser printers. While ink jets can print on a variety of media with different inks in different colors, laser printers are monochromatic and limited to a much smaller range of media that can withstand the heat of the fusing process. (There are now color laser printers in the consumer price range but the color toner refills remain prohibitively expensive and keep color laser printing out of reach for most home users.)

An additional benefit of laser printing: the toner is dry and you can go months (if not years) without printing and the next print off the printer will look just as good as the first. In that same time span ink jet cartridges can dry up, the nozzles can get gummed up/crusted over, and you may find yourself hastily shopping for new cartridges. We’ve pulled old laser jet printers out of office storage and fired them up after years of neglect and they’ve printed like they were brand new.

A recent addition to the market, LED printers are essentially super-charged laser printers. Whereas a laser printer relies on an elaborate array of moving mirrors and focusing lenses (all of which must be in alignment) to generate the image on the toner drum, LED-based printers have a solid-state array in place of the laser array (thus there are no moving lasers, lenses, or mirrors to keep in alignment).

Currently you’ll pay a small premium for an LED-based printer over a laser-based one but in return you’ll get a potentially faster printer (LED units render the whole width of the drum image at the same time instead of scanning across with the laser) that’s less prone to breakdown because the LED array is solid-state. That said, we have laser printers around the office that have been going strong since the 1990s—even with the scanning laser/moving mirrors they are still much more reliable than ink jet printers.

The Final Verdict on Laser/LED Printers: If your primary printing needs are black and white text prints with occasional supplemental images, print-for-print you can’t beat a laser/LED printer. Your printer will last longer, spool up faster, and cost you less per-print than an ink jet by a wide, wide margin. How wide of a margin? We’ve replaced the toner cartridge in our HP Laserjet only twice since 1999—that’s 12 years of printing for about $100 worth of toner.

Printer Features, Terms, and Jargon


For the home user the two printing types we outlined above, ink jet and monochrome laser/LED, are the two best things going—color laser printing is still too expensive for casual home use. Once you’ve narrowed down which type of printer you’re interested in, however, you’ve still got a mountain of features and terms to wade through. We’ll do our best to help hack down the dictionary of terminology to a manageable list.

One note before we dig into the terms, just like we highlighted in our HDTV buying guide, manufacturers can (and often do) play fast and loose with the marketing terms they use. When in doubt, read consumer reviews about your printer before purchasing.

Resolution/DPI: You’ll see references to DPI all over the place while printer shopping. DPI stands for Dots-Per-Inch and it indicates how many individual dots of ink or toner are deposited within one square inch of printable area. Please note that the Dots-Per-Inch nomenclature for printing is completely different than the Pixels-Per-Inch nomenclature used with monitors—a computer monitor can produce radically more detail/vibrant color with fewer pixels because of the nature of monitor construction and the superior color rendering of pixels versus printed ink.

While historically the DPI was worth paying attention to, printing technology has improved so much in recent years that the DPI number largely irrelevant. 150 DPI is an acceptable level for simple draft prints (like grocery lists), 300 DPI is more than fine for sharp fonts and logos, and as you creep into higher DPI you get an even better print. Low-end ink jet printers typically have 300-600 DPI printing capabilities and higher-end inkjets easily climb past 1,000 DPI. Laser/LED printers range anywhere from 600-2,000+ DPI. Unless you’re specifically buying a printer for printing photos at home you can safely ignore the DPI rating all together as even the lowest end printer on the market will put out more than enough DPI for your letter/brochure/report printing needs.

Printing Speed: Although almost always expressed as PPM (pages per minute) you may also see printing speed notes as CPM (characters per minute) or, if you’re shopping for photo printers, IPM (images per minute). If you’re comparing ink jets with laser printers you’ll see a vast difference between PPM ratings. Ink jet printers are significantly slower than laser printers and manufacturers try to inflate the low PPM of ink jet printers by putting the draft-pages-per-minute on the box and in the printer specs–be aware of this and half the PPM rating to get a better idea of the rate for high-quality prints.

Regard the printing speed as a ball park figure. Your real-world PPM will vary widely from the manufacturer’s numbers based on what kind of printing you do (book report type prints on a laser printer, for example, will practically fly into the print tray where photos on on inkjet might well be dry by the time they finish).


Connection Types: Long gone are printers that connect via serial or parallel ports; the current standard for wired connections is USB. Some printers, especially laser/led printers, come with a network jack for network-based printing. More and more printers are shipping with built-in Wi-Fi functionality. If you’re interested in putting your printer somewhere else besides directly next to your primary computer, network and/or Wi-Fi printing can be invaluable. It makes it super simple to put your printer out of the way and still be able to shuttle prints to it from your desktop, laptop, and mobile devices without the need for print-sharing service on your primary desktop.

Mobile Printing: One of the newer features you’ll find on printers is support for mobile/cloud printing. Unheard of even five years ago,  it’s now increasingly common for people to want to print from their phones, tablets, and other mobile devices. Printing from mobile devices is still in its infancy and you should be prepared for some hiccups and hassles.

That said there are two primary solutions on the market. For iOS users who want to print from their iPhones and iPads, there are entire lines of AirPlay compatible printers from major manufactures. You can check Apple’s AirPlay compatibility list here. For Android and other mobile platforms (including iOS and BlackBerry—with a little tweaking) Google’s Cloud Print connects mobile devices with both Cloud Print-enabled computers and classic stand-alone machines. For more information about cloud-enabled printers and how to link older printers to Cloud Print check out Google’s guide here.

Internal Memory: Depending on the type of printer you buy it can have anywhere from a tiny amount to half a GB or so. Single function consumer inkjet printers usually have negligible amount of  internal memory (multi-function ink jet printers will have more internal memory to support the print process and secondary functions like scanning). Laser printers generally have larger amounts of  internal memory (ranging from 128-512MB). Generally speaking networked/Wi-Fi enabled printers will have the most memory as it allows them to handle the extra print jobs coming in from across the network. Unless you plan on printing a large volume of material in a small time frame and/or to have a lot of material come in over the network, you don’t need a large memory bank in the printer. If you’re worried about it, check to see if the printer has an upgrade slot for future memory upgrades. Such upgrade slots are next to non-existent on low-end ink jets but quite common on laser printers.


Multi-Function/All-In-One: Multi-function printers combine additional features into the body of the printer. Many models combine a scanner and printer, to create a tiny home copy machine. Others also include fax capability and even phone handsets. The upside is that it’s usually way cheaper to buy a multi-function printer than it is to buy a printer, scanner, and fax machine. The downside is that if any component fails the whole unit can fail (or at minimum, need to be sent in for service).

When they work well, they’re great and they save a lot of space. When they fail, they take out a whole chunk of your home office functionality with them. We tend to avoid multi-function units but if you find a great deal on one and you’re willing to accept the risk of putting all your eggs in one electronic basket, it might be worth the trade offs. If you’re leaning towards an All-In-One model make sure to read as many reviews as you can before purchasing it—you want to be sure to get one few people have had issues with.


Stand-Alone Printing: Whether they call it Stand-Alone, Walk-Up, PC-less, or another term, many printer companies now include functionality that allows for printing without a computer. Essentially you can walk up with a USB drive, SD card, or other type of removable media, plug it into the printer, and print from the flash memory instead of by sending the file from a computer. All things considered it’s kind of a one-trick pony. We certainly wouldn’t buy a printer just for this feature. Where the feature does shine, however, is for stand-alone photo printers. It’s quite convenient to stick the SD card or link the camera via cable to the printer for pick-and-print photo printing.

OS Compatibility: Although this becomes less of an issue as time goes by, OS-to-Printer communication is still an issue. Windows users will have little to no troubles, Mac users will have fewer troubles, and Linux users will–as they’ve certainly come to expect–have the most hassles setting up printers. We’d highly suggest Linux (and even Mac) users do some cursory product searches related to the particular brand they’re considering. Linux users, for example, will definitely want to hit the up printer/scanner resources at Conversely, OS X users will want to check out this Apple support article detailing OS X’s included print drivers.

Monthly Duty Cycle: The duty cycle is an often over looked stat on the printer spec sheet. The duty cycle is essentially a pages-per-month rating. If the stats for the printer you’re looking at indicate that the duty cycle is 1,000 pages per month, the manufacturer is essentially saying that you can expect to print up to that volume per month without any issues. You want to purchase a printer with a monthly duty cycle well beyond your needs to ensure trouble free operation. Printers with higher duty cycle ratings are build sturdier to survive the wear and tear of heavy printing.

By purchasing a printer with  a duty cycle beyond what you actually need you decrease the chances of prematurely wearing the printer out. Remember that laser jet printer that has been going strong since 1999 that we mentioned earlier in the guide? It has a duty cycle rating of 10,000 pages per month—we’re pretty sure we’ve put less than a quarter of that through it a year. It will fall prey to antiquated cable formats and interfaces long before it gives up the printing ghost.


Duplexing: Duplexing is a fancy word for prints-on-both-sides. Printers without duplexing are stuck with manual duplex—which in turn is a fancy way of saying that you’ll need to take the one-sided sheets and feed them back into the printer in the right order for a proper two-sided printout. Manually duplexing is an enormous pain and not something you want to do with any regularity. Whether you want to save paper or like a thinner stack of print outs, make sure you get a printer that can properly duplex without you having to do the print-out shuffle every time you want two-sided prints.

Manual Feed/Multi-Purpose Tray: If you print a lot of card stock, envelopes, or (for ink jet printers) any kind of non-traditional stock like thick scrap book pages or T-shirt transfers, make sure you purchase a printer with a manual feed tray and/or multi-purpose tray. This allows you to by-pass whatever paper-manipulation the printer normally performs and send the media straight through the printer without any bending or excessive rolling. Since a business envelope would never make it through the roller system of a laser printer, for example, it’s important to have a manual feed tray to send the envelope right in the front and out the back without any bending.

Consumables: Every printer consumers something—ink cartridges, toner cartridges, paper types, etc.—when shopping for a printer make sure to do a phantom shopping trip to restock it. That $50 ink jet printer isn’t much of a bargain if it uses tri-color cartridges that cost $40 each and need to be replaced as soon as one of the three colors has run dry.

When shopping for ink jet printers make sure to check out what kind of cartridge system it uses. Can you replace each color individually? Are the black cartridges economical? If you’re comfortable voiding the warranty with aftermarket cartridges and ink refills are they readily available and easy to use?

When shopping for laser/LED printers make sure you can replace just the toner drum. Some companies require that you replace the entire toner/fuser assembly when the drum runs dry—this will significantly up your consumables cost over the life of the printer.

If you start by first focusing on your primary printing needs (bulk black and white versus black and white mixed with color), then on the significant features you want (duplexing and Wi-Fi support), and finally comparing models to squeeze out those last whizz-bang features (perhaps a touch screen interface and Cloud Print support), you’ll ensure you end up with a printer that meets your most critical needs first and makes printing more enjoyable with well-picked secondary features.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/2/12

Comments (49)

  1. tskdlfjsdl

    What a great article about printers. I had no understanding about printers at all.Saw this article in my RSS and you saved my day, sir!

  2. Nick

    I noticed you didn’t mention check if your OS supports it… CUPS on linux does not like my brother mfc495CW… i’ve gotten it working but it was no small feat, but i’ve noticed many brands do offer better support of linux

    just a thought

    great article

  3. Atul kumar

    Great Details Frnd Read It Before uying A Printer….

  4. Jason Fitzpatrick

    @Nick: Good call; we’ve updated the article to include tips for Linux and Mac users. =)

  5. Barry Etheridge

    Hmm. If I had a dollar for every ‘perfect’ printer that developed an irreparable fault in the page feed mechanism long before any problems with actual printing leaving one with the choice of replacing the whole machine or endlessly hand feeding single pieces of paper into it ad infinitum!!!!!!!

  6. Steve-O-Rama

    Glad to see another great recommendation of laser printers. Like most people, I used to think they were too expensive or that I couldn’t live without color prints, but man was I wrong. :) So nice to not deal with the rip-off of ink jet cartridges anymore! Not to mention I can print off PCB masks from EAGLE to make my own printed circuit boards.

  7. Jason Fitzpatrick

    @Steve-O-Rama: I love laser printers. Despite the leaps they’ve made with ink jet technology they’re still expensive to run, produce smear-prone prints, and print sooooo slow. Like you note, many people see the difference in price and go for the ink jet… but for long term cost it’s nearly impossible to beat a laser printer–my total toner cost over the last 15 years is like $5-10 bucks a year or so.

  8. wil broese

    Hoped to find a solution for my problem. I have a HP Laserjet 2100 which is very good. However when I switched to Windows 7 I had to use a USB connection. Bought a usb cable and had nothing but trouble.
    Hewlett packard has done %$#@-all to make a smooth transition. The new driver stinks– every time I want to print I have to install the printer after which it will print in 50 % of the time.
    If you can come up with a solution you will get everlasting thanks of thousands, maybe tens of thousands of users.
    Sincerely, Wil

  9. dave alverson

    I would agree that Windows 7, and tablets have created a new challenge on printing,
    My HP laser 4 is a good printer, but forget about printing from Windows 7 or tablets.

    What is a good, reasonable priced laser printer to print Windows xp, Windows 7, and possible tablet or e-printing?

  10. InkGUZZLER

    You guys stay away from Lexmark Dell Epson and samsung printers. Lexmark/Dell have RFID chips that frequently give the wrong volume count and prematurely tell customers their cartridges are empty. I refilled cartridges and by WEIGHT on average 7 out of 10 Lexmark and dell ink cartridges weighed near half what they were supposed to weigh full. Color wasn’t as bad but black ink cartridges were horrid. Lexmark and (*I think) samsung are updating user’s printers with firmware killing aftermarket cartridges. There is a lawsuit active right now on that.

  11. RayBay

    I take it you guys at HowToGeek have not bought a lot of printers lately…

    This is an area of expertise you will gain only by doing, and talking to a LOT of disappointed and angry printer buyers and owners… in an area among the most frustrating and costly areas of computer use. We could write books on what to avoid and how to get screwed by the computer companies, but there is little honest and useful information on how to get a computer that works well, lasts a long time, and offers reasonable costs… The Epsons and LexMarks and Dells that cost you and cost you and then fail… or the HP’s inkjets that overwhelm with ink costs per page, or the HP laser printers that just cost and cost and cost.
    There ought to be consumer laws that apply to printer manufacturers and resellers.

  12. Kaatje

    The author states “unfortunately [refilling old cartridges] voids your warranty and … is a hassle.” I agree that it can be a hassle, and perhaps messy, with certain brands of cartridges, but as for voiding the warranty, (IMHO and not legal advice) you might want to check the Mangason-Moss Warranty Act ( and with your attorney. In any case, if you’re concerned about the warranty, wait until it expires before you try refilling cartridges. Then, you’ll wonder why you waited. Just be sure to wear gloves and take your time. Refilling isn’t rocket science, and it can save you $$.

  13. Lady Fitzgerald

    HP is horrible about updating drivers to work with new OSs. That is one of the reasons I will never by HP again. As Nick mentioned, one needs to make sure the printer one chooses is compatible with the OS one uses. Also, avoid buying older models, even though the usually lower price is tempting, because they could go out of date sooner, both for drivers and consumables.

    I also prefer laser printers over inkjets. In fact, there is NO WAY I’l ever own another inkjet. I’ve been happy with my B&W laser jet. The rare color prints I need can be printed up at a print/copy shop. The rare photos can be printed at any Walgreens, Wally World, etc (they are cheaper than print/copy shops for photos). In both cases, all that is needed is to take the file in on a USB stick. I’ve been tempted to get a color laser jet but just can’t justify the cost despite the convenience.

    The most important advice the article mentioned was to check the price of consumables before choosing a printer! Of course, inkjet supplies are sky high, period. But even among laserjets, the price of consumables can vary widely. Another reason I will never buy HP again is a friend carefully researched the price of consumables before finally selecting an HP, then less than a year after getting it, the price of consumables doubled!

    Most printer reviews include the price of consumables as a review criterion.

  14. Barney Farcus

    As a family we looked at printing as a budget item a few years ago.

    Initially we had 2 printers networked. One HP LaserJet IIP and an Epson Stylus 780 if I remember right. The HP was great for all things B&W. It’s one problem is it wouldn’t break so I didn’t get new toys ‘forever’. For color printing we went through 2 or 3 inkjets. Epson seemed to be the best for us, and the kind we got was one we could refill the cart’s easily. I purchased 2 new HP printer carts over the years and did refills after that.

    Re-filling your own or getting professional refills are a good way to save money, but you need to watch the reputation and quality of your supplier. For ‘critical’ color printing, we went back to Epson ink.

    Once the HP IIP died, we got a Samsung color laser. It’s toner is a little more expensive, but 3rd party toner is readily available. After 6 years we have only replaced toner. Not having as big a cart as the HP isn’t to big a hindrance. I do like it having 4 carts of toner (and a waste cart I have emptied twice, not replaced). …

    Why color laser? We like to do some, but it isn’t critical, and we go quite a while between printing at times, so the laser makes sense. To buy another,

    I have kept my eye out for a new, lower end, color laser or LED printer that is network attached, but so far no luck.

    Our focus is keeping the life cycle cost down [(acquisition plus supplies plus maintenance)/lifetime of printer], and keeping an eye on quality of print and ease of use. If there is something it doesn’t do well (normally pictures) then we look for an inexpensive ‘add on’ option or commercial vendor (we print pictures at Wal-Mart – they use high-end Fuji photo printers – even they replace printers every couple of years!).

    Determining what your needs are is the primary need. Then find the appropriate way to fulfill it. There is no silver bullet for everyone.

    … I worked for an Oil company when larger format inkjets became popular. We had a vendor engineer ink pumps to allow us to use changeable gallon jugs of ink pumped into modified cart’s. We also put roll paper in them rather than sheets like HP had designed the printers for (yep, HP engineers came to see what we were doing to their equipment). It payed off, we finally put 2 plotters that printed about 46″ wide on the plotters on over 12 floors of a building. Geophysicists and geologists printed LOTS of color plots that filled the paper as part of finding oil and gas. … Compared to using cut sheets and ink cart’s it saved big $$. But prior to this we used a color photo printer that cost about $100 per 3’x4′ page and we ran hundreds a day, 7×24 and always were ‘prioritizing’ who got them out first. …

    Take care.

  15. Jim


    Check the HP Website – I downloaded a printer driver for Windows 7 that works fine on my HP LaserJet 4P

  16. Jon

    lol … Just bought the one of the Pic featured in this Article Brother Printer HL2270DW .. Working in IT i cringed on buying a brother but on Amazon it got by far the most and best reviews for a simple Laser printer , Perfect for my needs

  17. William Gale

    I have an hp officejet 6480 and it is set up on a wireless network one of the best printers I have owned. I have been able to purchase oem ink for it very reasonable. Had no problem setting it up on windows 7

  18. Richard Estrada

    Since I only use black ink to do my printing needs I figured that the other 3 cartridge color ink on my Epson printer would remain intact and just replace the black cartridge when it reported empty. After replacing the black cartridges twice and about one third on the 3rd one the system locked itself and there was no way I could continue printing or copying because the screen said I had to replace all the 3 color cartridges for it to continue printing with the 2/3 full black cartridge left. With each cartridge costing $15 dollars down in the country where I leave it came to a total of $45 cost for the 3 color cartridges that had evaporated with no use whatsoever.
    I have come to the conclusion that the printer manufacturers are ripping off the public, threfore I decided to put all the stuff that I have to copy or print in a flash memory and take it to Xerox or similar shops that cost 6 cents per copy, a lot cheaper and better quality. If we all tried something like this I am sure the printing machine manufacturers will eventually find a formula to make the printing cost much more accesible to the public and stop the rip-off.

  19. Zarnaik

    Actually I run Linux and my low-quality inkjet works perfectly :)
    I didn’t have to install anything, I think my OS took care of that.
    Also, in Windows with its official software, the printing quality was lower than it is now!

  20. Don Wanless

    I too have a Brother laser Printer.

    The print quality is great.

    One of the best things about it is it does great prints of Google Maps. With my ink jet printer I really needed to use color to get a readable map in most cases. The laser does gray scale for colored areas and makes very readable maps, much more quickly as well.

  21. Tedd Lear

    Really liked your article about printers. I was in the business for 7 years (1999-2006) before I retired. I want to point out there ‘s a law against third party inks and refilling cartridges voiding your warranty. I used it many times to confront OEM manufactures. You can use other independent brands and refills. I’m not saying that the inks or cartridges are good. You know no one can make the same ink formula that is OEM. There’s a inkjet printer being made now called “Memjet”. At 60 copies a minute edge to edge (borderless) on the best setting..This is a new technology. Four BIG cartridges at $20 each. I recently watched a video on youtube about this machine. Being in the business, I knew the machine was coming for a couple of years before they made them. Check it out. I don’t think you’ll believe what your seeing. Thanks for your Geeks ! .

  22. Robert

    What is good inkjet to print on a printable DVD?

  23. Webfoot

    Guys seem to have a lot of problems with printers of all kinds! I must be dead lucky – I’ve had none.
    You can refil the toner on laser printers – I do it all the time.
    I think you might mention solid ink printers which use colored wax. Here in UK only Xerox seems to market them. I find the colors very impressive and they are waterproof and don’t rub off though I am told you can scrape them off with a fingernail (I can’t on my prints without scraping away the paper too). A possible snag is that you can’t feed the printed page later through a laser printer as the fuser melts the ink, though why you would want to do that I am not sure.

  24. Amy

    The use of aftermarket cartridges does NOT void your warranty, and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act disallows Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) from requiring the use of their cartridges as a condition of the warranty. Please don’t perpetuate this myth. Remanufactured cartridges are an economical, environmentally friendly, completely viable choice.

  25. Carroll Hanks

    I used to think that the more colors the better. I had a printer with 8 colors that worked well, but the expense and bother of all those tanks was a bother. That printer died and I got a Epson that only had 4 colors. I can’t tell the difference, the prints look great with a lot less expense in ink. I saw a printer advertised that had 12 colors, wow it appears that printer companie.s want to sell more ink.

  26. Steve Lawson

    The above article states that “DPI stands for Dots-Per-Inch and it indicates how many individual dots of ink or toner are deposited within one square inch of printable area.” I don’t think that is correct. DPI is the number of adjacent dots in a row that will fit in an inch, not the number of dots in a square inch.

    Also, it kind of glosses over the difference between DPI and pixels per inch. The reason that a monitor can display so much more information with one pixel is the pixel has one more dimension than does a printer dot. A printer dot has two intensities: full intensity and no intensity (i.e. it is either there or it isn’t). A pixel has many different intensities (usually 256/primary color). For a printer to show multiple intensities it needs to use an array of dots. For instance, to acheive 256 different intensities, it would need something like an 8×8 array of dot positions. Then by printing different numbers of dots, it creates the illusion of different intensities. For a printer to do this, and match the resolution of a pixel, the dots need to be much smaller than the pixel. In the case of the 8×8 example, the dots would need to be 1/8th the size of the pixel.

    Also, it says that ink-jet printers are slower than laser printers. That is not always true. If the laser printer is tasked with an intricate vector drawing, the print speed can be significantly slower. BUT, once the printer has rendered the image and stored it in memory, subsequent copies will be much faster (if more than one copy is printed).

  27. rthonpm

    A few suggestions for Windows 7 and Linux users:

    For WIndows 7: to get your older HP printers working with the newer OS, you can try using just about any PCL 5 driver for any newer model, or even HP’s universal driver. Just try to make sure you set the driver up to match the features of your printer as closely as possible.

    For Linux users (and Mac users too since you use CUPS as well): make sure that the printer you’re looking to use supports PostScript. This is going to work more with laser printers than inkjets as most inkjet drivers aren’t your traditional PCL or PostScript.

    One final clarification: LED printers also differ from laser printers in that your resolution isn’t always identical in both directions of the page. While most laser printers max out at 1200×1200 dpi, LED printers will give you something like 2400×680 or so. This is just a design limitation: you can only fit so many LEDs along the drum assembly.

    Also, for colour laser users: it may hurt your wallet a little more, but stay away from third party toner. It may work in the machine, but eventually you’ll suffer more issues with inconsistent colour, misaligned colour and even toner dumping. Colour laser printing is such a precise art (part of the longer output time is the registration and calibration of the colour) that throwing variables into the equation don’t really help.

    Just a few things I’ve learned in my time as a copier tech…

  28. Fred Bloggs

    I am in the UK , retired and use ink-jet printers for general work and pictures for my grandson’s wall. I use Epson C62 , C86 and a SX200 which scans , photocopies and prints and new cost me £40. The reason I use Epson is that it is that they are cheap and it is easy to buy third party inks on line at £10 for 12. But before buying an Epson it is important to check the model number on line if you want to buy “cheap” ink as the makers of these do not make them for all the models. Another think about Epson id that the can suddenly stop working with the message “waste ink pads full”. There are “reset” programs out there both free and for a cost where you have to tell the computer that the ink pads have been replaced in the printer and it then tells the printer to reset its inbuilt chip. I have done it and had no trouble with my Epson C62 afterwards. What annoyed me was Epson’s attitude and that one minute a machine that was “happily” churning out pages suddenly became a pile of scrap until I spent a lot of time looking for the “reset” program online. In finishing can I put in a plug for “second hand” machines. My C86 was bought on EBAY for £10 plus postage and arrived with a full set of Epson ink cartridges.

  29. Sarah P

    I recently heard that all multi-cartridge printers are now “required” to stop printing when one of the colors run out. This is meant as a money-saving event. For example, if you have to print 80 copies of a full-color report and your cyan runs out 1/4 of the way through, you will then print 3/4 of the project unreadable, wasting all that other ink and paper.

    Any reports on if this is truly a “requirement” of new printers or just a feature? Are they any exemptions to it?

  30. Jack

    I can’t wait for my HP C5550 to die – which is probably why it is lasting so long. I have found HP Ink Jet replacement cartridges to be a real rip-off. The suggestion regarding the use you will put the printer to is a good one. Most of the features on mine are useless.

  31. Roger Wehling

    I have used a number of printers over the years. I first favored HP laser printers but over time became evey disappointed with HPs because of frequent repairs of the sheet feeders, poor support with driver updates for OS upgrades, and poor support from HP in general. After using a few color printers I decided to use laser printers almost 100% of the time and outsource color printing, esp. photos. I have saved a lot of money and headaches. I also now pretty much go with Brothers wireless prnters. Surprising reliable, capable and reasonable cost of supplies. Can replace cheaper than repair if ever needed.

  32. Tom

    HP Inkjets are some of the worst products produced in this century. Just the bloatware that comes with the drivers alone is a pain-in-the-neck. I’ve never owned an HP inkjet that lasted longer than a year. On the other hand, I still use an HP LaserJet III. It does an excellent job, doesn’t cost much to run, and I didn’t have any problems with drivers for Windows or any of the Ubuntu distros that I have run over the years. It’s pretty much the same story with the Brother laser printer I use at home. It runs on generic drivers without a single hiccup.
    HP executives should be required by law to use an HP inkjet in their office for a full year before it is allowed to be sold to the public. Maybe they would change a few things and then again, maybe not. Either way, at least I will have had my revenge.

  33. hfrankjr

    I love Ubuntu. I love Canon printers. I’ve not been able to find above any mention of Canon printers in combination with a Linux distribution, but folks should be forewarned. My experience has been to have to go to to purchase drivers to get the printers to work. $40 or thereabouts. Could Canon really be owned by M$ or do they simply not care?

  34. Little John

    I remember using dot matrix printer with fan paper, using both 9 & 27 pins printerheads. Yes, I remember the noise from the printers and using special noise reducing boxes. Right now, I have 5 printers on my computer. I use HP 4+, HP ColorLaser 1600, HP All in one inkjet (I just use the scanner only.), Brother QL-500 Label printer, and Xerox printer. I use the HP 4+ the most of my printing. For toners, I look on eBay for my toner supplies. Most I have pay for a toner is $20 for the HP 4+ and $80 for set of 4 toners needed for Colorlaser. The Xerox printer is my office printer, which I can use from my home computer by the way of network. If someone is doing alot of printing, the laser is only way to go. For home use a old laser printer retired from a office which I pickup for few bucks. In most cases the only thing wrong is full of paper lint and few pickup rolls. My HP 1600, I pickup for $30 and replace all toner. Now I working colorlaser printer for less than cost of inkjet printer. The red toner leaked but the supplier replace the toner at no cost. The HP 4+ is old printer cable, all other printers are USB wired.
    My OS is Windows 7 Ultimate. Since I am retired computer tech, I can tell you many war stories about drivers for printers and the link between computer and printer.

  35. bartman2589

    I will say that I’ll never again purchase an Epson color inkjet printer, in the past 5 years I’ve gone through 3 of them because the print head clogged up because I didn’t print on a regular basis (these were all models where the print head was separate from the ink cartridges and was built into the printer itself). So another consideration in choosing an inkjet printer would be to take a look at how often you print documents/pictures and whether or not the printer you’re considering buying has the print heads integrated into the ink cartridges or not (most Lexmark/Canon/HP inkjet printers do, which is one of the reasons for higher cartridge cost than many Epson printer cartridges. On the up side with Epson (if you do happen to print on a pretty regular basis), with many models (not all though) the color ink cartridges are individually replaceable meaning you’ll be wasting less ink typically because you won’t have to replace all of the colors at the same time when only one has gone empty. I used to have an old Fujitsu inkjet that was very similar to the Epson design (individual color cartridges) but it suffered the same fate as all my Epson inkjet printers in the end.

    And here’s a handy tip for those of you that use an inkjet printer that incorporates the print head into the cartridge (Use at your own risk, I have used this method in the past with great success with the various HP inkjet printers I’ve owned though), if you’re not sure if you’re going to be printing anything in the near future remove the cartridges and place a piece of clear ‘cellophane’ style tape over the print head portion of the cartridge, do the same with the vent hole in the cartridge (if you can locate it, sometimes it’s hidden under a label or something), then when you do need to print again you just need to remove the tape and you usually won’t be confronted with clogged up print heads on your cartridge which might require you to run several ‘cleaning’ cycles which waste a lot of ink.

  36. bartman2589

    @hfrankjr, I can tell you from personal experience with trying to locate drivers for my Canon Pixma MP210 all in one that Canon pretty much doesn’t care. They make most of their money on the photocopier side so they have little need to cater to home users. I eventually found Linux drivers from Canon on their Australian site though, unfortunately they were incompatible with the kernel I was using at the time, but fortunately once I had the filenames I was able to hunt down a set of drivers that someone had patched to work with the 2.6 series kernels (haven’t tried these drivers with my computer that’s been upgraded to Kubuntu 11.10 w/3.0 series kernel yet though). And now that HP has merged with Compaq, their focus on providing good quality inkjet printers seems to have shifted to much the same business model Lexmark uses, make it cheap, but make the ink cartridges overly expensive to recoup the cost difference. I think the last decent HP printer I owned was one of their 900 series with big bulky cartridges where the color ink was all in one cartridge that was only a little wider than the black cartridge but you couldn’t refill them without having a utility to reset the page counter chip incorporated into the cartridge. The best HP inkjet printers I’ve owned though were probably in the 600 and 700 series, lightweight, durable, worked well in extreme environments (some of my friends who owned auto service centers used them all the time with few problems, other than needing to use a blow nozzle occasionally to blow dust out of them that is).

  37. bartman2589

    I have to agree with the other people who have Brother laser printers. They offer great quality and reliability for a much better price than many other brands! I have an old HL1440 that was given to me by one of the people I used to do computer work for (only reason I don’t still do it for them is because I ended up moving to a different state) that was replaced because it kept suffering from paper jams (had been used as an invoice printer for a local auto repair shop for quite some times, so when it was replaced they were able to write off the cost of the new one as a business expense). A couple hours of tear down and cleaning with a soft rag dampened with alcohol and I ended up with one of the best laser printers I’ve ever owned, (still running to this day, though it’s due for a new drum unit now, not cost effective to replace it though when I can buy a new Brother laser printer for $99 and the drum unit costs $159). Just waiting for it to get to the point where I can’t read the printouts anymore (since they’re mostly things for my own records anyway, online bill payment receipts, banking transaction records, emails I want to keep around in printed form…). It’s only ever jammed on me 2 or 3 times in the 5 or so years I’ve owned it, much better track record than any inkjet I’ve ever owned and it costs me a great deal less to run than an inkjet would because of my lack of high volume printing (though I do occasionally print out one of my ebooks so I don’t have to sit at my computer to read it, I don’t have a portable ebook reader yet sadly).

  38. Ink Guzzler

    Why was my comment deleted??

  39. bartman2589

    @Little John, it seems you don’t remember as clearly as you think you do :) Those were 24 pin printers not 27 pin printers (one of the more popular of which during that era was the Epson LQ-570+). My first printer was a 9 pin dot matrix printer that used ink ribbon spools (not an enclosed ribbon cartridge) it had a feed spool and a takeup spool, it was from Star Micronics their SG-10 model. I first used it with my IBM PCjr that my father bought me and my sister (even though she wanted nothing to do with it at the time). It had an Epson MX-80 compatibility mode that I could set using DIP switches on the back so I was able to use it with most of the available software at the time without any problems. Finally ended up throwing it away after one of the pins in the print head broke off around 1998.

  40. rthonpm

    Sara P:

    Colour printers stop printing when one of the colours runs out not as a money saving feature, but as a consequence of logic. The controller unit of the machine knows what it needs to create all of the shades available in its colour gamut. With one of the colours unavailable, it can’t mix the remaining colours to make up for the missing one. Therefore the machine stops printing. There’s a lot of very sophisticated processing going on even to put a blue hyperlink on the page.

  41. EXrider

    If you want to invest in a printer that will last 10 or more years rather than some ink jet POS that you end up chucking in the garbage 2 years later, go with a laser printer. Even color laser printers are now becoming affordable when you compare the cost per page and associated hassle with changing repeatedly clogged or expired ink cartridges. If you want truly universal driver support across all OS’s and don’t want to worry about whether your printer will be supported in the next OS release, pony up the extra cash for a printer that has PostScript and/or PCL capability. These printers will work with any operating system and numerous standardized print drivers for years to come, regardless of whether the manufacturer decides to write a driver for it. People are still using HP LaserJet4’s from the 90’s, on Windows 7, Linux and Mac OS X Lion for this very reason.

  42. EXrider

    Oh, and outsource your photo printing to Walgreens or the like. It’s much cheaper and professional print quality for the fraction of the price of an ink jet. The only upside to printing photos on an ink jet is the convenience, assuming the ink actually works.

  43. Quentin

    I have an HP Officejet Pro L7580 which when I eventually set up with XP it was very reliable. Recently I have spent 8 days trying to get it to work with Windows 7 without success. Yes it is true you could load a generic driver to make the printer work but you will have a very watered down product that does not scan or fax properly. I will never buy an HP printer again.

  44. waynedang

    I use Kodak because it is great with new Operating systems and is can do copy, scan, print and some versions can do fax as well. The inks are very cheep and they are under £20 and the quality is the best out of all other printers that I have been using.

    So if you want a good printer get:


  45. Sam

    I only have one word for an under-promising but over-delivering printer today: LEXMARK. ’nuff said.

    I wanted to give a blow-by-blow account of this brand’s (in the words of Tenacious D) awesomeness, but that would make for a lengthy post. Their line of laser printers, from a lowly single-function duplex mono printer to color multi-function with multiple trays is just superb. Although their inkjets, save for the Pinnacle series, isn’t really up to par with HP’s line of home-use inkjets but by far, Lexmark tops the bill still.

  46. Eric

    When would be the best time to buy a printer?

  47. stevedavidclark

    I work on printers and find them interesting. People make very poor decisions and purchases or continue using a particular model/type based on inadequate or inappropriate data.
    It always boils down to cost per finished page. Consumables and form factor are the most deciding purchase and service points. Your 9 year old doesn’t need a high-end Xerox color DocuCenter nor is an architect or a lawyer sensible using a 300 dollar AIO inkjet, or laser for that matter. I’ve done considerable work for lawyers and printing is a major issue or them. The same is true for architects, but their needs are vastly different.
    I once worked for a major printer manufacturer. In the early 2000’s, we got smart and began mass marking less expensive consumer printers and selling them on a 6% margin and making 80% of our income on the replacement inject cartridges.
    Frankly, on a daily basis I see situations where people buy color printers with absolutely no need for color when a better monochrome would serve them better and longer. I have color laser which I use sometimes and a 5 year old Brother laser which has cycled over 150K prints across 2 toner refills.Guess which is my primary print device?

  48. Alejandro

    Interesting. I have very old HP1015 laser printer, and still works. As was mentioned earlier, laser printer can live for years with single toner cartridge.

    Anyone can suggest good color laser printer with that fancy duplex stuff?
    Currently I should use 3rd party software ( priprinter or finprint ) for flipping pages, but really wish to use fully automated device. May be LEXMARK ?

  49. john

    i ran a bureau in Balmain (Sydney) in the 80’s and our first colour printer was a heavy monster QMS PostScript A3 with expensive rolls of CMYK gell that were heat-fused onto the paper. each print took about 5 minutes and the result was a course 55 lines per inch screen (130 dpi). Clients were pleased enough to pay $50 per print so they could show their customers a colour proof of their ads or use them for mock ups to pitch for business. The cost of this printer was $30,000…luckily I was doing artwork for the supplier, so my QMS cost me only $18,000.
    In today’s terms the cost would have been around $90,000.
    How times have changed!
    John from Ebenezer NSW Australia

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